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How to Apply to the MESM Program

The Bren School is a graduate school within the Graduate Division of UC Santa Barbara. Applications to the Bren School are completed through the UCSB Online Graduate Application. Please note that you may apply to only one department at UCSB per admissions cycle. The Bren School’s Master of Environmental Science and Management program accepts applications for Fall matriculation only. 

Bren's Commitment to Holistic Admissions

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. Before you apply, please read about Bren's holistic admissions process to understand how we weigh and consider your application materials, as well as how to request an application fee waiver. 

UCSB Graduate Application

Applications to the Bren School are completed through the UCSB Graduate Application Online. The application portal opens September 1 each year.

Important Dates & Deadlines

For Fall 2022 Start Date:

Online Application Opens September 1, 2021
Application Deadline December 15, 2021
Admissions Decisions Late March 2022

Required Application Materials Checklist

The following components are required by all applicants (domestic and international) as part of the application for admission to the Bren School Master of Environmental Science and Management program:

  • UCSB Graduate Application (online application)
  • Non-refundable application fee
  • Statement of Purpose essay
  • Personal Achievements/Contributions essay
  • Resume or C.V.
  • Three Letters of Recommendation
  • GRE scores* Please note the GRE scores requirement has been waived in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Prerequisite Verification Form
  • Transcripts

Application Materials:

Non-Refundable Application Fee

There is a required non-refundable fee of $120 for domestic applicants and $140 for international applicants. Applications are not processed until the fee is received. This fee can be paid by credit card or with a check/money order using the Check/Money Order Submission Form found on the last page of the online application.

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

Statement of Purpose Essay

The Statement of Purpose essay is your chance to explain why you want to attend a graduate program and earn a MESM degree from the Bren School at UC Santa Barbara. You should include your specific area of interest, providing an analysis of an environmental issue and how it relates to your ambitions. Explain how your past experiences have prepared you for a rigorous graduate program and how the MESM program will help you achieve your professional goals. Please review the UCSB Graduate Division’s statement prompts before applying.

Personal Achievements/Contributions Essay

In your Personal Achievements/Contributions, please describe any aspects of your personal background, accomplishments, or achievements that you feel are important in evaluating your application for graduate study. This is your chance to describe if you have experienced economic challenges or any unusual or varied life experiences that might contribute to the diversity of the graduate student population. Examples include but are not limited to the following: lived experience as part of an under-represented group, being financially responsible for family members or dependents, having to work significant hours during undergraduate schooling, coming from a family background of limited income, speaking multiple languages, or living in bicultural communities. You may also include any academic research interests focusing on cultural, societal, or educational problems as they affect under-served segments of society, or if you have intentions to use your graduate degree toward serving disadvantaged individuals or populations.

It may also be a good opportunity to address any discrepancy in your application (e.g. low grades or gaps in your resume). If you wish, you may discuss any discrepancy in the Personal Achievements/Contributions essay to help the admissions committee better understand what circumstances might have affected your academic or professional performance at the time. If you experienced any challenges related to COVID-19, this section would be an appropriate place to indicate them. Please explain how you’ve addressed the issue(s) and why you are prepared now to be successful in a rigorous graduate school program.

Please review the UCSB Graduate Division’s statement prompts before applying.

Resume or Curriculum Vitae

While work experience is not a requirement for admission, it is highly valued and significantly strengthens your application. Although professional experience in the environmental field suggests that your goals are well matched to the Bren School, we also highly value experience in other professional settings provided you have an environmental background through other means, such as coursework. If your experience is in an area that is not related to environmental science, make sure to provide an explanation in your Statement of Purpose that clearly conveys your reasons for embarking on a new environmentally-related career path.

Please include all relevant academic, work, volunteer, or leadership experience. Formatting style (e.g., line spacing, typeface, and font size) is up to your discretion.

Letters of Recommendation 

Three letters of recommendation (maximum of four) are required as part of your application. Letters should be uploaded to the online application directly by the recommender. For this process to happen, you will be asked to supply the name, email address, job title, and current institution or organization name of each recommender. Once this information is supplied, the online application will generate an automated email to the recommenders, prompting them each to upload a letter on your behalf.

