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. Read more

The Department admits only those applicants who have a specific faculty member interested in supporting their admission and willing to act as their initial advisor during the first year in residence. In many cases, this initial faculty advisor becomes the student’s formal Academic Advisor, but it is also possible for another faculty member to take on the role of Academic Advisor later on. For applicants who do not have a specific faculty member committed to serving as their initial advisor but have research interests that fit the Department and the support of one or more faculty members, the Director of Graduate Studies may serve as the initial faculty advisor.

In order to identify an initial faculty advisor and learn more about our program, we recommend all applicants to send an initial email with a short description of academic interests and a C.V. to faculty with common interests, and to inquire if that faculty member will be accepting any new graduate students. If the faculty member expresses interest, then we suggest continuing communication over email or phone to discuss interests, goals, and expectations. Whenever possible, we also encourage applicants to visit our department; however, visiting is not required. If an applicant is planning to visit the campus, an advance notice to the Director of Graduate Studies would be helpful for scheduling a meeting, in addition to setting up meetings with faculty members and graduate students who have related interests. 

(2) Formal Application

All prospective students must apply for admission to the Graduate School of the University of North Carolina. Visit the Graduate School’s information page for an online application. Read more

The Graduate School administers the admissions process of all applicants. The Department selects the candidates to be admitted. The Department primarily accepts students who start in the Fall semester, but a Spring semester admission is possible under extenuating circumstances. 

Please note that application fee waiver requests are available to some domestic applicants.

Application deadlines:

  • 11 December 2018: Recommended deadline to be eligible for UNC Graduate School recruitment awards for incoming students (to be nominated by the Department);
  • 8 January 2019: Final deadline for Fall admission and consideration for Departmental funding.

Please review UNC Graduate School’s complete list of required application materials.

Read our Department’s instructions for statement of purpose
  (also referred to as Statement of Professional and Research Interests) The statement of purpose should include:

  • Professional and research interests and why they are important
  • Personal/professional/research experience and/or academic background and achievements relevant to research interests and goals
  • A description of how the Geography program at UNC is a good fit for the application and how the applicant’s academic interests fit with faculty and department interests
  • How the applicant would contribute to diversity in our department and at UNC-CH
  • Personal accomplishments that demonstrate the potential for success in graduate studies

Please email the Director of Graduate Studies for a sample statement of purpose.  


(3) Evaluation and Admission

The Graduate Committee of the Department of Geography evaluates all applications and recommends admission and funding decisions to the Graduate School. Our evaluation and selection process aims to admit students from diverse backgrounds whose general interests are aligned with those of one or more of the active Departmental faculty members. We expect all graduate students to actively participate in and contribute to the academic life and intellectual community of the Department and the University.

Read more about the Graduate Committee’s selection criteria or considerations.

The Graduate Committee considers all components of an applicant’s application materials and evaluates:

  • Academic background and achievements
  • Academic interests and related personal, professional and/or research experience
  • Faculty support for the applicant and how well the applicant’s interests would fit in and be supported by the Department
  • Potential of applicant to contribute to the Department, the University, and Geography through research and active engagement in academic life and intellectual community
  • Potential of applicant to enhance diversity in the Department, UNC-CH, and discipline


The number of students in residence is limited by Graduate School policies, faculty interest in or capacity to accept more students, and availability of funding.