ESS Graduate Application Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The preferred application deadline for Fall Admission is February 1st for full funding consideration.  Applicants to the Professional Science Master’s may apply after this date, but it is recommended you adhere to this deadline adhere to this deadline to apply for scholarships through CSU.

Thank you for your interest in the graduate programs in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability (ESS) at Colorado State University (CSU). ESS graduate programs include:

Prior to applying to the program, we recommend that you contact potential advisors, as students are only admitted to our research-based programs if a faculty member chooses to accept them as an advisee.

The Professional Science Master’s in Ecosystem Science & Sustainability does not require a faculty advisor be identified.

Check out our Choosing A Faculty Advisor page for more information on how to contact our faculty!

CSU Admissions does not offer tours for prospective graduate students. 

If you have been in touch with a faculty advisor in our department, there may exist the opportunity to visit CSU, meet with them, and tour our department/research labs.  Please inquire with our faculty directly about this possibility.

Your graduate application requires you to write a personal statement.  While there is no limit on length or specific guidelines for personal statements written for inclusion within applications to our graduate programs, we ask that you reflect on why you are applying, your career and research goals, and what life/educational experiences have led you to graduate school.

We recommend this resource on Writing your Personal Statement from Purdue University.

Waivers for the graduate application fee exist for participants of certain eligible programs.

Consult with the Graduate School about your waiver request, per the instructions on the Application Fee Waiver Request.

Please refer to the CSU Graduate School requirements for English language proficiency.

The Office of International Programs provides extensive international orientation information regarding immigration, arrival, campus housing, and campus involvement.

The CSU Office of Financial Aid provides in-depth information on residency classification.

Begin the application process — Apply Now!


Yes, the GRE is used as a standard during the acceptance review process.  ESS recommends a score in the 70th percentile or better for consideration into our programs. (*Please note that the GRE requirement has been waived for Fall 2023 applicants.) 

You can have your GRE Scores sent directly to CSU without applying for admission.  Contact the testing agency to request that scores be sent to Colorado State University (use institution code 4075).

We recommend a minimum GPA for combined undergraduate work of 3.3 for the Ecosystem Sustainability and Watershed Science programs and a minimum GPA of 3.5 for the Professional Science Master’s in Ecosystem Science & Sustainability program (on a 4.0 scale).   While students with lower GPAs (or GRE scores below the recommended level) may occasionally be accepted for admission, students with scores below these thresholds are usually not competitive, unless their work experiences or other factors make their application exceptional.

Because ESS graduate programs are very competitive, students with less than stellar undergraduate GPAs are often required and encouraged to take more undergraduate courses to raise their GPA or take graduate level courses to show that they are capable of doing well in graduate level work.  (Please note, graduate level work taken without being accepted to the program may or may not be counted towards an ESS graduate degree.)

Regardless of acceptance recommendations made by our faculty and our program, acceptance is still dependent upon official admission into CSU’s Graduate School. The Graduate School requires a minimum GPA of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) for admission to CSU graduate programs.

No, CSU requires official copies of ALL of your transcripts.  To submit official transcripts, contact your previous institutions to request they submit official transcripts to Colorado State University (use institution code 4075).

Yes!  We require official transcripts from every institution you have attended, regardless of how long ago it was, how relevant the material studied is to your current interests, and whether or not you completed a degree at that institution.  This includes any community or technical colleges.  The only exception is Colorado State University; you do not need to submit CSU transcripts with you application.  We do not need copies of your high school transcripts.

The CSU online application requires a minimum of three recommendation letters (more may be sent, but are not necessary).  By entering your recommenders’ information (name, title, email, etc.) within the online application, a message is automatically generated to them to upload their letter of recommendation.

The CSU Graduate School online application provides a document checklist.  You may revisit the site as many times as you need to submit/upload all required application documents.  View the status of your application at any time to ensure your application checklist is complete or check on updates.

Yes, applicants to ESS graduate programs are required to submit an online application.

Once your online application has been submitted to the CSU Graduate School, the department will review your materials and make the official recommendation to the Graduate School.  The Graduate School will then review the application and make the official decision on admission to CSU.  The whole process could take 2-6 weeks depending on the time of year and the volume of applications being reviewed.

Occasionally.  Each applicant is reviewed individually by the department and there may be the opportunity to petition the Graduate School to provisionally accept you, if you have an advisor willing to lobby for you.

Yes.  However, ESS graduate programs are heavily math and science oriented.  It is up to the individual faculty members to determine if your undergraduate preparation is sufficient to be accepted into our programs.  A prospective advisor may accept you, but require you to take prerequisite courses in your first year, or a faculty member may ask you to take more coursework before being considered for acceptance into the program.

Students who do not have the necessary math and science background often take courses at a community college, or apply to CSU as a second bachelor’s student to take foundational math and science courses before applying to the ESS graduate program.   Note however that taking prerequisite courses does not guarantee acceptance into the graduate program.

To align with CSU’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEEDs) mission and to preserve the environment, all ESS graduate information and application instructions may be accessed online.

Applicants applying to the Ecosystem Sustainability or Watershed Science programs are strongly encouraged to identify potential advisors when they apply. Students are only admitted to the program if a faculty member chooses to accept them as an advisee due to the research-focused nature of the degree.  In order to obtain a faculty advisor, potential students need to contact faculty to discuss open positions in their research programs.

Applicants to the Professional Science Master’s in Ecosystem Science & Sustainability do not need to identify a faculty advisor.

Although CSU is an open campus and we welcome students and their family members at any time, the ESS faculty maintain a busy schedule.  If you would like to meet with a faculty member, please contact them directly to schedule an appointment as they maintain their own calendars.  Also, please note, ESS faculty do summer field research and are typically not available during the summer months.

Most graduate students are funded to attend graduate school and conduct research through their faculty advisor.  Because ESS graduate programs are rigorous, ESS faculty typically commit to funding incoming graduate students prior to acceptance into the ESS graduate program.  Throughout the year, ESS faculty write and apply for funding through a variety of sources (e.g. NSF, NIH, CDOW, USDA, USGS grants, private industry, fellowships, NGOs, etc.).  Funding graduate students allows students to focus on their graduate research and studies rather than employment. Whether or not you are offered an assistantship is dependent on your advisor.  Many faculty will not accept students unless they have funding; others may.  When discussing graduate school with a potential advisor, ask if he or she has funding available for an assistantship.

There are also a small number of teaching assistantships competitively awarded through the ESS department.  We recommend you apply by the February 1st deadline to be considered for these positions.  A small number of students pay their own way or are sponsored by their employer.  Other financial aid opportunities are described in the FAQ below.

There are several avenues to receive financial aid including, scholarships, grants, fellowships, loans, etc.  Students are strongly encouraged to apply for a number of scholarships available through the Warner College of Natural Resources (WCNR) and Colorado State University (CSU) Office of Financial Aid.  Typically, this application is done through the CSU Scholarship Application, open each year from October 1 to March 1st.  Visit the WCNR scholarships and CSU Financial Aid for more information.

Residency is determined by the CSU Financial Aid office.  For information about how to apply and qualify for Colorado residency, please visit

Yes, international students are encouraged to apply to ESS graduate programs.  Please see section D.5 of the Graduate and Professional Bulletin for more information about the application process.

Financial support for international students comes from a variety of areas.  International students have special requirements in order to enter the United States.  Please visit the Office of International Programs website to learn more about services for international students and scholars.