Frequently Asked Questions for Potential Applicants
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
for admission to the Graduate
Program in Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University.
Q1. Do I need to contact NAU Biological Sciences faculty members
before I apply for graduate studies?
YES! You MUST contact prospective faculty mentors at NAU
Biological Sciences who do research in the area you wish to study. A list of all biological sciences faculty and their email/phone contacts is found here: Biological Sciences Faculty and Adjunct Faculty & Lab Research
yourself and ask faculty members who you might like to work with if they are accepting
new graduate students. If they are, tell them about your background, coursework,
etc. Tell them why you are interested in
working with them and earning your master's degree or doctorate under their mentorship.
Please be sure to understand the mentors’ areas of research and know why you
want to work with them. This is a good time to ask potential mentors if your
credentials and education are adequate, or if updated coursework might be
needed before or after admission to the program. Ask the prospective mentor,
once s/he knows something about you, if they would be willing to sponsor your
application if it comes up for review for admission to the Biological Sciences graduate program. Please note that you cannot be admitted to the NAU
Biological Sciences graduate program unless an NAU faculty member stands up during the
admissions review process and says that s/he is interested in taking you on as
a graduate student and can support you financially with a TA-ship, RA-ship, or
other mechanism. At that point (i.e., only when that expression of interest/support
is made by the faculty member) will the Graduate Program Committee review your
application for admission, and rank you relative to other grad applicants who also
have a potential faculty mentor. How you rank relative to other committed candidates
at that point will determine whether you are offered admission. Therefore, your
first step is to try to make a connection with an NAU faculty member and see if
there is a good fit for you here at NAU.
Q2. Can I apply for direct entry into the PhD program
with a Bachelors degree, without first earning a Masters?
the Department of Biological Sciences has required completion of a thesis-based
master's degree as a criterion for admission to the Ph.D. program. Completion
of a master's degree before a doctoral program provides the student an opportunity
to demonstrate her/his abilities for graduate studies, and for the faculty advisor
to evaluate the same. Some faculty members will expect their students to complete
a thesis-based master's degree; and some will expect a research experience equivalent
to a master's thesis before she/he will support a student's entry to doctoral level
studies. At the request of a sponsoring
faculty member, a new applicant for graduate studies can be considered by the
Graduate Program Committee for direct admission to the Ph.D. program without
already having completed a thesis-based master's degree. Criteria that might
qualify an applicant for direct entry include:
• Demonstrated promise for independent research development,
design, interpretation and presentation.
a) previous research experience as an undergraduate student or
associated with postbaccalaureate work, with reference letters attesting to the
applicant's abilities; and/or
b) research presentation(s) at regional, national or international
conferences in the profession, with reference letters attesting to the
applicant's abilities; and/or
c) co-authorship(s) of peer-reviewed publication(s), with
reference letters attesting to the applicant's abilities.
• Demonstrated promise for success in graduate level course work
in Biological Sciences and supporting areas germane to the student's area(s) of study.
a) strong undergraduate grade point average in a life science
degree program and supporting science courses; and/or
b) strong performance on the GRE (earlier format), such as a
composite score (verbal, quantitative and writing) with a percentile of 70% or
Q3. What specific science courses must I take as an
Undergraduate or Post-Baccalaureate student in order to be eligible for
admission to the Graduate Program in Biological Sciences?
applicants must have earned a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university,
and we expect that the Bachelor’s degree will be in a Biological Science or other Science closely related to their expected field of graduate
study. Applicants holding non-science bachelor’s degrees but with very
significant postbaccalaureate or undergraduate minor concentrations in
biologically-oriented science can also be considered for admission to the NAU
Biological Sciences Graduate Program, with strong mentor support.
While there are no specific biological sciences, math or chemistry courses
required for admission to the NAU Biological Sciences program, this does not mean that
there are no course requirements at all---it is just that each faculty mentor
looks for different sets of classwork experience, research experience, grades,
test scores, letters of recommendation, and personal goals in their prospective
graduate students (Talk to your potential faculty --- see Q1, above--- communicating
with potential mentors is critical for any admission application to the NAU Biological Sciences Graduate program).
Q4. What is the required minimum undergraduate GPA for
UG GPA for regular admission is 3.0 (0n a 0-4 scale).
Q5. Are there research lab rotations for first year
grad students so they can choose a mentor?
we do not use the rotation system. You must have an assigned mentor before you
can be admitted to the NAU Biological Sciences Graduate Program (see Q1, bove).
Q6. What is the average number of students who apply to
the NAU Biological Sciences Graduate program each year, and how many of those applicants
75-100 apply, and 15-20 are admitted. This varies somewhat year-to-year depending
on applicant pool and grant funding situations of individual faculty.
Q7. Is financial aid available?
A7. Typically, all of our admitted graduate students are offered
some type of Graduate Assistantship (either TA or RA). A few are admitted on
competitive fellowships (these are not always available, please talk to
potential mentors to see if any may apply to you). We do not ordinarily admit students
without offering them some support, unless the applicant states that they are
The GA (either RA or TA) living stipend is currently $13,163 for
the academic year (2011-2012), and in addition provides paid major medical
health insurance, and 100% waiver of both non-resident and resident tuition. Additional
educational fees of about $300-500 per semester (beyond tuition) are the student’s
Q8. Is the GRE required?
standard GRE exam is required for all applicants (Verbal, Quantitative, Writing).
Please have the scores sent to NAU. The NAU Institutional Code is 4006, and the
Biological Sciences Department Code is 0203. GRE Scores must be no older than 5 years. We do
NOT require you to take the subject area GRE exams.
Q9. How do I apply?
applications are submitted on-line through the Graduate College. We admit most
(99%) of students for the following Fall, and the deadline for submission of
your complete application (all letters,
transcripts, GRE scores, etc.) is Feb 15th. Please go to the following site to get started:
Q10. Is there a Biological Sciences Graduate Student Handbook that
describes the requirements for completing the MS and PhD Programs?
A10. YES, our current handbook is located at the bottom of the
page at this link: