Interview with Dr. Rob Swihart, Purdue University

Interview with Dr. Rob Swihart, Purdue University

Rob Swihart
Chair of the Graduate Committee
Purdue University, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Graduate Degrees Offered: Master of Science, Master of Science in Forestry, and Ph.D. in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences; Forest Economics, Policy and Human Dimensions; Forest Measurement and Assessment/GIS,;Forest Biology and Silviculture; Genetics; Wildlife Science; Wood Products and Wood Products Manufacturing Technology.

1) When is the right time for someone to consider attending a graduate environmental program like yours?

Prospective students should consider applying in November or December for admission in the following fall term.

2) What are the top three reasons that students choose to pursue a graduate degree in your program's field of study?

  • To acquire skills and knowledge that will foster creative solutions to pressing natural resource problems
  • To broaden the scope of understanding and enable attainment of a higher level of scholarship and professionalism

3) When selecting prospective graduate students, what factors are considered by your admissions staff? Beyond the "basics" of good grades and GRE scores and a demonstrated commitment to their education, what makes an applicant stand out?

We are interested in evidence that a student has actively participated in scholarly pursuits that extend beyond the classroom and provide experience in research. We also look for evidence that the student is approaching graduate studies in a mature, focused fashion; i.e., we look for evidence that the applicant has done her homework and given her future careful thought. Finally, we look carefully for letters of recommendation that provide additional insight into the applicant's motivation, experience, and temperament.

4) What do you look for in a prospective student's background and/or essay (if one is required)?

A student's essay should convey concisely her objectives and a plan for how to attain those objectives. We look for specifics that indicate the extent to which a student has considered how the expertise of the faculty in the program complements the student's interests.

5) Does your department interview prospective students before admitting them? If so, what are you looking for in the interview?

Campus visits are strongly encouraged, and funds often are available to help defray a student's expenses. During an interview we gauge a student's grasp of current research topics, an ability to think analytically and communicate in an articulate manner, and the level of interest they display.

6) What three things can most likely DECREASE an applicant's chances of getting accepted?

  • Failure to submit all required documents by the deadline date.
  • Failure to submit all required documents by the deadline date.
  • Failure to submit all required documents by the deadline date.

7) Other than your program, in your opinion, what are the overall top three comparable graduate-level environmental programs in the United States? Do any outstanding International programs come to mind?

  • University of California, Davis
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech)
  • University of Georgia

8) What percentage of applicants do you accept into your program? In general, how selective are comparable graduate environmental programs?

We accept about 20% of applicants whose files receive reviews (ie, those whose files are complete and whose interests match at least one faculty member in our department).

9) Do you have any helpful statistics?

Successful applicants during the preceding year exhibited average GRE verbal and quantitative scores of 599 and 725, respectively, and an average GPA of 3.59. International students scored 592 on average for the TOEFL.

10) Do you have any other advice to offer for students who are trying to get accepted into a top graduate environmental program?

Do your homework when looking at graduate programs. Look for an advisor who is doing things of interest to you. Don't be afraid to contact individual faculty members. Start early, and be persistent!

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