students studying on lawn near Scripps Cottage

Apply to the Doctoral Program

The Joint Doctoral Program’s (JDP) average enrollment for an academic year is 25 doctoral students; the incoming class averages 5 new doctoral students each year. In addition, the department enrolls about 50 Masters’ students and roughly 100 undergraduates.

Students seeking entry into the Geography JDP should be highly motivated individuals who seek the special combination of opportunities available through both departments. The joint character of our program offers many advantages, but also creates some logistical adjustments as students must spend one year of the program in residence at UCSB.

Admission Requirements

Applicants for admission to the doctoral program must meet the general requirements for admission to both universities, SDSU and UCSB. Admission also requires acceptance by the respective graduate deans and by both departments. Applicants should have a strong background in geography or a related field. A master‘s degree is normally a prerequisite for admission. Those admitted to the program from non-geography majors may be required to take additional courses during their first year to remove deficiencies in their background. All students entering the program should have completed a lower and upper division statistics course and, as appropriate, mathematics and computer science courses for the specialty chosen. There is no formal foreign language requirement. However, students conducting research in non-English speaking countries may be required to develop appropriate language skills through formal coursework.

Admission Standards

  • An undergraduate grade point average of 3.25 or higher for the last 60 semester units taken (90 quarter units), and/or a graduate grade point average of 3.50 or higher is required
  • Foreign students whose preparatory education was not in English should receive a minimum Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) score of 600 paper-based and 100 internet-based. For students taking the IELTS, a minimum score of 7 is required.
  • GRE scores are not required for Fall 2024 admissions, but may be submitted at the applicant‘s discretion.

Application Process

The Domestic and International application process consists of multiple steps with the following deadlines:

  1. Completion of Cal State Apply Application - Deadline: December 1

  2. Create a my.SDSU Account (See application process link above).

  3. Submit Official Documents (See application process link above). Deadline: December 15

  4. Submit Official Test Scores (See application process link above). Deadline: December 15

  5. Submit Geography Department Application and Materials via Interfolio. Deadline: January 12
    (See Interfolio link to create account/sign in)
    The program application via Interfolio will require the following items:
    • Copies of transcripts from all colleges and universities attended. These do not need to be sent directly from the college or university – photocopies and digital copies are acceptable.
    • Copies of TOEFL or IELTS (only for international applicants) test scores. Photocopies and digital copies are acceptable.
    • A statement of your research interests and professional goals. Indicate links between your research interests and those of faculty members within the department as well as with other research in the field, where appropriate. Describe your teaching/tutoring experience - if applicable. You should also provide the name(s) of at least one and up to three SDSU Geography faculty members who would be suitable program advisors. You are encouraged to contact potential faculty advisors in advance of applying to discuss your research interests and potential fit with their areas of expertise.
    • Writing sample (e.g., thesis chapter, term project report/essay, publication sample.
    • Evidence of research experience - if applicable (e.g., conducting surveys, interviews, and/or qualitative data coding, fieldwork skills, lab skills, research reports, letter from a research supervisor).
    • List of quantitative skills – if applicable to your proposed doctoral research (programming language proficiency, statistical analysis knowledge of commercial software packages)
    • List of qualitative skills – if applicable to your proposed doctoral research (text coding, interpretation, photography, art or poetry, knowledge of commercial qualitative analysis software)
    • A current resume or vitae.
    • Three letters of recommendation – Applicant must provide names and email addresses for recommenders. Recommenders will be invited to complete the recommendation electronically.

For help with using Interfolio, please view the Applicant Guide.

International applicants follow the same application procedures as domestic students. However, there are some additional steps international students must go through when submitting their documents.

When submitting transcripts, students with international coursework must have their school send Graduate Admissions one official original-language record of all academic coursework and proof of degree. For each document you must also send a certified literal English translation, which can come directly from the school itself or from a professional, certified translator. The translation must contain all information shown on the original-language documents. For details on which documents are required, visit the Requirements by Country page. If you have any questions regarding the submission of your official transcripts, please contact Graduate Admissions by phone: 1-619-594-6336 or by email: [email protected].

GRE scores are not required for Fall 2024 admissions, but may be submitted at the applicant's discretion.

For students admitted to the program planning to attend San Diego State University on an F-1 student visa, you must submit financial documents issued within the past six months to provide evidence of funding for a minimum of one academic year. For more information on submitting the documentation, including detailed instructions, please visit the International Admissions page.

Additional information pertaining to international students can be found at the SDSU International Student Center (ISC). The Center hosts a mandatory international student orientation and offers an International Student Peer Mentor Program to help admitted students adjust to living in another country. Admitted students may also join the International Student Association, which holds numerous events each semester.

Please note: Department applications are electronic and may require you to scan, upload, and/or electronically attach application materials. All required forms will be provided within the electronic application. Please email any additional inquires regarding the application process to [email protected].

Application Review Process

Applications will be reviewed by the faculties of both departments. In addition to the criteria mentioned above, faculties will consider how the candidate‘s interests coincide with those of the program and with faculty expertise. Before an applicant is admitted to the program, at least one faculty member from each department must indicate an interest in working with the candidate. Normally, applicants are notified about admissions and funding decisions well before the April 15th letter of intent day.


Dr. Piotr Jankowski
Office: Storm Hall 301C
Phone: (619) 594-0640
Email: [email protected]

Important Links:

For general information or application questions, please contact:

Doctoral Program Coordinator
Phone: (619) 594-5437
Email: [email protected]


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

A master’s degree is normally a requirement for admission to the Joint Doctoral program. Applicants enrolled in a master’s degree program at the time of application may be admitted if completion of the degree is expected prior to entering the Joint Doctoral program. On occasion, students pursuing a Masters’ degree in Geography at SDSU may be pre-admitted into the Joint Doctoral program if they apply during their first year of studies, with the expectation that the Master’s degree will be earned at SDSU first en route to completing the doctoral degree. This option, however, is only available on a limited basis to highly qualified and high-performing students.
No. Students are admitted at the beginning of the academic year, during the fall semester.
Applications are first reviewed by the SDSU in early February and then by the UCSB faculty in late February to early March. Offers of admission and funding are normally made in early to mid March, but may carry through to April. Applicants offered admission are normally given around two weeks to accept or reject the offer.
There is no protocol for postponing admission. If you don’t enroll for at least one course in the semester following admission you will have to reapply for admission to the Graduate Division. Depending on circumstances, we may guarantee offer of admission and funding, but an applicant will need to formally reapply.
Unofficial documents will no longer be accepted for admission purposes. Students must provide either a foreign evaluation report from IERF, WES, or ECE or submit official documents directly to SDSU.
TOEFL is required of international students, unless the medium of instruction for previous degree(s) was in English.