Prospective Students: Frequently Asked Questions

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What are the program's standards and policies on admission? What can I do to help my chances?

We view the application as a whole and do not place more importance on any one piece. The student must first be academically admissible, which is determined by a careful review of the application, the transcripts, and the letters of recommendation. You are highly encouraged to include a resume or CV highlighting other activities and achievements you feel may be helpful for us to know. 

Additionally, and most importantly, a member of the NRSM faculty must agree to advise the prospective student ahead of time. This is important, as it helps to ensure that the student has a better, more personalized experience while earning the degree. We do not operate like many other graduate programs, where a student is admitted without an advisor and left to find one on their own. This means that even if the applicant has a strong application package, if there is no one from amongst the faculty who is willing and able to advise a new graduate student, we have to deny admission. A faculty member's decision whether or not to advise a given student usually depends on the following factors: admissibility, mutual research interests, level of need for a new student, and ability to fund that student (usually, but not always, through an externally funded research grant). We always recommend that applicants carefully review faculty profiles on our website to determine with whom they might like to work should they be admissible. It is very helpful if you make an effort to contact these individuals and to include their names in the application's statement of purpose. We will then make sure that those faculty members have an opportunity to view the application. If the faculty member reviewing an application has had some prior contact with the applicant, they are usually more likely to consider advising.

How are students in this program funded?

The bulk of our students are funded as research assistants through research grants secured by the faculty advisor. This is why it is important to have some idea of what your research interests are when you apply and to make sure they're clearly stated in the application. Some of our students are funded on teaching assistantships, and some have both teaching assistantships and research assistantships. Both appointments offer the same benefits: a modest stipend, a tuition waiver, and health and dental coverage. The levels of these benefits vary depending upon the level of the appointment. For example, a student on a 50% assistantship (considered a "full" assistantship) works 20 hours a week and earns a full tuition waiver. A student on a 25% assistantship works 10 hours per week and earns a half tuition waiver.

(For more about assistantships, visit the Graduate Assistant Employment website.) A few of our students are self-funded, either through loans or other sources of personal funds. Most of our faculty will not agree to advise a student unless they can provide funding, but there are exceptions.

How many students are in the program?

The number of active students in our program varies throughout the year, as students graduate or matriculate in. It can also vary from year to year, being dependent on general economic trends. In the past ten years, we have had between 80-130 students in the program at any one given time.

What courses are required for the MS? The PhD?

The program requires a one-credit orientation course (NR 8101), which should be taken in fall semester of the first year of study. (If students matriculate in the spring, they should take orientation in their first fall semester.) We also require a one-credit seminar course in which the student must give one presentation. Beyond that, the program is highly flexible and customizable. The courses that each student takes to satisfy their degree requirements will depend upon what is being studied and researched. The student and the student’s advisor and/or committee should decide together what courses should be included as part of the official degree program.  You can view lists of sample coursework for each of our various tracks by viewing each track's page linked from our Areas of Study page.  

I have a bachelor's degree in a field that is completely unrelated to natural resources or the environment. Am I eligible for admission?

The program does not have any prerequisite degrees or courses, but typically students who are admitted have undergraduate degrees that are related to the field they’d like to study (e.g. forestry, environmental studies, geography, biology, etc.). However, we have admitted students from other educational backgrounds, particularly if there is relevant experience.  We sometimes recommend that students in this situation take a few general courses (either at the University of Minnesota or elsewhere) that will illustrate their ability to succeed in graduate study within the relevant discipline. This can vary a great deal depending upon what specific field of study the student wishes to embark on. 

How long does my statement of purpose need to be?

Some applicants get their point across in a paragraph or two, while others use a page or two. There is no single best practice, as it depends upon the individual's writing style. Good statements of purpose are specific about the applicant’s goals and are able to directly state how the degree objective will help the applicant meet those goals. If you are interested in working with specific faculty members, mention their names (most applicants list 3 to 5 unless they've already been offered a position by a single individual). 

Do I need to submit the diversity statement?

While this component of the application is not required absolutely, you should plan to submit it. It is an opportunity for you to speak about your unique perspectives, abilities, experiences, and challenges. These are critical to our understanding of what the individual applicant might bring to the program, and touch on themes that are not necessarily covered in the statement of purpose. There is no minimum or maximum length for the statement. 

I know that the Graduate School requires an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher, but my GPA is lower. Can I still apply?

You may still apply. Applicants that the program has admitted with a GPA under 3.0 have GPAs that are relatively close to the cut-off and are exceptional in other ways (e.g., they may have a considerable amount of relevant professional experience, persuasive and effective letters of recommendation, a specific faculty member in the program who knows them and can vouch for their abilities, or a combination of these factors).

Can my letters of recommendation be submitted outside of the application system (i.e., via e-mail, or U.S. Mail)?

It is preferable to have the letters submitted via the application system, but on rare occasions the recommenders have difficulty accessing the system. The program will accept letters that are sent directly to the program office e-mail ([email protected]) by the recommender. We will also accept physical letters, but they must be submitted in a sealed envelope and must bear the recommender's original signature. 

Does the program need an official transcript?

It is not necessary to send an official transcript to the program office. Applicants upload unofficial transcripts in the online application system when they apply.  If an applicant is admitted, our Graduate School will then request official transcripts before the applicant is permitted to register.