Stanford University
Death Valley

Geological Sciences

The study of our planet and its neighbors, from their deep interiors to the surface, and through their multi-billion year history.

Graduate Admissions

The Department of Geological Sciences (GS) offers Ph.D. and M.S. programs in a wide range of fields, including surface processes, geomorphology, geomechanics, structural and regional geology, tectonics, sedimentary geology and basin analysis, life and planetary evolution, petrology, geochemistry, mineralogy and mineral physics, environmental geology, geochronology and thermochronology, and geostatistics. The breadth of research in the department provide numerous opportunities for field-based research, laboratory and numerical experiments, modern applications of instrumental analysis and spectroscopy to problems in the earth sciences.

Faculty in the GS department interact closely with other departments at Stanford, including Civil and Environmental, Mechanical, and Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, Biology, Statistics, and Applied Physics. Close collaborations with industry include the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, the Center for Materials Research, the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory, and the U.S. Geological Survey. Students are encouraged to draw upon interdisciplinary projects. Complimentary programs are provided in the Departments of Geophysics, Energy Resources Engineering, and Earth System Science. A list of programs within the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences can be found here

Admissions deadline for Fall 2021-22: December 15, 2020.

If you have additional questions, contact gs-admissions@stanford.edu. More university information and application system questions can be found on Stanford's Graduate Admissions website and the online application.

In accordance with Stanford's Winter closure, the GS department will be closed December 14, 2020 - January 4, 2021. Email access to staff will not be available during this time so plan accordingly.

The following items must be received in the electronic application:

  • Application fee    
  • Statement of purpose
  • Supplemental application (Found in the online application)
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Scanned copy of official transcript(s)
  • TOEFL, if applicable (See below for Fall 2021 application exceptions)

Writing your Statement of Purpose

The Statement of Purpose in a graduate application should provide specifics regarding the scientific questions and research topics you would like to pursue. As such, the statement is more like a research proposal than a general personal narrative. Details of your personal background and education can then strengthen your proposal as part of explaining your research focus and why you feel you are in a good position to attack the scientific questions that interest you.

You may not feel experienced enough now to know exactly what questions you would like to pursue. That is fine. Your research topic will evolve in graduate school as you learn more, interact with your colleagues, and explore new opportunities. Your Statement of Purpose does not lock you into a particular question. Rather, it provides information regarding how you think, the types of questions that interest you, the strength of your background to address those questions, and whether our program has the resources to be a suitable place to pursue your research.

These are guiding questions and themes to consider as you write your Statement of Purpose. If you have any questions feel free to contact our Assistant Director of Student Services, Lauren Mendoza-Tabinas, laurenlm@stanford.edu

Contacting potential faculty advisors

Applying to a doctoral program—particularly a program as broad as Geological Sciences—is not the same as applying to professional schools with a fixed curriculum, like medical or law school, where applicants can be uniformly ranked and the top fraction admitted. Instead, admittance is dependent on an appropriate faculty mentor being available. With this in mind, reviewing the list of current faculty and identifying the most appropriate mentors for your proposed research is essential. At the same time, the interests of individual faculty both may be broader than you realize and can evolve through time, so you would not want to disqualify yourself inappropriately either. The best approach is to contact individual faculty prior to submitting your application in order to discuss your interests and the possibility of conducting research with them. Do not rely on faculty finding you strictly on the strength of a submitted application. Your interactions with faculty will also inform your understanding of our program and the expectations of different research groups.

Official Transcripts

Hard copies of transcripts are not required to apply. Upload a scanned copy of each official transcripts to your application. Do not upload an unofficial transcript printed from your university website. Each transcript should be uploaded as a single PDF.

If you are unable to upload a scanned copy of your official transcript you may send in an official transcript by mail or by email using a credited e-transcript service. E-transcripts should be sent to gs-admissions@stanford.edu

Information about required exams

GRE - GRE scores are not required for Fall 2021 application.

TOEFL - Applicants whose first language is not English must submit TOEFL scores from a test taken within the last eighteen months. Exemptions are granted for applicants 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 equivalent of either degree from a university of recognized standing in countries where all instruction is provided in English. Please see the Graduate Admissions Office website for additional information about required exams and the TOEFL waiver.

Fall 2021 application exception: Due to COVID-19, many locations throughout China have suspended the testing of TOEFLiBT. To accommodate test takers, Educational Testing Services (ETS) is offering the TOEFL IPT Plus. The TOEFL iBT is currently required of all applicants to graduate study when English is not the first language and the applicant does not qualify for an exemption; this is a University requirement. The TOEFL ITP Plus provides paper-based TOEFL iBT Level 1 with an unscored video speaking component, provided by Vericant. Stanford will temporarily accept the TOEFL ITP Plus test with the Vericant interview for applicants from Mainland China who are unable to sit for the TOEFL iBT. This exception is requested only for the 2020-2021 application cycle. Applicants may be asked to re-test at a later time once the Stanford TOEFL iBT becomes available, or applicants may be asked to re-test through the Stanford Language Center.

Application Status

Due to the high volume of applications we cannot respond to individual inquiries about the status of documents submitted. A comprehensive review of all application materials will begin after the deadline. You will be contacted directly for any missing materials.

In accordance with Stanford's Winter closure, the GS department will be closed December 14, 2020 - January 4, 2021. Email access to staff will not be available during this time so plan accordingly. 

Funding and Support

To be considered for funding upon admission simply check the box on the admissions application that indicates that you wish to be considered for financial aid. There are no additional forms or materials to be submitted beyond the regular application.

Graduate students admitted to GS receive substantial financial aid (including tuition) from combinations of departmental fellowships, teaching or research assistantships, and other sources (including external fellowships). The department's funding package covers up to 10 units of tuition and provides a quarterly salary. Please note on your application if you are receiving other fellowships, government funding, or company financial support.

External Funding - Prospective students are strongly encouraged to apply for external fellowships, such as the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, or Department of Defense fellowships. If the external fellowship is not sufficient to cover the standard department support level, a supplement will be provided by the University, the department or a research advisor. These fellowships strongly enhance your resume for your future career.

Knight-Hennessy Scholars

Knight-Hennessy Scholars develops a community of future global leaders to address complex challenges through collaboration and innovation. This year, the program will award up to 75 high-achieving students with full funding to pursue a graduate education at Stanford, including full-time master's and doctoral students in Geological Sciences. To be considered you must apply to Knight-Hennessy Scholars by their deadline found here and separately apply to the Department of Geological Sciences by our deadline.

Graduate Admissions FAQs

Questions? See our FAQs

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