Please click on the links below to jump to FAQs on each of these topics.

General Questions

Application Questions

GPA Questions

Test Score Questions

Funding Questions

General Questions

Do I need a bachelor’s degree in a related field to apply to SMEA?

A bachelor’s degree in a marine, environmental or science related field is not required for admission to our graduate program. Being an interdisciplinary program by nature, SMEA values students from diverse educational backgrounds.

Do applicants need to contact faculty or find a faculty advisor prior to being admitted to SMEA?

Our program’s applicants typically do not have an advisor prior to being admitted. Since our program is primarily student-funded we give students the opportunity to select their advisor once they’re at SMEA. We encourage applicants to view our faculty profile pages and to let us know in their career objectives statement if they have a preference for who they’d like to work with, but there is no need to contact SMEA faculty prior to admission. We find it best if our students meet and get to know all of our faculty in person before committing to an advisor, but upon arrival to the program a temporary advisor will be matched to each student to help them get started selecting classes.

Are there any prerequisites required for admissions?

There are no specific courses or majors required to enter our program. Courses that are encouraged if an applicant is needing to improve their GPA for admission would include an upper division statistics course, Economic Aspects of Marine Policy or a similar upper division Microeconomics course, or an upper division Marine Science course, but none are required for entry. Not having completed these courses, will have no negative effect on a student’s application.

Are interviews required?

There is no interview required for admission.

Do most of your graduates find jobs shortly after completion of the program? Can you give me some examples of things people go on to do with this degree?

Recently our students have done quite well locating jobs upon graduation and of our 2018 graduates 52% either had jobs, internships, or acceptances into a Ph.D. or J.D. program upon graduation. For detailed statistics from our most recent alumni survey (with responses from 29% of our alumni spanning graduates from 1980 – 2016) check out our Alumni Employment Page. Job announcements are provided to our students on a weekly basis from many sources (alumni, faculty, our LinkedIn page, the College of the Environment, etc.). For more info, please see our Careers and Career Development sections of this web site for more information.

Can I take SMEA courses prior to being admitted into a program?

Yes! Through graduate non-matriculated (GNM) status, post baccalaureate students who are not seeking a graduate degree at UW can take UW graduate courses and apply the credits toward degree requirements should they later be accepted into a graduate program at the UW. GNM students can take any number of credits, however the maximum that can be applied toward a graduate degree is 12. Students may hold GNM status in only one graduate program at a time and may not hold any other student status while enrolled as a GNM student. The UW and SMEA require an admission application to obtain GNM status and to verify the minimum requirements of holding a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university in the U.S. or equivalent from a foreign institution and having earned at least a 3.0 GPA for the last 90 graded quarter credits or 60 graded semester credits. For more information, please see the UW’s Non-Degree Enrollment webpage.

Are students encouraged to find relevant internships or research positions during their time in the program, or over the summer between their first and second year? Is there any assistance in doing this?

Living in the Pacific Northwest has its advantages and being in close proximity to the Puget Sound, Pacific Ocean, Lake Washington, Lake Union and Union Bay can keep any student busy. Just like job announcements, we get internship announcements sent to us on a continuous basis throughout the year, in addition to positions that may be offered by our faculty members who work on research projects over the summer. If students want an internship they typically don’t have a problem finding one, however many of our students also choose to spend their summers working on their own thesis/capstone research, traveling, taking courses outside of SMEA, serving as a Teaching Assistant for a summer course, attending a conference, or just enjoying the incredible weather and endless outdoor activities Seattle has to offer from June through September!

What is the campus like, what do people say about living and going to school there?

One of the most common things we hear from prospective students that visit is that they didn’t know what to expect coming to UW, but they certainly didn’t expect for it to be so beautiful! We are especially lucky here at SMEA being located right across the street from the waterfront which offers some amazing views from our building. Most people have heard that it rains a lot here, which can be true at certain times of the year, but when it’s sunny the city comes out in full force to enjoy it. There are few places in the world that rival Seattle in the summer with dry weather in the 70s/80s and so much going on. Seattle is a vibrant city surrounded by water so there’s no shortage of fun activities, indoor and outdoor for our students to enjoy. SMEA students in particular are known for being a fun and active bunch who plan several social events each week if you’d like to participate. There tends to be a lot of hiking, happy hours, beach bonfires, BBQs, soccer, and of course, an SMEA favorite, UW intramural inner tube basketball!

Application Questions

How many applications does the School of Marine & Environmental Affairs typically receive and how many students are accepted?

In recent years, SMEA has received an average of 90 applications, of which we accept approximately 55 and the resulting class size is typically around 30 students.

Can I apply to more than one UW graduate program at the same time? How about a concurrent degree?

Prospective students are welcome to complete applications to more than one graduate degree at UW, however each one will require its own application fee. To apply to a concurrent degree, applicants should indicate the “concurrent degree” option when completing the online application and they will be allowed to select the two programs they wish to complete. To be admitted into a concurrent degree a student must be admitted into both programs. The most common concurrent degrees with SMEA are the Master of Public Affairs from the Evans School, and the Master of Arts in International Studies from the Jackson School. To learn more about concurrent degrees check out our link here.

Can I make changes to my application after I submit it?

Once an application has been submitted, uploaded materials cannot be revised (such as the Career Objective, Resume, or previous schools/universities attended) and if changes needs to be made please contact the SMEA graduate program advisor at You can, however, make changes to your list of recommenders, send reminder emails to your recommenders, and view submission status.

