Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is the application process like for the GGE?
A: Before the application deadline in December, prospective students should contact professors who they are interested in as potential advisors. This early period of contact usually starts in the summer and fall before the application deadline. Professors will then invite their top candidates to the prospective student interview weekend in early to mid-February. Offers of admission are usually made in March, with students deciding which school to attend in April.
Q: I wish I had better ideas about how to get a sense of the culture and expectations of lab groups and major professors before applying to a specific group.
A: Grad students are happy to share their experiences and their work over phone or email, so a great way to hear about a specific professor or lab group is get in direct contact with those students to ask about their experience. It's a good idea to add context to any 'cold-call' to a grad student (e.g. I am from xxx, interested in your lab group xxx, but wanted to chat with you first about your group and advisor before officially introducing myself to xxx).
Q: How should I go about contacting professors who do work that interests me?
A: After finding professors who interest you and might be a fit as a potential advisor, send them a brief introductory email with a bit of background about you, your interests, and why you might be a good fit in their lab (some have a page on their website for prospective students so make sure to check first in case they have specific instructions!). You can conclude by asking to speak with them further about possible research ideas or openings in their lab. Many professors will respond to arrange a phone call or visit, if they think you might be a good fit for their group.
Q: Is it important to contact professors individually or can I just send in an application?
A: It is very important to contact professors – even if they are very qualified, students usually only get admitted if a professor agrees to take them into their lab. Unlike in some other fields, there are no rotations in the ecology program at UC Davis, so the conversations between professors and prospective students during the application process help both parties decide if the prospective student would be a good fit for the lab.
Q: How does grad student funding work?
A: Funding sources vary a lot among grad students but here are some of the most common ways students get funding:
1) Teaching Assistant (TA) for a course: Grad students can serve as TAs for classes. Any TA position 25% of FTE (Full Time Employment) covers in-state tuition, a small portion of non-resident tuition, and a stipend for the quarter. Students are expected to pay a portion of general campus fees, which usually amounts to about $266 but varies year by year. Most TAs work about 20 hours per week.
2) Internal GGE and university funding: The GGE gives out some fellowships to cover tuition and stipend. Incoming students are entered into the fellowship competition as part of their application to the program and returning students may apply annually in the fall, up to a maximum of 8 quarters of funding.
3) Graduate student researcher (GSR): Professors have grants they use to hire graduate student researchers to assist with research for a particular project. If your major professor has a grant, this might be one way they support you, especially during the summer when few TA positions are available. If you are hired as a GSR, any appointment at 25% FTE or higher will cover full fees and tuition, this includes non-resident tuition and general campus fees that are not covrered by a TA appointment.
4) External fellowships (e.g. NSF GRFP, EPA STARR): Graduate students are encouraged to apply for their own funding to cover tuition, stipend, and research expenses. Much of this is done once you are already a graduate student, but the NSF GRFP accepts applications from students who have not yet started.