Applying for Admission to the MGIS Degree Program

Admissions Criteria & Process

How to Apply

Important Dates

Choosing and Registering for Classes in LionPATH

International Students

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Admissions Criteria & Process

In addition to the Graduate School’s basic requirements for graduate admissions, the MGIS Program has additional requirements and procedures for applicants to follow. There are two ways in which you can apply to the program:

Accelerated Admission

You can qualify for our accelerated application process for the MGIS Program by earning a 3.67 GPA or above after completing your first three classes as a Certificate program student. Any of our Certificate programs are eligible for this route of admission. After completing your third Certificate course, you should start your MGIS application and submit a professional statement of purpose explaining your goals for obtaining the MGIS degree to the MGIS Admissions chairperson. The MGIS Admissions Chairperson will review your personal statement, verify you have met the GPA threshold, evaluate the quality of your engagement in past coursework in consultation with our faculty, and then make a decision regarding your admission to the Master's program. In other words, admission is not guaranteed based on GPA alone. Admissions will be made in this manner on a rolling basis year-round, but you must have your application complete and submitted for consideration at least 4 weeks before the term in which you intend to start the Master's program. Ready to apply? Please use this guide to submit your Accelerated application.

We also welcome applicants who have completed a graduate certificate program from another university. We review eligibility for this situation on a case-by-case basis, so contact us and we'll be happy to talk about your options.

Advantages of Accelerated Admission:

  • No GRE test is required
  • No professional experience is required
  • No letters of recommendation are required
  • Admissions are made on a rolling basis, year-round

Applying Previously Earned Credits:

Penn State's Graduate School policies state that credits earned in a graduate program that are more than five years old are not eligible to count towards a new program of study. We work closely with each student on a customized curriculum plan, and we will take previously earned credits into account at that time. We will make every effort to ensure that you do not have to complete coursework that duplicates what you already know.

Not sure if you qualify for Accelerated Admission? Drop us a line and we'll explore your options.

Regular Admission

In addition to the accelerated admission option, the MGIS Program Admissions Committee accepts applicants who do not wish to take courses as a Certificate student before joining the program.

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 must be received by those dates in order for your application to be considered. Please contact our program office to make sure we have all of your materials. Admissions decisions are announced March 1, July 1, and November 1.

The MGIS Program admissions committee chooses the best overall applicants during each admission cycle. Applications are reviewed by our 4-member MGIS Graduate Admissions Committee. Every application is 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, listed in order of importance:

  1. Statement of professional experience and goals, including documentation of a minimum of two years of professional experience.
  2. Two letters of recommendation. You will submit email addresses for the people you wish to use for letters of recommendation.
  3. Official transcripts (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 (see International Applicants for more details). 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 Record Examination (GRE) score. The GRE requirement is waived if you have at least three years of work experience (find out more).
  5. Résumé: A short résumé (no more than 2 pages) including your professional and educational experience.

How to Apply

If you qualify for the Accelerated Admissions process, please use this guide to proceed with your application.

Otherwise, to apply to the MGIS program follow these steps:

1. Complete the official online application.

2. Once you have logged in to the application system, please select World Campus as the campus, and select Geographic Information Systems as the major. The information requested on the application form will include:

  • Personal contact information
  • Educational background
  • Unofficial GRE scores (Regular Admission only - no GRE required for Accelerated Admission)
  • Unofficial TOEFL/IELTS scores (if needed)
  • Recent employment history
  • Academic areas of interest
  • Academic transcripts. The Graduate School application will allow you to upload unofficial transcripts. However, upon acceptance into the program, official transcripts must be sent directly from the institution(s) to the Graduate School.
  • List of higher education institutions from which you have requested transcripts
  • Résumé: A concise résumé (no more than 4 pages) including your professional and educational experience
  • Two letters of recommendation (for the Regular Admission process only, not required for the Accelerated Admission option) . Please submit email addresses for the people you wish to use for letters of recommendation, and 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 nature of your post-baccalaureate professional experience.
  • Statement of experience and goals for completing the degree program. The professional statement is a 1-2 page statement where you can highlight your strengths, achievements and career aspirations. As you highlight your achievements and aspirations also think about what you hope to gain from taking part in the MGIS program. Are there specific courses that you want to take that will enable you to achieve your goals? As part of the MGIS program you have to develop your own capstone project. Although the topic may change as you learn new things, tell us about a capstone project you would like to tackle. Your resume may be used as a supplement, but the essay itself should demonstrate your verbal communication skills.
  • Payment information for the $65 Graduate School application fee