If you are using a Letter Service (such as Interfolio or a university career center) to submit one or more letters, you will be able to indicate this information within the recommender profile. UCSB needs a rating on our rating scale from each recommender you indicate. If the letter will come from a letter service, we will only request the necessary rating from your recommender. 

We would appreciate your recommenders' personal impressions of your intellectual ability, aptitude in research, and professional skills. Please ask your recommenders to comment on your character, quality of previous work, and promise of productive scholarship, among other important aspects. The most successful letters are ones where the recommender clearly understands the student's previous professional and academic accomplishments, can comment on the student's preparedness for graduate-level studies, and can make a connection between the student's future goals and the MESM program.

It is beneficial to provide at least one letter from a faculty member who is familiar with your academic abilities. We realize this may be difficult if you have been out of school for a number of years. If this is not possible, you can provide letters from professionals in supervisory or managerial roles who can attest to your scholarly ability and potential, creativity, dedication, and work performance, among other attributes.

GRE Scores

Update: Please note the GRE scores requirement has been waived in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bren School will not be accepting any GRE scores from applicants this year (applications due on January 5, 2022).

While GRE scores must be submitted in order to be considered for admission to UCSB, neither UCSB nor the Bren School enforce a minimum GRE score. Learn more about our holistic admissions approach.

The Bren School does not require a subject test for its applicants. The Bren School does not accept scores from other exams, such as the GMAT, in lieu of the GRE.

UCSB’s Graduate Institution (GI) code is 4835. Please use this number on your GRE score sheets and confirm you select the graduate institution option and not the Undergraduate Institution (UI) option. A department code is not necessary to have scores sent to UCSB. GRE test scores are valid for five years after the testing year in which the test was taken (July 1–June 30). Please allow 4-6 weeks for ETS to transfer your scores to the UCSB Graduate Division, which keeps all scores in its database until they expire.

As part of your application you must self-report your GRE scores. The self-reported scores are used in matching your official scores on file. Once you initiate your application, please complete the "Exam" tab with the required demographic and exam information.

Prerequisite Verification Form

The Prerequisite Verification Form is required for all MESM applicants. Please use this form to clearly list all of the courses you plan to use in order to fulfill the required MESM program prerequisites. This is your chance to highlight any courses that are on your undergraduate transcript or transcripts from other institutions where you’ve completed prerequisite coursework. This is especially helpful for the admissions committee if you’ve completed courses with atypical titles that might apply toward our prerequisites.


  1. Download Bren's supplemental Prerequisite Verification Form and complete it.
  2. In your UCSB online application, upload this document under the Supplemental Documents section and title it "Prerequisite Verification Form."

Supplemental Memo: Missing Prerequisites
If you are missing a program prerequisite or if you plan on enrolling in a prerequisite course before you start the MESM program, then you are required to submit a memo. In this document, please outline how you plan to rectify your deficiency before enrolling as a graduate student in the summer, if you are admitted as a MESM student. Presenting a good plan will strengthen your application. While you are not required to have finished all of the prerequisite coursework for admission, you must have it all completed before enrolling in Bren School courses. This memo should be uploaded to the Supplemental Documents section of your UCSB graduate application.


You will be required to upload transcripts from all institutions you’ve attended to your application. These uploaded transcripts are required to be official documents created by the university but can include "unofficial" transcripts that are generated by an online student portal -- as long as the transcripts include the name of the student, the institution, the grades, and a grading scale. For more details, view the UCSB Graduate Division's details and tips on uploading transcripts.

If you are admitted and decide to attend the Bren School by submitting a positive Statement of Intent to Register (SIR) with UCSB, you will be required to send official transcripts directly from the institution(s) attended to the UCSB Graduate Division (not the Bren School). The only exception to this requirement is for admits who attended UCSB as an undergraduate, in which case official transcripts are not required since UCSB can verify academic records using their student data-tracking systems. 

Transcripts for International Students
If you have received your degree, please include your degree certificate within the same file as your transcripts. The uploaded document must include both the original language transcript and the certified English translation. English transcripts are required and must be a complete, exact and literal translation of the original transcripts. English translations must be provided by the school or an official agency.

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