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Graduate Application FAQ's

Who can help me with this process?

The Department of Geosciences is committed to working with prospective students who may not have easy access to all the information and best practices for producing a successful application. For any questions related to the application process or logistics, please contact our Graduate Program Coordinator, Ms. Jamie Brazier, at For any questions in which a graduate student perspective would be useful, please send a note to This email address is monitored by Mae Saslaw and Lajhon Campbell, two PhD students who began in Fall 2019 and are excited to provide support in helping you apply to the graduate program at Stony Brook. 

Other organizations providing free mentorships that can support you in graduate school applications include:

Earth Sciences Mentor Match

American Geophysical Union Mentoring

What is the cost to apply and does the university/department offer fee waivers?

The cost to apply is $100 USD. For fee waivers obtained through the university, please read on the following list of exemptions and see if you qualify:

What should I do before I apply?

Think about the topics you want to pursue, the kind of work you want to do, and your priorities in choosing a lab. Some graduate students focus on lab experiments, some on computer modelling, and others on field work. Read our faculty websites and bios to find out about their current research at Stony Brook. Many faculty have more detailed research websites that are linked to their department bio pages. Once you have identified a faculty member who would make a good potential advisor for you, send them an email expressing your interest in their lab and how your previous university studies and other experiences prepared you for graduate school. Some templates and suggestions for what to include in your initial letter can be found in the additional resources linked at the bottom of the FAQ.  

Potential advisors could then schedule (this is not a requirement) an informal conversation with you to discuss lab expectations and active research projects. This is an opportunity for both you and the potential advisor to assess whether their lab will be a good fit for your graduate studies. You can ask questions and then decide whether to apply.

 We recommend reaching out to other students in your potential advisor’s lab to learn more about the working environment. If their contact information is not provided to you, please contact and we will ask a member of their lab to email you.

Do graduate students in the Department of Geosciences get paid?

Full time PhD students, in good standing, are typically fully funded through a combination of research assistantships and teaching assistantships. This would include stipend, tuition and eligibility for health insurance for you and your dependents.  All PhD students in our department are paid the same amount, unless they have independently acquired additional funding (eg., if they are funded by NSF GRFP or NASA FINESST fellowships, which accommodate higher stipends). After passing a preliminary examination and advancing to Ph.D. candidacy students receive a pay increase.  Broad based fees charged each semester are not covered.

The M.S. and M.A.T programs in the Department of Geosciences do not provide stipend or tuition coverage for students.

Is field experience required?

No, field camp or field experience is not required for admission; however, if you already have field experience we encourage you to include this as part of your application. 

Do I need to know any programming languages?

Programming knowledge is not a requirement for admission. It is common for graduate students to have limited experience in programming prior to starting their programs. As with fieldwork, if you have experience with programming we highly encourage you to include this as part of your application. 

Are there course requirements for incoming students?

No. You must meet the admission requirements and having advanced coursework in your area of focus on your transcript is important, but we do not require incoming students to have completed any specific courses. We commonly accept students with backgrounds in related disciplines (chemistry, physics, astronomy, etc.) to our Ph.D. and M.S. programs and provide the necessary geosciences background courses in the first year or two of study. 

Where should I send my transcript?

Transcript ordering services vary, but many will default to sending your documents to the undergraduate admissions office. You can avoid delays or having to send a second copy, by directing your transcript directly to our Graduate Program Coordinator, Jamie Brazier ( 

Who will evaluate my application?

A committee of Geoscience faculty members are responsible for reviewing applications to the program and recommending students for acceptance to the Graduate School. 

How do I access classroom accommodations at Stony Brook?

You will need to make an appointment with Stony Brook's Student Accessibility Support Center (SASC). You will need to have a meeting to discuss accommodations every semester. SASC will then send a letter to your professors detailing your accommodations. See the SASC website for contact information.  

Where can I find general information about the SBU graduate school application?

Deadlines, required documents, financial aid information, and some policy questions are addressed in the Graduate Admissions FAQ

Where can I find more resources about applying to grad school?

Our colleagues at Purdue University have written a comprehensive guide that is generally applicable for prospective students in planetary science. You can read their advice and access an extensive folder of additional information here: Applying to Planetary Science Grad School