Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the application process like for the GGE?

 A: Before the application deadline on December 1, prospective students should have contacted professors to establish whether mutual interest exists for the student to join the professor’s laboratory group. This early period of contact should start in the summer and fall before the application deadline. In cases where a professor is admitting students and interested in a prospective student, candidates to the graduate group will be invited to a virtual Showcase event and may be invited by faculty sponsors for a campus visit in mid-February. Offers of admission to students accepted by major professors are usually made in March, with students deciding which school to attend in March - 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: You can learn a lot by talking and meeting with a potential major professor and discussing with them the scope of their research, their philosophy of mentoring, and their approaches for advising and supporting students. Graduate students are also happy to share their experiences, so a great way to hear about a specific professor or lab group is to contact current students to solicit their thoughts. It's a good idea to add context to any 'cold-call' to a graduate 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 identifying a professor who interests you, and who might fit as a potential major professor, send them a brief introductory email. Include 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. An example of such an email can be found here. Many professors will respond to arrange a phone call or visit, if they think you might be a good fit for their group. It is also good practice to attach your CV or resume to this email.

Q: Is it important to contact professors individually or can I just send in an application?

 A: It is essential to contact a potential major professor directly, well in advance of the application deadline – even if very qualified, a student is only admitted to the GGE if a professor agrees to take them into their lab. Unlike in some other fields, there are no laboratory rotations in the ecology program at UC Davis, so the conversations between professors and prospective students before and during the application process are what allow both parties to decide if the prospective student would be a good fit for the lab.

Q: How much does graduate school cost?

 A:  The overall cost of attending graduate school at UC Davis goes beyond tuition and fees. It’s important to consider other costs, such as housing, books, supplies, health care, and other personal and living expenses. There are many ways to fund your graduate education, and we want you to feel prepared and supported. UC Davis Finance and Business hosts the current tuition costs for graduate students. Visit the Graduate Student Tuition and Fees page to explore current and estimated tuition for in-state, domestic, and international students. 

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 are funded:

1) Teaching Assistant (TA) for a course: Grad students can serve as TAs for classes. Any TA position 25% of FTE (Full Time Employment) or greater 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. Most TAs work about 20 hours per week, or 50% FTE.

2) Graduate student researcher (GSR): Professors may have grants to hire graduate student researchers to assist with research for a particular project, especially during the summer when few TA positions are available. If you are hired as a GSR during an academic quarter (excluding summer when students who don’t enroll in classes do not have to pay tuition and fees), any appointment at 25% FTE or higher will bill stipend plus full fees and tuition to the grant that is covering them. Non-resident tuition and general campus fees that are not paid by a TA appointment can be included.

3) Internal GGE and university funding: The GGE provides a small number of fellowships to incoming and continuing students to cover tuition and stipend. Incoming students are entered into the fellowship competition as part of their application to the program and continuing students may apply annually in the fall, up to a maximum of 8 quarters of funding over the course of their graduate career.

4) External fellowships (e.g. NSF GRFP) or other student-eligible awards: Graduate students are encouraged to apply for their own funding to cover tuition, stipend, and research expenses. Much of this is done once a student is a graduate student, but the NSF GRFP accepts applications from eligible students (US citizens without a Masters or professional degree) who have finished less than one year of graduate school. Note: students who apply unsuccessfully before they begin graduate school are able to apply a second time once they are graduate students. However, after beginning a graduate program, only one application can be submitted. Therefore it is advantageous for prospective students to apply before beginning their graduate program, as they can get helpful feedback from reviewers if their first proposal is not successful.