MESM: Admissions
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We recommend prospective MESM applicants thoroughly review this page to ensure they're prepared to put forward the most competitive application possible. Here are some quick links to get you started:

Eligibility & Deadlines International Applicants
MESM Program Prerequisites MESM Fellowship Programs
Faculty Sponsorship Additional Financial Information
How to Apply to the MESM Program Visit the Bren School
Reapplying to the Bren School Contact Us
Non-Degree Applicants Information for Admitted MESMs

In addition to the information found on this page, MESM applicants should review the UCSB Graduate Division's How to Apply page, which includes detailed information important for prospective students. Ready to apply? Visit the UCSB Graduate Division's e-Application to begin yours today!


MESM Admissions Eligibility & Deadlines

The Bren School welcomes to the MESM program students who bring a firm commitment to their academic studies and intend to pursue careers as environmental management professionals dedicated to identifying and solving environmental problems. Bren School students come from around the world, bring diverse academic and professional backgrounds, and have strengths in everything from geography and biochemistry to economics and fine arts. What unites them is their desire to be trained as environmental leaders in an exciting, intensive, and comprehensive professional program.

  • Grade Point Average Eligibility for Graduate Admission to UC Santa Barbara
    In order to be considered for admission into any graduate program at UCSB, applicants must have received a bachelor’s degree (or equivalent) from an accredited four-year institution prior to the quarter for which the applicant seeks admission. S/he must have earned an undergraduate cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale for undergraduate or post-graduate studies.

    In rare cases, the school can petition the Graduate Division to admit a student who has a GPA that is slightly below 3.0 if the rest of the application is extremely strong and unusual circumstances may have contributed to the lower undergraduate GPA.


  • Exam Eligibility Requirements
    All applicants are required to take the Graduate Records Examination (GRE; general exam only) to be eligible to apply to UCSB’s graduate programs. The Bren School does not accept scores from other exams, such as the GMAT, in lieu of the GRE.


    All international applicants whose primary language is other than English must also complete an English language proficiency exam. Please see the How to Apply to the MESM Program section below for more details.

    Students observing in the field
  • MESM Application Deadline
    The MESM application deadline for Fall 2017 was January 8, 2017. UCSB will begin accepting applications for Fall 2018 in August. The Bren School only accepts applications for Fall quarter matriculation; students cannot apply to begin in Winter, Spring, or Summer terms.

  • Admissions Decision Distribution
    The Admissions Committee does not review applications until after the January deadline, and admissions decisions are normally communicated by the beginning of March.

  • Deadline to Submit Statement of Intent to Register (SIR)
    Admitted MESM applicants have until April 15 to indicate whether or not they accept the Bren School's admission offer. Applicants may do so by logging back in to their UCSB e-Application and clicking on the Application Status page to indicate a positive or negative Statement of Intent to Register (SIR). (See the Graduate Division's Admitted Applicants page for further instruction.)

    Students who need more time beyond this deadline are asked to email admissions@bren.ucsb.edu to request an extension up to April 30.

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Required Undergraduate Preparation for the MESM Program

We welcome applicants from any undergraduate major, and we value a diverse student body; however, we expect applicants to have completed the minimum prerequisite coursework:

  • Calculus – two quarters or one semester
    The Bren School emphasizes quantitative and analytical approaches to environmental problem solving, so it is essential for students to have an adequate mathematical foundation. Calculus courses geared toward non-math majors (e.g., "Calculus for Business") are less desirable than pure mathematics courses.
  • Science – three quarters or two semesters
    Applicants can meet the science prerequisite requirement through any combination of chemistry, biology, physics, earth science, or atmospheric science courses (this includes both lower-division and upper-division courses). Prospective students who are uncertain about which classes to take to complete the science prerequisite would benefit from viewing a syllabus for any of the natural science-based MESM core courses (e.g., ESM 202 Environmental Biogeochemistry or ESM 203 Earth System Science). Doing so would allow the prospective student to better understand the topics covered during these courses, therefore helping them to identify which topics in which they may wish to gain familiarity.
  • Statistics – one quarter or one semester
    It is important that MESM students be able to develop the conceptual framework to effectively use data to solve environmental problems. Similarly to the Calculus requirement, Statistics courses geared toward "soft" science or humanities majors are less desirable than pure mathematics or economics statistics.

Please note that only courses where student earned a grade of C or higher will be counted toward meeting our MESM prerequisite requirement.

