Thinking about applying to grad school? Read this.

Things to do as you consider applying to grad school. Something to read before emailing a potential advisor.

  1. Think carefully about what you want to get out of graduate school. Talk to current grad students and get their perspective on what they wish they knew or thought about at the start of the process. The decision to start a graduate degree program is a big one and you want to develop a full sense for what grad school involves and why you’re doing it.
  2. Scan the publications and website descriptions the science done by potential advisors and think about the parts of the research you’re most excited about, both in terms of the scientific questions and the kind of work you want to be doing. Many faculty have a lot of different facets to their work – which are most exciting to you?
  3. After doing this initial scan of programs and advisors, then READ papers by potential advisors, by others in their group or by those doing related work. In your emails to potential advisors, articulate the specific components of their work that you’re most excited about and the kinds of questions you want to pursue in graduate school. Graduate school (and science) is all about reading and writing. Get started on this process now. It will help you focus your grad school selection process and set you up for success as a grad student. I can’t emphasize enough the value of reading. If you’re not jazzed to read papers by a potential advisor then it might not be a good match.
  4. If you’re excited about the prospect of working in my group, after reading some papers, send me an email — emailing potential advisors is a critical part of the application process. In the email, tell me a bit about yourself, any of your prior research experience, why you’re interested in grad school, and specifically why you want to pursue a MS or PhD working with me. What specific aspect of my work interests you? What kinds of things do you want to do and accomplish as part of grad school? These things may include elements that are beyond the scope of what I do. Do not just copy and paste from my website. I want to know about you and your own interests. Make sure to include your CV — it’s an efficient way to communicate your experiences.
  5. Read up on the admissions process and also about the graduate program at UM. Details matter in putting together a strong application.

Some additional information on applying to the UM grad program

The UM grad program in Earth and Environmental Sciences looks for well-rounded applicants. In your application, you should articulate clear ideas for the research directions you’d like to take in grad school and demonstrate your track record for self-directed research (or any independent work that you have done). The admission committee also looks for solid GPAs, strong letters, and rigorous coursework in math (e.g., calculus, linear algebra) and supporting sciences (e.g., chemistry, physics, biology). They also look to get a sense for a student’s grit and ability to navigate challenging situations. The committee take a holistic approach so if you don’t have all elements (e.g., poor grades one semester; lack of access to research opportunities or certain coursework), you can explain this in your statement(s). The GRE is no longer used as a metric for admissions in our grad program.

Students can apply to either the MS or PhD program. For both programs, students are expected to ‘hit the ground running’ with research as soon as they arrive.  For MS students, this means that you need to get going on your master’s thesis research right away. For PhD students, the focus on research is channeled through the qualifying exam. The written part of this exam takes the form of a writing product in which the student must produce a high-quality document based on original research. This must be done by the middle of the 2nd term for students entering with a master’s degree and at the beginning of the 4th semester for students with a bachelor’s degree. For this reason, the admissions committee prioritizes applicants who demonstrate the potential to design and conduct independent research — this might take the form of research experience but it also might be a combination of your non-academic experiences, along side a clear articulation of your interests. For more information on the the PhD program, click here. For information on the MS program, click here