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Thinking of Applying to Graduate School in Zoology?

Home : Graduate : Prospective Students:

So, 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.

Application deadline = 1 December.

General Strategies
Learn about the various degree program options available, financial support, and about how admissions decisions are made by the department.

Learn about the Zoology Department Faculty
Faculty web pages include contact information for the faculty as well as their graduate students.
Also see: RAships now available (none at this time...)

Visit the Department
•Who to visit
•Interviewing with Faculty
•Interviewing with Graduate Students
               - Check out what our current graduate students are studying.

Follow-up Communication

Zoology Graduate Program Application Time-line

Application Checklist

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!

Other Links

Zoology Program Statistical Profile

University Information

•The UW Graduate School

Online Graduate School Application

UW-Zoology on Facebook

Madison Area Information

Coming? Need help finding an apartment?

Applying: General Strategies

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.

Specific information about the Zoology Department graduate program is available at the webpage “Information for Current Students.”


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Applying: Visit the Department

A 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.

Sample 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 school?

  • Why are you interested in studying ‘X’?

  • Would you be interested in studying ‘Y’ instead?

  • 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 graduated?

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.

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Applying: Follow-Up Communication

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 applicants.

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Applying: Time-line

The basic timeline for the admissions process is as follows:

  • 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.
  • Application deadline = 1 December.
    Note- applications received after 1 December 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).

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Applying: Checklist

Home : Graduate : Prospective Students : Application Checklist

1. Information to be submitted directly to the Graduate School
____ On-line Graduate School application
____ GRE scores
____ TOEFL scores for international students
____ 3 - 4 letters of recommendation from faculty or supervisors.
       Letters of Recommendation will be submitted electronically through the Grad School application.

2. Information to be submitted directly to the Department of Zoology
       ____Personal statement that includes:
       ____Area(s) of research interest
       ____Name(s) of prospective advisor(s)

____Resume that includes:
       ____Names of individuals providing letters of recommendation

____Official transcripts from undergraduate and graduate schools
____Undergraduate GPA for the last 60 hrs of undergraduate work

For questions, contact:
Ani Injasoulian
Phone: (608) 262-1379


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