Are You a Competitive Ph.D. Candidate?: Beyond the Rankings Part II


Published: 123 days ago

Category: Anachid


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • By Dr. Rebecca Blustein, editor and former Student Affairs Officer at UCLA’s Scholarship Resource Center, and author of Financing Your Future: Winning Fellowships, Scholarships and Awards for Grad School. Rebecca will be happy to assist you with your grad school applications.

    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.

  • 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.
  • The next step to narrowing your list: doing an honest evaluation of your credentials and considering where you will be a competitive candidate.

  • Have you done research as an undergrad or master’s level student? If not, consider gaining more research experience before applying.
  • 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 (ie, a range of selectivity) will give you the best chance for success.
  • Last time, I discussed the first important criterion for helping you to select a grad program: your goals/research interests.

    This post is part II of Accepted’s Beyond the Rankings- How to Choose a Ph.D. Program blog series that outlines specific steps you can take to find the best program for you!

  • Are you PhD material? Have you discussed grad school with any mentors—and do they think you’re capable of grad-level work?
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