These prerequisite requirements may be met through any accredited two- or four-year college or university (including community colleges). The Bren School does not accept courses completed through online education platforms (such as Coursera), as they are not accredited institutions.

If you wish to use Advanced Placement (AP) credit as counting toward meeting our MESM prerequisites, please cut and paste to your Prerequisite Verification Form course summaries for the classes you received AP credit for so the Admissions Committee can better understand your degree-granting institution's articulation agreements. (See How to Apply to the MESM Program section below for more details regarding this form.)

Students who lack essential preparation are requested to send the school a memo outlining how they plan to rectify the deficiency before enrolling in the fall, should they be admitted. Presenting a good plan will strengthen one’s application. While students are not required to have completed the coursework to be admitted, they must complete it before enrolling, and lacking these prerequisites will significantly weaken an applicant's chances of being accepted into the program.

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How to Apply to the MESM Program

Our rigorous admissions standards emphasize previous academic and professional experience, as well as other relevant skills and knowledge that we believe will contribute to a student's success in one of the school’s seven areas of specialization. Thus, the application review process focuses not only on prior educational performance, but also on letters of recommendation and the personal statement of intent provided by each applicant.

In order to be considered for admission to the MESM program, applicants must submit the following:

  • UCSB Graduate Application - REQUIRED
    In order to be considered for admission to the Bren School, all applicants are required to submit an e-Application via the UC Santa Barbara Graduate Application portal. Please note that an applicant may apply to only one department at UCSB per admissions cycle, and the Bren School accepts MESM applications only for Fall quarter matriculation.


  • Statement of Purpose essay - REQUIRED
    The Statement of Purpose (SOP) should also include your goals and how the Bren School will help you to achieve them, and what led you to seek a career in the environmental field. The SOP should outline past experiences (not necessarily only in academics) and how they have prepared you to succeed in a rigorous graduate program.

    The SOP should be 1-2 pages in length. Formatting style (e.g., line spacing, typeface, or font size) is up to the discretion of the applicant. This document should be uploaded directly to the UCSB e-application.
  • Personal Achievements/Contributions essay - REQUIRED
    UC Santa Barbara is interested in a diverse and inclusive graduate student population. In your Personal Achievements/Contributions (PAC), please describe any aspects of your personal background, accomplishments, or achievements that you feel are important in evaluating your application for graduate study. For example, please describe if you have experienced economic challenges in achieving higher education, such as being financially responsible for family members or dependents, having to work significant hours during undergraduate schooling, or coming from a family background of limited income.

    Please describe any unusual or varied life experiences that might contribute to the diversity of the graduate group, such as fluency in other languages, experience living in bicultural communities, academic research interests focusing on cultural, societal, or educational problems as they affect under-served segments of society, or evidence of an intention to use the graduate degree toward serving disadvantaged individuals or populations. You may upload this document directly to your online application.

    Alternatively, if you wish to address a discrepency in your application (e.g., low grades), you can also discuss this in your PAC to help the Admissions Committee better understand what external events or circumstances might have affected your grades at that time, and how you're better prepared now to excel in an academically rigorous program.

    The PAC should be 1-2 pages in length. As with the SOP, formatting style (e.g., line spacing, typeface, and font size) of the PAC essay is up to the discretion of the applicant. The UC Berkeley Graduate Division provides an online resource called Writing the Personal Statement which is especially helpful in guiding applicants on this document.


  • Resume or Curriculum Vitae - REQUIRED
    Work experience in a professional capacity is highly valued and significantly strengthens your application. Although experience in the environmental field suggests that your goals are well matched to the Bren School, we also highly value experience in other professional settings, provided your Statement of Purpose clearly conveys your reasons for embarking on a new environmentally related career path and your enthusiasm and commitment for doing so.

    Applicants should include all relevant academic, work, volunteer, or leadership experience. Formatting style (e.g., line spacing, typeface, and font size) is up to the discretion of the applicant.


  • Graduate Records Examination (GRE) scores - REQUIRED
    UCSB requires all applicants to its graduate programs to submit GRE scores, with the exception of Art Studio majors. Neither UCSB nor the Bren School enforce a minimum GRE score, and the Bren School does not require a subject test for its applicants. UCSB’s Graduate Institution (GI) code: 4835; please use this number on your GRE score sheets and confirm you select the graduate institution option and not the Undergraduate Institution (UI) option. A department code is not necessary to have scores sent to UCSB. GRE test scores are valid for five years after the testing year in which the test was taken (July 1–June 30). Please allow 4-6 weeks for ETS to transfer your scores to the UCSB Graduate Division, which keeps all scores in its database until they expire. More information about the GRE can be found online at http://www.ets.org/gre/.

