If everyone else can give free advice, so can I. So here's Latz's "top 5" list of suggestions:
- Take as many biology, physics, and chemistry courses as you can. A firm foundation in science is essential. Undergraduate courses in marine science are usually not required (for graduate school that is); anyway you'll take them again as a graduate student.
- Try to get some laboratory experience as an undergraduate. You can usually get course credit for doing a research project in a lab. As an alternative, look for a summer program that combines coursework and research experience.
- Numbers are not everything, but they are important. For admission to Scripps, a GPA less than a 3.0 is not good, nor are GRE scores less than 70 percentile. A GPA greater than 3.2 and GRE scores in the 80%'s are good.
- During your last year in college, apply for as many graduate fellowships as you can find. Ask your career/guidance counselor about ideas for fellowships.
- While it helps to have some idea of a course of study for graduate school, try to keep your interests as broad as possible for as long as possible.
One of the best ways to find out who's doing what research where, is to do an electronic search. Either access a university library's computerized card catalog system, or use the Google Scholar search engine. For example, I can search for the keyword "shark" and find out who has recently published on that subject. But remember that any specific interest can work against you when applying to graduate school. For example, if you apply to Scripps expressing an interest in shark research, you would be considered by probably only one scientist. If that person were not accepting students that given year, then you would be rejected because no other faculty would be interested in sponsoring you. So getting accepted not only means a strong application, but also that your research interests fit in with, and can be accomodated by, a scientist at Scripps.
The aspiring marine biologist is someone who is inquisitive, motivated, not afraid of failure, and not expecting a large salary.