Frequently Asked Questions


Yes! Most of our students come from physics, chemistry, math, or engineering backgrounds. We do not expect incoming students to know anything about atmospheric science when they get here. We also realize that applicants may not know exactly what type of research they would like to do for their thesis, so your statement of purpose doesn't have to be too specific (but having a general idea is good).

In general, we expect students to have taken about two years of college math: calculus, multivariable (vector) calculus, linear algebra, differential equations, partial differential equations, and statistics. One year of college physics is also recommended. Students who are lacking some of this coursework can take extra math classes their first year, but we prefer for students to complete the recommended coursework before enrolling in the graduate program. A math refresher course is generally offered a week or two before Fall classes start, based on student interest. I highly recommend this course, even if you are very comfortable with math, because it will present math and physics in the context of atmospheric science and oceanography.

Most (if not all) of our students have math, science, or engineering backgrounds. Our atmospheric science program is a very science-intensive program. We expect entering students to be comfortable with college math (topics like differential equations and statistics) and physics (thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, etc.). We've found that students who lack a strong math background (ideally including multi-variable calculus, linear algebra, and partial differential equations) tend to really struggle with the coursework. So you are unlikely to be admitted without some evidence (summer research in atmospheric science or oceanography, for example) that demonstrates your ability to do scientific work. If you really want to get a graduate degree in Atmospheric Science, it's probably best if you take a year to do some coursework and possibly gain some experience in research (working at a university, government lab, or business). Are you near a university with atmospheric science classes? Perhaps the professors know of available jobs where you could become more familiar with atmospheric science. Showing that you're already able to do a little research can go a long way to reassuring us that you'll be able to handle the research component of the degree, which is the primary component of our program. You could work for a year or two, take some classes, and then apply for grad school.

Another option is the MRM program here. Although it's called Marine Resource Management, students can do projects related to the atmosphere as well. The program requires less in the way of math and science undergrad coursework, and may be perfect for you if you are more interested in the management/policy/outreach side of the science. You can also check out the Environmental Science program, which offers a very flexible program of study. However, due to this flexibility, students must be very self-motivated to be successful in the Environmental Science program.

I'm not trying to dissuade you from pursuing atmosphere science if that is your passion. If your main goal is still focused on the science, then you really do need to take the equivalent of the required coursework before applying.

We do look at your entire application. If you are deficient in one aspect, but strong in everything else, we may overlook a poor score. However, these are some general guidelines to help you access your chances of admission.

First, OSU requires at least a 3.0 GPA. We can apply for an exemption if, for example, your GPA was low when you started college, but you've pulled it up since then. We expect you to do well (A's and maybe a B or two) in math and science classes. If art and literature classes are keeping your GPA above 3.0, that's not a good sign. If all of your math and science classes are B's and C's, then you should probably re-consider why you want to get a graduate degree in science.

In terms of GRE scores, there's not really a hard and fast rule. If your quantitative score is in the 700's (> 69th percentile for the new test), you're fine. If your score is between 600 and 700 (> 50th percentile), then the rest of your application needs to be strong. We rarely admit anyone with a quantitative score below the 50th percentile. We pay much less attention to the verbal score, though obviously a high score won't hurt.

OSU requires a TOEFL score of 80 for the Internet version of the test, with a minimum score of 18 on each section.

The Atmospheric Science program in CEOAS is more focused on the physical sciences side of things. However, the Marine Resource Management program includes a mix of physical and social sciences is . Currently, this program only offers MS degrees (I believe), but perhaps CEOAS could work out an interdisciplinary PhD degree program for you. Robert Allan (rallan@coas.oregonstate.edu) would be a good person to talk to about this. He's more familiar with these programs than I am.

The Environmental Science degree is also a possibility. Since this program is very flexible, finding the right advisor (and being self-motivated) is really important. Atmospheric Science faculty (or pretty much anyone in a related department) can advise Environmental Science students. If you're interested in education and outreach, OSU also offers a "Math and Science Education" degree. I don't know much about these programs, but there should be a primary contact for each who could answer your questions.

We can admit students who send in applications after the deadline; however, top priority for funding (i.e., graduate research assistant positions) goes to applicants who get their application in on time. Occasionally, we get funding for a GSR position after the end of the normal admission cycle. You can ask about the availability of these. In general, though, your application has to be pretty good, otherwise we will just wait for the next application cycle to get a larger pool of applicants. Also, your ability to make a deadline is important for success in graduate school, so consider how a late application reflects on your planning abilities. (In some cases, we may encourage an applicant to apply early. This is a different situation.)

Generally, we prefer for students to start Fall quarter. Some of the classes assume you are familiar with material in earlier classes. On rare occasions, we may admit a student starting Winter quarter. We do this, however, only if the student is exceptional (high GPA, GREs, letter of recommendation, previous atmospheric science experience, etc.) and we are confident that the student can get up to speed quickly.

Typically, students are offered RA (research assistant) positions when they are accepted. These positions cover tuition and provide a reasonable stipend (especially for the Corvallis cost of living). Sometime, however, the funding cycles don't line up properly with the admission cycle, and we cannot guarantee RA positions. In this case, we may admit applicants without funding in the hopes that a grant will come through before the Fall. If you are awarded a fellowship, of course, you can chose an advisor without regard to funding constraints.

We do have a number of TA (teaching assistantship) positions. We generally use these to fill in holes between the end of an advisor's grant and the beginning of another. First-year students can also TA after their Fall quarter (for students without an atmospheric science background) or starting their first quarter (if they already have an atmospheric science background).

We can also often get tuition scholarships (especially for Oregon residents).