MGIS Degree Admissions Criteria and Application Procedures

The Department's MGIS Program Admissions Committee meets three times annually to review and rank applications. Application due dates are January 15, May 15, and September 15. All application materials (including letters of recommendation) must be received by those dates in order for your application to be considered. Please check with the program office (kdb6@psu.edu) to make sure we have all of your materials. The Admissions Committee reviews applications during the months of February, June, and October. Admissions decisions are announced March 1, July 1, and November 1.

Admission to the MGIS program is very selective. The MGIS Program admissions committee will select incoming classes of approximately 15 - 20 students during each of three admissions cycles (approximately 50 - 60 new students per year). The best qualified applicants will be admitted following review by our 4-member MGIS Graduate Admissions Committee. Applications are scored, discussed, and ranked by the Committee, with the Committee Chair making the final selection of students to admit.

The Committee ranks applications based upon the following admissions criteria, which are listed in order of importance:

  1. Statement of professional experience and goals, including documentation of a minimum two years of professional experience.
  2. Three letters of recommendation. (you will submit email addresses for the people you wish to use for letters of recommendation)
  3. Official transcripts (i.e. not an advising transcript) from each institution attended, regardless of the number of credits or semesters completed. Transcripts not in English must be accompanied by a certified translation. Penn State alumni do not need to request transcripts for credits earned at Penn State, but must list Penn State as part of your academic history. Upon admission and your acceptance of admission, you will be asked to send an additional official transcript (directly from the institution). You will receive instructions at that time.
  4. Official Graduate Records Examination (GRE) score. The GRE requirement may be waived under certain circumstances.
  5. Résumé: A 1 to 2 page résumé including your professional and educational experience.

Additional criteria:

  • Baccalaureate degree - In addition to these criteria, the Graduate School requires applicants to possess any baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution earned under residence and credit conditions substantially equivalent to those required by Penn State.
  • English Proficiency - The language of instruction at Penn State is English. All international applicants must take and submit scores for the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or the IELTS (International English Language Testing System), with the exceptions noted below. The minimum acceptable score for the TOEFL is 550 for the paper-based test, or a total score of 80 with a 19 on the speaking section for the internet-based test (iBT). Applicants with iBT speaking scores between 15 and 18 may be considered for provisional admission, which requires completion of specified remedial English courses ESL 114G (American Oral English for Academic Purposes) and/or ESL 116G (ESL/Composition for Academic Disciplines) and attainment of a grade of B or higher. The minimum acceptable composite score for the IELTS is 6.5. Graduate programs may have more stringent requirements.

    International applicants who have received a baccalaureate or a graduate degree from a college/university/institution in any of the following: Australia, Belize, British Caribbean and British West Indies, Canada (except Quebec), England, Guyana, Republic of Ireland, Liberia, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Scotland, the United States, and Wales are exempt from the TOEFL/IELTS requirement.

    Please note that specific graduate programs may require all international applicants to submit a TOEFL or IELTS score, regardless of their academic background and country of origin.

Application Procedures

To pursue the Master of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) degree you should:

  1. Complete the official online application

    Once you have logged in to the application system, you will be asked to select World Campus as the campus, and select Geographic Information Systems as the major. The information requested on the application form includes:
    • Personal contact information,
    • Educational background,
    • Unofficial GRE scores,
    • Unofficial TOEFL scores (if needed),
    • Recent employment history,
    • Academic areas of interest,
    • Transcripts (The Graduate School application will allow you to upload copies of official transcripts. However, upon acceptance into the program, official transcripts will need to be sent directly from the institution(s) to the Graduate School. 
    • List of higher education institutions from which you have requested transcripts,
    • Résumé: A 1 to 2 page résumé including your professional and educational experience,
    • Three letters of recommendation. You will submit email addresses for the people you wish to use for letters of recommendation in the online application (they will be notified and asked to submit their recommendations online),
      These recommendations (from current and former employers, clients or educators) should attest to your readiness for graduate study and to the fact that you have the requisite minimum of two years of post-baccalaureate professional experience.
    • Statement of professional experience and goals including documentation of a minimum two years of professional experience (This 2-3 page original essay should include a description of your professional experience, preferably related to geographic information technologies, as well as a clear statement of how your professional goals may be advanced through participation in the MGIS program. The resume may be used as a supplement, but the essay itself should demonstrate your verbal communication skills.), and
    • An application fee, which can be paid electronically via credit card or via surface mail,
    • The committee will look at grades you earned in our certificate programs (if applicable).
  2. Request that the following items be sent directly to Penn State from the testing center, using Penn State's Institution Code (2660):
    • Official GRE scores.
      Official GRE (Graduate Record Exam) test scores should be submitted directly from the testing center using Penn State's Institution Code: 2660. GRE scores are used to differentiate applications that are evenly matched on other criteria, to countervail low undergraduate grade point averages and (by the Graduate School) to compare the "quality" of MGIS applicants with applicants to the Department of Geography's resident graduate programs. Applicants with at least five years of professional experience may request that the GRE requirement be waived. If you satisfy that criterion and want to waive the GRE, please write a sentence to that effect in the notes section of the graduate school application.
    • Official TOEFL scores (if needed).
      The language of instruction at Penn State is English. International applicants must take and submit scores for the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or the IELTS (International English Language Testing System), with the exceptions noted below. The minimum acceptable score for the TOEFL is 550 for the paper-based test, 213 for the computer-based test, or a total score of 80 with a 19 on the speaking section for the internet-based test. Applicants with iBT speaking scores between 15 and 18 may be considered for provisional admission, which requires an institutional test of English proficiency upon first enrollment and, if necessary, remedial course work. The minimum composite score for the IELTS is 6.5. Specific graduate programs may have more stringent requirements.

