you're thinking of applying to graduate school
in zoology. Below are some helpful suggestions
about how to go about doing so. Many of these
tips will generalize to other departments and
schools as well.
Learn about the various degree program options
available, financial support, and about how
admissions decisions are made by the department.
If you have questions about the
admissions process, contact the Department of
Zoology, and we will provide some answers. Good
luck with the process of finding a graduate program
that suits your needs and interests!
There is great flexibility in our Zoology graduate
program, and we admit students with diverse academic
backgrounds. Many students enter with undergraduate
degrees and proceed immediately to a Ph.D. Other
students first receive a M.S. degree and then proceed
to a Ph.D. Still others finish after completing
a M.S. degree in Zoology. Students entering with
a M.A. or M.S. degree generally proceed immediately
to the Ph.D. The path taken by a student is tailored
by the student’s advisor, the student’s
advisory committee, and the student her or himself.
Given the diversity of research topics that students can pursue within the Zoology Department there are no strict pre-requisites for admission into the program. Instead faculty members who you identify as potential advisors (see below) will evaluate your academic history to determine whether your background is appropriate for your chosen course of study.
[5 February, 2008:
Please note that the UW-Madison catalog is
currently not up to date. The pre-requisite course
list has now been
eliminated.] If you are interested in pursuing
a graduate degree in Zoology, the first thing you should
do is identify
faculty members who you would like as an advisor. If there is a faculty member
interested in having you, she or he will be an advocate for your application.
It is not enough just to meet the requirements of the graduate school – you
need a faculty member who is willing to take you as an advisee. And remember,
there may be more than one faculty member who might be interested in you. We
suggest sending a letter or email that tells the professor a bit about yourself
and asks them whether they are looking for prospective M.S./Ph.D. students. If
you do not receive a speedy reply, you might want to contact the Zoology Department
office to see if the faculty member is off campus for an extended time.
We require faculty sponsorship for admissions to our
graduate program, because this guarantees that students
have a place in a research lab from the start. Also,
several types of financial support come directly from faculty members. Financial
support (your salary) typically comes in the form of teaching or research assistantships,
and/or fellowships. In addition to providing you with a salary, an assistantship
or fellowship qualifies you for in-state tuition and fees, as well as graduate
student benefits. Research assistantships are provided by individual faculty
members from research grants, and thus the availability of research assistantship
support is highly variable.
visit to the department is often an extremely
valuable and informative part of the admissions
process- both for prospective students and for
the faculty. Some faculty members will invite
students for a visit and some students will take
the initiative and visit if they have the opportunity.
In either case, coordinate the visit with a professor
so that arrangements can be made for you to talk
with various graduate students and faculty.
Interviewing with Faculty
If you visit, keep in mind that
you are evaluating the school, department, and
laboratory as much as the faculty members are
evaluating you. So prepare to ask some questions
in addition to answering them.
questions you might receive from a faculty member:
What is your previous research
experience? (It is often OK not to have much.)
Why are you interested in graduate
Why are you interested in studying
Would you be interested in studying
I don’t have research
money to support you, so you will probably
be a teaching assistant throughout your graduate
career. How would you prioritize classes,
teaching and research?
Things you might want to ask
a prospective advisor:
How many graduate students
do you have and how similar/diverse are the
projects that they work on?
What is the difference between
the M.S. and Ph.D. projects?
Who generally decides what the
research topic will be?
How could I expect to be funded
if I came to work in your lab?
How long do students in you
lab typically take to finish?
I have some experience studying
‘X’. Is continuing along this
line of research compatible with your lab?
What sort of jobs have your
past graduate students gotten after they’ve
Interviewing with Graduate Students
Things you might want to ask
current graduate students:
What’s the best/worst thing about:
being a graduate student, your advisor,
the department, UW, Madison, etc?
How long have you been in graduate
school and when do you expect to finish?
What is the teaching load like
for a TA in the department?
Do you recommend ‘Professor
X’ as an advisor?
What is the most difficult part
of the graduate student process? What is the
most important part?
What is the cost of housing?
Is it easy to find a place to live?
How’s life in Madison?
Be aware that graduate students
might be willing to give more open answers in
person than in writing. After all, you are asking
them to chat about their supervisor.
It is a good idea to follow up your visit with
a letter or email to the faculty member(s) with
whom you think you’d like to work. This
serves not only to thank them for their time
and whatever effort they might have expended
on your behalf, but also to send the message
that you are still very interested in joining
their lab. It also reinforces the idea that
you are professional, organized, etc. Such a
letter increases the likelihood that they will
go to bat for you when it comes time to evaluate
The basic timeline for the admissions process is as
Contact prospective advisors during the fall semester
in the year prior to your intended enrollment. Some
students come for a visit
during the fall semester.
= 1 January.
Note- applications received after 1 January will
NOT be considered for admissions for the upcoming
academic year. This deadline is firm.
February: Faculty interested in taking on new graduate
students get serious about the admissions process
in February and often contact promising applicants,
and in some cases, invite some students to Madison
for a visit.
Admissions decisions/offers begin to be made in
late February. Most admissions decisions are made
by 15 March. In a few cases, it may take longer
to reach a decision. However, your faculty contact
should let you know if you fall into this category.
(These situations may arise because a faculty member
is waiting to hear about funding and thus availability
of funds for supporting a graduate student).