Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply?

Apply at

Our graduate program is research based. Each graduate student must conduct research and write a thesis under the guidance of a faculty advisor. Each faculty member selects applicants with whom he/she would like to work with. It would be highly advantageous for you to contact the faculty member in whose lab you would like to do research in. For information on faculty research programs, visit and click on the "Faculty" link. Those who apply without a faculty member who is willing to serve as the thesis advisor have little chance of being admitted or offered a graduate assistantship. To contact potential advisors, click on faculty names at the "Faculty" link to get contact information. Feel free to contact them by e-mail and inquire about possible research projects.

What do I need to submit?

The required application materials include:

    Application form
    Application fee
    Official GRE scores 
    Official TOEFL scores (international applicants only)
    An essay describing your research interests and career goals
    Three letters of recommendation

    Do not send any materials to the Department of Biological Sciences.  All application materials should be submitted online.  If some documents must be submitted by mail, they should be sent to:

The University of Southern Mississippi, Graduate School, 118 College Drive #5024, Hattiesburg, MS 39406-0001 USA

Why are there four recommendation spaces on the application if you only require three?                              

We include a fourth to serve as a backup. You do not need four letters but can request a fourth in case you think one of the three may be late for some reason. 

Is there a minimum GRE score or GPA to gain entrance?
No, there is not a single threshold score or GPA. All applications are viewed as a whole and evaluated on a competitive basis. Each application is compared to the rest in the group. The question we ask is 'How do we think this applicant will do in our program, especially from a research perspective?'

What will help me the most in gaining entrance and financial support?
Having a faculty member who is willing to serve as your major professor. That is why it is important to visit our departmental website and learn about our faculty members and their research areas. To graduate, you must complete a research thesis. You must have a thesis director who is willing to provide you guidance and support as well as laboratory space, supplies, equipment.

How important is the essay?
The essay is important. It helps us to decide whether there is a faculty member who is able/willing to serve as your thesis advisor. Faculty members are seeking motivated students with similar research interests. The essay is often the only method for us to find out about your interests. Think carefully about your research interests and write the essay thoughtfully and honestly. There is not a specific length requirement.

What's the significance of the emphasis areas?
The emphasis area is not that important. It is simply a way for us to group the applications.

Is financial support available?
All of our current graduate students are supported financially. See Financial Support page.

When will I find out about my application?
Decisions on applicants who apply by the Feb 15th deadline are made by the end of February and should receive notification by mid-March. Those who missed the Feb 15 deadline should receive notification in mid-May. Applicants for the spring semester (Sep 15 deadline) should receive notification by mid-Oct.

Are late applications accepted?
Yes, if space and financial support are still available.