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Holistic Admissions Approach

The Bren School proudly stands by a holistic admissions process for our graduate programs. Bren's admissions committee looks for well-rounded applicants with excellent academic performance, maturity, work experience, great letters of recommendation, and strong personal statements. Each applicant offers a unique suite of experiences and accomplishments that are fully considered by the admissions committee.

Application Considerations

Academic Preparation

The Bren School seeks applicants who have successfully completed relevant coursework to prepare for rigorous graduate study. Students who have not yet completed all of the prerequisites may apply but should enroll in relevant courses in the year prior to their anticipated start date. UCSB requires all graduate students to maintain a Grade Point Average (GPA) of at least 3.0 or above. Applicants are encouraged to do their best in undergraduate courses to prepare for graduate study. If applicants have experienced setbacks and have an overall undergraduate GPA less than 3.0, they still may apply and may be granted admission if there is evidence they can maintain high academic performance in graduate school. For example, an applicant may take a rigorous science course after completing their undergraduate degree and earn an A to demonstrate their ability.

Personal Statements and Contributions to Diversity

Applicants are required to submit two personal statements: one about preparation for and fit with the program and one about personal accomplishments and challenges. The admissions committee seeks applicants who express ideas in thoughtful and mature ways. Strong personal statements go beyond a superficial description of education and experiences to describe how these have shaped the applicant’s development and goals within the broader context of environmental science and management. Reviewers look for indications of why the Bren School is the next best step in the applicant’s academic and professional development. Personal statements also offer a way for applicants to demonstrate their contributions to diversity, which may relate to background and culture, status as first-generation college students, military service or public service such as Peace Corps or Americorps, growing up in a rural community or developing country, and/or commitment to serving underrepresented groups through work or volunteer service, for example. Successful applicants submit statements that are thoughtful, mature, and well-written without spelling and grammatical errors.

Distance shot of students sitting on stone benches

Work Experience

The Bren School values work experience as part of preparation for graduate study. This is of particular importance for our professional Masters programs. On average, successful applicants to the MESM program have 2.5 years of work experience. Work experience in a relevant field helps applicants develop a deeper understanding of their field of interest and of themselves. Applicants with work experience tend to have a clearer idea of their professional goals and why graduate school is an important part of their training. Those with work experience often bring more maturity, discipline, and knowledge to their individual and team work in graduate school. 

Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation help admissions committee members understand how others perceive the applicant. Since graduate school requires successful performance in rigorous academic courses as well as applied research, it is helpful to the admissions committee if applicants select at least one former university-level instructor and one former employer to provide letters of recommendation. It is important to select references who know the applicant well and can write about their intellectual ability, imagination/creativity, oral expression and writing ability.

GRE Scores Holistic Review

The Bren School’s admissions committee evaluates all aspects of the application and recognizes that students’ strengths and contributions may be expressed in different ways. The Bren School does not use standardized test scores (GREs) to determine admission status.

Applying for a Fee Waiver 

Application fee waivers are available to qualified U.S. citizens and permanent residents who demonstrate evidence of financial need or proof of participation in an undergraduate research program. McNair Scholars and Project 1000 applicants are among those eligible. Fee waivers are not available to international applicants.

To apply for a fee waiver, follow this procedure within your online application: click on the Payment Information tab and scroll down to the fee waiver information. Then, select the option relevant to you and upload your supporting documentation.

Do not submit a fee waiver the day before the application deadline; it will not be processed in time and your fee waiver request will not be reviewed. Please submit a fee waiver request at least two weeks before the application deadline.

For more information, read FAQs about the UCSB graduate application fee


Take the next step toward your future.

Request more information, bring your questions to a webinar with our admissions manager, or start or complete your online application.

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