Graduate Admissions and Scholarship Committee

Committee Membership
Faculty Members at Large (2)
BOGS (2)


  1. To assess applicants to Graduate programmes in Biology (MSc and PhD) and determine which are accepted (in consultation with the potential supervisors).

  2. To allocate the A- scholarship monies.

  3. To inform graduate and honours students of external scholarship opportunities, advise students on creating a strong application and rank applicants for NSERC PGS, Killam and other external scholarships.

  4. To liaise with the Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS), Payroll and Student Accounts to attempt to get our graduate students paid, ideally on time and in the correct amount.


  1. Handling applications for admission into graduate studies

    1. Answer email from prospective students interested in graduate studies in Biology at Dalhousie.  Answer relevant specific questions and send stock answer re contacting supervisor, looking at websites, etc.  FILE: Prospective student info.doc.

    2. Receive complete applications from Administrative Officer. Enter basic info into GAC track spreadsheet.

    3. Determine GPA:  Obviously > or < A-.  If close, calculate.  Check TOEFL score.

    4. Circulate to GAC members for ranking

      1. Do not accept

      2. Marginal

      3. Acceptable

      4. Outstanding (e.g. possible Killam candidate) It is not presently clear what purpose this ranking serves, other than to highlight disagreements among committee members.

    5. If applicant is acceptable, contact potential supervisor to ask if they want to see the file:

      1. Supervisor identified by student

      2. If none identified, faculty/adjuncts in area of interest that have indicated that they are looking for a student

      3. If neither (a) nor (b), put in pile.  When pile is sufficiently high, put in office for viewing by faculty/adjuncts.

      4. If willingness of supervisor dependent on A- money, put in pile until A- decisions are made

    6. If willing supervisor is found:
      Supervisor completes and signs Supervisor Agreement. Complete and sign Recommendation for Acceptance. If supervisor is adjunct, confirm funding and willingness of internal supervisor. Return file to Administrative Officer, who will forward to Faculty of Graduate Studies.

      NOTE:  GAC will verify that appropriate prior degrees have been conferred, undergraduate grades meet the minimum requirements of the FGS and that TOEFL scores are adequate. It is the responsibility of the prospective supervisor to ascertain the authenticity of letters of reference. Adjunct supervisors must identify a (willing) internal supervisor before the student can be accepted.

      Accepted applications are duplicated in the Biology main office.The files are then passed on to the FGS.  They recheck grade and TOEFL requirements. Students with inadequate scores on either require a letter from their supervisor which is perused by the Dean of the FGS in order to waive the minimum FGS grade and TOEFL requirements.

    7. Forward student info to Grad Directorate.  Send list of accepted students (with e-mails to Teaching Assistant Co-ordinator) in June/July.

    8. If applicant is unacceptable or no willing supervisor is found, complete Recommendation for Acceptance (check NO POSITION for nice letter from FGS or REJECT for less nice letter) and return file to Administrative Officer.

    B) Support of students and allocation of A- scholarship monies

    Support of graduate students is critical to the success of graduate education.  Before a student can be accepted, it must be clear that the supervisor can provide appropriate research funds and that minimum stipend levels are available.  Tenure of an appropriate research grant will be taken as evidence of research support.  However supervisors must show that funds are available to pay minimum student stipends as specified by the Biology Department.  These funds may come from:

    (a) outside support to the student (e.g. NSERC, Killam, other);
    (b) a split between the A- scholarships offered by FGS and the advisor's grant;
    (c)  entirely from the Supervisor’s grant.

    In addition, all supervisors must commit to providing 80% of the full stipend for a period of 3 months (MSc students) or 6 months (PhD students) post programme should it be required.  These funds are to come from the supervisor’s grant.  Supervisors who fail to meet their funding commitments to their students may be prohibited from accepting additional students until the funding situation of their current students are resolved.

    The Biology department does not normally accept graduate students who do not have the minimum level of financial support from one of these avenues.  Waiver of this rule will only be granted under exceptional circumstances.

    Allocation of A- monies
    The allocation of A- "scholarship" monies is according to a priority list determined by the Biology Department through COW.
    1.In September, FGS allocates to Biology 70 to 80% of the previous year's funds (this should approximately cover continuing students).

    2.Remaining funds are determined by competitions. FGS sends form (~ October).
            Fill in form with All students accepted in previous year and their GPAs calculated as per FGS.

