Graduate School

Most employment opportunities mentioned above require training beyond the Bachelor's Degree. Graduate school in geology or geography is not only a way to avoid the real world for a couple more years (just kidding), but some careers require it. Our program has an excellent record of equipping students for the competitive environment of graduate school. Our students get accepted at the finest graduate schools and have been very successful at securing funding to support their graduate education. Those planning to apply to graduate school, or thinking about it, should discuss this with their advisor as early as possible. For example, we don't require cognate sciences for the geology major, but most graduate programs expect at least one year of math and chemistry, at least one semester of physics, and many require a field camp as well. A background in biology is particularly appropriate for those applying in paleontological fields. Many graduate programs will accept an otherwise qualified applicant, but they will then require "deficiencies" to be made-up in the first year. This is NOT the optimal way to spend your first year of graduate school! So if this is something you are thinking about, seek advice and begin planning early.

Application to graduate programs begins with the Graduate Records Exam (GRE). Roughly equivalent to the SAT, the GRE is a standardized exam testing verbal skills, vocabulary and reading comprehension, quantitative skills, and analytical ability. Students must take the exam no later than December of their senior year for the scores to be sent to schools in time.

Graduate schools select which students will be accepted, and which will be offered teaching assistantships or other funding opportunities, based upon three principal aspects of the application. These are GPA, letters of recommendation, and GRE scores. Applicants also write a statement of intent or essay on why they want to attend graduate school. A coherent and concisely written statement is more important than the reasons given. Letters of recommendation should be requested several weeks before the first due date. It helps your writers if you can provide them with an unofficial copy of your transcripts and a copy of your written statement along with all of the forms and a summary of the schools and their due dates. Include a resume if you have one. Most schools require three letters and these are generally selected from the professors you are most comfortable asking. A letter from someone outside your major can be useful if it is likely to be a strong endorsement that can attest to your probable success in a graduate program.

You can improve your odds by doing some homework and showing some initiative. Deciding where to apply, and what field to apply in, can be very difficult. One is not expected to know exactly what one will undertake for a thesis at the time of application. A general sense of which field is enough. However, it can help a great deal if you are able to narrow your interests down to one or two professors in a program. When possible to do so, personal contact can prove extremely helpful. ("Hello, my name is Blank. I am very impressed with your work in the area of blank. I am thinking about applying to your school and I am calling to ask if you are taking any new students in the fall.") Showing initiative can set one apart from a monotonous stack of applications.