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Prospective Graduate Student FAQ

In the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Utah, graduate students incur no cost for tuition and receive a stipend and health benefits. Graduate students are supported financially at a minimum stipend of $31,500 (M.Sc.) or $35,000 (Ph.D.) annually (before tax). A $1,000 housing allowance will be provided for the first month in residence. Stipends are distributed every 2 weeks and after tax, a M.Sc. student could expect a paycheck of about $1,100/twice a month (depending on individual tax withholding preferences) at our annual M.Sc. rate. Students are paid both during the academic year and during the summer at the same monthly rate.

All students in the Department are supported with funds by a grant that an individual faculty member has won, or in some cases a Teaching Assistantship. This means the number of students admitted is determined by how many faculty members have a grant with enough funds to pay the student’s stiped, benefits, and tuition. We do not admit more students in a given admissions cycle than we have allocated funding to support through individual faculty grants. Grants that faculty members win to support students are usually tied to specific projects with well-defined outcomes they have promised to deliver, and this influences the selection of students to work on those projects.

Basic Entrance Requirements: 

  1. B.A. or B.S. degree required for entrance into M.S. Program (Most students will have a degree in a relevant field such as atmospheric sciences, mathematics, engineering, physics, chemistry, computer science, or the physical sciences.)
  1. M.S. degree in Atmospheric Sciences or closely related discipline required for entrance into the Ph.D. program
  2. Undergraduate cumulative GPA of at least a 3.0 on a 4.0 scale
  3. Proficiency in undergraduate coursework before entry into the graduate program
    • Students are expected to have passed basic courses in math (through partial differential equations), calculus-based physics, chemistry, and computer science equivalent to those required for an Atmospheric Sciences B.S.  The combined GPA of these courses should exceed 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.

Once the graduate application site is open, all faculty members can individually go into an internal system and review the all the individual applications. Therefore, faculty members can see your application once it’s been submitted, regardless of whether it is submitted 3 weeks before the deadline or after the deadline. Applications are reviewed by individual faculty members after the application is open until the Faculty Admissions Meeting is held, which takes place just after the formal application deadline, usually in late January. Faculty members may or may not review individual applications submitted after the deadline.

During the Faculty Admissions Meeting, individual faculty members have the chance to identify which applicants stand out compared to the pool of applicants and they together, discuss whether or not that applicant has an adequate background to succeed in our program. Competitive applications are those that usually multiple faculty members identify as a top applicant. After these competitive applicants are decided together amongst all faculty, individual faculty members are able to decide whether to extend an offer of admission to an individual student based on which of the competitive applicants are the best fit for their grant that will fund the student on that specific project.

If you are admitted, you will receive an offer letter that lists the name of your primary research advisor or the faculty member who’s grant funding would pay your salary, benefits, and tuition. Sometimes, multiple faculty members are interested in extending an offer to the same student. In that case, all of their names are listed on your offer letter, which means you have the opportunity to choose who would be your primary advisor and which project you may work on which is something domestic applicants will have the chance to do during our Prospective Student Visit Weekend. Additionally, there are cases where faculty members may combine funding on related grants/projects, in which case your offer letter may state that you are being given the chance to be co-advised by two or more faculty members and would work at the intersection of their two projects and in both of their research groups. Thus, the details of the offer letter may vary from student to student, but generally, you can expect to find out who’s research group you would work in or what your options are in this offer letter. If you have questions about it, please reach out!

Graduate applications to the Dept. of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Utah are accepted through January. However, we strongly suggest that prospective students submit their applications around the 3rd or 4th week of Decemberto give the faculty members adequate time to review their application in detail. Applications submitted after the deadline may be considered, but given the limited number of funding opportunities, your chances of acceptance are much lower if you submit an application after the deadline.

Refer to the admissions process here.
  • Unofficial transcripts from previous institutions (in English, with conversions to letter grades/units if your university uses a different system)
  • Three subtopics you are interested in within Atmospheric Sciences
  • Statement of Purpose (2 page maximum) describing career goals, motivations, potential areas of interest, and contact with departmental faculty (if any)
  • Your CV, typically 1-2 pages
  • Contact information for three references that will submit letters of recommendation
  • Application fee* to be paid by credit card
  • TOEFL or IELTS scores (for international student applicants whose first language is not English)
    • Official TOEFL or IELTS scores must be less than two years old at the time of admission and must be sent directly from Educational Testing Service (TOEFL) or from the center where you took the test (IELTS) to the University of Utah Admissions Office (School Code: 4853) at:

      The University of Utah
      Admissions Office
      201 S. 1460 E., Rm. 250
      Salt Lake City, UT 84112-9057

  • Explanation of gaps/grades
  • The Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) revised General Test is no longer required, however GRE revised General Test Scores may be submitted as supplementary information to the Department of Atmospheric Sciences directly from Educational Testing Services (ETS).  Send scores directly to School Code (4853) and Department Code (0501).

