Steps to become EEB student

Steps to becoming an EEB graduate student

We are pleased that you are interested in the Evolution, Ecology, and Behavior graduate program in the Department of Biology at Indiana University.

Our “How to apply” page provides useful information common to all three Ph.D. programs in our department—including a link to the online application, a list of required documents, key dates common to all programs, and information on application fee waivers.

The goal of this page is to provide you with information about the admissions process that may be unique to the EEB program.

Admissions process

In early December, all applicants are assessed by an admissions committee made up of faculty members representing the evolution, ecology, and behavior subdisciplines. The committee’s primary job is to identify students to be invited for an interview. Other graduate program faculty members can also provide feedback during this stage.

Next, invitations for Graduate Recruitment Weekend (GRW) are typically sent out before January 1. This event occurs across a long weekend in early to mid February. The department pays for all travel and lodging for GRW for students currently in the U.S. (students who are overseas will have a video interview scheduled separately).

GRW is a great time for applicants to visit IU, to meet prospective advisors, and to meet the current graduate students. Applicants’ first full day is usually filled with short (30- to 60-minute) meetings with faculty followed by a department-wide dinner, usually at the local science museum. On the second day there are multiple social events, optional tours of campus and Bloomington, and a smaller dinner with EEB faculty and graduate student hosts.

Soon after GRW, the entire EEB faculty meets to discuss offers of admission. Overall, our criteria for admission are holistic and generally favor applicants who have:

  • Evidence of interest in evolution, ecology, or behavior research (evidence: personal statement, letters, interviews)
  • Sufficient background in prerequisite courses to be successful in graduate courses and research, regardless of undergraduate major (evidence: transcript)
  • Interests that match those of current faculty who are seeking students (evidence: personal statement, letters, interviews)
  • Prior experience in research through thesis work, practicum courses, internships, summer research experiences, or related activities (evidence: personal statement, letters, CV)
  • Evidence of solid written and oral English and scientific communication skills (evidence: letters, personal statement, publications, interviews)
  • GPA reflective of academic potential (evidence: application, transcript)
  • Ability to enhance the academic, geographic, gender, ethnic, economic, or cultural diversity of our department, especially for underrepresented groups (evidence: application, letters, interviews)

Offers of admission are usually sent out at the beginning of March. Typically, we accept 10-12 students a year. All admitted students are promised five full years of funding through a combination of fellowships, teaching assistantships, and research assistantships. This funding is accompanied by other benefits, including health insurance and free tuition.

Finding an advisor

Importantly, all students are admitted to the EEB graduate program, not to an individual lab. We believe strongly in the intellectual freedom of our students to choose their research path. Many admitted students, however, reach out before the application deadline to the faculty members with whom they are most interested in working, often after they have seen or read about their work. This could be one or a few (typically not more than three) faculty members whose interests seem to best align with the students’ interests. Such communication can also make it clear which faculty are looking for students in the coming year and possibly the faculty who may not be. We do not want students without an obvious academic advisor to unnecessarily waste their time (and possibly money) applying to our program. That being said, unexpected and serendipitous matches often happen during GRW!

After offers of admission are sent out, we encourage admitted students to follow up with potential advisors. Emailing both faculty and current graduate students is expected and welcome. We want you to make the right choice for graduate school.

EEB faculty directory Graduate student directory

Writing your personal statement

In your personal statement, we would like to learn more about you as a scientist. Some questions to consider addressing in it:

  • Past: What research questions did you address in previous, formative, independent scientific work? How did you produce the results, what were the key results, and what did you conclude from them? (Explain concisely).
  • Present: What are your current interests? If those interests differ from your formative research, please describe the path from then to now. Can you provide examples of the types of questions you might want to investigate as a PhD student? (We do not expect you to have settled on exact research questions).
  • Path: How did your interests evolve and how have you pursued them? You can describe how you explored a field through classes, independent reading, or research projects. You can also share experiences that steered you in alternate directions.
  • Future: What are the next steps in your development into a professional scientist? Why do you think that our program is a good place to accomplish them? Please include the names of several faculty members with whom you might wish to work, and if applicable, especially the lab most interesting to you at this point.

We look forward to reading your vision for our partnership in your graduate education!

Interested in learning more about the EEB program?