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Prospective Students

Dear Prospective Graduate Student,

Thank you for your interest in our graduate program in Biological Sciences. Our faculty have designed a program that will provide students advanced knowledge and training in biology.  Graduates with an M.S. in Biological Sciences will be prepared to continue study at the Ph.D. level, to pursue careers in private industry, biotechnology or government affiliated labs, and/or to teach at the college level.  In addition to course work, the student will participate in original research culminating in a written thesis, a thesis written defense, and a public presentation. Detailed information regarding the program is available in the graduate student handbook

We are very excited about our program and are pleased that you are interested in joining us.  Some of the special features of this program include:

  • Research-based MS degree that includes a written thesis and oral presentation
  • Close, individual guidance by highly trained faculty
  • Incorporation of science pedagogy and teaching experience
  • Close partnerships with the private and public sector. With appropriate approval, students will be able to conduct their thesis research off campus in a partnership with a company or governmental agencies 
  • Extremely well-equipped, modern laboratory facilities
  • Access to numerous field sites in the area

Because our degree is research based, each student is paired with a faculty advisor in the area of their interests.  Prospective students are highly encouraged to contact faculty members directly before applying to the program to discuss research opportunities.  The ability of a faculty member to take on new graduate students changes frequently, and space may be limited in the program. You can submit your application without the commitment of a major professor, but the Admissions Committee will not recommend admission to the program until a major professor has agreed to accept you as a student. In this case, when applications are reviewed by the Admissions Committee, the committee will try to match qualified applicants with potential mentors listed on the candidate’s application. Interested mentors will then reach out to the candidates for interviews prior to acceptance into the program.

In order to pursue the Master of Science Degree in Biology, you must be accepted by both the University and the Department. Applications can be found at Cal State Apply and information on the University admission requirements can found at the Global Programs and Services website.

In addition to the prerequisites for entrance to CSUSM as a graduate student, our program requires the following: 1) a bachelor's degree in the biological or related sciences with minimum coursework similar to that required for our minor in Biological Sciences at CSUSM; 2) an undergraduate GPA in all completed science and math courses of at least 2.75 or a GPA of at least 3.0 in the last 35 semester units of science and math; and 3) Scores from the General GRE test (Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, Analytical Writing) submitted by the application deadline.

*For students applying for the 2021 academic year, the GRE is not required.

The Departmental application deadline is March 1 for the following Fall Semester. The Biology Department does not have an open Spring admissions period, however exceptional requests for Spring admission will be reviewed by the Biology Department's Graduate Studies Committee. Contact the Graduate Program Coordinator, Dr. Julie Jameson for instructions.

Applying to the Graduate Program in Biological Sciences

Holistic Review of Applicants

The CSUSM Biology Master’s program uses holistic review to identify people who are likely to be successful in biology research, regardless of what research opportunities may have been available to them prior to their application. You can increase your likelihood of being admitted by specifically addressing any of the following criteria in your application’s Statement of Purpose, letters of recommendation, resume/CV, experiences, and academic history. Criteria considered include:

  • Long-term goals and commitment. Applicant demonstrates ability and willingness to work hard and steadily towards long-term goals.
  • Academic preparedness. Applicant demonstrates academic preparation and “toolbox” that equips them well for graduate coursework and research. This may include overall GPA and GPA in major, progression of academic performance over time, written communication skills, and recognition of achievements. If the applicant chooses to take the GRE to support their preparedness for the degree, then those scores will be considered as one part of the overall picture.
  • Research experience. Applicant has taken advantage of relevant research opportunities available to them on and off campus. Has a realistic perspective on how to conduct and/or complete research projects; strong ability to work independently and problem solve.
  • Resilience and adaptability. Applicant demonstrates ability to push past obstacles and/or to take in new information/events and adjust accordingly. Has clear understanding of uncertainty in a way that will equip them to weather ups and downs of graduate school.
  • Creativity and innovation. Applicant proposes and/or demonstrates a history of creativity and innovation in approaching science and/or problem-solving.
  • Contributions to diversity and/or outreach and inclusion. Applicant has the potential to contribute to diversity and/or outreach in higher education as evidenced by life experiences, educational, cultural or geographic background (e.g. non-traditional paths) and/or ability to articulate the barriers facing underrepresented communities in higher education/science. Applicant shows commitment and/or motivation to making science accessible and inclusive of communities both within and outside the University. Items in this category might include foreign language fluency, community involvement or service.
  • Leadership and work experience. Applicant demonstrates maturity through clear communication, ability to work collaboratively and as part of a team, strong organizational skills, and/or ability to juggle multiple tasks at once. This may include relevant work experience, and aptitude for planning and organization.

