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

Get Help

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.

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 contact our program office to make sure we have all of your materials. Admissions decisions are announced March 1, July 1, and November 1.

Admission to the MGIS program is selective. 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 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 (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 may be waived if you have at least five 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

To apply to the Master of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) degree program, please 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
  • Unofficial TOEFL/IELTS scores (if needed)
  • Recent employment history
  • Academic areas of interest
  • Academic Transcripts. The Graduate School application will allow you to upload copies of official 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 2 pages) including your professional and educational experience
  • Three letters of recommendation. 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 including documentation of your professional work 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.
  • Payment method 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):

  • 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 five 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 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 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 admissions 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, and provides an opportunity for your performance in those courses to serve as an additional source of information that can be taken into account when the MGIS admissions committee considers your application. 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.
  • Your MGIS degree application should be submitted after you have been accepted as a non-degree student. It cannot be done in the reverse order - once an MGIS degree application has been submitted to the Graduate School, a second application for non-degree admission cannot be submitted while the degree application is pending.
  • 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.