May I apply for winter or spring quarter admission?

No. Our department offers admission for the fall quarter only, which begins at the end of September each year.

How long should my career objective be and what should I write about?

The career objective statement should be 1 to 2 pages of single spaced text, focusing on the following topics:

  • Relevant work/educational experience that led you to apply to this program
  • Your educational goals
  • Your professional goals
  • How the UW and SMEA fit into accomplishing those goals
  • (Optional) Which faculty member(s) you think would be best suited to advise your research/capstone topics

GPA Questions

What GPA calculation does SMEA require?

The only undergraduate GPA we require is the GPA for the last graded 90 quarter credits or 60 semester credits of coursework.

What is the minimum GPA required for admission?

We require a minimum GPA of 3.0 to be admitted into the program, except under extenuating circumstances, which should be relayed to the admissions committee on the Program Application Form in the “ACADEMIC RECORD” section.

How should I go about calculating my GPA?

Calculating your GPA should be done chronologically backwards starting with the last graded credits completed (this can include post-baccalaureate and graduate coursework). If you would like assistance there are several online GPA calculating tools that can be utilized, for example: To increase chances of admission and funding opportunities we encourage students to take additional (and preferably relevant) coursework to increase their GPA. Please do not include credit/no credit or pass/no pass coursework.

What is the average GPA of admitted applicants?

In 2018, the average GPA for admitted applicants was 3.62, and the average GPA for those awarded some type of funding was 3.83. These GPAs do not guarantee admission or funding however, since the entire application is considered holistically in making these decisions and the strength of the applicant pool can change from year to year.

Test Score Questions

Are GRE scores required for admission?

GRE scores are not required for any applications being submitted in Fall 2021 due to COVID-19 safety concerns, however they may be required in future years. If scores are submitted they will not be considered as part of the application review or applicant scoring process. If requirements change in future years they will be updated on the “Admissions” page .

What is the minimum TOEFL score required for non-native English speaking applicants?

If you did not obtain a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree from a regionally accredited institution in the US or from an institution in a primarily English speaking country, then a TOEFL iBT score of 92 or higher (or 580 or higher on the paper-based test) is required. An applicant whose test scores are below these scores may be admitted but will be required to enroll in designated UW Academic English Program (AEP) courses during the first quarter of enrollment. See Graduate School Memo 8 for more information.

Funding Questions

How do students typically fund their education?

The most common form of funding for our program is student loans which are obtained after submitting a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and offered to students in the summer prior to starting the program. The FAFSA priority application deadline for UW is January 15th however if the deadline is missed you should apply as soon as possible.

Are TA and RAs available?

Teaching Assistantships (TAs) and Research Assistantships (RAs) are available, however, they are competitive. SMEA rarely offers TAs internally since we primarily teach graduate courses, but other departments on campus do hire our students and we’ve found that students who are highly motivated and apply to several positions each quarter are typically able to secure one. TAs can be more common depending on a student’s area of expertise. The Program on the Environment, Oceanography, Biology, and School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences regularly hire our students for their 100 or 200 level courses.

RAs are usually offered internally by SMEA faculty who obtain grant funding and may become available throughout the academic year. If a faculty member is looking to hire an RA we notify both newly admitted students and current students of those opportunities as they become available.

What do TA and RAs pay?

TA and RA positions provide students (both in and out of state) with tuition waivers, medical and dental insurance, and a monthly stipend of approximately $2,388 during the quarter a student is employed.

Are there any other funding opportunities available through SMEA?

Each year SMEA offers “Top Scholar” awards to the top two applicants based on merit and strength of application compared to the rest of the applicant pool. These awards provide 3 quarters of tuition waivers and a monthly stipend equivalent to that of an RA or TA for the first academic year (9 months) in the program.

Additional funding opportunities fluctuate from year to year, but in 2019 we were able to offer 3 quarters of RAship to two students.

Both of the above funding opportunities are selected based solely on the department application. No additional application is needed to be eligible for these awards.

Are there any other funding opportunities available to incoming SMEA students at the UW?

The College of the Environment Scholarship provides 1 – 2 quarters of RA funding to the top applicants in the college each year (number of available awards vary each year). SMEA (and other College of the Environment departments) nominates up to two applicants based on strength of the application, quality of undergraduate institution, GPA and GRE scores.

The UW also offers the Graduate Opportunities & Minority Achievement Program (GO-MAP) award which provides six quarters of RA funding to the most meritorious underrepresented minority applicants in the College of the Environment. This award requires a nomination by SMEA based on underrepresented minority eligibility, strength of application, quality of undergraduate institution, GPA and GRE scores.

Each individual that submits an application to SMEA will be considered for all of the above funding opportunities. No additional application is required.

If your planned thesis research would benefit from having foreign language skills UW applicants are eligible to apply to the Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship which is offered through the UW’s Jackson School of International Studies. The application deadline is generally in late January so you will apply before knowing if you’ve been admitted to SMEA and therefore the FLAS funding is contingent upon admission to UW. Go to the FLAS fellowship website to learn more.

How do I gain Washington State Residency for Tuition purposes? 

The University of Washington requires that students establish a bona fide domicile prior to beginning a graduate program to be considered a Washington resident for tuition purposes. For the full list of requirements necessary to establish a domicile please refer to the UW Residency Requirements page.

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