M.S. Marine Biology program. This trend likely reflects at least two factors. First, the reputation of
marine programs at our university is well established, and garners the most national attention. Second,
most of our faculty members engage in marine-related research, although we have made efforts in recent
years to hire faculty who teach and conduct research in non-marine related fields.
Admission to our Ph.D. program is also a multi-step process. The first step is, again, an initial
screening of the applicant, who must either have an M.S. degree or be in the M.S. program at UNCW.
Evaluations of performance include the General Test of the GRE, undergraduate and graduate GPA, letters
of recommendation, and research and work experience. Applicants must also provide a current
Curriculum Vita, a detailed summary of their M.S. thesis research, and a statement of Ph.D. research
interest. The second step in the process is that a faculty member must state their willingness to take on an
eligible Ph.D. applicant. Because there are insufficient programmatic funds to support Ph.D. student
stipends, the bulk of their support must come from the faculty and/or student fellowships. Thus, it is of
critical importance that the applicant and the faculty have developed a line of communication and are
entering into the admission process as a team. The final step is that students are admitted to the Ph.D.
program by a majority vote of the Graduate Advisory Committee (GAC) of the Department of Biology and
Marine Biology based upon eligibility requirements and available resources.
The number of applications to the Ph.D. program has always been small, ranging from 3- 8 per year
for the past 7 years (Table 1). We believe that this small number of applicants is mostly due to the above
described application process, since we have encouraged all students who have contacted us about the
Ph.D. program to contact potential advisors as an integral part of their application process. Thus, the
application numbers below mostly reflect those students who have earned an M.S. (or are in that process at
UNCW) and have an agreed upon relationship with a faculty advisor. We have received only a small
number of applications without any prior communication with the applicant.
Table 1. Numbers of applications for the M.S. and Ph.D. Programs for fall 200 8 - 2014.
Program 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
M.S. Marine Biology 60 81 82 91 86 59 70
M.S. Biology 13 17 17 14 16 14 16
Ph.D. Marine Biology 8 3 5 7 5 7 4
Total 81 101 104 112 107 80 90
Applications to the M.S. Marine Biology come largely from out-of-state (Table 2). The 89% rate
for fall 2014 reflects the overall trend of 80-90% out-of-state applications over the past ten years. In
contrast, most of our applicants to the M.S. Biology program are from in-state, as this program recruits
heavily from our undergraduate students, who are predominantly major in Biology and increasingly are
interested in health related professions. The Ph.D. in marine biology draws from both in-state and out-of-
state applicants, including from within professional and governmental agencies in the region.
The solid reputation of our program is reflected in the high enrollment rate for accepted students
(Table 3). While we do have strong enrollment rates (between 69-100%), these rates are a bit misleading.
We have lost a number of high-quality M.S. applicants who would have accepted our offer to join the
program, had they not accepted much more lucrative offers from other institutions. These students have
been very forthcoming, stating that finances played an important role in their decision. We believe that our
current recruitment package for M.S. students is severely deficient and that it has and will continue to
negatively affect our ability to compete for high-quality students.