Doctoral Program Frequently Asked Questions

Interested in applying to our MS or PhD programs? View presentations from this year's info sessions.


Frequently asked questions regarding:


Prospective student questions

How can I find out what research is being done at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and figure out which faculty members I may want to work with?

We encourage all prospective students to identify and contact faculty who are conducting research in your field of study.  To browse Scripps faculty and researchers, please visit the Research section of the Scripps website.

What are the differences between the Scripps PhD and M.S. programs?

The Scripps PhD program is a research-based doctoral program and has been the main focus of education at Scripps since its inception.  PhD students are guaranteed five years of funding and typical receive their degrees after five or six years.

The Scripps M.S. program is a relatively new program designed as a terminal degree.  M.S. students are self-funded and earn their degrees through either a one-year program with comprehensive exam, or a two-year program with a research thesis.

back to top

Admissions questions

How many applicants do you accept to the program each year?

We usually accept between 60 and 80 PhD applicants each year, out of a pool of 350 to 400.

We usually accept 15-20 MS applicants each year, out of a pool of ~100 applicants.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography has three major codes.  How do I figure out which one I should choose on the application?

The 3 major codes represent how the degree will read if you are admitted and complete the program. You may choose SI76 (Earth Sciences), SI77 (Marine Biology), or SI78 (Oceanography).  You'll also need to choose an academic program.  You may choose up to two: Climate-Ocean-Atmosphere Program (COAP); Geosciences of the Earth, Oceans, and Planets (GEO); and the Ocean Biosciences Program (OBP).

For more information about the 3 programs at Scripps, please see the Program Areas page.

What is the minimum GPA required, and what is the average?

The minimum GPA requirement for all UC San Diego graduate programs is 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.  Applicants under this threshold will require a letter of exception from their potential advisor to be admitted. 

Is the GRE required?

The GRE is not required for admission.  However, you can choose to report GRE scores.

What is the minimum TOEFL score requirement?

More information about the English proficiency exams can be found on the Graduate Division's website

Can I use the IELTS test instead of the TOEFL test?

Yes, students can take the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) examination instead of the TOEFL test. More information about the English proficiency exams can be found on the Graduate Division's website

TOEFL scores valid?

The TOEFL score is valid for 2 years.

What are the appropriate ETS codes to use the GRE and TOEFL?

UC San Diego, Institution Code 4836.

Where should I send my supplemental materials?

Only documents submitted through the UC San Diego online application system will be considered during application reviews.

I need to have my recommenders send letters as soon as possible. Should I have them submit paper letters?

No, please use the UC San Diego online application system for all letters of recommendation. Please note that your recommenders will receive an email request for letter of recommendation through the online application as soon as the recommendation page is completed and saved. If you've missed the deadline, we encourage you to contact your recommender(s) and request the letter be e-mailed immediately or find an alternate recommender.

I have already applied to the program and am waiting to hear back.  When will I know if I am accepted?

You will be notified as soon as possible (via automatic email) regarding our decision. In February and March, some applicants will be contacted to visit our department. Most admissions decisions will be made by April 1.

Will visiting Scripps help my chances of being accepted?

A personal visit is one way for faculty and students to meet and interact. Faculty are usually interested in meeting prospective students as a way to supplement the application. We encourage students who are invited to Open House to attend during that time. If you're not invited to visit, you can be proactive and arrange your own visit with faculty members you are interested in.

Are all of the applicants that are invited to Open House already admitted to Scripps?

The various curricular groups adopt different strategies for admission based on previous experience. It is quite likely that some of your colleagues who attend Open House have already been admitted to the program while several others have not. If you are confused about the status of your application during Open House, please feel free to contact the faculty admissions chair for your specific curricular group.

If I am not invited to Open House, does it mean that I am not a competitive applicant?

We only have a limited number of Open House invitation slots and are unable to invite all the promising applicants. If you are not invited to Open House, this does not necessarily mean that your application is less competitive than students who have been invited. We encourage you to be proactive and arrange your own visit.

back to top

Funding questions

What type of financial support is available to Scripps PhD students?

Students admitted into the PhD program are typically offered 5 years of support (provisional on satisfactory progress each year). Financial support comes in the form of research assistantships, fellowships, teaching assistantships, and other funding sources. Financial support includes tuition & fees and a yearly stipend.

Where can I find fellowships offered by UC San Diego?

Please visit our Cost and Funding page for more information.

back to top

Miscellaneous questions

What is the normal time limit for a student to advance to doctoral candidacy?

Scripps graduate students are expected to advance to candidacy by the end of their third year. In the first three years students are expected to take their departmental exam, form a doctoral committee, and take their qualifying exam.

Are there any resources to graduate students who have children?

Yes, this website provides answers for Graduate students who are also parents.



back to top