Are you considering graduate school?
I am considering applications for graduate study from accomplished and motivated students who are interested in studying the ecology of coastal communities.
Coastal wetlands support a diverse and unique assemblage of plants, invertebrates, shorebirds, fish, and mammals, and are exciting places to conduct basic and applied ecological research. Students in my lab address a wide variety of ecological questions (see Who We Are for some research summaries), and I am open to discussing new research ideas that you’d like to explore. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are two ways to apply for graduate study in my lab:
1. There is a new interdisciplinary graduate program in Marine Biology that is based at TAMUG. For information about this program, visit the MARB IDP website and select Department of Marine Biology under Galveston.
2. I have a graduate appointment at College Station in the department of Ecosystem Science and Management. Information on applying to the ESSM graduate program can be found here.
What is the first step in finding the right graduate school?
When should I first contact potential advisors?
Should I visit the lab in person, or is a phone interview sufficient?
What funding is available to support me in graduate school?
What are the differences between the MARB IDP and ESSM graduate programs?
What is the minimum GPA/GRE that I need to get into graduate school?
When is the application deadline for graduate school?
Can I work at another part-time or full-time job while in graduate school?
You should select a graduate program based on the research you will be doing, the advisor, and the potential for securing funding. The school itself and the location are secondary considerations. So, the first step is to find potential advisors whose research interests you. Look up recent journal articles and peruse faculty websites. Contact professors by e-mail to inquire if they are considering applications from new students. Indicate when you would like to start school and whether you will be a master’s or Ph.D. student. Include a CV that contains your GPA and GRE scores (if you have them). Tailor your email to that individual professor’s research interests, and proofread it to make sure it is grammatically correct and concise – remember, this will be the advisor’s first impression of you. Be sure that you spell the advisor’s name correctly – you’d be surprised how often I get inquiries with my name spelled wrong!
Contact professors about one year before you would like to start a graduate program.
I always recommend a visit in person to schools you are serious about, if at all possible. It’s a good idea to meet with the advisor to find out more about his/her personality and work ethic, talk with other graduate students about the lab and the graduate program, and see the facilities that would be available for research. There are some travel grants available through TAMU/TAMUG to defray some of the travel expenses incurred by potential students; contact me if you would like to schedule a visit to my lab and obtain one of those grants.
Students in my lab are supported by a variety of funding sources, including university fellowships, teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and graduate student fellowships from state and federal agencies. It is difficult to predict exactly what research funds will be available at any given time in the future, but between research and teaching assistantships we can typically provide funding for at least the first 1-2 years of the degree program. I also encourage students (especially Ph.D. students) to apply for external fellowships. Some places to start looking include:
The differences between the two programs are primarily related to course offerings and fellowship opportunities:
MARB IDP program: Course offerings at this time are fairly limited, but we will be adding new courses each semester over the next few years. Other courses are offered via distance at institutions like TAMU-Corpus Christi or TAMU-College Station.
There are some internal fellowship opportunities for first-year students in this graduate program, particularly for Ph.D. students. Some additional support is likely through a teaching assistantship during the first year or two.
ESSM program: Many students take 1 (M.S.) or 2 (Ph.D.) semesters of classes in College Station but do their field and laboratory work in the lab of their Galveston graduate advisor. Some students choose to live in College Station for the first 1-2 semesters and then move to Galveston afterwards to conduct their research. However, it is not required to take classes in physical residence at College Station. Some College Station courses are offered online, or classes can be taken exclusively at Galveston. However, there is a much wider variety of courses available in College Station than in Galveston, so residence time up there is worth serious consideration. It takes about 2.5 hours to drive between Galveston and College Station, one way. Although that is a long drive, there is a lot of flexibility in when and where you can take graduate classes.
There are a variety of first-year fellowships available through TAMU and TAMUG to support students in their first year in a College Station graduate program. Most of the application deadlines for those fellowships are in the late fall or early spring and are for students starting studies in the fall semester.
A strong GPA and GRE score will reflect favorably on your application, but there is no set minimum criteria for GPA or GRE scores. Rather, I review the application package as a whole. I particularly look at the applicant’s statement of interest – is it coherent, well thought out, and well written? I am not necessarily looking for a specific research plan, but some thought needs to be given to why my lab would be a good place for the student to pursue their interests.
Many fellowships have deadlines in the late fall or early spring, and those students who have completed their graduate school applications are best able to compete for those fellowships. Therefore, the priority deadline for graduate applications to my lab is December 15 for fall admission. Although applications may still be considered after that date, funding opportunities and space diminish after December.
For thesis students who will be actively engaged in a research project, I do not typically encourage this option. Graduate research is a big time commitment, and it is often difficult to make timely progress on a research project while holding down an outside job. The best scenario for graduate students is to obtain funding from school-related teaching or research assistantships or from graduate fellowships. Occasionally, a student will have an outside job that is directly related to their research project. In those cases a compromise can sometimes be made, but details would need to be worked out on a case-by-case basis.