Undergraduate FAQ

Which semester program should I choose?

Both Semesters emphasize problem solving, critical thinking, experiential learning and the study of conservation biology within social, political and economic contexts. The semester in Conservation, Biodiversity and Society is appropriate for students from any major who have an interest in and demonstrated commitment to conservation. This semester explores human impacts on the environment through scientific, social and economic perspectives.  During the semester, students conduct in-depth analyses of global conservation issues and propose mitigating strategies.

Ecology is the emphasis of the Wildlife Ecology and Conservation semester.  This program of study is geared to students who may have interests in Biology, Conservation Biology, Ecology, Environmental Science or other related fields. This semester investigates scientific mechanisms and communication strategies for conservation planning, and students will develop a comprehensive monitoring plan for a species or ecosystem of conservation concern, as well as a communications plan for individuals and communities.

For a detailed description of the Semester in Conservation, Biodiversity and Society, click here.

For a detailed description of the Semester in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, click here.

The two Semester programs are complimentary. You can take one individually, or take both in consecutive semesters.

Can I choose which individual courses I can take in each semester?

The courses in each semester program are not interchangeable and must be taken together.

At what point in my academic career should I apply for the Semester programs?

This program is intended for any upper-level undergraduates and post-baccalaureate students from accredited colleges and universities who have a minimum of 45-credit units of college/university coursework completed.

The majority of our students are juniors and seniors, but occasionally sophomore-level students may be qualified to participate in the Semester. Students who have already completed a Bachelor’s degree may also apply.

Do I have to be a Mason student to apply?

No!  The program is open to all qualified students from accredited colleges and universities.

Is the program open to students in all majors?

Yes! Majors that have been represented in Semester offerings thus far include: biology, economics, English, animal science, business, wildlife and fisheries science, global affairs, political science, natural resources, pre-vet, pre-law, integrative studies, Spanish, education, horticulture and more.

While there are no specific prerequisites to either program, it is recommended that students have taken at least one English course.

What makes me a successful candidate for the program?

If you are a student in good academic standing and meet the application deadline, you will be given full consideration- but it’s not as simple as that.

This is the program for you if you’re interested in exploring conservation as a profession. Math students can become ecological modelers. Policy students can help shape how laws and regulations impact environmental issues. Biologists can deepen their understanding of the natural world and become the next generation of conservation advocates. To make a difference in conservation in this century, we need people from many disciplines who can make connections beyond their own field and who think differently about the field of conservation. When you leave this semester, you will be better prepared to face these challenges in your future endeavors, whether it be graduate school, internships, or careers in conservation.

Do I have to apply for a specific semester program?

Yes, in the application process, you must select either the Semester in Conservation, Biodiversity and Society or the Semester in Wildlife Conservation Ecology.   If you are uncertain as to which program will be the best fit for you, please think about attending an upcoming prospective student tour, or please contact us at smconservation@gmu.edu.

What if I need to withdraw from the program?

George Mason University’s payment and cancellation policies specify the refund structure for the Semester offerings. If you choose to withdraw before the Semester begins, your enrollment deposit will be forfeited. For more information about withdrawal schedules and policies see http://studentaccounts.gmu.edu/

Will the courses I take in the Smithsonian-Mason Semester transfer to my home institution?

Courses taken in the Semester programs are accredited and should transfer readily to most colleges and universities. Make certain to discuss the program with your academic adviser to determine how courses may fit your specific academic needs. Click here for information about how course credits may transfer to your home institution.

Do grades transfer to my home institution?

Colleges and universities typically only transfer credits between institutions. Credits may count towards your graduation requirements, but it is likely that grades will not be averaged in with the grades you have earned in your home institution. You will receive a transcript from George Mason University for your work in the Semester. Be aware that graduate schools and some employers will want to see transcripts for all of your undergraduate work.

How much interaction is there with faculty?

With a maximum 10:1 student to faculty ratio, you will become a member of a close-knit learning community. Faculty are mentors. Beyond grades, you will receive one-on-one coaching for your professional development and communication skills, including writing, public speaking, and networking.

Faculty in this program want to see you succeed, and will help you reach your goals and fulfill your potential.

Where do students go next, after they complete the Semester?

Following the semester, students have found internships with leading conservation practitioners in science research, policy development, and animal management. Others have gone on to masters and PhD programs in a wide variety of conservation-related disciplines. Alumni are employed by international conservation organizations, government agencies, private industry, and in education.

A partial list of where alumni have ended up includes:

Conservation International, US National Park Service, The Nature Conservancy, US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Forest Service, US Geological Survey, US Department of Agriculture, Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom, Smithsonian Institution, Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, Marathon Wild Bird Center, National Aquarium in Baltimore, International Exotic Animal Sanctuary, Earth Echo, Terrapin Farms, Genesee Valley Outdoor Learning Center, National Zoo, Veterinary clinics, Environmental Studies on the Piedmont, Cape Wildlife Center, George Mason University, Longwood University, Earth Sangha, Greenpeace, Oregon State University, University of Maryland, and The EDGE