Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is the application process like for the GGE?
A: Before the application deadline on December 1, prospective students should contact professors who they are interested in as potential advisors. This early period of contact should start in the summer and fall before the application deadline. Our highest ranked applications will be invited to a recruitment event in early to mid-February. Offers of admission to all 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: 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 to be 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. 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 very important to contact professors – even if they are very qualified, students are only admitted to the GGE 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 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, which usually amounts to about $266 but varies year by year. Most TAs work about 20 hours per week, or 50% FTE.
2) Internal GGE and university funding: The GGE provides 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 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 those students who don’t enroll in classes do not have to pay tuition and fees), 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 covered by a TA appointment.
4) External fellowships (e.g. NSF GRFP) or grants: 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 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.