Frequently Asked Questions

I am a fall applicant. When should I submit the required application items – by the ‘soft’ November 2 or the ‘hard’ March 1 deadline?

Opportunities for funding are greater, though not guaranteed, early in the fall application cycle. Fall applicants are highly encouraged to submit all required items before November 1 for potential fellowship consideration. Applications will be accepted through March 1 and considered for research assistantships, as available through individual faculty, but applications are likely not to be considered for university-wide fellowships if received after November 2.

What fellowship opportunities are available?

Fall applicants may be considered for university-wide fellowships if all application items are received by November 2 (earlier preferred) and applicants are deemed competitive/eligible for specific fellowships. University-wide fellowship descriptions and criteria can be found on the Graduate School website. The Department of Community Sustainability does not have full-funding fellowships, but early admitted students (with their advisor’s support and assistance) may apply for 2 of the endowed scholarships offered by the Department (Axinn, Steinmueller), as relevant (these provide supplemental funding only, not substantial or full funding support for degree work). The deadline is December 1, 2020.

What other funding opportunities are available?

Funding opportunities provided by MSU are available on the MSU Graduate School website. The MSU Office of Financial Aid describes additional funding opportunities. Most funding from the Department of Community Sustainability is in the form of hourly work pay or research assistantships for qualified students, as available, through individual faculty.


What is an assistantship?

Research assistantships at MSU include a stipend (bi-weekly paycheck) + tuition & fees for 9 credits per semester (fall and spring) + health insurance + fees. Assistantship amounts vary, based on many factors. Admitted students who are offered an assistantship will receive a separate assistantship offer letter having details about the faculty supervisor, assistantship level, hours per week, and stipend. Because research assistantships in CSUS are offered only by individual faculty members, applicants are encouraged to talk with faculty about potential assistantship opportunities. 

View faculty biographies and faculty contact information.

Does the CSUS Department offer teaching assistantships?

Occasionally, yes. But generally only research assistantships are available via individual faculty members. Competitive Department-funded teaching assistantships may be available in unusual cases such as made possible by sabbatical faculty salary savings and when a specific teaching need exists. Also, each year one competitive endowed award (Malcolm & Ann Kerr Award for Excellence in Scholarship) will fund one teaching assistantship for one semester. TAs typically are offered to current students.

Are all CSUS graduate students funded by assistantships?

No, not all admitted applicants are offered assistantships or other funding, as they are based on funded project and research grants of individual faculty (typically the student’s advisor). Students fund their education in many ways: full- or part-time jobs on or off campus, hourly project work, assistantships, home government or other agency funding (international students), scholarships, and/or personal savings and loans.

For more information about assistantships, explore these websites:


How are applications evaluated?

Completed graduate applications are reviewed by the CSUS Graduate Admissions Committee, comprising three CSUS faculty members. Applications that pass this review then are made available for review by the CSUS faculty at large, for identification of potential advisors. An applicant is admitted only if a faculty member commits to advising a specific applicant. The multi-stage review cycle does not begin until all application items are received (including official test scores, official transcripts/diplomas, and all letters of recommendation). CSUS uses holistic review, meaning all items are reviewed as a package, representing the applicant in toto; no individual item automatically disqualifies an applicant.

How soon is an admission decision made after all required application items are submitted?

Applicants typically receive an admission decision letter from the Department by email no later than 8-10 weeks after all the required application items are received. The Graduate Admissions Committee will not review an application until an application package is complete. The review process has several steps and takes time. Please be patient.

An applicant can view the official letter from the MSU Office of Admissions on the applicant portal – granting or denying admission – soon after receiving the admission decision email from the Department (unless waiting for Affidavit of Support for an international applicant). The amount of time depends on the university-wide applicant load in the system at the time of decision. An applicant is accepted officially to MSU only by the MSU Office of Admissions.

Does the Department accept spring/summer applications?

No, the CSUS Department does not accept spring/summer applications. Applicants may apply only for fall semester starts. Applying for fall admission gives admitted students the best opportunity to

  1. attend the formal once-yearly CSUS orientation,
  2. enroll in fall-offered required foundations courses, and
  3. become part of a full student cohort.

Applicants may be considered for off-cycle admission ONLY if they are being actively recruited by a faculty member who has assistantship funding for the student. If a transfer applicant from another MSU department, they should have already taken or be enrolled currently in CSUS 800 and 802, through special request of the instructors, at the time of the application.

Can I apply if I have not taken GRE or scores are older than 5 years?

No. GRE scores are required and must be no older than 5 years at the time of application.

What is the minimum GRE score accepted by the Department?

The CSUS Department does not specify a minimum GRE score for any section of the exam, as GRE scores are not a singular admissions criterion. We assess the entire application as a whole. That is not to say that GRE scores are irrelevant. In making admissions decisions, the Graduate Admissions Committee considers:

  1. the degree program for which an applicant is applying,
  2. the age of the GRE scores, which must be no older than 5 years at the time of application,
  3. experiences between GRE test-taking and application dates that might have enhanced applicant abilities in low-scoring areas,
  4. transcripts, and
  5. comments in letters of recommendation.

Applicants having a low GRE score (low percentile) should address the low score in their academic statement.

May I send my transcripts/diplomas/academic documents by email?

No, because all academic documents sent by email are not considered official and will not be reviewed. Contact your former institutions and ask them to send official transcript/diploma and translations in a sealed, official envelope to the Department of Community Sustainability. Anything sent by the applicant – by email or postal mail – is considered unofficial and will not be accepted.

May I send my GRE scores by email?

No, because GRE scores sent by email are not considered official and will not be considered. Contact ETS and ask them to send your official scores to the MSU Office of Admissions. Anything sent by the applicant – by email or postal mail – is considered unofficial and will not be accepted.

May I send any application materials by email?

No, applicants should follow the detailed application instructions for domestic or international applicants and submit items as instructed.