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Graduate FAQ


Between our two programs (MCEB and EEOB), we receive ~160 applications each year, and typically accept ~15% of those applicants. Our average class size is 15-20 students.

The School of Biological Sciences PhD Program is a full-time program. Students who are admitted into the School of Biological Sciences Master of Science Program may elect the number of credit hours per semester.

It takes, on average, 5 to 6 years.

EEOB Program: Typically, applicants have an undergraduate degree in biology or related sciences. Ideally, the undergraduate record should be strong in all areas.  All applicants, regardless of major, should show evidence of ability to perform well in science courses, particularly those stressing quantitative skills. Many successful applicants have had some sort of independent laboratory or field work experience indicative of an informed commitment to a research career. This experience should be detailed in the personal statement section of the application.

MCEB Program: Ideally, the undergraduate record should be strong in all areas with evidence of substantial preparation for advanced study in the research areas covered by the MCEB program. The ability to perform well in science courses, particularly those stressing quantitative skills, is most important. Many successful applicants have had some sort of independent laboratory or field work experience indicative of an informed commitment to a research career. This experience should be detailed in the personal statement section of the application.

We encourage applicants to contact biology faculty members they might be interested in working with.  Faculty contact information can be found on our website – www.biology.utah.edu. Generally, students interested in the EEOB program will enter directly into the laboratory of their mentor when they begin graduate school. It is, therefore, critical that EEOB candidates contact potential mentors early (prior to application deadline) to determine compatible interests and availability of positions. MCEB students most often enter into the first year rotation program, where three different labs are sampled during the first year and a thesis mentor is chosen from among these three. MCEB students who plan to enter the rotation program may also contact potential mentors early in the application process, though it is not required. In special cases MCEB students may directly join a specific laboratory when they enter graduate school. In such cases, student should contact potential mentors prior to the application deadline. Additional Application Procedures for Master’s Degree Applicants: If you are applying to work toward a Master of Science Degree, please note that you must have a firm commitment from a potential faculty advisor before submitting a formal application, and that the advisor must have discussed your application with the graduate coordinator, Shannon Nielsen.  Some applicants believe that the M.S. is a necessary or usual step on the way to the Ph.D.  This is no longer true.  Most graduate students in the School of Biological Sciences in the Ph.D. program joined without first earning a Master’s degree.  If your goal is to earn a Ph.D., you may wish to apply to the Ph.D. program directly, although in some cases a Master’s degree is appropriate. The graduate coordinator is a source of additional information if you are unsure about which degree program you should apply to Shannon Neilsen. Contact Graduate Advisor
To access the online application, please click on the following link. However, PLEASE obtain an application fee wavier coupon before applying (see next section). APPLY NOW
  • Please be aware you will be leaving the University of Utah School of Biological Sciences Graduate Program site and going to the online application system: ApplyYourself (AY) with Hobsons. Your information is transmitted through a secure server.
  • You will need to "Create an Account" and register to begin your application process. Please make sure to save your PIN number to get back into your application. In addition to your PIN number, the system will have you choose a password that you will need to remember if you wish to access or complete your application at a later date.  The online application is free once you obtain the Application Fee Waiver Coupon (see below).

To request a fee waiver, please email the Biology Graduate Program Office prior to submitting your application - SBSapplicationfeewaiver@biology.utah.edu.

Refunds will not be issued to applicants who pay the fee prior to contacting our office.

To upload paper documents, you need to scan them with a scanner/printer, save them in .pdf file format, and then upload the files in the appropriate place.  If you have several pages for your transcript, for example, then you will scan each page then merge all pages into one document and then save.  The file cannot exceed 2500 KB in size and you may need to reduce the file size. You can reduce document size or optimize scanned pdf file to make the document smaller. These functions can be found under the document tab of Adobe Acrobat.  Do not attempt to upload a document that is password-protected or that contains macros as it would cause the process to fail.

You will receive an offer letter from the School of Biological Sciences Graduate Program after your personal interview.  Your official acceptance letter (and I-20 certificate for international students) will come from the University of Utah Office of Admissions after they review your documents and determine that you have meet the Graduate School admissions requirements. The official acceptance letter will be sent by postal mail and will contain your student ID number and important registration information. Your accepted status is not official until you receive both letters.

