Applying to the Research-Intensive Biology Graduate Programs

Page Menu: General instructions | Recommendation letters and forms | The letter of intent

General instructions

Prior education | Application materials | Application deadline

Required prior education

Before admission to either the M.S. or Ph.D. program, students must have completed all of the following:

  • A Bachelor's degree
  • At least four courses in biology
  • A combined total of three courses in the areas of chemistry, calculus or physics

Required application materials

A complete application will include the following five things:

  1. Official undergraduate and graduate (if applicable) transcripts -- request these to be submitted directly to UNC by the institutions you attended
  2. General GRE scores -- request these to be submitted to UNC directly by Educational Testing Service (ETS)
  3. A completed application form -- to be completed on-line through the UNC Graduate School
  4. Three letters of recommendation accompanied by recommendation forms -- to be submitted by your referees/letter writers at this link
  5. A letter of intent -- to be submitted on-line through the UNC Graduate School -- which must include:
    • Research and/or teaching interests
    • Career goals
    • The names of faculty advisors of interest
    • A statement indicating that you are either: a) interested, or b) not interested in an appointment as a teaching assistant

Application deadline

Applications to the graduate program are accepted at any time during the year. However, to receive full consideration for funding at the start of the fall semester (e.g., fellowships, assistantships), applications should be completed by March 15.

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Recommendation letters and forms

Letters | Forms | Authentication | Make it easy

The letters of recommendation

Letters of recommendation (also called letters of reference) are extremely important to your application. Choose the people that you ask to write these letters wisely. These persons should be able to comment on your potential for successful graduate work from a position of experience. A good letter of reference will be printed on letterhead stationary and include the following:

  • A statement of how the person knows you and for how long
  • An indication of the person's professional expertise
  • Comments on your intellectual ability, creativity, time-management skills, work ethic, collegiality, and ability to work under pressure
  • Comments on your writing and verbal communication skills
  • Percentile rankings of your potential and abilities based on others at your level of education and experience

The recommendation forms

Each letter of recommendation must be accompanied by a completed recommendation form. Download the form. You will need to complete part of the recommendation form before you give it to each of your recommenders. Instructions for completing the form are provided on the form.

Authenticating the recommendation

Each letter of recommendation with its accompanying recommendation form should be placed into a sealed envelope by the author who then signs across the seal. The sealed envelope should then be sent directly to the School of Biological Sciences at the following address:

Cynthia Budde
School of Biological Sciences
University of Northern Colorado
501 20th Street
Greeley, CO 80639

Make it easy for your recommender

If you would like to streamline the recommendation process, make the job of writing your recommendation as easy as possible. After all, the people you ask to write for you are doing you a favor that takes time out of their extremely busy schedules. The following are ways that you can help your recommender to help you.

  • Ask each potential recommender if they are willing to act as a professional reference on your behalf. Be sure to let them know the deadline for submission of the recommendation because this may influence their decision. If they decline your request, move on. If your request is accepted, then you can send the recommendation form and other details.
  • Complete your part of the recommendation form before sending it to your recommender.
  • Provide self-addressed envelopes or pre-printed address labels to assure that the letters and forms are sent to the correct place.
  • Supply a copy of your Curriculum vitae to each recommender to refresh their memories about your past education and achievements. This is particularly important if you haven't kept in touch with them for a while.
  • Supply a copy of your letter of intent to each recommender. This will help them to understand why you are applying to graduate school and what you want to do with your advanced education.

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The letter of intent

In addition to the required components of the letter of intent (listed above in General instructions), you may choose to add more information that you believe is important for the School to consider in reviewing your application.

A letter of intent can be used to explain who you are, the path that you have chosen to reach your current educational standing, your accomplishments along the way, and how you have prepared yourself for graduate school. Your letter can explain why the School should consider you over other persons for a graduate position -- in other words, why are you likely to succeed. Tangible examples of past successes are useful to support your argument. The letter of intent is also your opportunity to present compelling information that you do not feel is adequately communicated in the other application materials.

In addition to the obvious use of the letter of intent for communicating to the School, it also serves the School as an example of your communication skills.