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Guide for submitting a strong application for the Biology Graduate Program.

Step 1. Assess your qualifications for admission.
Step 2. Develop a strong application.
Step 3. Make sure that the Graduate Office receives all of your application materials by the deadline.

Step 1. Assess your qualifications for admission.
There are two categories of admission to the Biology Graduate Program: Unconditional Admission and Provisional Admission.

Unconditional Admission status may be granted to students considered fully qualified to undertake a program toward a graduate certificate/degree for which they were admitted.  A student must have a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited institution and must satisfy a set of minimum requirements.

The minimum requirements for unconditional admission into the Biology Graduate Program

  • College-level Biology coursework, 24 credit hours
  • GPA in College level Biology coursework, 3.0
  • GRE General Test scores, Total of Verbal and Quantitative 297 (1000 if taken prior to 2012)
  • GRE General Test scores, Analytical Writing Score 3.5
  • Foundation course, sophomore-level Genetics
  • Foundation course, junior-level Molecular Biology (or Cell Biology)
  • Foundation course, junior-level Ecology
  • Foundation course, introductory course in Inorganic Chemistry with a laboratory
  • Foundation course, introductory course in Organic Chemistry with a laboratory or Biochemistry with a laboratory
  • Foundation course, introductory course in Physics with a laboratory
  • Foundation course in College Algebra or higher math; or a course in Statistics
  • International students a minimum of 95 on the TOEFL IBT or 7.0 on the IELTS or 65 on the Pearson Test of English

Will my application be considered if I do not meet these admission requirements?
Provisional Admission status may be granted to students who have not met all of the conditions for unconditional admission but who are deemed capable of high quality graduate study. Departments/schools and/or the Dean for Graduate Studies may impose certain requirements which must be fulfilled by the student in order to maintain this status.

Provisional admission may be granted to an applicant who has less than a "B" (3.0 on a 4.0 scale) average in the undergraduate work in the proposed graduate major and minor (but in no case less than a 2.7 GPA) or GRE scores that are lower than the admission requirement. This admission may be granted for reasons of maturity, experience or other circumstances.

Provisional admission may also be granted if a student has not successfully completed the coursework required for admission, and the student will be required to complete the coursework after admission. For example, if you did not take Molecular Biology of the Cell or Ecology as an undergraduate, we may accept you under the condition that you pass a course in that subject with a grade of “B” or higher at some point during your degree program. Provisional admission is rarely granted when the applicant has not completed three or more of the required courses.

If your GPA in Biology coursework is less than 2.7 on a 4.0 scale, you are not eligible for admission into the Biology Graduate Program. However, you may apply for non-degree status from the Graduate Office. Non-degree status will allow you to take graduate coursework to improve your GPA and to demonstrate your potential for success in graduate coursework.

Provisional admission is more likely when there is only single unmet condition and becomes less likely as the number of unmet conditions increases.

If you have questions about  Provisional Admission, contact the Graduate Program Chair, Dr. John McCarty (

Step 2. Develop a strong application.
What are your research goals and interests for your degree program? Contact faculty in the Department of Biology whose research interests overlap with your own.
       The purpose of contacting faculty is to determine whether the department can meet your goals and whether there are faculty available to serve as your primary advisor given your interests and goals.
       The selection of an advisor and the commitment by a faculty member to serve as a primary advisor is a two way decision process. Faculty members make decisions about whether to serve as a primary advisor based on many factors, including how many other students they advise, grant resources, current research projects, and lab space.

Letters of recommendation: Who should I ask?
Request letters of recommendation from professors or other professionals who can discuss your academic skills, knowledge, ability, and appropriateness for the Graduate Program in Biology.

Personal Statement of Goals
Tip: Spend time developing and writing your statement of goals
What should I write?
     These are generally one to two pages in length.
     A personal statement of goals should reflect who you are and what you are interested in accomplishing while in graduate school. Tell us about yourself, your personal experiences and your future goals. We are particularly interested in knowing what is motivating you to go to graduate school, particularly as it specifically pertains to UNO and to the UNO Biology faculty.
     A Master’s degree is a collaboration between a student and a professor; therefore you need to do your homework before you write your personal statement of goals. Learn about faculty in our department and determine the faculty member or members with whom you would be most interested in working. Contact those faculty members directly (by phone or via email) and talk with them. Decide upon specific faculty member(s), and make sure that they are aware of that decision. When writing your statement of interest, be sure to mention the faculty member(s) you are interested in working with by name. Explain why you want to work specifically with that person and lab group. Feel free to discuss how working with this individual is going to support your future plans as well as your career decision.

Step 3. Make sure your application is complete before the application deadline.
All materials should be received by Graduate Office by the Application Deadline (February 15 for Summer/Fall admissions and October 15 for Spring admissions). Track the receipt of your application materials once you submit your online application. Applications without transcripts, letters of recommendation or GRE scores are incomplete. The Departmental review process begins the week of the application deadline and we are not able to consider applications with missing information.

When arranging your GRE test date, allow sufficient time for your GRE scores to arrive at UNO Check the GRE website ( to determine how long it takes for scores to arrive.

Request transcripts from all universities and colleges in advance so that these are received by the Graduate Office by the application deadline for the Biology Graduate Program

Arrange for three letters of recommendation. When you fill out your online application, you will submit the names and e-mail addresses of your recommenders who are familiar with your academic potential. Each recommender will receive instructions on how to submit the letter to support your application. Remember to allow enough time so that your recommender has enough time to submit a letter before the deadline. Ask your recommenders how much lead time they need in order to write a strong letter.

Submit your Statement of Goals in your online application.