    As part of your application you must also self-report your GRE scores. The self-reported scores are used in matching your official scores on file. Once you initiate your application, please complete the "Exam" tab with the required demographic and exam information.

    See list of frequently asked questions for more information about the GRE requirement.

  • English language competency exam scores - REQUIRED of international students only
    If an applicant’s native language is not English, then s/he is required to complete either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam. Exceptions may be granted to applicants who have completed an undergraduate or graduate degree at an institution whose primary language of instruction is English. Scores for either examination may be no more than two years old at the time of application and can be submitted to UCSB by using the UCSB institution code 4835. Please also self-report your exam scores on your e-App.

    The University requires a minimum score of 550 (paper test) or 80 (computer test) for the TOEFL exam. The University requires a minimum Overall Band Score of 7.0 or higher for the IELTS exam. The TOEFL ITP (Institutional Testing Program) is not acceptable for the purposes of fulfilling the UCSB English language exam requirement.

    The Bren School generally does not admit students to the MESM program unless they have TOEFL or IELTS scores significantly higher than the minimum required by the University. The MESM program is rigorous, and there is not time for students to develop their English skills simultaneously. In addition, the considerable amount of group work requires students to be highly proficient in English at the time they commence the program.

    All non-native English speakers who are admitted to UCSB—even those having an acceptable TOEFL or IELTS score—must take the university's English Language Placement Exam (ELPE). The Bren School expects students to have completed all English as Second Language (ESL) courses recommended by the test results prior to starting coursework at Bren. Students on a research boat

  • Letters of Recommendation - REQUIRED
    Students are required to provide a minimum of three letters of recommendation (maximum of four) as part of their application package.

    We would appreciate your recommenders' personal impressions of your intellectual ability, aptitude in research, and professional skill. Please ask your recommenders to comment on your character, quality of previous work, and promise of productive scholarship, among other important aspects. The most successful letters of recommendation have been ones where the recommender clearly understood the student's previous professional and academic accomplishments, could comment on the student's preparedness for graduate-level studies, and could make a connection between the student's future goals and the MESM program.

    Letters of recommendation should be uploaded electronically to an applicant's online application directly by the recommenders. For this process to happen, you will be asked to supply the name, email address, job title, and and current institution or organization name of each recommender. Once this information is supplied, the online application will generate an automated email to the recommenders, prompting them each to upload a letter on your behalf.

    If you are using a Letter Service (such as Interfolio or a university career center) to submit one or more letters, you will be able to indicate this information within the recommender profile. UCSB needs a rating on our rating scale from each recommender you indicate. If the letter will come from a letter service, we will only request the necessary rating from your recommender.

    It is beneficial if an applicant can provide at least one letter from a faculty member who is familiar with his or her academic abilities. We realize that this may be difficult for applicants who have been out of school for a number of years. If this is not possible, students are requested to provide letters from professionals in supervisory or managerial roles who can attest to their scholarly ability and potential, creativity, dedication, and work performance, among other attributes.
  • Prerequisite Verification Form - REQUIRED
    In an effort to ensure applicants are meeting the required MESM program prerequisites, Bren School applicants are asked to submit a Prerequisite Verification Form, citing where they met program preparation requirements. This is especially helpful for faculty Admissions Committee reviewers if applicants completed courses with atypical titles that might apply toward our prerequisites. Please upload this document under the Supplemental Materials section of the UCSB e-application and title it "Prerequisite Verification Form."
  • Supplemental Memo Addressing Prerequisites - OPTIONAL
    Students who lack essential preparation are requested to send the school a memo outlining how they plan to rectify the deficiency before enrolling in the Fall, should they be admitted. Presenting a good plan will strengthen one’s application. This is only required of those applicants who have not met the required prerequisites prior to application.
  • Transcripts from all institutions attended - REQUIRED
    All applicants will be required to upload transcripts to their application from all institutions they attended. These uploaded transcripts are required to be official documents created by the university but can include "unofficial" transcripts that are generated by an online student portal, assuming the transcripts include the name of the student, the institution, the grades, and a grading scale. Please visit the UCSB Graduate Division's How to Apply page for more tips on uploading transcripts to your graduate application.

