If you’re considering applying for admission to a PhD program, you should start thinking about where you want to apply. Your criteria for selecting target programs will depend on your goals and circumstances, but here are a few things to think about.
First (and most importantly), what is your goal, and what are you primary interests? Do you want to pursue an academic career, or do you plan to work in another sector?
If you’re primarily interested in research, your priority should be finding a program that will give you the research training to launch your career:
• Try to identify scholars who are working in the areas that interest you.
• Review the lit in your field, network at conferences, review CVs on departmental websites.
• If you have an undergrad mentor in your field, consult her/him for advice about departments where exciting research is going on.
• Ask yourself: who would be a good mentor, and who would you be interested in working with for the next several years?
• Go beyond the rankings, which often don’t reflect the real dynamism of a department (particularly once you’re talking about the specific sub-fields PhD students are concerned with).
If your goals lie outside of academia, work on identifying programs that will help you reach your goals. What industry are you interested in? Does the university you’re considering have research ties with that industry? Does the department offer opportunities for professional development (fieldwork, internships, etc)? What other resources does the university offer to support graduate students (career development, professional groups, alumni working in the field, etc)?
Do your research to find the best programs for your interests and goals.
Do you need more personalized help with your PhD applications? Our experienced consultants will help you choose the best programs for you and walk you through every step of the admissions journey to acceptance. Check out our Comprehensive PhD Application Packages for more information.
By Dr. Rebecca Blustein, former Accepted admissions consultant. Dr. Blustein has a BA and PhD from UCLA in English and Comparative Literature. She formerly worked as a Student Affairs Officer at UCLA’s Scholarship Resource Center where she gained experience guiding applicants in areas of admissions and funding. Dr. Blustein’s clients have been accepted to top Master’s and PhD programs in dozens of fields across all disciplines. Want an admissions expert help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!
• Plotting Your Way to a PhD, a free guide
• Focus on Fit, a podcast episode
• Analyzing Your Skills Before Applying to Graduate School