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Earth System Science Admission Programs

The Department of Earth System Science offers Ph.D. and M.S. programs in a wide range of fields, including hydrogeology; ocean circulation; land use change; sustainable food and water practices; climate, tectonics, and landscape evolution; ocean biogeochemistry; climate and earth system dynamics; soil and environmental biogeochemistry; molecular microbial ecology; and, geostatistics. The size and the breadth of interest of the department's faculty provide numerous opportunities for field-based research and laboratory and numerical experiments and for the most modern applications of instrumental analysis and spectroscopy to problems in the earth sciences.

Application Deadline

The following items must be received by the deadline of Tuesday, December 8, 2015 by 5 p.m. PST in order to be considered for 2016-17 admission cycle.  Applications will open mid-September.


Generally all Ph.D. candidates within ESS are provided full financial support for the first four years and for the duration of their doctoral work. There is limited funding for MS students.

Required Materials

1. Electronic Stanford Graduate Application

Read through the instructions and begin your electronic application on the Stanford Graduate Admissions web site. When prompted to select the program to which you are applying, select "Earth System Science PhD" or "Earth System Science MS".   

2. Statement of Purpose

Your Statement of Purpose should be uploaded as a Word or PDF file in the electronic application (statement should be 2 single spaced pages maximum).

3. Supplemental Information

The Supplemental Information is part of the online application.  You will be asked to identify four faculty members with whom you want to work and why.

4. GRE and TOEFL Scores

Request that ETS send your GRE scores (verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing required), and TOEFL scores if required*, directly to Stanford using the general code 4704 (there is not a specific department code). Students are strongly advised to take the GRE and TOEFL no later than mid-October to ensure scores are transmitted by application deadline.

* TOEFL - Applicants whose first language is not English must submit TOEFL scores from a test taken within the last eighteen months. The TOEFL is waived for individuals who have earned a U.S. bachelor's or master's degree from a college or university accredited by a regional accrediting association in the United States or the equivalent of either degree from a non-U.S. college or university of recognized standing where all instructions is provided in English. This exception does not apply if the courses were completed in a country where English is spoken but not all instruction is provided in English. Scores must be reported directly to Stanford from ETS. Your minimum score must be 100 (internet based) OR 600 (paper based). Please see the Graduate Admissions Office website for additional information about required exams.

5. Letters of Recommendation

Following the instructions in the electronic application system, request that your three letters of recommendation be submitted electronically by the deadline.  It is required by the University that at least one of the recommenders be a faculty member at the last school you attended as a full-time student unless you have been out of school for more than five years. Substitutions for faculty recommendations may include work associates or others who can comment on your potential for graduate work. All letters of recommendation must be received by the application deadline.  Applicants are responsible for notifying references of the deadline.

6. Transcripts

  • What transcripts are required and how many? A scanned version of the official transcript from every postsecondary institution you have attended for at least one year as a full-time student is required.  Also request that ONE official transcript from all colleges and universities you have attended full time for at least one year be mailed directly to Earth System Science (ESS) at the address below, to be received by the application deadline. While the University states that two transcripts are required, ESS needs only one for review purposes. The second transcript will be requested from admitted students prior to matriculation.
  • What is an ‘official’ transcript?  The PDF version of the transcripts you upload on line are considered "unofficial." The university requires "official" transcripts that are produced and sent directly by your university in a sealed envelope.  eTranscript Service within the graduate application is available to current Stanford students and alumni who have active SUNet IDs.
  • Mailing official transcription?  You may also send official transcripts yourself as long as the envelope has not been opened, as indicated by an unbroken seal with a signature or stamp across it. The University reserves the right to require additional academic documents, if we are unable to verify the nature or authenticity of your academic documents, we may ask you to obtain an evaluation from a foreign credential evaluation service. 
    • Domestic:   
      • Transcripts must bear the official seal of the institution and signature of the Registrar. 
    • International: 
      • Academic records should give detailed information on the content and quality of your performance, courses taken each year, and grades received. 
      • The grading scale of the institution and your rank in class should be noted whenever possible. 
      • Degrees must be verified by official copies of diplomas or conferral statements on academic records. 
      • Academic records must be original documents bearing the institutional seal and official signature of the Registrar or copies verified by a school administrative officer. 
      • If the institution does not issue records in English, original language records must be submitted with official English translations. We accept translations issued by the institution or a professional translation service. Translations must be literal and complete versions of the original records. 
      • Applicants from Chinese institutions are encouraged to use the China credential service within the graduate application to request and submit CHESICC authenticated transcript(s). This service is eco-friendly and provides validated documents to the department to which you are applying.
  • What if my official transcripts are not received by the deadline?  Your file will not be considered complete until all required application materials are received. We may do a preliminary review of your file with unofficial transcripts, but we will not make a final decision until we have official transcripts.

Mailing address for transcripts:

Vanessa Bravo
Earth System Science
473 Via Ortega, Room 140
Stanford, CA 94305-4216