    3. FGS informs Biology of total money available for the year (December-January).

    4.Get list of all continuing students with A- money (<4th yr PhD, < 2nd yr MSc).  Allocate their A- money.

    5. Get list of NSERC/Killam students whose money is ending.  Allocate A- money.

    6.Remaining money goes to new students according to priority list of their supervisors. In descending order of priority these are:
    Students of new faculty (Non-tenured Faculty in their first five years, who have no current A- support)
    Students of supervisors who do not have scholarship-supported students
    Students of supervisors who have one scholarship-supported student
    Students of supervisors who have two scholarship-supported students
    Students of supervisors who have three scholarship-supported students
    Students of supervisors who have adjunct status in the department
    Students of supervisors who are cross appointed members of the Department

    Rarely is funding sufficient to extend beyond the first 2-3 categories on this list.  Some form of lottery system may be used when necessary to break ties.

    A- money must be allocated (Graduate Student Funding Allocation Sheet)  by June 30 prior to the upcoming student year (September to August).  FGS sends the student a letter informing them of the amount of their stipend based on the information contained on these sheets.

C) Ranking of Dalhousie applicants for Scholarships (NSERC, Killam etc.)

GAC is responsible for collecting NSERC PGS applications in the fall, ranking them and delivering them to FGS.
1. FGS sets deadline for receipt at FGS.  Set departmental deadline 1 to 2 weeks earlier.

2. Collect material as it arrives.  Respond to endless e-mails from students.

3. After deadline collate material into folders.  Circulate folders among GAC for ranking.  Committee meets to decide final ranking.

4.Fill in top of Appendix 2 for each applicant that is forwarded to FGS.  Send file to FGS with list of rankings.

5.FGS will review files and advise departments of necessary corrections, missing information, etc.  (Graduate Secretary will usually help with contacting students for corrections.)

6.Students not enrolled in a university for more than 8 months submit their applications directly to NSERC.  However they still need an Appendix 2, with a ranking.  Their deadline is later, so they often come in incomplete and after the ranking is done.  If confidential information is opened (e.g. reference letters), the file can't go back to the student, so GAC sends it to NSERC.

Killam (January): Similar to NSERC but fewer applications
1.   October or early November:  Send mass e-mail to students asking current students to re-apply.
Students must re-apply every year.
Get Progress reports from renewal applicants (by December if possible).

2.New applicants may apply at time to application to grad school, or in first two years of a PhD programme.

3.Rank New and Renewal applicants separately.

Fill in extensive page on each applicant, and include with application.  (In some previous years, students have been asked to do this page themselves.)

4. Send files to FGS.

D) Graduate Student Payroll (Administrative Officer)

The biology office has the responsibility for filling in the Graduate Student Payroll Information Profile Form (GSPIP) that is necessary for students to be paid.  Payroll requires that GSPIPs must be filled out once a year (new procedure 2008/09).  This will be done by August 1 for the September payroll, and if necessary, December 1 for the January payroll and April 1 for the May payroll.  GAC regrets that these long lead times are necessary as we have no control over the processing timelines through the administration.  Information received late may not be processed in time.

GAC will communicate the amount of any scholarship stipend (NSERC, A- , etc.) to the Administrative Officer in the Biology Office.  It is the responsibility of the supervisor to provide the Administrative Officer with the amount of supplemental support to be paid from the supervisors account and with a valid account number from which these monies are to be drawn.  If this information is not received by the deadline date, the information from the previous GSPIP will be used.  If no amount has been specified the student will be paid the departmental minimum, with the supervisors grant making up the amount in excess of awarded scholarships.  If no account number is available, the student CANNOT be paid.

Completed GSPIPs are forwarded to FGS for processing.  Student accounts deducts any tuition owing for the term from the total amount of the term stipend, for each term and forwards the information to payroll, who pay the leftover stipend to the student in four equal monthly amounts.

The Administrative Officer, in conjunction with GAC will attempt to investigate any errors in processing, but neither can accept any responsibility for incorrect information provided by the supervisor, nor for errors that occur after the GSPIPs are forwarded to FGS.

E) Adjunct information session

The Graduate Directorate gives mandatory information sessions to new adjuncts once or twice a year.  A representative of the GAC gives a brief presentation explaining the admissions and student funding procedures, and then answers questions from those present.

As of September, 2005

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