Application Tips

We encourage applications from students from diverse backgrounds and marginalized areas, including Indigenous communities and the Global South. We recognize that applying for graduate school can be a time consuming process and offer the following brief tips:

Follow the Instructions Carefully 

The online application is complex. It has multiple sections, not all of which apply for a graduate program in Geography. Please be sure to carefully follow the Application Instructions when compiling and formatting your application, as mistakes can have serious consequences for how your application is reviewed.  

Start Early

Whether you are applying to more than one school or only to Geography & Planning at the University of Toronto, you will need time to communicate with potential faculty supervisors with whom you are likely to have shared interests, and develop your application materials. You will also need time to solicit letters of reference from past professors. It is feasible that this process can take 6 months, so start as early as you can.

Research Statement

  • Write your proposal in clear, plain language using non-technical terms. Avoid jargon and acronyms.
  • While you should feel welcome to write in the first person, do not use this space to write a detailed autobiography. If there are autobiographical details which you believe are relevant to your research you should provide those details in your equity and diversity statement, and then reference your equity and diversity statement in your research statement.
  • When describing your proposed research, provide enough detail to demonstrate to the Admissions Committee and potential supervisors that you are familiar with the scholarly debates, knowledge gaps, and methodologies used to answer questions within your particular area of interest. In general, try to be as specific as possible about your potential research topic. You will not be held to this topic if admitted but it will give the admissions committee a clear idea of your interests. Show where your interests connect to work in the department done by faculty – who might form part of your committee, include your relevant training and past experience that supports your work in this area.
  • If you have worked prior to applying to graduate school, you may wish to describe what you learned from this employment that can relate to your proposed research project and your overall success in the graduate program.
  • Demonstrate your achievements, talents, and readiness for advanced study/research using specific examples wherever possible, e.g. by referring to your performance in specific courses of relevance to your proposed project, or any previous experience as a researcher.

Equity and Diversity Statement 

While this statement is optional, we hope that all applicants will consider submitting one, so that we know more about your identity and experiences, and how you might contribute to diversity and equity in our department (as per our Statement on Diversity). 

  • Write in the first person and include autobiographical details that you did not include in your Research Statement, but that might be relevant in our adjudication of your application, especially in terms of your past experiences and how these make you a strong applicant for graduate school. 

  • Share what makes your experience unique! However, you are not required to share all the details of your own background if you are uncomfortable doing so for any reason.  

  • Focus on your past experiences and activities and how they have shaped you as a person, not on your theoretical support for equity and diversity in the abstract. Use concrete examples where possible. 

Contacting Faculty Members

  • You must list at least one and up to three potential supervisors in your application. You are strongly encouraged to reach out directly to faculty with whom you are likely to share research interests regarding supervision. If a faculty member indicates that they are interested in working with you, include this information in your research statement.
  • Please look closely at the interests of faculty members you approach. You are much more likely to receive a positive reply if you write to two or three faculty members with whom you have overlapping interests (e.g. on method, field, geographical region) than if you write a generic email to a large number of faculty members. Consider reading at least one article they have published – these are often open access.
  • Start contacting faculty members regarding supervision early. You may contact more than one faculty member, but note that it may take time (and you may need to send a reminder) for them to respond due to their numerous responsibilities. While you wait, have your relevant information ready, such as official transcripts, a sense of your own research interests, and short writing samples, so that when faculty respond you can quickly follow up with these details.
  • Applicants are encouraged to send draft copies of their research and equity and diversity statements (if applicable) to potential supervisors for comment/feedback prior to submitting these documents on-line.
  • Potential supervisors may be able to connect you with their current students, if requested, to discuss their experience in the program.

Reference Letters

  • Ask for letters from the professors who know your work best and will be likely to provide a positive reference letter.
  • If you are applying from an institution that you feel may be less well known to faculty at the University of Toronto, you may wish to encourage your references to explain the institution’s standing in its host country/region.
  • When contacting references, refresh their memory about who you are (if possible, an in-person meeting is often helpful for this). Be sure to provide your referees with the information they need to write a good letter (e.g. your transcript, your CV, information about your academic or non-academic accomplishments, a paper you wrote for their class, etc.). This will enable them to write a letter that provides specific examples as evidence for their claims about your capacity as a student.
  • Start contacting references early and follow up with a reminder if needed.
  • Academic references are preferred; however one professional reference can be submitted if the author is in a position to assess your suitability for graduate studies.
  • Reference letters are submitted using an on-line system. Your referee(s) will receive an e-mailed request once you have paid your application fee. You can monitor the status of your letters and send reminder emails from the system through the on-line application.