FAQ: Geography PhD

October 28, 2020 - COVID exception for GRE

 We acknowledge the unique challenges that prospective domestic and international students are facing this year, including:

  • Effects of economic downturn (e.g., job loss, currency devaluation)
  • Lack of access to testing center locations (e.g., testing center closures, unsafe travel conditions)
  • Lack of access to online testing (e.g., unavailable in certain countries, inability to receive approval to take at home)

The School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning will waive the GRE requirement for all applicants to its graduate programs for Spring 2021 and Fall 2021 admission. Applicants may supply GRE scores if they feel it will strengthen their application. Failure to submit a GRE score will not prevent an application from being reviewed and fully considered for admission.

Can I enter the PhD program if I do not have a master’s degree?

Yes. We encourage all prospective research students to apply for admission to the PhD degree program. PhD students may earn the MA in Geography en route to the PhD (master’s in passing).

Is there a minimum GRE score for admission to the PhD program?

No, but competitive applicants have achieved the following scores or higher:

Fall 2019 Verbal & Quantitative combined 322, Writing 4.5

Fall 2020 Verbal & Quantitative combined 312, Writing 4.0

What is your GRE exam institutional code number?


I am taking the GRE exam after the application deadline. Will my application be reviewed?

Only complete applications will be reviewed by the admissions committee. Applications will be reviewed when the GRE scores are received.

What additional exams are required for non-English speaking students for admission to the PhD  program?

Competitive applicants have achieved an average of 100 on the TOEFL or 8 on the IELTS. Please visit Graduate Admission English Proficiency for university requirements and more detailed information on demonstrating English proficiency, including waiver eligibility.

Should I contact a faculty member before I apply?

Professors welcome e-mail from prospective students. They often take note of the prospective applicant's name and research interest and watch for the full application to be submitted for a full evaluation. We strongly recommend that you contact a prospective faculty advisor prior to applying for admission. A judiciously placed, carefully worded email can pave the way for your admission even if you don't get an immediate personal reply.

Is there a deadline to apply?

December 1 is the deadline to submit your complete application. Applications received or completed after this date are not guaranteed to be reviewed.

What do you mean by a “Complete Application”?

A complete application includes all of the following items:

  • Graduate Admissions application form
  • Official transcripts
  • Official GRE scores 
  • Official English proficiency scores (if required)
  • Resume or CV
  • Personal statement
  • Three letters of recommendation

All items must be received by ASU Graduate Admissions in order for the application to be considered complete.

What types of financial aid do you provide?

We consider all applicants for multi-year guaranteed funding packages. This funding is competitive. Funding typically consists of four-year packages in the form of 20hr/week research or teaching assistantships that include full tuition remission and health insurance.

Do I need to submit a separate application to be considered for a financial award?

We do not offer need-based financial aid. Rather, we offer merit-based fellowships and research and teaching assistantships. Assistantships typically require twenty hours of work per week and include a full waiver of tuition and most fees. Information on need-based financial aid (grants and loans) is available from Financial Aid.

As an international student, what are my chances of full financial support?

We consider all PhD applicants for multi-year guaranteed funding packages.

Can I start the PhD degree in the Spring semester?

Our graduate programs are designed to start in the Fall semester. On rare occasions, we allow exceptional students to start their doctoral studies in the Spring semester. Students entering in the Spring semester are less likely to be offered financial support.

Can I complete the PhD degree as a part-time student? Are sufficient night classes available?  Could I earn a PhD over several summers of study?

No. The PhD degree is a multi-year research-intensive experience that requires full commitment by all students to their studies.

Do I need to earn a degree in geography to be admitted?

No. We often admit and fund students who have undergraduate (and graduate) degrees in disciplines other than geography.

Whom should I ask to send letters of recommendation?

The primary purpose of the letters of recommendation is to help us to determine your ability to successfully complete the PhD program and your potential to make significant academic contributions. At least two of your letters should be from academic sources. Applicants with extensive professional experience are likely to have their remaining letter from supervisors; applicants with less experience may have all three of their letters from academic sources. Most importantly, your letters should be from references who know you well enough to say specific things about your abilities, accomplishments, and professional potential.