Application Tips for Graduate Programs in Biology and Marine Biology

The Department of Biology and Marine Biology receives numerous applications for entrance into our graduate programs in biology and marine biology from very highly qualified candidates like you. Our programs have become more competitive over the years and, while some applicants will be turned down on the basis of their records, a number of extremely good students will also be turned down for admission for other reasons. We would like to reduce the number of highly qualified candidates who are rejected, and feel that an explanation of our admission procedures may aid in this endeavor.

All completed applications are sent by the Graduate School to the Department of Biology and Marine Biology for evaluation. The first step in this process is the establishment of a composite score for each applicant, based upon objective criteria, letters of recommendation and research and pertinent work experience. The composite score is used by the College of Arts and Sciences, the Graduate School and the Biology and Marine Biology faculty as a preliminary screening of students. Students with a low composite score may still be admitted under extenuating circumstances and with the fervent support of a faculty member.

This process leads to the second and, perhaps, more critical part of the admission procedure. All scored applications are made available to the faculty of the Department of Biology and Marine Biology. No student is admitted to the graduate program unless he/she is accepted by a faculty member in the Department. Those faculty interested in taking on new graduate students will peruse the application files in search of well-qualified students with compatible research interests. The compatibility of research interests is of paramount importance here. A faculty member can only assess whether or not you would be willing to work in his/her laboratory based upon your statement of interest and the areas you indicate on the interest checklist that is part of the online application.  The checklist is a very important factor in admission, so please be careful in filling it out. Faculty are alerted to the interests of new applicants based upon this checklist.

As you can see from the research areas, the faculty in the Department of Biology and Marine Biology have diverse interests. If you are very specific in the delineation of your research interests, you are limiting yourself to only a few faculty members. For example, a student may state that he/she is only interested in working on marine mammals. If those few faculty members with similar interests have a full complement of graduate students already, then the applicant will be rejected on space considerations regardless of his/her composite score and qualifications. Therefore, chances of admission are higher for applicants who would be willing to work in a broader range of areas.

One of the best strategies you can use to aid admission to the programs is to contact one or more faculty directly, either by e-mail, phone or letter. This will allow you to better understand the sorts of research projects going on in that laboratory, and will allow the faculty member to assess your level of interest in his/her work. Such contact will also allow you to find out which of the faculty have room in their labs for additional graduate students. Despite the strength of an application and solid credentials, some applicants will not find a match with a faculty member. You can reduce the chances that this will happen to you by being open-minded with regard to your research interests and by contacting faculty directly. If you have any additional questions regarding your application or admission, please feel free to contact:

Tracie Chadwick
Graduate Administrative Associate
(910) 962-3536
chadwickt@uncw.edu


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