Application Procedures


We encourage applicants to our MS and PhD programs.  We welcome all who share our intellectual curiosity about the Earth; our diverse community includes people from a variety of intellectual, religious, class, cultural, and political perspectives.  We welcome new students!

Our graduate students hail from all over the world.  They come here because Milwaukee is a great place to live and learn! Find out more about Milwaukee and UWM on the Graduate School website.

If you are interested in the graduate program, your first step is to peruse the department’s website to learn about our faculty and research being conducted in the department. Our graduate students are required to work very closely with a faculty research advisor, so it is important to identify a faculty member or members whose interests match your own.  It is always a good idea to contact specific faculty to see if they have openings in their research group and available projects for new students.


Minimum eligibility requirements including undergraduate GPA and English language proficiency can be found on the UWM Graduate School website.  Please note that these are minimum requirements. Our graduate programs have become very popular, so acceptance is on a competitive process based on the pool of applicants to the Geosciences Department.  Meeting the minimum eligibility requirements does not guarantee your acceptance into our program.

We do not have a required set of prior coursework for admission. This is because we recognize that our graduate students come from a wide variety of scholastic backgrounds, some coming from a traditional geoscience major and others coming with backgrounds from related fields.  However, most students admitted to our program have BS degrees in Geosciences or closely related disciplines. Their undergraduate preparation includes broad training in geosciences including field training and one year each of college chemistry, physics, and calculus.  Most have a minimum undergraduate grade point average of 3.0, with average above 3.5 (4.0 scale).

The admissions committee will carefully examine your academic history and determine whether you have the necessary background to excel in your chosen field of study.  These decisions will be different based on your preferred field of study. For example, a student wanting to study geophysics will need undergraduate coursework in physics whereas a student wanting to study paleoecology will likely need some undergraduate coursework in the biosciences.  If you are unsure whether your background is likely to meet the eligibility requirements, it is best to contact the professors in your chosen field of study.  If the committee decides that you have most of the necessary coursework, but are missing a few key classes, they can recommend admission with a deficiency, and you would be allowed to take those background courses simultaneously with your graduate courses.

Timing and Application Deadline

New graduate students can start either in Fall (September) or Spring (January) semesters. Most new students start in Fall because that is when we typically have the most available openings.  However, if you apply for one semester and we cannot fit you in that semester, we can defer your application to the next semester when there may be space.

Fall Admission (starting the following September):

Spring Admission (starting the following January): September 15

The January 15 and September 15 deadlines are rolling (applications will be accepted past the deadline), but accepted applicants who meet deadlines will have first priority for teaching and research assistant support and will receive notification of their acceptance as early as late February (for Fall applicants). Notification of non-acceptance is usually made by May 1 (for Fall applicants).

Application Process

  1. Examine faculty research profiles to determine if your interests match our current department expertise. We strongly encourage you to reach out to individual faculty by e-mail to learn about potential research projects, and whether they have openings in their research group. We’re a friendly bunch, so please ask us questions!
  2. Learn how most students fund their studiesIf you would like to be considered for any UWM Graduate Fellowship, contact the Graduate Advisor ( and be sure to submit your application by December 15 for Fall admission. (Fellowships are not available during Spring admission, but you can apply later as a continuing student.) It is especially important you contact the Graduate Advisor if you think you are eligible for the Advanced Opportunity Program Fellowship. Many of our incoming students have received this award.
  3. Complete your application (please read this section carefully).The entire application should be submitted online at the Graduate School application portal; nothing needs to be sent directly to the department.  You can work on the application in multiple sessions, as it will save at each step.For the application, you will need to:
    • Provide required basic information on the online application
    • Write a “Reasons Statement.” It is a good idea to write this first and then copy and paste into the application system. Your “Reasons Statement” should be organized into several paragraphs and address the following 5 points:
      • Why a graduate degree? Explain why you are seeking a research-based graduate degree.  What skills and knowledge do you hope to gain, and how will this help you pursue your long-term career goals?
      • Why UWM? The geoscience field is very broad, and not every department can have expertise in every geoscience discipline. What topics within the field of geoscience excite you most?  Explain how you see your own research interests overlapping with specific UWM Geosciences Department expertise.  If you have discussed possible thesis or dissertation topics with UWM faculty, explain what excites you about these topics.
      • Research Experience. UWM Geosciences graduate programs are research-based, so we are looking for any prior experience with scientific research. Describe any previous research experience and what you accomplished. For MS applicants, this may include independent research conducted with a faculty member, or research projects that were part of a class. PhD applicants should describe their MS research, plus any other experience.
      • Ability to persist through challenge.  The graduate student experience and life in general can pose a variety of challenges. Describe an example of how you have shown resilience and/or perseverance in the pursuit of your academic goals or in your personal life and how you have grown as a result.
      • Any additional information that you want us to know or that will help us better understand your application. Do you have strengths that might not be obvious from other parts of your application? (And what specific accomplishments demonstrate those strengths?) Are there any parts of your application that you would like to explain in more detail, in your own voice? (For example, an explanation for a low grade?)
    • Upload transcripts from any degree-granting institution (BS or MS)
    • Have names and contact information (email addresses) for 3 people who can write recommendation letters on your behalf. It is a good idea to ask recommenders whether they are willing to write your letters first.  Usually recommenders are geosciences faculty, but they can also be employers in geologic fields.  Once you input the email addresses of your 3 recommenders onto the site, it will automatically send email requests to those recommenders.
    • The Department of Geosciences no longer requires submission of GRE scores. You do not need to provide GRE scores.
    • Pay $75 application fee directly on the website. (A limited number of application fee waivers are available for U.S. citizens and permanent residents only. You may request a waiver by e-mailing the Graduate Director ( to explain your situation and why you are requesting the waiver.  Unfortunately, we cannot provide fee waivers for international applicants at this time.)
    • For international students, please see UWM’s Center for International Education for additional admissions requirements including how to demonstrate English language proficiency and how to submit transcripts that are not written in English.

More information about the application process can be found on the Graduate School Website.

Application Evaluation

We strive to evaluate applications as quickly as possible, and the earliest you may hear about your application is approximately 3 weeks after the preferred deadline.  If you do not hear from us in this time frame, that does not indicate that your application has been declined.  We often have new TA or RA-funded positions that become available over the course of several months, and we make new offers as this happens.

Your complete application will be evaluated according to the following 5 criteria:

  1. Alignment with Program. Are the stated research interests and goals attainable within the UWM Department of Geosciences?
  2. Academic background. Is the breadth and depth of coursework sufficient to undertake proposed degree program?
  3. Academic achievement. Evidence of ability to excel in graduate-level coursework
  4. Scholarly potential. Evidence of ability to undertake independent research.
  5. Commitment to long-term goals. Evidence of ability to articulate, plan for, and persist in achieving long-term goals

For Questions and More Information

For questions about particular research areas or projects, please contact any of our faculty.  We encourage you to contact the Graduate Committee Chair for more information on our graduate programs, available funding, and application procedures.

Dr. Julie Bowles
(414) 229-6110