NAU GPR Graduate Programs
FREQUENTLY ASKED APPLICATION QUESTIONS (FAQ)
General FAQ for
All NAU GPR Graduate Program Applications
(Certificates, MS, and BS-MS Integrated Program)
1) When do I apply to the Certificate or MS degree programs? What about Graduate Assistantships and Tuition Scholarships?
- Applications are accepted at almost any time of the year for Fall and Spring admission.
- To properly evaluate and process your application, we impose the following deadlines for receipt of all your material, including official transcripts and letters of recommendation:
- MS Applications
- To start in the Fall Semester, applications must be received in full by August 15th.
- To start in the Spring Semester, applications must be received in full by January 5th.
- Graduate Certificate Applications (GIS or Community Planning)
- To start in the Fall Semester, applications must be received in full by August 22nd.
- To start in the Spring Semester, applications must be received in full by January 12th.
- Please note that the evaluation of applications received in the Summer can take longer because fewer faculty are available.
- Graduate Assistantships and Tuition Scholarships are only available to MS students and have earlier application due dates. More information is available on the FAQ for MS applicants.
- International Students have earlier due dates to allow for visa application processing:
- Application Deadlines:
- March 1st for Fall (August) admission
- October 1st for Spring (January) admission
- The NAU Graduate College requires: your Applciation; your Official Transcripts; and your TOEFL report before we at the department can evaluate your application.
- Your visa will take 3 to 6 months (depending on your country) from time that the GPR department recommends admission.
- You must have a passing score on your TOEFL to be fully admitted to NAU. If your TOEFL is low, you may be allowed to improve your English through the NAU Program in Intensive English (PIE). However, you cannot take any graduate courses until after the PIE courses are completes (usually 1 to 2 semesters). Contact the NAU Graduate College for more information on this.
2) The application requires transcripts, but my degree was granted back in 1976. I'm not sure I'm going to be able to get transcripts. Is this a requirement that can be waived if necessary?
- You should be able to get transcripts from that long ago without any problem. The university transcript requirement system has been around for a very long time.
3) Am I allowed to take any grad classes outside of the GPR Department as electives for either the Certificate or MS degree program?
- That is up to your advisor for either the certificate or MS. For the MS degree, the advisor might also consult with your MS committee.
4) What is the minimum acceptable undergraduate GPA to enroll in the online GIS Certification program? The online GIS Master's program?
- The minimum GPA for admission is 3.0 for the MS degree. We will admit students conditionally with lower GPAs if other application material indicates that the student will likely be successful in completing the degree. There is no minimum GPA for the Certificate.
5) Who should my letters of recommendation come from: professors, employers or someone else?
- A stronger application would have at least two letters from professors, as they are more familiar with academic expectations of a graduate degree than are many employers.
- We understand that applicants who have not been in school for several years may not be able to obtain letters from their instructors. Employers are your next best choice for letters.
- In the end, we are primarily interested in letters from people who can judge your potential to be successful in the program you are applying for (Graduate Certificate or MS degree).
6) Will any travel or field trips be required for the online programs?
- Not for the online versions of the programs. For the MS degree, you will be required to make an oral presentation of your thesis or practicum project. This can be conducted via video conferencing, but you will be required to arrange that.
7) Overall, and minus books, how much will the Certification program cost? What about for the Master's degree?
8) Is there a price difference in enrolling for the Certificate vs the Masters Program. I understand that the Masters Program consists of more units, but, I was wondering if there are additional fees that the certificate program does not require.
- There is no price difference for the Planning Certificate, other than taking more time to finish the MS. The GIS Certificate has an additional $250 program fee.
9) Can you provide an approximate range of book costs per semester?
- No, I cannot estimate this as it varies a lot depending on which classes you take and who the instructor is.
10) Could I take a couple of classes over the summer and then be admitted?
- Yes, but you should see an advisor to make sure that the Summer classes can be applied to your degree. You will also need to submit a Graduate College petition form after you are admitted to apply the classes to your degree. Approval is not guaranteed, so seeking advice is important.
- Only 25% of the total units required for the certificate or degree can be taken before you are admitted into either program, and again, only by having a petition approved by the department and NAU Graduate College.
11) How do the online courses work? Are they self paced? Are exams online or are they proctored at some location?