Are Fee Waivers Available?

The application fee may be waived for some students on a case-by-case basis. Inquiries about this should be directed to our Department’s Administrative Staff who are not involved in making decisions about admissions (Alex Munoz 

Submit Early

The earlier you submit your application, the earlier individual faculty members will have access to that information to review, and it means your application is often reviewed before others that are received later. So, while the exact timing of when your application is received is not considered explicitly in the admissions process, it does impact how much careful consideration can be given to your application by individual faculty members. Thus, is to your advantage to submit your application earlier than the deadline so all faculty have time to carefully review it prior to the Faculty Admissions Meeting.  

List Faculty Members you’d most like to work with in your Research Statement

Because the final decision to extend an offer to a competitive applicant rests in the hands of individual faculty members (after a consensus is reached as to whether or not the student is a good fit for our program), it is to your advantage to list the names of any faculty members whom you are interested in working with in your Research Statement. It is especially important to name the 2-3 people you’re most interested in working with in case there is a chance they could collaboratively fund you together, but couldn’t fund you on their own. You should also make sure the 3 subtopics you select as areas of interest [Link to Q about what’s materials they should prepare] are aligned with the type of research they do as those help guide faculty members identify which applications to review most closely to find the best candidate for their specific funding/project.

Inquire with individual faculty members ahead of time if they have funding to admit a student

If you are only interested in working with one faculty member in our Department, you might consider emailing them before submitting your application to inquire if they have funding to admit a student this year. Sometimes, we get amazing applicants, but the only faculty member they want to work with does not have funding. If they do not have funding, you’ll save yourself time and money by asking beforehand and can plan in advance to submit applications for your own funding*. ( And if they do have funding, you can ask to hear more about the project that funding is for, to see if it aligns with your interests, and can then tailor your application accordingly, pointing out what prior coursework or research you’ve done that would make you a great fit for that specific project.)

*NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program  -   American Meterological Society Graduate Fellowships

Admissions decisions are done on a rolling basis. We generally extend the first round of offer letters immediately following the Faculty Admissions Meeting after the application deadline. Declined applicants are sent decision letters at the same time. Because funding is limited and we don’t accept students without a guarantee of funding, there are many students who will not hear back from us immediately with an offer or decline. This is because the admitted students have until April 15th to decide whether or not to accept an offer of admission. If a first round offer is declined by a student, we will then move on and select another candidate from the competitive pool to extend that offer to (since that funding is now available), and so on. Therefore, admissions decisions are done in waves throughout the period after the deadline until April 15th.

If the highest degree you have received by the time you would start our program is a Bachelor’s Degree, you should apply as a Master’s student regardless of whether your intention is to continue on to the Ph.D. program or not. We require all incoming graduate students holding Bachelor’s Degrees to first complete their Master’s Degree before taking our comprehensive exam which determines whether you are later admitted into the Ph.D. program. Details on this process for transition from the Master’s program to the Ph.’D. program can be found in the Graduate Student handbook.

If you already hold a M.Sc. in Atmospheric Sciences or Meteorology, you should apply as a Ph.D. student. Historically, few students have entered our program this way and we generally admit more students at the Master’s level.

If you hold a Master’s Degree in a related field (e.g. Civil/Environmental Engineering, Environmental Science, Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, etc.) this question becomes less clear cut and we encourage you to reach out to our Director of Graduate Studies, Court Strong, to discuss your specific situation. Generally, unless your graduate level course work included substantial classes on Dynamic Meteorology, Physical Meteorology, and Climate Dynamics (the core courses required in our Master’s program) and an analogous number of elective units related to Atmospheric Sciences that our Master’s program requires as well as a substantive research-based thesis on similar topics, we will require you to apply at the Master’s level and  take our Comprehensive Examination which determines whether you are later admitted into the Ph.D. program. Details on this process can be found in the Graduate Student handbook. Historically, it is extremely rare for a student with a M.Sc. in a related field to be admitted to our Ph.D. program, and those that have been can unambiguously prove they have completed coursework and a thesis similar to what is required in our Master’s program through transcripts, copies of their thesis, copies of published papers they were the lead author on, and in their recommendation letters.

Last Updated: 12/4/23