3. Request that the following items be sent directly to Penn State from testing centers, using Penn State's Institution Code (2660):

  • If you are applying via the Regular Admission process, official GRE (Graduate Record Examination) test scores should be submitted directly from the testing center using Penn State's Institution Code: 2660. Applicants with at least three years of professional work experience may request that the GRE requirement be waived. If you satisfy that requirement and want to waive the GRE, please write a sentence to that effect in the notes section of the graduate school application.
  • Official TOEFL/IELTS scores (if you are an International Student). For more details, please see International Students below.

Important Dates

  • Application via the Accelerated Admission process is available year-round, with the following due dates: August 30th, September 20th, January 20th, March 1st, May 20th.
  • Admissions decisions for Accelerated Admission candidates will be emailed to applicants approximately two weeks after submission.
  • Application due dates for the Regular Admission process are on January 15, May 15, and September 15.
  • All application materials for the Regular Admission process must be received by those dates in order for your application to be considered. Please contact us if you have questions about what we've received from you so far.
  • Admissions decisions are emailed to applicants on March 1, July 1, and November 1 for each respective Regular Admission cycle.

Choosing and Registering for Classes in LionPATH

Select one of the options below that best describes your situation:

I’ve been accepted to the MGIS degree and this is the first time I’ll be taking classes

Explore Our Schedule and Course Descriptions

  • Our list of available courses and links to the syllabi and contents can be found here.
  • We also encourage you to talk to an academic advisor about which classes you should take given your interests, experience, and program of study.
  • Once you know which classes you want to take, use the steps listed below to register.

Class Registration Using LionPATH

  • Use your Penn State Access Account login to sign in to LionPATH. You will then be in the Student Center.
  • Please complete the Pre-Registration Activity Guide.
  • Click on the Search for Classes tab in the top right corner.
  • Select WC-World Campus.
  • In the Subject text box, type or choose GEOG from the dropdown menu. If known, you can enter a specific course number. Click the Search button.
  • In the Course dropdown list, find the course you want. Click the Select button by the desired course.
  • If a green circle is displayed by the course information, this indicates that the course is open for enrollment and you can click 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 waitlist. A blue square indicates the course is closed for enrollment.
  • Once you have selected courses, click on your shopping cart. Click the Select button beside each course, and then click the green Enroll button. Those courses will be added to your schedule.
  • Your 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 to your Penn State email, so please be sure to check that account frequently.

I’ve already taken classes in Penn State's Online Geospatial Education Programs

  • Please visit our Returning Students page for instructions.
  • If you have trouble re-activating your Penn State Access Account or registering for classes, let us know.

I’d like to take classes as a non-degree student while I wait for my MGIS application decision

For many students, completing one or more classes prior to applying for the MGIS degree helps ensure that online learning is the right option. If admitted, fifteen credits earned in non-degree status can be counted toward the MGIS.

  • If you wish to take courses before applying to the MGIS Program, you should apply as a non-degree student using the instructions shown above (How to Apply). If you wish to register for one course by itself, please select "Certificate Admission - $65.00." Then select World Campus -> Geographic Information Systems. Even if you do not intend to earn a full Certificate, please choose the Certificate option - you will not be obligated to complete it.
  • After you have been admitted, you can follow the Class Registration Using LionPATH guide to select and join our classes.
  • If you need help or advice, let us know!

International Students

This information is taken from the official Graduate School Website.

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.

Acceptable Test Scores

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. Specific Graduate programs may have more stringent requirements.

Exemptions from English Proficiency Testing

International applicants are exempt from the TOEFL/IELTS requirement 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. 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.

Providing Transcripts from Institutions Outside of the United States

If your institution does not provide official English translations of documents, applicants usually reach out to the Ministry of Education for the particular country, any government translation agency for that country, any U.S. government translation agency, or ATA (American Translators Association) agency. Penn State accepts translations from these sources. Translated transcripts must be sent in printed form, directly from the translation authority to the Graduate School at Penn State. If you have questions, please contact the Graduate School.

Get Help

If you have any questions related to registration, choosing among our courses, certificates, and degree options, please let us know and we'll help you as quickly as possible.