FAQs for Applicants

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Visiting the University of Florida and the Department of Biology

It is very important that you visit our program so that we may meet you and better gauge your fit to our program and so that you can get a better feel for our program in order to decide if we’re right for you. To that end we set aside a weekend (Thursday through Sunday) in late February for our top-ranked candidates (invitations are issued in late January). This is intended as a time for us to meet the prospective students and show them our program. It is also a time for the prospective students to interview us and evaluate our program. We can usually help defray travel expenses if you are invited to this weekend program. You also may visit our department at other times (at your own expense and through arrangement with your prospective advisor), but the February weekend invitation is our preferred approach because it gives you a concentrated time to meet with a wide variety of faculty and students who have set aside that weekend specifically for meeting with prospective students.

If you visit campus at a time other than the Graduate Weekend in February, it is very important that you have had a frank and open dialogue with your prospective advisor before you visit or schedule your travel. You may consider providing the advisor(s) with the information that you would send with your application package (most faculty don’t have access to this information until early February) — if it’s clear that you are not a good fit in the advisor’s program or if that advisor already knows of a number of more competitive applicants it might not be worth your time and money to visit. If you visit, please coordinate your trip with your prospective advisor — make sure they will be in town and ask them to help you set up appointments with other relevant people (e.g., current graduate students, post-docs, faculty, the graduate admissions committee; as well as relevant faculty outside of Biology). Rather than depend fully on your prospective advisor to identify faculty and students with whom you may want to talk, you should also look at faculty and graduate students in Biology or other relevant programs to identify individuals you would most like to meet with.

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Suggested questions for prospective graduate students

Before you arrive, consider the questions that you will ask prospective graduate student colleagues, faculty members, and advisors. The answers will give you important information about graduate studies and the graduate environment, both social and academic. In addition, the questions you ask reflect on you as a potential graduate student and colleague.

To get you thinking, graduate students in the Department of Biology compiled a list of suggested questions. These are questions that past graduate students have either asked or wished they had asked while searching for an appropriate graduate program, visiting different graduate schools, or going through the application process. This list is by no means exhaustive, and we encourage you to identify other key questions during your visit. We hope these questions will be helpful when you visit the University of Florida, and we look forward to meeting you!

Questions to ask other students in the lab you are considering joining

  • How would you rate your advisor overall?
  • What are your advisor’s best attributes?
  • What attributes of your advisor could be strengthened?
  • What is the best way to meet with your advisor?
  • What expertise exists outside of your lab or department?
  • How do you fund your research? Does your advisor provide or help you obtain funding? Has funding been a problem in your lab for either your advisor or graduate students?
  • How is authorship determined when publishing your Master and Ph.D. research?
  • How helpful is your advisor at reviewing grants and manuscripts?
  • Do students in the lab interact well?
  • Are the graduate students in the department good social colleagues? Are they good professional colleagues?
  • Have past graduate students succeeded (e.g., in getting post-doc positions, grants, academic jobs, or positions with NGOs or government agencies)?

Questions to ask other graduate students in the department

  • How would you rate the department?
  • What are the department’s best attributes?
  • What attributes of the department could be improved?
  • How does your income (teaching, grants, etc.) relate to the cost of living in Gainesville?
  • How are the interactions between different departments (e.g., Wildlife, Biology)?
  • Approximately how much time per week is devoted to these activities?
    • teaching
    • class work (including any required curriculum)
    • departmental functions, such as seminars, receptions, and meetings
    • research
    • any others
  • What do you do about health care?
  • What is the best way to get to campus?
  • Is campus safe? Is campus safe at night if I work late?
  • Overall, are graduate students happy?
  • What do you think about Gainesville?

Questions to ask your prospective advisor

  • What is your philosophy on science?
  • What is your philosophy on science?
  • What are the best attributes of your lab group?
  • What are your expectations of graduate students in the lab? When do you expect graduate students to form a Master’s or Ph.D. proposal and committee? Are there expectations for working in the lab?
  • How does a Master’s differ from a Ph.D. in your lab? Do you expect to be involved with my project or should I plan to be more independent? Does this involvement change from a Master’s to a Ph.D.?
  • How many students do you advise?
  • What is your philosophy on students’ taking classes? How do your graduate students decide what classes to take?
  • What is the best way to meet with you (i.e., do you prefer appointments)?
  • How does funding work? Do you help with funding?
  • What projects are going on in the lab? Do you involve your students with side or only your lab projects? Do you expect your students to do side projects?
  • How is authorship determined, especially on papers that result from M.S. and Ph.D. research? How can I get involved in side projects or collaborative projects with you or your other students?

Questions for the Graduate Admissions Committee

  • What are the department’s best attributes?
  • What attributes of the department could be improved?
  • Are teaching assistantships guaranteed and what are they?
  • How do the different programs within the department work (e.g., Master’s program, the bypass option, and the Ph.D. program)?
  • What are the different opportunities for funding?
  • Does the department successfully place its graduates in professional jobs?

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Come prepared

Be prepared when you arrive so that you can make the most of your visit. Read papers written by faculty and students. Check out our web pages and the UF website (e.g., to get info on tuition, fees, facilities, etc.). Think about how you fit into our program; and what you would need to succeed. What is it that you are looking for in a graduate program?

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