PhD: Admissions
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We're glad that you're considering applying to the Bren School's PhD in Environmental Science and Management. To ensure that you're as prepared as possible, we recommend you review the contents of this page in its entirety. Here are some quick links to get you started:

Eligibility & Deadlines Faculty Sponsorship Requirements
Undergrad/Grad Preparation International Applicants
How to Apply to the Bren School Applications From Current UCSB Students
Non-Degree Applicants Financial Information for Prospective PhDs

In addition to the information found on this page, potential doctoral students should review the UCSB Graduate Division's How to Apply page, which includes detailed information about how to submit the required e-Application.

Thoroughly reviewed this page, but still have questions? Please contact the Bren School's Admissions team via email at admissions@bren.ucsb.edu or on the phone at (805) 893-4886.


PhD Admissions Eligibility & Deadlines

All applications for graduate study at UCSB are submitted online to the Graduate Division via its Graduate Application. Applications are not submitted directly to the Bren School, though they are reviewed by the Bren School faculty and the faculty-led Admissions Committee. 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. 

  • 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. Applicants are also required to take the Graduate Records Examination (GRE; general exam only) to be eligible to apply to UCSB’s graduate programs. (See How to Apply to the Bren School PhD Program section below for additional application details.)


  • Bren School PhD Application and Admissions Deadlines
    The UCSB Graduate Division e-Application for Fall 2017 closed on December 15, 2016. Applications for Fall 2018 will open in the fall, with a deadline of December 15, 2017. Please check back in August for more details. The Bren School only accepts applications for Fall quarter matriculation; students cannot apply to begin in Winter, Spring, or Summer terms.

    PhD applicants who were admitted for Fall 2017 have until April 15, 2017 at 11:59 p.m. PST 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. (See the Graduate Division's Admitted Applicants page for further instruction.) 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. Students needing more time beyond this deadline need to email admissions@bren.ucsb.edu to request an extension. UCSB does not allow PhD admits to defer admittance, except in the case of prestigious fellowships.

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Faculty Sponsorship Requirements

The Bren School offers a mentorship-based PhD program in which each student works closely with at least one Bren professor in his or her area of expertise. 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 Assistant positions, and fellowships, among other areas of support.

There is different admission criteria depending on the type of research you hope to do (natural science- or engineering-based research versus social science-based research), so please review this section carefully for full details. Regardless of which track you wish to pursue, it is important to thoroughly review our Faculty Research page to have a solid understanding of the research being conducted by our faculty to best align your interests.

  • Natural Science- or Engineering-based Research Interests
    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. Please keep in mind that due to the faculty members' busy lecture, research, and travel schedules, it could take longer than two weeks for a faculty member to return a cold call or cold email.

  • Social Science-based Research Interests
    Applicants intending to focus on economics or political science apply to the Bren School PhD program without a faculty sponsor and instead indicate their interest in this track by selecting the "Social Science Group (economics and political science) - PhD applicants only" option under the Faculty Interests section of the UCSB application. While applicants intending to focus on economics or political science do not have to identify a mentor at the admissions stage, they are encouraged to review faculty web pages and contact faculty for further information.

Regardless of which track they decide to apply to, prospective PhD students are strongly encouraged to visit the Bren School at some point in the admissions process. Please contact Bren School admissions and outreach representatives at admissions@bren.ucsb.edu to make arrangements.

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.

Although a faculty member may express interest in sponsoring you, the Bren School Admissions Committee makes the final admission decision on which PhD applicants to have advance to the Graduate Division for final review. The Bren School Admissions 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.

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Required Academic Preparation for the PhD Program

The undergraduate coursework and related preparation required for the PhD program vary depending on the faculty member(s) 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 inquire with the faculty member directly to better understand his/her admission criteria. Sometimes the faculty members explicitly state whether or not they prefer an applicant have an advanced degree before pursuing a PhD; others might want to speak with a prospective PhD applicant before determining if master's-level courses would benefit the applicant.

The UCSB Graduate Division stipulates that all admitted graduate students must have earned a cumulative GPA the equivalent to a 3.0 on a U.S. 4.0 grading scale. In rare cases, the Bren 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.

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International PhD 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.

International applicants should carefully review the information for international students on the UCSB Graduate Division’s website. The UCSB Office of International Students & Scholars also offers information made available regarding admissions to the university, visa requirements, and the cost of attending UCSB for international graduate students, among other subjects.

  • Pre-application
    The Bren School does not require international applicants to submit a pre-application.


  • International applicant Grade Point Averages (GPA)
    All applicants will be required to self-report their GPAs on their UCSB Online Application. Although most institutions in the United States use a 4.0 scale (including UCSB), international students do not need to convert their GPAs to this scale. In fact, international students would be better off self-reporting their GPAs on their application in the same scale used by their home institution. For example, if your institution grades on a scale of 100, 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 Requirements
    If the applicant’s native language is not English, then s/he is required to complete either the TOEFL or IELTS exam. 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. Foreign language proficiency exam scores can be no more than two years old at the time of application.

