PhD: Admissions
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Welcome to the Admissions page for PhD applicants.Here you will find everything you need to know about the admissions process, as well as contacts that can provide answers to any questions you might have. We wish you the best of luck in applying, and we hope to welcome you to the Bren School should you choose to pursue your PhD studies here.

PhD Admissions Deadline for Fall 2016 Admission: December 15, 2015

All application materials must be submitted online by this date to be eligible for the University-wide fellowship competition.

UCSB Graduate Division Online Application

All applications for graduate study at UCSB are submitted online to the Graduate Division. Applications are not submitted directly to the Bren School.

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


Information and Assistance

In addition to the admissions information found here, prospective students should review the Prospective Students section of the Graduate Division website which includes detailed information about submitting the online application and the overall application process.

Below, you will find information specific to the Bren School and answers to frequently asked questions that are and not included on the Graduate Division web site.

Prospective students’ primary contact for information and assistance is the Bren School staff Graduate Advisor, who can be reached via e-mail at or by calling 805-893-7611.


Faculty Sponsorship

The Bren School offers a mentored PhD program in which each student works closely with at least one Bren professor in his or her area of expertise. Acceptance into the PhD program requires the support of a Bren School ladder-track faculty member who agrees to be your sponsor.

Most faculty members expect that, prior to submitting an application; you will contact them to explore the possibility of pursuing PhD studies under their mentorship. You should thoroughly review faculty web pages and gain a solid understanding of the research programs of potential sponsors who have interests aligned with yours.

*Please keep in mind that due to the faculty members' busy lecture schedules and research schedules, it could take longer than a week for a faculty member to return a cold call or cold email.*

Please note: The fact that a faculty member may encourage you to apply does not necessarily mean that s/he is making a commitment to sponsor you. What it generally does mean is the faculty member is considering taking on new PhD students this year and has the necessary research funds to do so, and that your background and interests are of interest to him/her. Please note that although a faculty member may express interest in sponsoring you, the Admissions Committee makes the final admission decision. The committee will recommend admittance only if 1) you have sufficiently strong academic qualifications and 2) there is a high probability that your financial-support needs can be met primarily through extramural grants and/or fellowships secured by you and/or your advisor.


The undergraduate coursework and related preparation required for the PhD program vary depending on the faculty member with whom you wish to study. Although the Bren School does not require that you have a master’s degree to apply for the PhD program, some faculty prefer that you do. Please refer to the web page of the faculty member with whom you wish to work to get a sense of his/her specific requirements.

International Applicants

International applicants should carefully review the information for international students on the UCSB Graduate Division’s website.


Prospective PhD students are strongly encouraged to visit the Bren School. Please contact the Staff Graduate Advisor to make arrangements.

University Application Requirements

The UCSB Graduate Division requires that all applicants for graduate study have:

  • Received a bachelor's degree or equivalent from an accredited 4-year institution, received prior to the quarter for which the applicant seeks admission.

  • Earned an undergraduate cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or higher (on a four-point scale) for undergraduate or post-graduate studies.

  • Taken the Graduate Records Examination (general exam only).

Neither the university nor the Bren School has an established minimum GRE score. The score is but one of many elements considered in the application review process, all of which are viewed holistically, with no one element is considered in isolation from the other elements in the application. The average combined verbal and quantitative GRE score of applicants admitted to our program last year was approximately 316 (new GRE score) or 1350 (old GRE score). The Bren School does not require a subject test.

Please use the following number on your GRE score sheets:

Institution Code is 4835, University of California Santa Barbara

  • Taken the TOEFL or IELTS if the applicant’s native language is not English.

Exceptions to this requirement are considered for applicants who have completed an undergraduate or graduate degree at an institution whose primary language of instruction is English. Applicants must take the TOEFL or the ILETS. Scores for either examination may be no more than two years old at the time of application.

The TOEFL is the Test of English as a Foreign Language. The university requires a minimum score of 550 (paper test) or 80 (computer test).

The IELTS is the International English Language Testing System. The university requires a minimum Overall Band Score of 7.0 or higher.

The Bren School generally does not admit students to the PhD program unless they have TOEFL or IELTS scores significantly higher then the University’s minimum.

Please use the following number on your TOEFL or IELTS score sheets:

         Institution Code is 4835 (UC Santa Barbara)


Application Materials

Electronic Application Materials to Be Submitted to the Graduate Division Online Application:

Note: if you are currently a graduate student at UCSB and want to apply to the MESM program, you are not required to submit an application or pay the application fee. All hard copy materials should be turned in to the Bren School Graduate Program Advisor.