English Language Exam Scores

All international students not having English as a first language, or who have not studied at an institution where English is the language of instruction, must submit an official TOEFL or IELTS score.


You will be required to submit (1) official transcript and (1) unofficial transcript from each college or university attended in order to be considered for admission. However, CSUSM students are not required to submit an official transcript. All applicants who attended and/or earned degrees from colleges or universities outside of CSUSM, must send their official transcripts to the Office of Admissions & Student Outreach, CSU San Marcos, 333 S. Twin Oaks Valley Road, San Marcos, CA 92096. 

 Beyond GPA, the caliber of curricular rigor, the wider context of the academic record, and trajectory of performance will be considered. Transcripts are used as one metric of academic merit within the holistic review. You are encouraged to use your other application materials to frame your grades in a context that best reflects you. For instance, working full time to support yourself or your family may have lowered your grades, but it also demonstrates work ethic, adaptability, and perseverance in the face of life challenges, so would be a welcome topic in your personal history statement, your statement of purpose, or your letters of recommendation.

 Letters of Recommendation

The application requires two or three letters of recommendation. The online application will require the submission of two or three names of recommenders and their email addresses. The recommenders will automatically be contacted with instructions on how to submit their letters through the application portal. Writers of recommendation letters may reflect a mix of backgrounds (e.g., academic or employment). You should seek to include at least two who are qualified to evaluate the quality of your scholastic achievements and academic training as well as your ability to carry out independent research. This is especially important if you have previous research experience. It is helpful to ask your references to address those characteristics that are important to your admission (e.g., the traits outlined above that are considered in our holistic review).


General and/or Biology GRE scores will be considered, if you wish to submit them, but there is no minimum score for acceptance. GRE scores are not required for admission and will only be used to support the applicant’s overall academic preparedness. For example, if other aspects of academic preparedness suffered due to jobs or other responsibilities during the undergraduate years, the GRE score may be included as a supportive measure to bolster the application.

 Statement of Research Interests

The purpose of this essay is to get to know you as an individual and potential graduate student. In this 2 page essay, you should describe:

  1. Your core research interests and preparation/training that makes you a good fit to the Biology program and the lab(s) to which you are applying.

When discussing your specific research interests, be sure to explain what motivates them. When describing your preparation/training, be sure to highlight any prior research experiences, leadership roles, employment/internships, or academic coursework that make you a competitive applicant. Describe your long-term goals and what you intend to do with your Master’s degree, beyond CSUSM.

  1. What has motivated you to attend graduate school at CSUSM?

Describe why you are pursuing a master’s degree and take the opportunity to describe instances where you have shown commitment, passion and perseverance. You may wish to explain how your personal background informs your decision to pursue a graduate degree. You may include any educational, familial, cultural, economic, or social experiences, challenges, or outreach activities relevant to your academic journey. Please describe how the M.S. degree from CSUSM biology program will help you achieve your ultimate career goal.

Resume or Curriculum Vitae

Include a resume or CV that describes your education (including certificates and workshop attendance) and experiences. Include both scientific and nonscientific employment if it speaks to your ability to be a leader, team player, and/or innovative. Highlight any oral or poster presentations at scientific conferences or manuscripts you have co-authored. Include any scientific techniques and skills that you are proficient at performing. Be sure to include awards, scholarships, and external funding you have obtained to date. For resume tips and examples:  and for CV tips and examples:

 Application for admission to the Master of Science Degree in Biology requires the following:

  1. A completed online application for admission to Graduate Studies for the University. Please fill out and submit the university admissions form (Cal State Apply) which is available at
  2. The statement of research interests
  3. The application requires three letters of recommendation.  The online application will require the submission of three names of recommenders and their email addresses.  The recommenders will automatically be contacted with instructions on how to submit their letters through the application portal. 
  4. You will be required to submit (1) official transcript and (1) unofficial transcript from each college or university attended in order to be considered for admission. However, CSUSM students are not required to submit an official transcript. All applicants who attended and/or earned degrees from colleges or universities outside of CSUSM, must send their official transcripts to the Office of Admissions & Student Outreach, CSU San Marcos, 333 S. Twin Oaks Valley Road, San Marcos, CA 92096. 
  5. GRE scores are optional.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.  For a list of answers to frequently asked questions, please visit the Admissions website.

Julie Jameson
Graduate Program Coordinator

Phone: (760)750-8274