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Admissions Criteria

Typically we are able to admit approximately one in eight applicants.

A Graduate Committee (consisting of three to four Geography Faculty members) carefully reads all information submitted and makes initial admission decisions based on the seven criteria described below.  After the initial admissions decisions are made the remainder of the Geography faculty provide input regarding specific applicants in which they are interested.

All criteria are considered in judging applications. The first five criteria carry roughly equal weight. The first criterion (matching interest with faculty expertise) is an important factor for determining whether a faculty member agrees to serve as advisor. The department requires that at least one faculty member agrees to advise a student prior to admission. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that you contact and correspond with potential faculty advisors (write, call, or visit) before the application deadline. 

1. A match of the applicant’s stated interest with faculty expertise.

While we do not expect students to propose research exactly in line with a faculty member’s research interests, we do expect the proposed research interests to be close enough that the faculty can advise students competently. If an applicant expresses interests that are judged to be too far afield from our existing faculty competence, they are eliminated from further consideration.

2. Quality of academic record.

The applicant’s complete academic record is inspected. Emphasis is placed on more recent academic accomplishments. Of particular interests are the student’s grade point average (especially in upper division and graduate classes), selection of courses in light of proposed career, preparation in geography and cognate fields, and quality of institutions attended.

3. Performance on standardized exams (GRE/TOEFL).

GRE -Domestic applicants (US Citizens and permanent residents) are required to submit GRE scores for verbal, quantitative and analytical GRE exams taken within the last 5 years. These scores are used as one indicator of an applicant’s abilities and limitations. International applicants are strongly encouraged to take the GRE exams if available.  Scores on these exams allow us to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses in the context of information provided by other applicants.

TOEFL - International applicants are required to submit their scores from the TOEFL exam.  This is a University requirement and cannot be waived.  Additional information regarding the TOEFL exam is located in the Admissions and Applications section, International Applicants.

4. Letters of recommendation.

Three (3) letters of recommendation are required. These letters are used to provide an assessment of an applicant’s accomplishment and potential. The letters should be from persons able to assess your potential for graduate research.  

5. Statement of intent.

Each applicant is asked to write a statement of intent (or statement of purpose).  This document is read carefully in order to ascertain the applicant’s sense of purpose, career intent, and research focus. 

6. Other relevant experience.

Increasingly, applicants have other experience which is related to their educational and career goals. The nature and extent of this experience is considered in making admissions and funding decisions.

7. Discrimination and Harassment Policy and Procedures

The University of Colorado at Boulder (UCB) is committed to maintaining a positive learning, working, and living environment. UCB does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, creed, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran status in admission and access to, and treatment and employment in, its educational programs and activities. (Regent Law, Article 10, amended 11/8/2001). For purposes of this Policy, “Protected Classes” will be used to refer to discrimination or harassment based upon race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, creed, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran status. UCB will not tolerate acts of discrimination or harassment based upon Protected Classes, or related retaliation against or by any employee or student.

You may view the entire policy.

Quantitative and Qualitative Criteria

Both quantitative and qualitative criteria are considered in the decision process. A summary of the quantitative criteria is provided below. From this summary it can be seen that students accepted into our graduate program performed very well on these criteria. It can also be seen that the quantitative criteria alone are not the determining factors for admission.

  • Median Cumulative Undergraduate: GPA: 3.58 (Figures taken from 2019 admitted applicant pool) 
  • Median GRE scores (Figures taken from 2019 admitted applicant pool)

Median GRE Scores (with percentiles)

Verbal Quantitative Analytical Writing
158  (80) 153  (50) 4.5  (82)