Located in the UCSB online application, all students are required to submit the following items via the online application

1. Statement of Purpose Essay

2. Personal Achievements/Contributions Essay

3. Resume or CV

4. Transcripts

  • Statement of Purpose:
    The Statement of Purpose should clearly outline your research interests and goals, your reasons for believing that the Bren School and mentoring by a specific faculty member or members will enable you to achieve those goals, and your past experiences and how they have prepared you to be successful in a research-focused graduate program. You may upload this document directly to your online application.
  • Personal Achievements/Contributions:
    UC Santa Barbara and the Bren School honor diversity. The Personal Achievements/Contributions document is the applicant's opportunity to discuss any aspects of her or his personal background, accomplishments, or achievements that are important in evaluating her or his application for graduate study. The Bren School, in accordance with the mission of UCSB, takes an interest in a diverse and inclusive graduate student population. You may upload this document directly to your online application.
  • 3 letters of recommendation:

    The letters should be written by individuals who can attest to your personal characteristics, your academic qualifications, and your scholarly potential as a researcher. Generally, we expect at least two of the letters to be written by faculty members. 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, please provide letters from professionals in supervisory or managerial roles (ideally having advanced degrees) who can attest to your scholarly ability and potential, your work performance, and your creativity, dedication, etc. A minimum of three letters of recommendation are required, although there is space for 4 letters of recommendation to be uploaded on the UCSB Online Application. Any additional letters of recommendation will need to be submitted via post in hardcopy form.
  • Transcripts

All applicants will be required to upload “unofficial” transcripts to their application.  These uploaded transcripts are required to be official documents created by the university.  Applicants who are admitted and submit a positive SIR will be required to send final/official transcripts to the Graduate Division. 

  • Non-refundable application fee. Applications are not processed until this is received.

 Sent to the Graduate Division by the Educational Testing Service

  • Official GRE scores sent by the Educational Testing Service (ETS).

  • TOEFL or IELTS scores (for applicants whose native language is not English).


Contact Information

For further information regarding the Bren School admissions process, please

contact or (805) 893-7611.


Frequently Asked Questions


Are my GPA and GRE scores high enough?

The average GPA for admitted PhD students is generally at least 3.5, and the combined verbal and quantitative average score is generally at least 316 (new GRE score) 1350 (old GRE score).

What if my GPA is less than 3.0?

The minimum GPA Graduate Division will allow is a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or higher (on a 4.0-point scale) for undergraduate or post-graduate studies.

In rare cases, the school can petition the Graduate Division to admit a student whose GPA 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. However, it is quite unlikely that a faculty member would agree to sponsor a student who had a low GPA. More likely, you would be encouraged to pursue a master’s degree first.

How do I send my GRE scores?

GRE scores are not sent by the applicant; rather, ETS sends them directly to the UCSB Graduate Division.

I retook the GRE. What scores will be used?

Applicants who take the GRE a second time and want scores updated must request that the new scores be sent to UCSB. UCSB will review only the most current complete set of scores reported. Applicants may not mix and match the highest scores from different tests.

I took the GRE before the application deadline, but I'm worried that official scores may not arrive from ETS until after the deadline. Will the Graduate Division consider my application to be late?

If you took the test on a date near the application deadline, you should self-report your scores to the Bren Staff Graduate Advisor. We can use these scores to begin the review process but will require official scores before communicating a final admission decision to the Graduate Division. However, should your scores arrive beyond the December 15 application deadline; you may be excluded from eligibility for the university-wide fellowship competition.

If I am admitted, by what date do I have to accept or decline the offer of admission?

April 15. UCSB abides by the Council of Graduate Schools resolution that prospective students are under no obligation to accept a financial award until April 15. For more information on this resolution, please see the Council of Graduate Schools web site.

If I am admitted, may I defer my admittance for one year?

No. The university does not allow us to defer admittance; however, we will keep your application materials (letters of recommendation, Statement of Purpose, transcripts, etc.) on file for one year. To reactivate your application, you must complete a new online application and pay the application fee. But because you would be competing in a different applicant pool than before, admission is not guaranteed.

Are students ever admitted without a sponsor?

No student is admitted unless a faculty member has agreed to sponsor the student and serve as the PhD advisor.

What is the role of the sponsor?

The sponsor normally serves as the student’s advisor and the chair of the student’s PhD Committee. The sponsor is responsible for providing intellectual support and academic and career advice, as well as assisting the student to obtain necessary financial support from graduate student researcher positions, teaching positions, fellowships, etc.