Frequently Asked Questions


Here you can find answers to some of our most frequently asked questions.

When is the application deadline and when will I hear if I am successful?

The deadline for admission is February 1st. Accepted students start the following Fall.
Application review begins after the February 1st deadline, regardless of when applications were submitted. Final admission decisions are made by April 1st.

Do you have rolling admissions throughout the year?

No, admissions are only in the fall.

What materials do I need to apply?

To apply to the Sustainability Science Masters program, you must complete the UMass Graduate School's online application. In addition, prospective students need to submit two letters of recommendation, official transcripts, a personal statement, and resume. International students are required to submit TOEFL or IELTS scores. Submitting GRE scores is optional, although applicants are encouraged to submit scores if they feel it will make a more compelling case for admission. 

Who should write my Letters Of Recommendation?

Your referees can be academic or professional. Typically we see at least one academic Letter Of Recommendation from, for example, a professor who taught the applicant in undergraduate classes. The other could be, for example, a professional reference from a person who supervised or managed the applicant in an employment or volunteer position. There is no specific requirement other than providing a minimum of two Letters Of Recommendation. 
Here is how the process works:
While submitting your online application through SPIRE, you will be prompted to enter the name and email for each reference. Once your application is received, an email from UMass will be sent directly to your references.  It is a good idea to let your references know to be looking out for an email from UMass. If your references do not receive an email, you should follow up directly with the Graduate School to let them know at gradadm@grad.umass.edu.
Additional LORs can be furnished in PDF form by sending to gradadm@grad.umass.edu. Be sure that they include the applicant's first and last name and date of birth so that the Graduate School can file it with the correct application dossier. 

 

How long should the personal statement be?

We recommend no more than 2-3 pages for the Personal Statement. In it, you should tell us about your background, why you are interested in this program, and what concentration you are interested in studying while you are here. Make it clear what motivates you to pursue the Sustainability Science program, and what you hope to do with the degree after graduation. Share what types of experience (volunteer, paid or education) you have that is relevant to Sustainability Science. Lastly, if there is anything that may be a red flag on your file, for example, gaps in employment or GPA/transcript issues, include an explanation in your statement.

Can I submit unofficial transcripts with my application?

Yes, you can submit unofficial transcripts with your application and that will be sufficient to review your materials. However, official transcripts will be required before any official offers of acceptance into the program can be made. Official transcripts are transmitted directly from the educational institution(s) attended to the UMass Graduate School.

Can the application fee be waived?

The Graduate School levies a non-refundable $80 application fee. Applicants in the following categories may qualify for a Graduate School application fee waiver:

  • Members of the McNair Scholars Program - submit documentation as a PDF attachment to gradfee@grad.umass.edu.
  • Applicants who qualify for a GRE fee reduction - submit a copy of your GRE fee reduction as a PDF attachment to gradfee@grad.umass.edu.
  • Current Five College undergraduate students applying to a master's only program, excluding MFA programs. The fee is automatically waived, no additional documentation is necessary.
  • Current UMass graduate students enrolled in a master's program and applying for a doctoral degree in the same program.
  • Eligible domestic students from underrepresented groups who are participants of these organizations and programs.

For McNair Scholars, the waiver form can be found here. The Graduate School asks that application fee waiver forms are submitted to gradfee@grad.umass.edu prior to applying to the program.

Do I need to take the GREs?

Applicants are not required to submit GRE scores. If you feel your GRE scores help reflect your academic ability you are encouraged to submit them. Additionally, there is no magic GRE score that we are looking for. Generally, a high score might help an applicant whose previous academic record was not as strong, but a low score won't hurt an otherwise qualified applicant.

Is there a GPA requirement?

Generally students have at least a 3.0 GPA, and the average for admission to graduate programs across campus is 3.3. However we don't have a specific hard cutoff when we assess applications. We try to form a complete picture of applicants and the GPA is one component of that.

How much does the program cost?

For Massachusetts residents, tuition and fees for Fall 2019/Spring 2020 are $8,486.50/semester for full time students. If you complete the program in one year, this would be $16,973.
For students whose residence is outside of Massachusetts, but in New England, the cost is $14,635.50/semester ($29,271/year).
For students outside these areas the cost is $17,293.50/semester ($34,587/year).
In addition there is a one-time $507 enrollment fee, a $275 continuous enrollment fee for subsequent semesters, and a $34.50/semester Graduate Student Senate Tax. There is also a fee if you opt for the University’s health care plan, but if you already have health care you can waive this.
The full tuition and fee table is available here. The one-time, optional and other fees schedule is here. The Graduate Application fee is $80.

Are there assistantship or scholarship opportunities?

