SBE Graduate Program – Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need a commitment from a prospective advisor before I apply? 

Yes! Graduate students in the School of Biology and Ecology are not admitted without a faculty advisor, so your first order of business would be to look through our faculty to see if anyone’s research program fits with your goals and interests. We often decline many qualified applicants because they lack a faculty commitment. Graduate advisors work closely with their students to develop research projects, as well as funding packages; while some programs (e.g., chemistry, biomedical research) admit students who then do a rotation, we function more like an ecology and evolution department, where students work closely with their graduate advisor on their thesis projects from day one.  

Do you have any advice about reaching out to prospective advisors? 

Yes! Graduate Coordinator Dr. Jacquelyn Gill wrote a blog post about how to write a strong, competitive inquiry email.

What if I reach out to prospective advisors and I’m not getting a response, or they’ve told me they’re not accepting students?

If you don’t hear back, especially in summer, follow up after two weeks. If you’ve reached out a couple of times and still haven’t heard back, consider that a polite “no.” The graduate application process is competitive, and faculty receive many more interested applicants than we can accommodate in our labs. Even very qualified applicants may still be turned down — don’t lose heart! I strongly recommend making a list of 5-8 (or more) faculty at a diverse range of institutions to maximize your chances of success, and sending each one a well-tailored inquiry email.

Is there a separate application process to be considered for funding?

When you talk with a prospective advisor, they’ll discuss funding options with you– we generally do not accept students unless we are able to fund them for the duration of their degree. Your ultimate funding package may include a combination of graduate assistantships. Some of our students are funded by their advisors’ grants, and many are teaching assistants who teach labs in our biology courses (we strongly encourage applying by the January deadline for full consideration for teaching assistantships). We do have some university fellowships, though these tend to go to existing students rather than towards student recruitment. Some international students are funded from their home country’s government, and others apply for fellowships from the National Science Foundation or other foundations. The Graduate School has a list of additional funding opportunities here.

Where can I find out more about assistantship stipends and health insurance? 

Please see the Graduate School’s funding website for the most up-to-date information on funding. Your advisor may decide to offer you more than this base package, but this is the guaranteed minimum for all graduate assistants. 

What is the application deadline? Do you accept late applicants? 

We can accept applications on a rolling basis (though see the above information about the importance of securing a commitment from a faculty advisor before applying), and if you are applying for a posted opening in a lab, please follow the deadline in the listing. For all other applicants, particularly those interested in Teaching Assistantships, we strongly recommend applying by the suggested deadline for our programs (Biological Sciences MS, Biological Sciences PhD, Entomology MS).

For international applicants who require a student visa, we strongly recommend applying at least six months in advance of your intended matriculation date to avoid delays due to very long wait times to secure an interview. We can admit students for Fall (the start of our academic year in the US), Spring, or Summer (for May, June, July, or August) semesters. 

I have secured a commitment from a graduate advisor and I am ready to apply to UMaine. What are the steps? 

Please see the Graduate School’s website, which provides a helpful application checklist

How are applications evaluated? What test scores do you require? Are there minimum GPA requirements? What about the GRE? 

When a faculty member requests that we evaluate a candidate, the graduate committee looks at the whole package — GPA, letters of recommendation, your transcript, your personal statement, research experiences or any work outside the classroom, etc. GRE scores are no longer accepted by our programs, and will not be considered during our evaluation. Official English proficiency examination scores are required for international applicants, unless you received a degree from an English-speaking institution. Find out more about the specific test scores we accept.

Can you evaluate my materials before I apply and let me know if I can be accepted? 

We do not provide pre-application evaluations. 

Is it possible to waive the application fee? 

Current policy for application fee waivers.

What are the program requirements? What courses are required? 

Students work with their graduate committees to determine which coursework to take, based on their research needs and career goals. SBE graduate degree requirements.

Please feel free to reach out to the Graduate Coordinator ( if you have any questions about SBE’s graduate programs that weren’t answered above. For general inquiries (i.e., tours), you can contact the Graduate School, which also has a helpful FAQ about the application process.