- They are generally not self-paced -- they have specific assignments due by specific dates. There are no proctored exams at specific locations. Some classes have open book exams, but this policy varies from one faculty member to another.
12) Are the start times for the online version of the classes the same as for the on campus version? Do they start at the beginning of semesters? Are there fewer courses offered online than on campus?
- The online classes use the same assignments and websites as the on campus classes taught by the same faculty member. For GIS classes, the only difference is that the on campus classes have a once a week class lab, which distance students are welcome to attend if they come to Flagstaff.
- Yes there are fewer classes offered online than on campus, but not a lot fewer (in our department, at least). It depends somewhat on your emphasis. Currently, I think there is only one GIS class that is not offered online, and only two (or three) planning classes.
13) Are their course videos for the online classes, or are they primarily reading, powerpoint follow-alongs?
- That depends on the class and the instructor in the class. The classes are mostly based on readings, but multimedia is also used, to varying degrees.
14) If I want to take more than courses for a certificate or degree program than is required, does it cost more?
- You can take additional classes beyong the required ones as a certificate student. There is no limit. Full time at the graduate level is 9 units. Additional units is the same basic tuition rate as for 9 units. You need special permission from the registrar to take over 15 units as a graduate student in one semester. In general, graduate classes are estimated to required 30% more effort than undergraduate classes.
15) If I apply for the Masters Program am I able to obtain the Community Planning or GIS Certificate after I complete the required courses?
- Yes. However, you must still submit (and pay for) an application to the NAU Graduate College for the Certificate. We can probably just use your application materials from the MS degree at the department level, but you should check the the GPR Graduate Programs Coordinator. You can apply for the Certificate at any time, and receive the it whenever you finish your courses.
- Note that it is easier to apply for the certificate program after you have entered the MS degree program. If you are in the certificate program and then want to apply for the MS degree, there are some issues on how many certificate units you can use toward the MS degree. (see the next questions)
16) If I am uncertain about pursuing a MS degree, can I begin the Certificate Program and then switch to a MS later? Would I still need to take the GRE is I did this?
- Many students will start the certificate and then apply for the MS before completing the certificate. Most of these students complete both the certificate and MS at the same time.
- You would need to submit a full application for the MS degree. Only 25% of the units required for the MS degree can be taken before you start the MS degree program. The MS requires 36 units, so you can only apply 9 units taken before you start the MS degree toward the degree. You will also need to petition to have these classes applied, which must be approved by the department and the NAU Grad College.
- Yes, you would still need to take the GRE. This is because the MS requires broader academic skills than does a certificate. You may, however, petition the department to request a waiver of the GRE requirement.
17) I have not taken any geography classes, will I have to do make up work for that?
- The Certificates and MS Applied Geospatial Sciences degree do not require previous geography coursework.
18) What are the differences between the MS versus the Certificate for educational purposes and employment purposes. For example, if a employer asks for a masters for a qualification would the certificate be comparable? What designation do you receive after completing the certificate vs completing the traditional MS? Do you get a MIS or MAS?
- The certificate is much easier to get -- you are just taking courses -- sort of like a minor, but at the graduate level. The MS has much higher expectations. The certificate is not a Masters designation of any kind -- it is just a certification that you have taken additional coursework and achieved a level of competency in GIS. Your highest degree would still be the Bachelors.
19) For the online GIS classes, my computer has 2gb of RAM and a 2MHz processor, will this be enough to run the program (ESRI suggests a 2.2 MHz processor and at least 2Gb of ram), or should I look into getting a faster computer?
- Your computer is good enough for running the ESRI ArcGIS. If you need a copy of the student edition ArcGIS Desktop 10 installation disk, please place a request at http://geog.nau.edu/courses/rh83/disk/request.asp.
- NAU provides remote login to a virtual lab server which has the complete ArcGIS suite. For GSP 536 (enterprise geodatabase), you must use the virtual lab to connect to our database. Performance of this virtual lab server is not bad if you have a high-speed internet connection.
20) How proficient will we become in the utilzation of GIS software?
- Our students are among the most proficient in comparison to graduates from competing GIS programs. Plus, we have the flexibility to do the program fully online.
21) Once I am accepted how soon can I start courses? How many courses can I take at the same time?
- You can take classes at the start of the Fall or Spring semester following your acceptance.
