Application Procedures – Geological Sciences

Application to the graduate program in the Department of Geological Sciences is made directly to the Graduate School. After applications are submitted to the Graduate School, the Department will make recommendations for admission. Both domestic and international applicants must use the on-line application to apply for graduate studies at UNC-Chapel Hill. For questions and assistance regarding the on-line application, contact the Graduate School directly at The Department of Geological Sciences believes that diversity provides a richer learning environment. To learn more about diversity at UNC Chapel Hill please see the diversity web site. UNC’s Graduate Student website can be found at To discuss research possibilities, please contact the faculty whose research most closely matches your interest.


The University’s deadline for receipt of all application materials for admission is December 14th, 2021 (for both MS and PhD degrees).

International Applicants

International students must use the on-line application to apply for graduate studies. Additional information and instructions for international applicants may be found at the Graduate School web site ( and at the Office of International Student & Scholar Services ( See the Graduate School web site for more information. If you are unable to apply online or require assistance to do so, you must contact the Graduate School directly at

TOEFL or IELTS scores are reportable for a period of two years from date of the exam. Exam results more than two years old will not be reported by Educational Testing Service (ETS), and thus cannot be considered by the Graduate School. TOEFL scores that are submitted to this institution are kept on file for only one year. If you are currently enrolled at a U.S. institution, you must submit an official transcript or verification of degree candidate status from that institution to qualify for a TOEFL waiver. If the degree or an official verification is not received, the TOEFL score will again be required.

Application Fees

Program Application Fee Payment: Students with a GPA of 3.2 or higher on a 4-point scale may contact us to inquire about eligibility for program payment of the application fee. Please email Ms. Deborah Harris ( with the title “Application Fee Payment” and attach your unofficial transcripts to prove your qualification for the application fee waiver by Dec 1, 2020.  If you believe you are eligible for the academic program to pay your application fee, please choose the Check or Money Order option on the Program of Study page within the application.

GRE Scores

Starting from Fall 2021, the Department of Geological Sciences does not require the report of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE’s).

Additional Required Information

Applicants to the Geological Sciences Graduate Program must include the following additional information in the required 2-3 page personal statement:

  • Present fields of interest in geology, reasons for applying to UNC, and future professional plans
  • Where possible, please indicate which faculty member or members in the Department of Geological Sciences most closely match your research interests.
  • A list of all courses in which they are enrolled and/or plan to complete before matriculating at UNC; and
  • A list of other schools to which they applied.

This should be uploaded as one document.

Students are encouraged to contact any of our faculty members for information concerning their particular research interests and opportunities for graduate study; this is required of all doctoral applicants. The interest and support of individual faculty members are an important part of our decision-making process for admission. Applicants for the M.S. program who may not have formulated a specific interest may indicate that the field of specialization will be determined later. It is our expectation that all applicants for the Ph.D. program will have pre-defined areas of research interest, and will have been in personal contact with potential graduate advisors prior to their application to the Ph.D. program.

Letters of Recommendation

Admission into the Department of Geological Sciences requires 3 letters of recommendation. These recommendations should come from individuals who can best describe your academic and/or professional qualifications. All recommendations must be submitted on-line.


One unofficial transcript from each university attended must be uploaded within the application. Please do not mail transcripts as that will significantly delay the processing of your application. If offered admission, one paper official transcript for each university attended will be required at a later date. Unofficial transcripts may be used by the Department only as a preliminary measure in ascertaining admissibility.


Students admitted to pursue a graduate degree in the Department of Geological Sciences normally are expected to have an undergraduate degree in traditional geology, biology, geochemistry, geophysics, physical geography, or other related interdisciplinary fields. Deficiencies are determined by the student’s Graduate Committee.

Course Requirements for the Graduate Degree Candidates

Course requirements will be determined by individual graduate committees, often in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies. Minimum requirements for the Master’s degree are 30 graduate-level hours including at least three but no more than six hours of thesis research. Doctoral candidates must complete 48 graduate-level hours including 6 hours of dissertation research and no less than 15 hours of course work. See Graduate School’s and Department’s student handbooks for more details.

Financial Support

The Department of Geological Sciences typically offers teaching assistantships to incoming students. Current stipends are $16,000 for Master’s students and $17,000 for Doctoral students for the nine-month academic year. Doctoral students advancing to candidacy increase their stipends by $1000 per academic semester for the remainder of their nominal tenure. Departmental funds are available for summer teaching and research. Special funds from the Graduate School provide competitive fellowships and assistantships for especially well-qualified students nominated by the department.

Tuition Remission

All graduate students are nominated by the Department for tuition remission awards. These nominations are subject to approval by the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. To be eligible, a student must be enrolled full time and be seeking a degree. See the Graduate School web site under eligibility requirements for more details.

Other Areas of Interest

Interested students are encouraged to consider course work in other departments and curricula in the University. Earth science related academic coursework is provided in several programs in addition to those in the Department of Geological Sciences. Students are encouraged to investigate offerings in:

Department of Environmental Science and Engineering in the School of Public Health.
Department of Geography.
Curriculum in Ecology.
Department of Marine Sciences.
Curriculum in Materials Science.
Institute of Marine Sciences at Morehead City, NC.
In addition, UNC students may register for courses offered at Duke University and at North Carolina State University through inter-institutional registration.

Disclaimer Statement

The information provided on this page is specific to this academic program, and is above and beyond the basic admission requirements as established by the Administrative Board of the Graduate School. Applicants are responsible for complying with the basic admission requirements as specified by the Graduate School.