Nature–Culture–Sustainability Studies

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Application deadlines

The graduate application deadline is January 10.

Applicants interested in financial aid should file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

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Application requirements

First steps

Applications for 2021–22 coming soon.

Academic transcripts

Initially you need to provide unofficial transcripts of all undergraduate and/or graduate study indicating satisfactory completion, or evidence of anticipated completion, of an undergraduate degree program from an accredited college or university. You can upload your unofficial transcripts via the RISD Applicant Portal. If your academic credentials are prepared in a language other than English, they must be translated into English by an approved translator before submitting. Enrolling students will be required to submit official transcripts later.

Statement of purpose

Applicants to the master’s program in Nature–Culture–Sustainability Studies must submit an academic statement of purpose. Since the object of your statement is to introduce yourself to the Admissions Committee as a thinker, scholar and writer, you should address in detail your intellectual interests and proposed topic(s) of graduate study. Be as specific as possible in describing your prior college-level experience in areas encompassed by Nature–Culture–Sustainability Studies, indicating how this work has contributed to your professional and personal goals in pursuing a master’s degree. Your statement should also reflect your understanding of the contours and demands of graduate study in Nature–Culture–Sustainability Studies at RISD.

Writing sample

Applicants to the master’s program in Nature–Culture–Sustainability Studies are required to submit a writing sample. This writing sample should represent your strongest critical and/or analytical writing on a topic clearly related to Nature–Culture–Sustainability Studies.

Please indicate if your writing sample is excerpted from a longer work. If it is, please make sure it forms a coherent argument and is framed such that the Admissions Committee understands its function as part of a longer work.

Letters of recommendation

Applicants are required to submit three letters of recommendation. These letters should be written by teachers or other professionals who have firsthand knowledge of your academic achievements and can comment on your potential for graduate study. You may invite your recommenders to upload their letters through your Applicant Portal. If the people writing letters of recommendation are unable to submit using this method, their letters may be emailed to or mailed to the Graduate Admissions Office, Two College Street, Providence, RI 02903 USA.

Graduate Record Examination

Results from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) are optional.

English as a second language

All applicants who speak English as a second language (including US citizens) must submit results from either the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS (International English Language Testing System). Since proficiency in English is a prerequisite for acceptance, applicants must attain an acceptable score on either test; RISD requires a minimum result of 93 on the TOEFL or 6.5 on IELTS. The language test requirement may be waived for applicants who are enrolled in an institution where English is the language of instruction.

Plan to take the TOEFL or IELTS well in advance of the application deadline since it may take six weeks for your scores to be sent to RISD by the test agency.


Students who will have completed an undergraduate bachelor’s degree program at an accredited college or university by June 2021 are eligible to apply to the graduate program for admission beginning in the 2021–22 academic year.

Who should apply

NCSS is ideal for passionate students with backgrounds in the liberal arts or in art and design fields, and who have an interest in critical contemporary issues and interdisciplinary research. A strong emphasis on self-directed research will be especially inspiring for agile thinkers who enjoy challenging themselves through the creation of original scholarship. Individuals with professional backgrounds in related fields will also benefit from the complex perspective the program offers on environmental issues.

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(Based on 2020–21 degree program costs)

Tuition and fees

Annual tuition: $53,820
Student activity fee: $270
Orientation fee: $200

Financing your education

All admitted graduate students are considered for fellowships and assistantships. There is no application process to be considered for these awards.

RISD's office of Student Financial Services (SFS) is dedicated to helping graduate students understand the financial aid process and how best to finance their education. Anyone interested in applying to NCSS is encouraged to contact SFS if they have any additional questions or concerns regarding financial aid.

US citizens and permanent residents may also apply for federal student loans by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and for financial aid from RISD by completing the CSS Profile Application. International students, visiting students, mobility students and students in other special categories are not eligible for financial aid.