- We rarely offer graduate classes in the summer, though you can get credit for internships, practicum work, and thesis in the summer.
- Nine units is considered the minimum for Full Time for a graduate student.
- The NAU Grad Colleges requires a petition if you want to take more than 15 units in one semester as a graduate student.
- our GIS courses are all 4 units each. All other classes are usually 3 units each.
22) Can courses that a student took for their undergraduate degree be applied toward a graduate MS or Graduate Certificate? Especially if they are essentially the same courses taught at NAU, though at the undergraduate level.
- No. Any course applied towards a bachelor’s degree or undergraduate certificate can not be used again towards graduate certificate or degree. Similarly, any course applied to a graduate degree that you have already been awarded cannot be applied to another graduate degree.
- For the Integrated BS-MS degree, up to two classes at the 400 level can be "double dipped" with approval of your MS advisor.
22) After earning a Certified or Master's degree, will career placement assistance be available?
- Our department does not provide this in a formal manner. Such opportunities, however, do become available informally on a regular basis, and NAU offers career assistance through the Gateway Center that can assist you.
23) Do I simply apply for Student loans through the Financial Aid Office just as I have in past semesters?
- You need to ask the NAU Financial Aid Office about this. One major difference is that graduate students are not eligible for grants, though they can still apply for loans.
- Both MS and Certificate students can apply for financial aid.
- For financial aid purposes, half time graduate study is 5 units/credits a semester.
- Graduate students are eligible for a variety of other sources of financial aid. See also:
- BS-MS Integrated Students will be considered undergraduates for student aid purposes until their BS degree has been completed.
- The GPR Department also provides some financial assistance specifically to MS students (not for Certificate students). See our MS FAQ for more information on these.
24) Can I get reduced tuition rates in your MS and graduate Certificate programs if I live in a WICHE state?
- The Graduate Certificate in Community Planning is formally listed in the Western Regional Graduate Program of WICHE.
- I am told that our GIS Certificate and MS Applied Geospatial Sciences degree *might* also qualify for WICHE tuition rates, even though they are not listed in WRGP. However, I have not been able to confirm this.
- WICHE tuition rates only apply if you take the Community Planning certificate entirely from outside of the state of Arizona. If you come to the NAU campus from another state, you will be required to pay out-of-state tuition rates.
- If you are a distance student in a non-WICHE state, you are also required to pay out-of-state tuition rates.
25) I am unsure about taking a degree or certificate entirely online. Is this a smart thing for me to do?
- About half of the new students who started our MS Applied Geospatial Sciences degree in 2012 were online. In addition, we normally have about 15 online students in NAU's Master of Administration - Land Use Planning degree. It is probably a smart move for the right student, as not everyone wants, or is comfortable with, doing their degree online. Our online MS students tend to work fairly closely with their academic advisors, as do the on-campus students, but they also require a degree of self-initiative that might be higher than for on-campus students.
26) How do I graduate when I am done?
27) From what I have been told, graduate applications are reviewed "all the time," but I am concerned that this may not be able to happen in a timely manner due to my submission date. If accepted into the program will I be able to get started next fall, or am I submitting the application too late?
- The bigger problem is that the later one waits to the start of the semester, the harder it will be to find an advisor, which is required for the MS degree application. Most faculty will only accept a limited number of students to advise at one time.
- For Certificates, the main problem in waiting until
28) What is the common misconceptions of these programs?
- The most common misconception is that our MS degree (as well as our GIS and Planning Certificates) requires a BS in geography or GIS. While a Bachelors degree is required, in fact, our graduate programs are designed to address the educational needs of students with a diversity of backgrounds, but with a common interest in building better communities and environments in a diversity of ways through the tools GIS and community planning and recreation.
29) Where do I find and send the department application forms and letters?
The application form is mostly done online through the NAU Graduate College.
- Students from U.S. universities are required to submit an unofficial digital copy of their undergraduate transcripts with their application. They are only required to submit official transcripts after they have been admitted by the GPR Department. Students will not be able to enroll in classes until their official transcripts are received by NAU.
- Applicants with a Bachelors degree from NAU do not need to submit transcripts.
- Students from non-U.S. (international) universities must submit official transcripts before their application will be reviewed by the GPR Department.
- Official transcripts must be sent to the NAU Graduate College.
Please see our additional FAQs specifically for: