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Frequently Asked Questions

This page contains listing of questions and answers commonly asked by our prospective graduate students.

How do I apply to the program?

Application information and a link to apply to Penn State’s Graduate School can be found at this Web page.

How do students obtain funding for their graduate program?

All of our entering students are provided a research assistantship or a fellowship. When you apply, you will automatically be considered for an assistantship. Our students are funded by a variety of means from University fellowships, department assistantships, grants from faculty research, National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowships, and EPA fellowships, among others.

How much do assistantships provide?  

Assistantships include full coverage of tuition and substantial coverage of health insurance.  Typically, there is an annual increase in the assistantship to help offset the costs of inflation.  PhD stipends for 2013/2014 are $23,220 and MS stipends are $21,589 annually. In some cases, these stipends are supplemented with competitively awarded fellowships.

How many students are admitted each year?

The number varies from year to year depending on available funding and space. We typically have between 20 to 30 graduate students enrolled in our program.

What can I do to increase my chances of admission?

Contact potential faculty advisers. Faculty may have their own funding for a graduate student and it will help your chances for admission to contact them directly. If you aren’t happy with your GRE scores, retake them. Some of the funding opportunities, such as University Fellowships, rely heavily on GRE scores for consideration.

How do I choose an academic adviser?

There is no single way to identify and choose an academic adviser and/or research program. The best way to begin is to contact faculty members whose research complements your interests.This is not only useful for finding your ideal research home in the department, but having an advocate on the faculty that knows you and wants you in their research program can greatly enhance your potential for admission. If you are admitted to the program without having identified an adviser, we will work with you by setting up meetings, lab rotations, and so forth to facilitate making this important decision.

What is it like to live in State College?

State College retains a small-city atmosphere but provides a wealth of recreational and cultural activities. The town has been ranked as one of the best and safest places to live in the Northeast.Recently National Geographic Adventure ranked State College as one of the 50 next great adventure towns. The town is conveniently situated so that within a half-day drive you can reach major cities such as New York City, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, or Cleveland.

Where do our graduates work?

Our graduates have placed very well in jobs. Graduates with degrees in Plant Pathology can be found working in diverse settings and under many different job titles. There are research jobs in academia, government, and industry. Private companies such as seed and plant production firms employ plant pathologists to monitor and diagnose disease, screen plants for disease resistance, and advise on disease management. Many plant pathologists are educators working in high schools, colleges, and universities. Plant pathologists can also be found working in private practice, for public policy organizations, state departments of agriculture, agricultural and patent law firms, and international agricultural research centers.

How do I contact current graduate students in the program?

Any of our current Graduate Students would be glad to answer questions or talk about the program.

Is there a deadline for application?

We will accept applications at any time; however, for full consideration of fellowships and assistantships, completing your application by January 10 is highly recommended.

Do I Qualify for Admission?

To qualify for admission an applicant must have a baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution and a minimum grade point average of 3.0 (B) on a 4.0 scale for the last two undergraduate years. Prospective students must apply online through our departmental Web site (see How to Apply). The student should have a strong background in biological sciences. Courses in statistics, physics, chemistry through organic chemistry, mathematics through calculus, and computer applications are recommended. For applicants whose native language is not English, verbal communication with a faculty member is required so that the faculty member can assess verbal skills.

Provisional admission is possible, with deficiencies to be completed prior to final acceptance into the program. Courses considered as deficiencies will not count toward meeting the requirements for a graduate degree. Deficiencies will be determined by a departmental committee consisting of the Graduate Program Council (GPC), the department head, and a temporary adviser to be assigned at the time of admission. It is recommended that students not receive all undergraduate and graduate degrees from Penn State.