So you’re thinking about graduate school…..


Here is a general timeline of things you should be doing if you are planning to attend graduate school in a biology-related fields. This is a very general timeline and dates may shift from year to year, but it should give you a good idea of where to start. You should also check out the detailed information on graduate school available through Drew’s Career Center.

First Year at Drew

Take your classes and adjust to life at Drew. Get into the habit of attending lectures and events sponsored by the Biology Department and Tri-Beta. Start participating in Tri-Beta, the national biology honor society.

Nov/Dec of your 1st year: Start thinking about what you want to do over the summer.

Summer Between Your 1st and 2nd Years: Consider an internship or even a research experience. Older students with more training may be more competitive, but it’s never too early to start looking into these opportunities!

Second year at Drew

You should be taking organic chemistry – it is required by most graduate programs. Declare your major no later than one month prior to advanced registration for the 1 st semester of the junior year.

Nov/Dec of your 2nd year: Start thinking about what you want to do over the summer.

Summer between your 2nd and 3rd years: Many students go on a Drew International Semester (DIS) – consider research opportunities such as DSSI or an internship for the remainder of the summer.

Third year at Drew

Declare your minor no later than the 1st semester of your junior year. Consider taking the general GRE test in the spring of your junior year. For information on the GREs, visit Start thinking about where you want to apply for graduate school. If you are interested in a specialized field, start using the internet to gather information on universities with appropriate programs. For biology in general, you will need to think about the subfield that interests you and potential research projects. Then try to find the leaders in this field – who is publishing research on this topic that you find interesting? Once you have identified potential programs of interest you can look at the application requirements to know if you need to take the GRE subject exam, physics, etc.

Nov/Dec of your 3rd year: Start planning for the summer – the upcoming summer is a key period to gain research experience. Consider off-campus programs including Reach Experience for Undergraduate (REU) programs (

Summer between your 3rd and 4th years: This is the summer when you should definitely be engaged in research. If you plan to do Honors research it is a good idea to do your data collection now. Consider the DSSI program if your advisor is available for the summer, or by doing research off-campus you can start networking and learning about potential graduate school programs and advisors. Consider doing an REU (see above).

Fourth year at Drew

If you are not taking a year off, start preparing your applications in the fall of your senior year (applications are often due November, December, or January but some programs have deadlines as late as March). Contact the individuals you are interested in working with – explain why you want to attend graduate school, and why you want to work with that particular person. Give them a brief summary of your research experiences thus far if appropriate. If he/she has no room for you in their lab, they will often recommend someone else.

If you are pursuing Honors, applications are due in mid-September. If you are not eligible for Honors, or elect not to pursue Honors, you may still conduct independent research under the supervision of a faculty member, earning credit through Biol 196.

If you have a clear idea of where you want to go and what you want to do in graduate school, consider applying for an NIH Predoctoral Fellowship, an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, and/or a STAR graduate fellowship through the EPA as appropriate. Applications are typically due at the beginning of November and provide excellent funding to start your doctoral research. They also make you a very attractive candidate for graduate school.

Many schools require the Biology (or a related subject) GRE for admittance. Consider taking the November exam (in 2006 the exam was on Nov 4, registration was by Sept 29) or the December exam (in 2006 the exam was on Dec 2, registration was by Oct 27) so that your scores will be ready by the time your applications are due. There is also an exam in April (in 2007 on April 14, registration was by Mar 9).

After you have submitted all of your applications, relax and focus on your classes and enjoying your senior year. Acceptances will start rolling in during the spring semester of your senior year – April 15 is the general deadline for deciding where you will go. If you don’t get in, confirm back up plans. And remember that you can always reapply next year.

Useful Links

Good luck!!!