    Applicants who are admitted and submit a positive Statement of Intent to Register (SIR) with UCSB will be required to send official transcripts directly from the institution(s) attended to the UCSB Graduate Division. The only exception is for admits who attended UCSB as an undergraduate, in which case official transcripts are not required since UCSB can verify academic records using their student data-tracking systems.

  • Non-refundable application fee - REQUIRED
    Applications are not processed until this is received. All applications require a non-refundable application fee of $105 for domestic applicants and $125 for international applicants. This fee can be paid by credit card or with a check/money order using the Check/Money Order Submission Form found on the last page of the application.

    A limited number of application fee waivers are available to qualified U.S. citizens and permanent residents who demonstrate evidence of financial need or proof of participation in an undergraduate research program. McNair Scholars and Project 1000 applicants are among those eligible.  Fee waivers are not available to international applicants.

    To apply for a fee waiver begin an online application at www.graddiv.ucsb.edu/eapp.  Within your application click on the Payment Information tab and scroll-down to the fee waiver information.  Submit your request online by selecting the option relevant to you and uploading your supporting documentation. You must submit your fee waiver request at least two weeks before the application deadline. Do not submit a fee waiver request the day before the application deadline, it will not be processed and your application will not be reviewed.

Please note that an applicant may apply to only one department at UCSB per admissions period. In addition, the Bren School accepts MESM applications only for Fall quarter matriculation.

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Faculty Sponsorship for the MESM Program

Prospective MESM students do not need a faculty sponsor in order to apply to the program. Admission decisions are made by the Admissions Committee and are not based on a faculty member's willingness to work with a student. This is because students are not linked to a faculty advisor until the students pick their Master's Project at the end of winter quarter of their first year (with work on the year-long thesis project commencing in spring quarter of their first year).

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Reapplying to the MESM Program

If you are reapplying for the Bren School's MESM program and have the same email address as you did when you originally applied, then you will want to select the "Existing Applicants" option on the UCSB Graduate Division's electronic application. Doing so will allow for some application fields to be pre-populated, saving you time.

It is possible that you might be allowed to reuse some elements of your original application, though this is dependent upon how long ago you applied and which materials you are hoping to reuse. Please contact an admissions advisor at admissions@bren.ucsb.edu to inquire.

Applicants who previously applied to the MESM program but who were not admitted would benefit from making it clear in their new application how their academic or professional profile has improved since they last applied. Often re-applicants will address this topic in their Personal Achievements/Contributions document, or in another document uploaded to the Supplemental Materials section of the UCSB e-application. Submitting an application identical to a previously denied application will likely not be as competitive.

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International Applicants

The Bren School is home to a large number of international students and faculty, all of whom add to the diversity and global community of UCSB. Any applicant who does not have U.S. citizenship or permanent residence in the U.S. at the time of application is considered as international.

In addition to thoroughly reading all of the information on this webpage, all international applicants should carefully review the International Students page on the UCSB Graduate Division web site, as well as review the Prospective Students information provided by UCSB's Office of International Students & Scholars (OISS). Visa-related inquiries should also be directed to OISS.

Here is additional information for international applicants:

  • Funding for International Students
    If admitted, applicants will need personal resources or scholarships from their government or other external entities to qualify for a visa and meet educational costs. OISS provides additional information regarding financial aid and scholarships on its website too. However, there is little financial support available for international Student bikersstudents applying to the Bren School MESM program.

    That said, all prospective MESM students who apply by the deadline are automatically considered for the Bren School's recruitment fellowships, which are based solely on the materials received by the applicants and offer funding for the first year of enrollment.

    International students are also eligible to apply for any of the donor-supported fellowship programs offered by the Bren School, including the Eco-Entrepreneurship Fellow Program, the Latin American Fisheries Fellowship Program, and the Sustainable Water Markets Program. Click here to learn more about eligibility for these fellowships.


  • Academic Transcripts for International Applicants
    If you have received your degree, please include your degree certificate within the same file as your transcripts. The uploaded document must include both the original language transcript and the certified English translation. English transcripts are required and must be a complete, exact and literal translation of the original transcripts. English translations must be provided by the school or an official agency.

