PLANNING AHEAD FOR GRADUATE SCHOOL
In modern life the Bachelor's degree does not guarantee a professional career in any college discipline. Some companies, especially environmental firms, do hire a few graduates with only BS degrees; however, this cannot be depended upon. Furthermore, most jobs performed by BS degree holders are usually limited to routine, technological operations. Thus, if you wish to pursue a career as a professional in the field of Earth and Environmental Sciences, graduate training at least through the MS degree is highly desirable.
We generally advise our own BS graduates to go to another university for graduate work. After having been thoroughly exposed to our biases and views, it will broaden your background to continue learning from other faculty. A grade point average of at least "B", particularly in the math and science courses, is desirable. Normally, letters of recommendation from at least three of your professors must accompany your application. Attendance at Department and Terra Society functions and social events as well as independent research projects (EAES 396) provide faculty members with the opportunity to know you so they can evaluate you better in their letters of recommendation. If you are taking a break between undergraduate and graduate school, it may be worthwhile to ask professors to write a generic letter before you leave that they can keep on file.
You should be making serious plans for your graduate career by your Junior year. Discuss your graduate career plans with the faculty members, who may advise you to take additional courses in our department, math, chemistry, physics, biology or engineering that may help provide you with a strong background for your desired specialty.
Most graduate schools require the GRE general exam (verbal/quantitative/analytical parts). Many graduate schools have deadlines as early as January 15th for applying for the fall semester and often send out acceptances in February/March. If you are considering graduate school, GATHER INFORMATION EARLY from the schools that you may want to consider. Also, plan on having your GRE scores available no later than early February.
In selecting a graduate department, shop for a program with a national reputation, and for graduate professors with whom you might want to study. It is wise to investigate the published works of people in the line of research that appeals to you before you apply. It can be helpful to contact a professor whose research especially appeals to you. Some schools may invite you for a visit before deciding on your application. You may also consider trying to visit schools on your own, especially if they are nearby. The departmental office has a copy of "Directory of Geoscience Departments" or you may find this on the American Geosciences Institute’s website. You will find this to be a useful guide for choosing a graduate school. Please, also consult with the departmental faculty member in your area of interest. The internet is also a very good tool to obtain information on the specifics of graduate school programs and potential advisors. The Director of Undergraduate Studies can provide advice on the choosing and applying for graduate schools.
Generally, if you are accepted by a graduate department in the sciences, you will also receive financial support. This support is typically in the form of a teaching or research assistantship awarded by the department to which you are accepted. Along with this comes a tuition waiver. However, it is important to note that there are a few fellowships available that may provide funding at a higher level than the average TA or RA stipend. Often these require that you apply while still an undergraduate or else before the end of your first year of graduate school, so it pays to start investigating these options now. As examples of possible sources of fellowship funds please see the UIC Graduate College website on Funding Your Education. Many of the fellowships described here are specific to UIC, but similar information will be available at the graduate schools you are interested in.
As a general rule, by the end of fall of your senior year you should have selected a handful of possible graduate schools. Early in the winter you submit the applications. During spring, departments send letters of acceptance to successful applicants.