Prospective Students


Admission to the Graduate Program in Earth Sciences is competitive. Each year we receive many more applications than there are spaces. Ideal applicants will have an strong undergraduate record with a degree in some branch of Earth Science, Planetary Science, Engineering, Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Mathematics, or a related discipline, including considerable quantitative coursework. Honors or a senior thesis are a plus, as are strong writing skills, undergraduate research experience, the ability to work effectively both alone and in a group, and dedication to doing high-quality work.

Applications are evaluated with particular attention to the quality of previous education, statement of purpose, and letters of recommendation. Applicants are not required to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test or the subject test. GRE general test scores are not used in our evaluations of applicants to the MS or PhD programs. Applicants whose primary language is other than English must take either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test.

Identifying a Faculty Advisor

Prospective applicants should explore the interests of Earth & Planetary Sciences faculty and researchers and contact directly those who might serve as academic and research mentors. This is best way to find out if our program is a good fit to your academic needs and professional ambitions. Unlike other departments who admit a large cadre of students "at large", E&PS admits applicants only if a faculty member or researcher agrees to advise and mentor them. This does not mean that you will be locked in to working with a single advisor, but it means that your chances of admission will be greater if you have contacted one or more faculty members in advance to discuss the graduate program.

Application Process

Please refer to the Division of Graduate Studies Admissions website for our current application due date for fall 2023. Any graduate student applying with outside funding must provide the department with documentation of that funding as part of the admissions process. Students applying for fellowship support should submit complete applications (transcripts, letters of recommendation, test scores, etc.) to the Division of Graduate Studies well in advance of the deadline. Application review begins once the application period has closed. We aim to have admissions decisions communicated to all applicants around mid-March. By a general agreement to which UC Santa Cruz and most graduate schools in the United States are signatories, admitted applicants have until April 15 to reply with their acceptance of admission offers. The online graduate admission application, which opens October 1st for admission in the following fall quarter, may be accessed through the Division of Graduate Studies website. 

Fee, Tuition and Financial Aid

The application fee is $135 for domestic applicants and $155 for international applicants. This fee can be paid by credit card or e-check (the e-check option is only available if you have a U.S. bank account). Fee waivers are available for domestic applicants who have participated in a Graduate Opportunity Program or who are experiencing financial hardship. All domestic applicants who currently receive financial aid that does not cover graduate application fees, or for whom paying the application fee would present a financial hardship, are encouraged to apply for a fee waiver. UCSC also provides fee exemptions for US Military Veterans, Peace Corps volunteers, and applicants who have participated in a variety of other events and programs. Please find the complete list here.

The EPS Department will also provide up to 15 application fee waivers to applicants who meet the following criteria, on a first-come, first-served basis:

1.) Applicants who do not qualify for the Graduate Division application fee waiver or fee exemption
2.) Are first-in-family to attend college; OR
3.) Received a bachelor's degree from a four-year institution federally recognized as a Minority-Serving Institution

Applicants who meet criteria one and two or one and three are eligible for the departmental fee waivers, however applicants who meet all three criteria will receive highest priority. To apply for a departmental fee waiver, please complete this form.

All graduate students at the University of California pay quarterly (academic year) registration fees; those who are not California residents also pay nonresident tuition. Students generally establish residency during their first year living in the state. The Earth & Planetary Sciences Department, the faculty, and researchers make a strong effort to provide financial support to graduate students who are making satisfactory academic progress. Many students are funded throughout their time in graduate school.

Sources of support include:

  • fellowships (based on both merit and need)
  • research assistantships (generally associated with competetive grants secured by faculty, researchers, and students)
  • teaching assistantships (during which graduate students collaborate with faculty and lecturers to run courses, discussion sections, and/or labs)

These forms of support often include fees, tuition, health insurance, and a monthly stipend for living expenses. Please discuss fellowship, research assistantship, TAship and other forms of graduate student support with your primary advisor or (for applicants) a prospective advisor.

Information about grants-in-aid, student loans, and work-study is available from:

Financial Aid & Scholarship Office
205 Hahn Student Services Building
UCSC - 1156 High Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95064

Questions relating to the evaluation of application files should be directed to:

Jennifer Fish - Graduate Programs Coordinator/Advisor
Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences
Graduate Admissions Committee

Earth and Marine Sciences Building
1156 High Street
University of California
Santa Cruz, CA 95064
(831) 459-1235

Please see the Division of Graduate Studies web site for information on applying online, including submission of transcripts, letters of recommendation, and other information.

See Also