Many successful applicants have had some sort of independent laboratory experience indicative of an informed commitment to a research career. This experience should be detailed in the personal statement section of the application.

The checklist is used in the evaluation process and provides helpful information on an applicant’s research interests and potential faculty advisor(s) in the School of Biological Sciences.  The checklist can be found in the “downloadable” forms section of the ApplyYourself application and on the School of Biological Sciences website. Graduate students enter the School of Biological Sciences in one of two ways. Those with well-defined interests usually know in advance that they are coming to work with a particular research group. However, some students wishing to join the Molecular, Cellular, and Evolutionary Biology program spend their first year doing laboratory rotations to gain first-hand exposure to the research programs of two or more faculty before deciding on which lab to join. The great diversity of research programs pursued by our faculty present outstanding opportunities for students with interdisciplinary research interests, so a rotation year can be spent taking courses and carrying out exploratory research in very different kinds of labs, while attempting to define a future thesis project that may cross traditional disciplinary boundaries. Students applying to the Ecology, Evolutionary and Organism Biology program join laboratories directly, but can list several potential faculty of interest at the time of applying.

Please write an essay that includes:

  • A description of your overall academic interests and goals.Why do you seek graduate training?
  • A description of your specific scientific interests and a list of faculty in this school whose research interests seem compatible with yours. Can you identify one or two potential research advisors among the faculty? More generally, your statement should indicate why you are applying tothis
  • A summary of your previous research experience or jobs involving laboratory or field work.
  • A brief account of relevant teaching or tutoring experience you have had.
  • Any other facts about you that might be of help in the review process.

In the Education section of the AY application, please upload pdf copies of ALL of your official transcripts from each college or university attended (college/university level only). These transcripts will be used as working copies during the admissions evaluation process. Transcripts sent to the Office of Admissions will not be uploaded to the AY application on your behalf. For questions related to transcripts, please visit - https://admissions.utah.edu/apply/graduate/.

You should arrange for at least three letters of support from persons in positions to evaluate your potential for success as a graduate student (for example, prior advisors or supervisors, or instructors familiar with the applicant).  Strong letters have a significant impact on admissions decisions. Letters from persons familiar with your research potential are especially encouraged.

Three letters of recommendation must be submitted into the "ApplyYourself" system by your recommenders by the application deadline. You can log back into your application and resend the recommender notification.  If you would like to send a reminder, check the box next to his/her name and click on the "resend" button. This will automatically generate a reminder email.  Applicants who apply to the Biology Graduate Program must waive their right to view recommendation forms and letters.  This is done through the recommendation section in ApplyYourself.  Applicants to the Biology Graduate Program are required to waive their right to view letters.  This is done through the online ApplyYourself application.

Not required.

These tests are not required, nor will they be considered in evaluating applicants.

English proficiency may be demonstrated by graduate applicants in one of the following ways:

  • TOEFL: minimum score of 80 (Internet-based test)
  • IELTS: An overall minimum band score of 6.5
  • An associate, bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree from a regionally-accredited U.S. college or university completed within two years of admittance
  • A bachelor’s degree or higher completed within the last two years from an officially-recognized college or university in one of the following countries: Australia, Canada (except Quebec), Ireland, New Zealand, or the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland).

All TOEFL and IELTS test dates must be within two years of admission for scores to be valid.  For fall 2022, the Biology Graduate Program does not accept TOEFL or IELTS scores that expire prior May 1, 2022.

The results for the ETS TOEFL will be available 10-15 days after the test date.  The IELTS will be available 13 days after the test date.  Please upload your scores in the "Post Submission" section of your AY application no later than the School of Biological Sciences application deadline.

For information on TOEFL waiver options, please visit the University of Utah Office of Admissions - https://admissions.utah.edu/english-proficiency/.

The University of Utah Educational Testing Service (ETS) code is 4853.

For information not found in the Application FAQ, please contact Shannon Nielsen at shannon.nielsen@bioscience.utah.edu or (801) 581-5636.