Application Deadlines and Requirements

The Master of Environmental Studies program (MES) is designed for individuals with a wide variety of backgrounds and levels of experience. Successful students in the program have come from many different undergraduate educational backgrounds such as economics, political science, and English.

Your application to the Master of Environmental Studies program will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

  • Undergraduate academic record at an accredited college or university
  • Work experience
  • Career objectives and reasons for choosing the Master of Environmental Studies program at Penn
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) scores, if applicable

Master of Environmental Studies application deadlines

You may apply to begin the Master of Environmental Studies degree during the fall or spring terms. Your application portfolio, including all transcripts, must be received by the following deadlines:

Term of Entry Deadline
Spring 2025 November 1, 2024
International applicants should submit their application by October 1, 2024, to allow time to obtain visas.
Fall 2025
  • Priority application deadline: December 15, 2024
  • Regular deadline: April 1, 2025

Start your application now

Application materials checklist

Since all required supporting documents are submitted through the online application system, hardcopy material other than official transcripts or letters of recommendation will not be accepted.* Please urge your recommenders to submit their letters through the online system. Please note that all application materials become the property of the University of Pennsylvania and will not be returned. Remember to retain a personal copy of your application.

*Unsolicited material will not be used for review.

Applications must contain all of the following in order to be considered complete:

  • Completed online application
  • Current resume
  • Nonrefundable $75 application fee
  • Application essays, listed below
  • Unofficial transcripts from each post-secondary school attended uploaded through the online application system 
  • Two letters of recommendation (details below)
  • Score reports for the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) are optional
  • TOEFL scores for international students*

*If applicable. See “Standardized test scores” below.

Master of Environmental Studies application essays

Your application will include essays addressing three topics. Responses may be as long or as short as you feel necessary. (Please compile your responses into a single document, but keep them as separate essays.)

  • How did your interest in environmental studies develop?
  • Describe in conceptual terms the curriculum you hope to pursue as a Master of Environmental Studies student.
  • How do you expect to apply the expertise you would gain in the Master of Environmental Studies program? 

Letters of recommendation

Each applicant will submit two letters of recommendation. Letters should come from individuals in a position to evaluate your professional and/or academic work, such as a supervisor or professor, and who know of your desire to enter the Master of Environmental Studies program. Recommendations may be submitted online (preferred) or by mail. For online recommendations, please follow the instructions in the Recommendations section of the online application.

Standardized test scores

The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is optional for all students.

A strong command of the English language is necessary for successful study at Penn. Applicants whose native language is not English must submit Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) scores to demonstrate English proficiency. Please note that the TOEFL is rarely waived; therefore, we encourage applicants to take the test to avoid delays in completing the application. The minimum TOEFL scores required for admissions consideration are: 100 (iBT), 250 (CBT) or 600 (PBT). The TOEFL must be sent from ETS using the institutional code 2986. To locate a testing site near you or schedule an exam, visit the TOEFL website. International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is also accepted and the minimum score for consideration is a 7. You may upload a copy of your IELTS test to the standardized test score section of the application.

Please note, the College of Liberal and Professional Studies is accepting at-home GRE and TOEFL test scores through the 2023-2024 admissions year. Please visit the specific standardized testing websites for exam options in your home country.

Upon review of an applicant's file, the Admissions Committee reserves the right to request TOEFL scores.

International transcripts from institutions outside the United States

Applicants who have attended a college or university outside the US are required to have a course-by-course credential evaluation (with grade point average and course levels) performed by an outside evaluation service. Credential evaluations will be reviewed by our administrators, and the determination of degree equivalency to US degrees is at the discretion of the College of Liberal and Professional Studies. The following evaluation service is acceptable:

World Education Services Inc. (WES): WES must complete a course-by-course evaluation of all post-secondary credentials. The course-by-course evaluation should include the comparability level of your education and list each of your courses along with the equivalent US marks and credit. Please select the WES basic course-by-course evaluation (with grade point average and course levels) and request that WES send your evaluation to Penn College of Liberal and Professional Studies Admissions. The school can be found by searching the University of Pennsylvania and then selecting College of Liberal and Professional Studies. The evaluation becomes an official academic record and sole property of the University upon its receipt. For additional information about the WES application and their review process, please visit the WES website.

Please note that these services charge a fee for the evaluation.

Master of Environmental Studies Virtual Café

Join us on the first Tuesday of every month for an online chat, hosted live from noon - 1 p.m.

MES information session

Meet our program director and hear more about the MES curriculum, application process, faculty, and more.

Student & alumni stories

"I'm doing a research together with UNICEF in their WASH programs. It's a very enriching experience to learn from people who have economic perspective on this issue." - Richa Desai (MES '17)