Unfortunately our program does not offer teaching or research assistantships at this time. The MS in Sustainability Science is an intensive 1-year professional program with no thesis/research component, allowing insufficient time to do outside teaching assistantships. The benefit of the 1-year professional program is that you earn a Master's degree in half the time of a traditional research-based program, which reduces educational costs and gets you earning a salary a year earlier. The tradeoff is that it is a very busy year with insufficient times for assistantships. 

Unfortunately, we do not have any scholarships available either. Prospective students are encouraged to seek outside scholarships. U.S. residents can apply for financial assistance through the University's financial aid services.

How long does the program take and can I do it part time?

The Sustainability Science MS is designed as a streamlined 1-year, professional master's program. Most students choose to complete the program in 2 semesters and then do a 4-credit practicum in the summer after their last semester of coursework. By taking the 4-credits for the practicum in the spring semester and completing the 150-hours and final report in the summer, students save on tuition.
Every year, we have some students who decide to space the program out over 3 or 4 semesters so that they can develop additional expertise in a specific area, or because outside commitments don’t allow them to complete it at an accelerated pace. 

A typical path to complete the program in one year is:
     Fall: 5 classes + 1 seminar
     Spring: 4 classes + 1 seminar
     Summer: Practicum
     Graduation in September

A typical path to completing the program in two years is:
     Fall: 3 classes
     Spring: 2 classes + 1 seminar
     Summer: Practicum
     Fall: 2 classes + 1 seminar
     Spring: 2 classes
     Graduation in May

93% of MS3 graduates pursued the degree on a full-time basis. [Data from MS3 alumni survey, Sept 2018]

What does a successful applicant look like?

Sustainability is a broad field that attracts students from a variety of different undergraduate majors and backgrounds. We've had students enter our program from natural sciences, social science, engineering, communications, history, english, business, medicine, and economics programs. We find that student success is not strictly correlated with their previous training. As such, we do not have rigid prerequisite standards that we look for in applicants. We use the application materials to form a picture of each individual. We are looking for a demonstrated commitment to sustainability and evidence that students possess the academic rigor needed to succeed in graduate school. In addition, we look for people that are motivated to go out and make a difference in this field once they graduate.

Is the program eligible for the 24-month STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) extension?

Yes, the Sustainability Science Masters program is a STEM accredited program. The 2010 CIP code is: 30.3301 “Sustainability Studies”.  More information regarding OPT can be found on the UMass International Programs Office (IPO) website here

Can I take courses in different concentrations?

Yes, our program is designed to allow students maximum flexibility in choosing courses that best fit their academic interests and career aspirations. We allow students some discretion in assembling courses across different topic areas and there are in fact program requirements that students gain a breadth of understanding by taking coursework in other concentrations.

What kind of Practicums do students do?

The capstone to the program is a 4-credit internship/project that allows students to apply what they have learned in the classroom to a real-world setting. Students can intern with a wide array of organizations such as non-profits, businesses, government, and higher education institutions. Our students come from a variety of academic disciplines (such as environmental science, economics, business, public policy, and communications) and thus the individual internships/projects they choose to pursue span a wide range. We've had students work on water issues in Alaska, clean energy in Massachusetts, anti-pollution breast cancer campaigns, and sustainable food in schools projects to name just a few. Take a look at our alumni page and practicum page for a few examples.

What kind of careers does this prepare me for?

Sustainability is an evolving and growing field. As society continues to recognizes the need for sustainable solutions to environmental, social, and economic problems whole new categories of jobs (such as Sustainability Manager) are coming into existence. By training students to be interdisciplinary thinkers who can go out and start solving the world’s sustainability challenges we provide them with the foundations they need to succeed not only in the current job market but also in the emerging job market of tomorrow. Some of our recent grads are working for clean energy companies, consulting firms, academia, government, and non-profits. A sample of graduates can be seen on our Alumni page.

Can credits be transferred?

Typically, up to 6 graduate-level credits may be transferred to your graduate transcript, pending approval from both the MS3 Graduate Program Director and the Graduate School. You must have received a B grade or above for the credits to count. For more information, please visit the Transfer Credit Policy in the Graduate School handbook.

GPA is scored differently in my country. How do I translate it into a U.S. GPA score?

You may leave that field blank on your application. The Graduate School will calculate your GPA based on your transcript.

Do I need an advisor before applying?

No, for admission into the Sustainability Science MS you do not need to contact a faculty member. All you need to do is apply to Sustainability Science through the UMass Grad School admissions process.  We'll assess your application package and if you are accepted, we assign you an advisor once you enroll in the program.

Do you still have questions?

Please contact us for more information!