  • International Student Grade Point Averages
    All applicants will be required to self-report their Grade Point Averages (GPA) on their UCSB e-App. Although most institutions in the United States use a 4.0 scale (including UCSB), international students do not need to convert their GPAs to the U.S. grading scale. In fact, international students are required to self-reporting their GPAs on their application in the same scale used by their home institution. For example, if your institution grades on a 100-point scale, please report your GPA using this scale. See the Completed Units/Credits section on the UCSB Graduate Division's website under the Education History section of the How to Apply page.


  • English Language Proficiency Exam
    If the applicant’s native language is not English, then s/he is required to complete either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam. (The TOEFL ITP, or Institutional Testing Program, is not an acceptable form for fulfilling the English language exam requirement.) Scores for either examination may be no more than two years old at the time of application. The University requires a minimum score of 550 (paper test) or 80 (computer test) for the TOEFL exam. The University requires a minimum Overall Band Score of 7.0 or higher for the IELTS exam.

    The Bren School generally does not admit students to the MESM program unless they have TOEFL or IELTS scores significantly higher than the minimum required by the University. The MESM program is rigorous, and there is not time for students to develop their English skills simultaneously. In addition, the considerable amount of group work requires students to be highly proficient in English at the time they commence the program.

    Exceptions to English language proficiency exams may be granted to applicants who have completed an undergraduate or graduate degree at an institution whose primary language of instruction is English. Applicants who think they qualify for this exception will need to upload unofficial transcripts from their institution and indicate on the online application that it is an English instruction-only institution. There are no additional forms or steps necessary at the time of application.

    All non-native English speakers who are admitted to UCSB—even those having an acceptable TOEFL or IELTS score—must take the university's English Language Placement Exam (ELPE) before Fall quarter courses begin. The Bren School expects students to have completed all English as Second Language (ESL) courses recommended by the test results prior (or concurrently) to starting coursework at Bren.


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Non-Degree Applicants

People who wish to participate in temporary study at the Bren School may do so in one of two capacities:

  • Open University participant
    Students who do not wish to enroll at UCSB as a full-time visitor (for a maximum of one academic year) but who instead wish to enroll in a limited capacity (i.e., one course per quarter) may consider registering for a Bren School course through UCSB Extension's Open University program.

    Students who wish to enroll in Open University do not need to submit the UCSB Graduate Application; instead, registration through Open University is managed by UCSB Extension.

    Open University students are subject to instructor permission; the Bren School gives its fully enrolled MESM and PhD students priority when registering for Environmental Science and Management courses. Due to their impacted nature, it is unlikely that Open University students will be permitted to enroll in any of the Bren School MESM curriculum core classes.

    For more information about Open University, please visit the UCSB Extension Program website, or review the Open University application.


  • Non-Degree Applicant
    In exceptional circumstances, applicants who do not wish to study for a degree at UCSB but who wish to do a temporary exchange/study with a UCSB master's or doctoral program may be admitted to graduate status on a non-degree basis. Graduate EAP reciprocity students should apply as Non-Degree applicants as well.

    The admissions requirements and procedures are the same as those for prospective degree candidates. The applicant must specify the major and justify in the Statement of Purpose that the plan of study has a definite scholarly or professional goal.

    A Non-Degree applicant may be accepted for a maximum of one academic year. Students in non-degree status are not eligible for fellowships, nor are their courses ordinarily accepted for credit toward an advanced degree at UCSB should they later decide to apply for admission into a master's or doctoral program.

    To be considered as a Non-Degree applicant, students must complete the UCSB graduate application and select the "NO" degree objective if they are participating in a study abroad/exchange from their home institution to UCSB. Non-Degree applicants who wish to study at the Bren School for an exchange must also first contact a prospective faculty advisor to inquire about available opportunities.

    Prospective Non-Degree applicants may contact the UCSB Graduate Division's Academic Services team if they have additional questions about registration and other academic expectations of Non-Degree students: gradacademics@graddiv.ucsb.edu.

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Contact Us

Contact the Bren School's Admissions team for more information about its graduate programs:

Phone: (805) 893-4886
Email: admissions@bren.ucsb.edu
Mailing Address:
Attn: Admissions & Outreach
Bren School of Environmental Science & Management
2400 Bren Hall, University of California
Santa Barbara, CA 93106-5131

Want to connect with a Bren Ambassador? Email admissions@bren.ucsb.edu or plan your visit today!

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