Frequently Asked Questions

Where should I have my letters of recommendation sent?  Is there a recommendation form?

There is not a separate recommendation form.  You have the option of entering the names and email addresses of three referees in the online application form.  They will be sent a link and will be able to upload their letters directly.

Alternatively, you may have your referees send their letters by regular mail to:

Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy
Attn: Graduate Program
University of Miami
PO Box 248203
Coral Gables, FL 33124

Recommenders should use institutional or company letterhead and send letters in sealed envelopes signed across the flap.

Can my letters of recommendation be sent via email?

If you are concerned about your letters reaching us in time, you can contact the graduate co-ordinator, Gina Maranto, at, or the Abess Center assistant director, Andee Holzman, at, to inquire.  Depending on circumstances, we may accept emailed letters, but will require that hard copies follow by mail.

Is the GRE required for admission?

No, the Abess Center no longer requires the GRE for admission to its graduate programs.



Do I have to send a copy of my diploma?

You are not required to send your actual diplomas, but are required to have official, sealed transcripts sent to us from every higher education institution you have attended. International students must have their transcripts evaluated (please see the information here for instructions and guidelines).

I’m concerned that I will not be able to have original transcripts sent in time for the application deadline.  Can I send copies?

For the purposes of our initial admissions review, we will accept scanned versions of the documents transmitted via email (in .pdf or .jpg format).  However, for admission to be finalized, we must receive hard copies of all necessary documents via regular mail from the originating institution of higher education.

Do you accept students with a Bachelor's degree or only those who have completed a Master's?

We accept students with B.A. and B.S. degrees, as well as Master's, J.D.'s, or other advanced degrees.

Do you admit students for Spring term?

No.  We admit students only in the Fall each year.

Do you accept part-time students part-time or offer an online degree?

No. We only accept full-time students and do not have an online option.

I already have a Master's degree.  Will any of my coursework count toward the PhD?

We evaluate each accepted student's previous graduate coursework on an individual basis.  Graduate courses, including those taken during an undergraduate career, may count as equivalents to UM courses.  At our discretion, we may waive up to 24 credits toward the 60 total required for the ECS PhD.

I am an international student.  Do I need to take the TOEFL?

If English is not your first language or you did not study at an English-language institution internationally, you will need to take the TOEFL or IELTS within two years of applying.  Typically, a TOEFL PBT score of 550 or higher,  a TOEFL iBT score of 80 or higher, or an IELTS score of 6.5 or higher are required.  Scores should be sent to the main UM reporting number, which is 5815.

I do not have U.S. resident status.  Am I eligible to apply?

In order to study at UM, you will need to go through various procedures required by the federal government.  Detailed information about the procedures can be found at this U.S. government site.

Additional information about obtaining visas and health immunizations, completing forms necessary for entry into the U.S., getting to campus, and finding housing is provided on the UM Graduate School site for prospective international students.

If you are admitted, the ECS program will provide additional information and assistance.

What is the cost of the ECS program?  Does the program provide support?

Admission to the program affords students with a nationally competitive package of stipend and tuition waivers.

If I want a fellowship, do I have to apply separately for one?

The ECS program provides 5-years of stipend support.  We also put forward highly accomplished admitted students for the competitive, internal UM Fellowship.  You do not need to apply for that; our admissions committee nominates individuals for that award.

We also encourage potential students to apply for external fellowships such as the Fulbright if they are eligible, or for grants and fellowships, including those directed to underserved populations or minorities.  The UM Graduate School maintains a list of fellowship and granting opportunities.

Does UM provide health insurance?

Graduate students at UM are required to carry health insurance.  If you do not have your own insurance, you may purchase insurance through the university.  Once admitted, graduate students entering in 2012 are eligible for a 60% waiver of the health insurance fee, rates for which are set annually, and are responsible for the remainder. Information about health insurance can be found on the Graduate School website.

I’m most interested in pursuing ecological and environmental research.  Is this the right program for me?

We are an interdisciplinary program, so those who are best suited for our program have an interest in framing research questions with both natural and social science components, or that examine environmental issues in terms of educational, communications, historical, or other perspectives.  If you are strictly interested in scientific research, other programs will probably be a better fit for you.

I have a stronger background in the Humanities than in social or natural science.  Would I be eligible for this program?

Because we are an interdisciplinary program, candidates with undergraduate majors or master’s degrees in Humanities fields are eligible for admission.  We look for those with a strong, cross-disciplinary background that demonstrates an ability to formulate and execute research that draws on multiple methodologies (as appropriate).  If you have no science background at all, you are likely to be at a competitive disadvantage; but should you have doubts about your record, please contact us and we can help appraise your situation.

I have a very clear idea of what I want to do for my dissertation project.  How should I proceed?

Because we are a small program, it is essential that students be matched with a faculty sponsor.   We suggest that you explore the University of Miami website to identify faculty at any of the schools or colleges who are engaged in research that matches your interests.  Please contact us if you would like to discuss whether your project is a good fit for our program.

What are you looking for in the personal statement?

Your personal statement should be sufficiently focused to give us a sense of your interests and previous accomplishments, including any research or field experiences you have had and any prior publications.  If you have identified specific researchers at the University of Miami with whom you would be interested in working, you can include that information in your statement.