      International applicants are exempt from the TOEFL/IELTS requirement who have received a baccalaureate or a master's degree from a college/university/institution in any of the following: Australia, Belize, British Caribbean and British West Indies, Canada (except Quebec), England, Guyana, Republic of Ireland, Liberia, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Scotland, the United States, and Wales.

      Specific graduate programs may require all international applicants to submit a TOEFL or IELTS score, regardless of their academic background and country of origin.

      Submit official scores using Penn State’s Institution Code: 2660.

Important Dates

  • Application due dates are January 15, May 15, and September 15.
  • All application materials must be received by those dates in order for your application to be considered.
  • Admissions decisions are announced March 1, July 1, and November 1 for each respective admissions period.

Taking Classes Prior to Applying for the MGIS Program

For many students, completing one or more classes prior to applying for the MGIS degree helps ensure that online learning is the right option, and your academic record from those courses provides an additional source of information that can be taken into account when the MGIS admissions board considers your application. If you decide to complete some Certificate Program classes first, apply as a "non-degree" graduate student in the Certificate Program in GIS. You will then be able to begin taking courses in the next term. Those who wish to apply to the MGIS degree program can do so later. Because acceptance to the MGIS program is highly competitive, not all students admitted to the non-degree certificate program can be admitted to the MGIS. The admissions committee looks at grades earned in our certificate programs. Grades of A in certificate classes are preferred. If admitted, fifteen credits earned under "non-degree" status can be counted toward the MGIS.

Important - please read:

Once you are registered, log into LionPATH regularly to see messages about semester bills. If you don't check your PSU email often, consider forwarding those messages to another email address.

You might still need to take action on your bill - even if someone else is paying it. Third Party Payment of your tuition and fees may be made by a third party — your company, for example. If your company is paying for your tuition and fees, our Student Financial Services office must receive an Authorization to Bill. An Authorization to Bill is a form from your company on letterhead and must include your name, semester, company name, company address, and payment amount. The Authorization to Bill may be faxed directly to the World Campus and Continuing Education Student Financial Services office at 814-863-1385 or emailed to BFO@outreach.psu.edu. If you have questions, you may call the office at 814-863-8300. Once the Authorization to Bill is received, Penn State will adjust your tuition as showing expected payment, and the company will be billed. Your employer must then pay your tuition within 30 days. 


Registering for the first time

If you've already taken classes with us, visit Returning Students for instructions.

  1. Choose one of the options below: If you have already applied and been accepted, skip to Step 2.
    1. Begin taking courses before you apply to the Master of GIS Program:
      If you wish to take courses before applying to the MGIS Program, you should apply as a nondegree student first using the instructions under Step 1 shown above. Your MGIS degree application can then be submitted subsequently. Once an MGIS degree has been submitted to the Graduate School, a second application for nondegree status cannot be submitted while the degree application is pending. If you wish to register for one course by itself, or as part of our Certificate Program in GIS, please select "Certificate Admission - $65.00." You will then have the option to select World Campus, Geographic Information Systems. http://www.gradschool.psu.edu/index.cfm/apply/ If you have already applied, skip to Step 2.
    2. Apply directly to the Master of GIS Program:
      Log into the application system. http://www.gradschool.psu.edu/index.cfm/apply/ Select World Campus as the campus, and select Geographic Information Systems as the major. If you have already applied, skip to Step 2.
  2. Current World Campus students with an active Access Account can register in LionPATH.  (Reenrolling students will follow a different account activation process.) 
  3. Register Online Using LionPATH
    1. Go to LionPATH. You will then be in the Student Center.
    2. You will need to complete the Pre-Registration Activity Guide.
    3. Click on the Search for Classes tab in the top right corner.
    4. Select WC-World Campus.
    5. In the Subject text box, type or choose GEOG from mthe drop down. If known, you can enter a specific course number. Hit the Search button.
    6. In the Course drop-down list, choose the course you want. Click the select button by the desired course.  
    7. If a green circle is displayed by the course information, this indicates that the course is open for enrollment and you can hit next to add the course to your shopping cart. A yellow triangle indicates that the course is full, but you can reserve a seat on the wait list. A blue square indicates the course is closed for enrollment.
    8. Click on your shopping cart.  Click Select button beside the course, and then hit the green enroll button.  This course has now been added to your schedule.
    9. The semester bill will be generated and sent to you at a later time. Semester bills are created on the first of the month and due on the 22nd of that month. You will receive notification in your PSU email.

Questions?

Students who 1) experience problems, 2) have questions related to registration, or 3) are trying to schedule a controlled course can call the World Campus directly to schedule courses at 800-252-3592 (option 1, then option 2) or 814-863-5256.

If you have any questions not related to registration, please email us at info@gis.psu.edu.

Frequently Asked Questions about Completing Your Registration

International Students

International applicants whose first language is not English or who have not received a baccalaureate or master's degree from an institution in which the language of instruction is English must submit a TOEFL score with their Graduate School application materials. The Graduate School recommends that a minimum overall total score of 80 points (out of 120) on the new test, with a minimum of 23 points (out of 30) on the new speaking portion, should be required for new students.