In the first post in this series, we discussed the role of your goals and circumstances in choosing the best PhD programs to apply to. Now we are ready to move on to the next step…
Doing an honest evaluation of your credentials and considering where you will be a competitive candidate is the next step in figuring out which programs to apply to.
Answering the following 7 questions will help you honestly size up your profile:
A caveat: most PhD programs are extremely competitive, and admissions can seem downright capricious. That’s the inevitable result of admitting only a handful of applicants each year.
1. Are you PhD material?
Have you discussed grad school with any mentors—and do they think you’re capable of grad-level work?
2. Have you done research as an undergrad or master’s level student?
If not, consider gaining more research experience before applying.
3. Are your GPA and test scores competitive?
Most programs (not all) publicize their average admitted GPA and GRE info. Bear in mind that at some schools, your application will be processed first by the university’s graduate school, which may impose a minimum GPA or GRE requirement. If you’re concerned about meeting minimum standards, check the department’s requirements carefully.
4. Do you meet the prereqs for admission?
This might seem like a no-brainer. But many of the competitive/highly ranked programs (in a variety of fields) have minimum requirements that far surpass the requirements you met as an undergrad. For example, to enter many English departments, you’ll need to demonstrate fluency in two or more foreign languages. Do your research.
5. Is there a professor in your specialty at the program you’re targeting, and (important!) is he/she accepting students?
You could be a superstar and still not be accepted if the program doesn’t think they can fit your needs.
6. Don’t only target the very top ranked programs in your field.
Because PhD admission is so competitive, it is important to do a broad-ranging, well-researched search.
7. Apply to several schools.
Not just 2 or 3—closer to 10. I know this is a lot of work. But applying to a balanced selection of programs (i.e. a range of selectivity) will give you the best chance for success.
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, Accepted consultant since 2008, former Student Affairs Officer at UCLA’s Scholarship Resource Center. Dr. Blustein, who earned her Ph.D. at UCLA, has helped hundreds of applicants get accepted to top MS, MA, and Ph.D. programs. She's also an expert on grad school funding and scholarships. Want Rebecca to help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!