    Exceptions to the English language placement exam 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.

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Current UCSB Graduate Students Applying to Bren's PhD Program

If you are currently a UCSB graduate student in a terminal master's degree (like the MESM degree) and are looking to add the PhD in Environmental Science and Management, or if you're currently pursuing a PhD in another department at UCSB and wish to transfer to the Bren School, you will still need to complete the UCSB Graduate Division's electronic application to be considered for admission. Please select the "Current UCSB Graduate Students" application type on the landing page menu of the Graduate Division's e-application to complete the correct application.

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How to Apply to the Bren School PhD Program

All applications for graduate study at UCSB are submitted online to the Graduate Division. Applications are not submitted directly to the Bren School; instead, all materials are uploaded directly on to your UCSB e-application. 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.

The following examination scores and application materials are required of all prospective PhD applicants and must be uploaded to the UCSB Graduate Division’s Online Application portal for consideration into the Bren School PhD program:

  • Statement of Purpose
    The Statement of Purpose (SOP) should provide evidence of your promise as a member of the academic community and should summarize your past research experience, discuss the current state of your research, and explain the future work you hope to pursue. It should also address why the Bren School is the most appropriate place for you to pursue your studies.

    The SOP should be at least one page but no more than two. 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.
    The UC Berkeley Graduate Division provides advice on Writing the Statement of Purpose.
  • Personal Achievements/Contributions
    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.

    In your PAC, you may also 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.

    The UC Berkeley Graduate Division provides an online resource called Writing the Personal Statement which is especially helpful in guiding applicants on this document. The PAC should be at least one page but no more than two. 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.
  • Resume or Curriculum Vitae
    Applicants should include all relevant research or professional experience, as well as any publications produced, grants secured, or labs/courses taught.
  • Letters of Recommendation (minimum of three letters required; maximum of four)
    For the PhD program, it is beneficial if an applicant can provide at least two letters from faculty members who are 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.

    Letters of Recommendation should be uploaded electronically by the recommenders onto the applicant's online application. You will be asked to supply the name, email address, and current institution/organization of each recommender. Once supplied, the online application will provide instructions to each of your recommenders via email.

    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.


  • Academic Transcripts
    You are required to upload an official transcript created by your university. This transcript will be used to review and evaluate your application.

    Scan and upload all pages of your official transcript from this institution (including the grading scale, which may be on the backside of the transcript). The uploaded transcript must be produced by the university with all appropriate seals/stamps. Remove your Social Security Number by crossing/blacking out numbers before uploading (if applicable).

    Final, official transcripts sent directly to UC Santa Barbara from the institution will be required for all applicants who are admitted and have indicated their intent to enroll at UC Santa Barbara by submitting a Statement of Intent to Register (SIR). If sending paper documents by mail, official transcripts must be sent to the UC Santa Barbara Graduate Division directly from the school in the institution's sealed envelope, with all official seals and stamps intact. If sending electronic ​documents, transcripts must be sent directly from the institution's official transcript or document delivery service to transcripts@graddiv.ucsb.edu. Finally, official transcripts must be received before the first day of instruction of the quarter to which you are admitted.

    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.

    Please visit the UCSB Graduate Division's How to Apply page for more tips on uploading transcripts to your graduate application.

  • Graduate Records Examination (GRE) - REQUIRED
    The GRE is required for all graduate degree programs, except Art Studio. Official GRE scores are those submitted directly from the Educational Testing Service (ETS). Official GRE test scores are valid for five years after your test administration date. If you are not sure when your scores expire, please contact ETS directly to inquire. 

    Applicants must make arrangements to take the GRE directly with ETS and should instruct ETS to report scores to UCSB (the institution code is 4835). You do not need to provide an ETS department code when sending your scores, but if you do provide a department code we will still receive your scores.

    Applicants are required to self-report their GRE general exam scores on their UCSB Graduate Application (the Bren School does not require a subject test). You must provide your test date and seven digit registration number as well as your self-reported scores (found on your official Report of Scores from ETS) in the Exam Scores section of your application. This information will allow the Graduate Division to match your official scores to your online application.

    Neither UCSB nor the Bren School has a minimum required GRE score, as it is only one of many application elements considered during the review process. The GRE score is viewed holistically in the context of all the information provided by each applicant.

    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.

  • English Language Competency Exams - REQUIRED OF INTERNATIONAL APPLICANTS
    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. 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. 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 PhD program unless they have TOEFL or IELTS scores significantly higher than the minimum required by the University. The PhD program is rigorous, and there is not time for students to develop their English skills simultaneously.

    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.

  • Non-refundable application fee - REQUIRED
    Applications are not processed until this is received. All applications require anon-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. Students who think they are eligible can submit an application fee waiver. Visit the UCSB Graduate Division's How to Apply page for information.

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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:

  • 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.


  • 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.

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Page last updated January 5, 2017. All rights reserved.