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Department of Geography

Graduate Admissions

Thank you for your interest in the Department of Geography at the University of South Carolina. Applications for the Fall 2024 semester are now closed. The application deadline for Fall 2025 is January 15, 2025. We consider Spring semester admissions under limited circumstances. Please contact the Director of Graduate Studies to inquire about Spring admission. The deadline for Spring 2025 applications is October 15, 2024.

Admission Requirements

We require the following information from each applicant.

  1. A completed online application form (Note: application fees for the Fall 2024 admission cycle have been waived).
  2. Transcripts of all college/university courses attempted.
  3. TOEFL (or IELTS) scores if English is not the applicant's primary language.
  4. Two letters of recommendation, preferably from academic instructors. References should be very familiar with the applicant’s work and abilities.
  5. A letter of intent (also known as a "statement of purpose" or a "statement of intent") that explains why the applicant wishes to pursue graduate studies in the Department of Geography at South Carolina (guidelines provided below). 

Applicants should apply through the Graduate School’s online admissions portal. Applicants may upload digital files and records, including transcripts and test scores, through this portal. The portal can also be used to request and to submit letters of recommendation.

The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section below provides more detailed information about the program requirements, admission standards. Skip to FAQs.


Writing a Successful Letter of Intent

The letter of intent is one of the most important elements of the application. The letter should be approximately 1200–1600 words in length (4–6 pages double spaced) and should clearly outline why you wish to pursue a graduate degree in geography at the University of South Carolina. Applicants should be able to speak intelligently about the subject areas that interest them and the kinds of research they intend to pursue if admitted to the program. Additionally, applicants should 

  • describe any coursework or academic training that has prepared you for graduate studies (e.g., language training, research methods or technical training; fieldwork experience, undergraduate or master’s level research); 
  • describe any life experiences that will help you to succeed in a graduate-level program (e.g., internships, professional experience, volunteer or service activities); 
  • explain why this department is a good academic match for you to pursue your graduate studies (with a specific focus on faculty expertise); 
  • explain how graduate studies in geography will further your career goals, whether in academia, private industry, government, or the nonprofit sector.

Applicants may also wish to explain any unusual elements in the application (for instance, a semester of low grades), though we do not need a detailed account of private, personal problems. Applicants should avoid saying that they have always been fascinated with maps/weather/foreign lands.  Such statements are very common in applications to geography programs and do little to distinguish applicants. It is more important to discuss academic goals and research interests.

We wish to reiterate that an applicant’s potential fit in the department is essential to the review process, and we strongly encourage applicants to contact potential advisors before applying. Please note that the application form requires that applicants identify the faculty members with whom they wish to work. Highly qualified applicants might not be admitted to the program if they cannot demonstrate a good fit with department expertise.


Frequently Asked Questions

We normally expect that applicants will have a minimum grade point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.  Applicants’ transcripts should indicate a capacity to undertake rigorous academic work.  However, we do recognize that students’ academic paths are not always smooth.  Applicants should use their letter of intent to explain ups and downs in their academic record (see section above on ‘Writing a successful letter of intent’).  Please note that we no longer require GRE scores, and we will not look at GRE scores submitted through the application portal.

No.  We are happy to consider applicants from a wide variety of academic backgrounds.  Many of our students have bachelor’s or master’s degrees in environmental studies, environmental science, political science, anthropology, global studies, and other disciplines.  We encourage you to describe in your letter of intent how a geography degree will build upon your previous academic training.

No.  Applicants with a bachelor’s degree (B.A., B.S., B.Sc.) must apply first to the master’s program.  We offer both M.A. and M.S. degrees.

Yes, we have a limited number of teaching assistantships and research assistantships available for master’s and doctoral students.  The assistantships cover the cost of tuition and health insurance; they also provide a modest stipend during the 9-month academic year (currently, master’s students receive $12,500/year and doctoral students receive $15,500).  We also nominate our top applicants for various competitive fellowships that substantially boost the stipend. 

In general, we consider all applicants—both domestic and international—for assistantships when they apply for Fall admission, unless applicants indicate that they do not require funding.  There is no separate application required for funding.

We will consider applicants for Spring admission, but usually only under exceptional circumstances (for instance, if a student wishes to transfer to geography from another graduate program at USC).  We generally do not guarantee departmental funding for students who enter in the Spring.

 In evaluating applications, the admissions committee places considerable weight on whether faculty expertise in the department can accommodate the applicant’s scholarly interests and aims.  Before applying, potential applicants should reach out to members of our faculty who could potentially serve as advisors (please note, as well, that the application form requires applicants to identify faculty members with whom they wish to work).  Communication between applicants and faculty members allows us to assess whether there is a good fit between the applicant and the department.  Early Fall (August/September) is a good time to contact potential advisors. Information about faculty members is here.

The Department of Geography no longer requires GRE scores, and we will not consider scores submitted with an application.

You do not need to submit an official transcript with your application.  Unofficial transcripts will suffice.  However, if you are accepted to the program, you will be required to submit official transcripts to the Graduate School by the end of your first semester of enrollment. Students who do not submit official transcripts will not be able to continue their enrollment after the first semester. 

All international students for whom English is not their native language must submit TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE scores as part of the application process.  Scores should be no more than 3 years old. The Department of Geography will only consider international applicants who score a minimum of 90 on the TOEFL (and the equivalent on other exams). Please note that this score is higher than what is required by the Graduate School.

There are some exemptions to language testing requirements.  For instance, international applicants who have completed an undergraduate or master’s degree at an American university are not required to submit scores.  International students from countries where English is the language of instruction are also exempted from language testing requirements.  A complete list of exempt countries can be found here. 

Students who are not exempt from the testing requirement should upload an unofficial copy of their test results with their applications.  Applicants accepted to the program are required to send official test results to the Graduate School by the end of their first semester of enrollment.  Students who fail to submit official scores will not be permitted to continue their matriculation at the University beyond the first semester. You will find instructions for submitting official test courses on the Apply webpage. 

Please note that international students who have been exempted from submitting language-test scores may still be required to do an in-person language assessment when they arrive at USC before they can serve as a teaching assistant or instructor of record.  

You will find more information about language testing here.  Further information for international students can be found here. 

All application fees for the Fall 2024 admission cycle have been waived.

You will be able to upload most documents through the application portal.  Any items that cannot be uploaded (e.g. official transcripts and language test scores) should be sent to the following address:

           The Graduate School
           University of South Carolina
           1705 College St, Close-Hipp Suite 552
           Columbia, SC 29208

We normally send out decision letters for Fall admission by the middle of February.  Funding decisions, however, can take longer.  If you are admitted to the program without funding, you will automatically be placed on a waiting list for funding.

Admitted applicants who have previously attended graduate school but who have not completed a graduate degree may be able to transfer up to 12 hours of course work credit hours toward a Master’s degree and 9 hours toward a doctoral degree. The transfer of credit to a student’s program of study must be approved by the student’s advisor, the Graduate Director, and the Dean of the Graduate School.  Further information on transferring credit can be found under Graduate Academic Regulations in the Graduate Bulletin.


For other questions about graduate admissions in the Department of Geography at the University of South Carolina, please contact the graduate program coordinator, Ms. Lakesha Campbell,


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