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Experiences in Applying to and Attending Biological Anthropology Programs Focused on Human Skeletal Biology

Nicholas Vere Passalacqua, Heather M. Garvin


Because of the lack of forensic anthropology degree-granting programs, forensic anthropologists have traditionally attended programs that grant general anthropology degrees while performing human skeletal biology (HSB) research. In order to examine potential changes in competition for HSB graduate programs and to generally inform the community of trends and the current state of HSB graduate programs, the authors generated an electronic survey, distributed from June 2016 to April 2017, soliciting responses from anyone with current or past experiences attending HSB graduate programs.

Among other results, respondents indicate that GPA remains an important factor for acceptance in graduate programs, with the average respondent GPA of 3.6 and all faculty respondents indicating a preferred minimum GPA at or above 3.0 (with an average faculty response of 3.3). The average combined GRE score of respondents was 312, although 56% of faculty respondents indicated that they did not have a preferred minimum GRE for applicants. Letters of recommendation and personal statements were ranked highest by faculty in degree of importance in graduate student applications. Debt accrued by degree varied greatly among individuals, but 69% of respondents had full funding for their doctorate. Notably, 90% of respondents recommended students take some time off between degrees. The results of this survey promote a general awareness of HSB graduate program environments. The information provided can be used to better prepare students in biological anthropology, including those pursuing forensic anthropology, for success in their academic journey.


graduate school, education, student debt, advising, forensic anthropology, biological anthropology

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