Criteria for Admission

Admission decisions are based on the following factors – not necessarily listed in order of importance.

Statement of Purpose

Please write an essay that includes:

  1. A description of your overall academic interests and goals. Why do you seek graduate training?
  2. 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 to this department.
  3. A summary of your previous research experience or jobs involving laboratory or field work.
  4. A brief account of relevant teaching or tutoring experience you have had.
  5. Any other facts about you that might be of help in the review process.


The minimum GPA is 3.0. The average GPA for our program is 3.4. However, when making a decision, we consider the entire application as a whole, not just test scores and GPA.

GRE Scores

A strong performance on this test carries considerable weight. An official copy of the Graduate Record Examination aptitude test should be submitted. A subject test is not required. The University of Utah's institution code is 4853.

The average GRE scores (New Scale) for our program are Verbal-156, Quantitative-151 and Analytical Writing-4.5. These are averages as we do not have minimum requirements. When making a decision, we consider the entire application as a whole, not just test scores and GPA.

Further information on the GRE exam can be found at We recommend you check with your local testing center.

TOEFL or IELTS Scores (international applicants only)

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

  • TOEFL: minimum score of 80 (Internet-based test) or 550 (paper-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.  The Biology Graduate Program does not accept TOEFL or IELTS scores that expire prior May 1, 2019.

The following applicants do not need to submit proof of English proficiency:

  • Native speakers of English who are citizens of Australia, Canada (except Quebec), Ireland, New Zealand, or the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland)
  • Continuing students currently enrolled at the University of Utah and moving from one degree level to another, or one program to another (with a break of no more than two years between the 'change' from one degree level/program to the next).

If an applicant does not meet one of the standards outlined above, but feels their professional and/or educational experience merits English proficiency, please contact the International Admissions Office ( for information on filing a Petition for English Proficiency.

Research-Interest Checklist

Graduate students enter the School 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 spend their first year doing laboratory rotations, so as to gain first-hand exposure to the research programs of two or more faculty before deciding 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.

Application Fee

Applicants are not required to submit an application fee when applying to the Biology Graduate Program. After a student has accepted an offer to attend the University of Utah, the School of Biological Sciences will pay the fee on the student's behalf. Moreover, all students admitted to the program receive a stipend, tuition waivers and health insurance, so a separate application for financial support is not required.

Educational Background

An official transcript from each college or university attended should be submitted. Ideally, the undergraduate record should be strong in all areas. However, evidence of ability to perform well in science courses, particularly those stressing quantitative skills, is most important.

Research Experience

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.


Applicants should submit strong statements of support from at least three persons in a position to evaluate their potential for success as a graduate student. Strong statements have significant impact on admissions decisions. Statements from persons familiar with your research potential are especially encouraged. Because many faculty are slow to submit such letters, you may wish to ask for letters from more than three people. It is also wise to check back with reference persons to be sure that the letters have been sent.

Personal Interview (North American Residents Only)

Promising applicants are invited to visit the University of Utah to meet graduate students and faculty members and to learn more about the graduate program, the university, and the local environment.

Additional Applicaton 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 Shannon Nielsen. Some applicants believe that the M.S. is a necessary or usual step on the way to the Ph.D. This is not true. Most Ph.D.s never earn a Master's degree. If your goal is to earn a Ph.D., you should apply directly to Ph.D. program.