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Wildlife Ecology and Conservation department

Wildlife Ecology and Conservation department

How to Successfully Get into the WEC Graduate Program

Preamble: The research degree (MS with thesis or PhD with dissertation) defines a professional partnership between you, your research advisor, and often other faculty and student collaborators. Research degrees demand excellent communication and scholarly research skills, teamwork, project management, independence, motivation, passion, and persistence in the intellectual pursuit of knowledge. Research is a public service that fulfills, in part, the mission of the university. Therefore, the university and your research advisor are obliged to provide for funding of STEM graduate training where possible. Given the expense of graduate training, MS thesis students are expected to finish and graduate within 21-24 months, and PhD students within 4 to 5 years.


Application Timing: Research students can be admitted to WEC any semester as faculty seek new students when they receive grants and project funding. However, we recommend that you start contacting faculty (here or elsewhere) 3-9 months before the term that you wish to begin graduate school. It takes time to prepare for each contact and discussion, and you may need to have several conversations with prospective faculty before you find a lab that suits you and can support you.

  • For a Fall term admission, you should begin your search in the previous Fall to early Spring; for a Spring term admission, you should start in the previous Spring to early Summer.
  • Starting early is necessary because most state monies allocated by the University to graduate student support are dedicated to incoming students for the Fall term during the previous Spring semester. Most students enter graduate school in Fall.
  • If applying in response to an advertisement for a WEC lab graduate position, follow its guidance. If selected, your application to UF should be submitted within two months of your matriculation date (i.e., by June 1 for a Fall term admission).

For your application to be successful, we require that the WEC faculty member has funding, desire and has explicitly agreed to take you as a student. Applying to the department without contacting the faculty will get no response. Sending generic emails to faculty seeking funding and a position will likely get no answer.

  • In graduate school, you become a collaborator and research partner in pursuing new knowledge and using science to solve real-world problems. As such, faculty seek students with talent, drive, commitment to self-improvement, a love of scholarship, and high standards of performance and ethics.
  • To attract the interest of potential advisors with similar interests to your own, you must be able to convey a thoughtful, clear vision of how graduate training will serve your future goals. Be ready to explain why each lab you contact is the right place for you to train to reach your goals.


Step 1) Develop your research interests, search for them, and then connect with a faculty member who may agree to be your advisor and has discussed how your program will be funded.

Don’t simply provide a general statement of interest and inquiry of whether they have a position available.

Do provide i) an explanation for why you would be a good fit for their research or extension program, ii) why they are a good choice for you, and iii) a copy of your detailed CV and transcripts (unofficial transcripts are okay at this point).

Your future advisor must complete a holistic review process (see below) with you, including an in-person or online interview, and assemble a funding package to support you for two years (MS) or at least four years (PhD).


Step 2) Apply to UF/WEC once the faculty recommends doing so. This will be once they believe they would like to add you to their program and have a strategy for supporting you.


Holistic applicant review. The Department now engages in a holistic review of graduate candidates without reliance on standardized test scores (GREs). To assess a broad spectrum of each applicant's skills, experiences, and personal strengths, we now ask for diverse information from applicants (through your detailed CV, essays, and interviews/discussions with the faculty).

Your responsibility is to carefully consider your options and potential mentors before approaching those best suited to help you reach your goals.

Holistic review is not just for advisors to identify strong candidates but also for candidates to assess prospective advisors. During this process, you must evaluate whether you can work well with a prospective advisor for several years. Contact current or recent graduate students in the lab and ask these mentees to inquire about the advisor's management style, expectations, and temperament. Ask about specific expectations of allocating your time in the lab. Students' situations can vary depending on the source of money and the specifics of the research procedures and locations. Research in a lab is exciting and demands good communication between collaborators.

Here is the link to the Holisitic Intake Checklist. This is used by faculty and the department to assess the candidate's suitability for admittance and potential funding. You do not need to fill this out, but you should provide as much relevant information to the faculty to maximize your chance of success.


Explore graduate funding sources to help fund your research degree.  

Professors can apply their grant monies, seek University matching funds, and put you forward for UF fellowships to coalesce a complete funding package for research MS or PhD programs. Your efforts, however, can help ensure successful matriculation at UF if funding in your preferred lab is limited at the time you apply. Explore the following sources of funding that you can apply for.

  • National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowships. Link.
  • Fulbright Fellowships
    • For US students whose research is international. Link.
    • For international students seeking admission here. Link.
  • McKnight Doctoral Fellowships. Link.
  • Ford Foundation Fellowships. Link.
  • Margaret A. Davidson Fellowship. Link.
  • Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans. Link.
  • PEO Philanthropies: Women's US, Canada, and International awards. Link.
  • American Association of University Women, various awards. Link.
  • Fogarty International Center, health-related (broad) award search engine. Link.
  • Wildlife Conservation Society, various awards. Link.
  • The Wildlife Society, various awards (esp. American Indians). Link.
  • See websites that advertise MS / PhD assistantships, for UF / elsewhere (link, link).
  • Internal UF / CALS / WEC funding sources. Link.
  • offers financial aid guidance for graduate students. Link.