The application and admission process has three major steps:
(1) Initial Indication of Interest
All prospective students are strongly encouraged to contact individual faculty members with whom they appear to share common interests and/or the Director of Graduate Studies prior to any formal application. It is the  policy  of the Department to admit only those students who have been ‘sponsored’ by a specific faculty member. This ‘sponsor’ undertakes to provide advice and guidance during the first year  in residence. In many cases the initial sponsor becomes the formal Academic Advisor of the student, but students are not bound to the initial faculty member contacted. For those who have not yet fully developed specific interests, the Director of Graduate Studies may serve as the initial sponsor. Visits to campus are encouraged but not required; advance notice to the Director of Graduate Studies and other faculty is always appreciated. Visiting students are responsible for arranging meetings with suitable faculty and graduate students. Personal contacts can also be made with many faculty and students who attend the AAG national and Southeastern Division of the AAG each year.
(2) Formal Application
All prospective students must apply for admission to the Graduate School of the University of North Carolina (Visit http://gradschool.unc.edu/admissions/instructions.html for more information and online application). The Graduate School has responsibility for administering the admissions process, the Department being responsible for selecting the candidates to be admitted. The deadline for consideration for admission in the Department of Geography with Graduate School funding (i.e., to be eligible for competitive, departmentally-nominated Graduate School recruitment fellowships (http://gradschool.unc.edu/funding/gradschool/fellowshipsandgrants.html) is December 12(for Fall admission). The deadline for consideration for admission into the Department of Geography with Department funding is Jan 10th (for Fall admission). The Department primarily accepts students who start with the Fall semester, but a Spring semester admission is possible under extenuating circumstances.
(3) Evaluation and Admission
The Graduate Committee of the Department of Geography is responsible for evaluating all applicants and recommending admission and funding decisions to the Graduate School. The Department is highly selective and students are admitted on merit and compatibility with faculty research interests.  The Department seeks to admit high quality students from a diverse background whose general interests are aligned with those of one or more of the active Departmental faculty. Selection is made with the following criteria or considerations in mind: (1) Qualifications of the candidates, including (i)  GRE scores; (ii) GPAs at previous schools; (iii) TOEFL scores for foreign candidates; (iv) stature of previous schools, programs, and majors; (v) letters of recommendation; (vi) additional relevant experience; and (vii) letter stating interest in the program. Note that this list does not imply any ranking of criteria; each component is given an approximately equal weight; (2) The match between  prospective student and faculty interests, including the faculty members’ current load of graduate students and research program; (3) Evidence of interaction between faculty members and students with common interests, especially for those already holding MA degrees; (4) Evidence of a research program or project which the student could become involved in, funding available now or in the immediate future, or of research currently being proposed; (5) Potential contributions to the Department; (6) How well applicants represent the diversity of North Carolina, the United States, and the world. The number of students in residence is constrained by Graduate School policies, faculty load and availability of funding.