University of Colorado at Boulder



Admissions & Applications

Subplans List

Here is a list of subplans for the Department of Geography if you are asked to provide this information:

Biogeography, Cartography, Climatology, Cultural Geography, Development, Environment and Society, GIS, Geomorphology, Hydrology, Medical Geography, Political Ecology, Political Geography, Population-Migration, Remote Sensing, Urban Geography


The application submission deadline for domestic students is December 1 each year.

The application submission deadline for international students is December 1 each year.

**NEW BEGINNING FALL 2015 (Updated 6/17/15):

Applications MUST be submitted by December 1.  Upload one copy of an unofficial transcript for EACH school attended - this is a required part of the online application.   Reference letters and GRE/TOEFL scores MUST be received by DECEMBER 15.   Please plan accordingly by ordering GRE scores or taking the GRE test early enough to meet this deadline.    Notify those writing your reference letters in advance of the December 1 submission deadline for your application.  Please be aware that your reference writers will not receive an email asking them to upload  their letters until AFTER YOU SUBMIT your application.  However, because the time between your submission and the deadline for these letters may be minimal if you submit on the due date (i.e. December 1), they should prepare their letters in advance.



Admissions Criteria

 Recent years have seen a substantial increase in the number of applications the department has received for admission. Typically we are able to admit only approximately one in eight applicants. This has allowed us to maintain and improve our standards of admission.

Given the competitive nature of the admissions process, the following explains how decisions are made.  A Graduate Committee (consisting of three 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 have 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). 1 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 here:

Quantitative and Qualitative

 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.


GPA     (Figures taken from 2015 admitted applicant pool)

Median Cumulative Undergraduate GPA


GRE (Figures taken from 2015 admitted applicant pool)

Median GRE Scores  (and percentiles)

Verbal                    Quantitative             Analytical Writing

 162 (89)                159  ((74)                   4.5  (77)