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
- 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.
note that the evaluation of applications received in the Summer can take
longer because fewer faculty are available.
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
- Application Deadlines:
- March 1st for Fall (August) admission
- October 1st for Spring (January) admission
- The NAU Graduate College requires:
your Application; 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
- 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
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
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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- You can take additional classes beyond 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 require 30% more effort than
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 with the GPR Graduate Programs
Coordinator. You can apply for the Certificate at any time, and receive 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
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 utilization
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
- 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 bachelorís degree or
undergraduate certificate cannot 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
- For the Integrated BS-MS degree, up to two classes at
the 400 level can be "double dipped" with approval of your MS
23) 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.
24) Do I simply apply
for Student loans through the Financial Aid Office just as I have in past
- 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
- 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
- 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.
25) 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
- 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.
26) 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
27) How do I graduate when I am done?
28) 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
29) What is the common misconceptions of these
- 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.
30) 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
Bachelor 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.
must be sent to the NAU Graduate College.
Please see our additional FAQs specifically for: