Applying to Ph. D. Programs

Find the Appropriate Programs: Find a program in which you can fit (not just with your academic work, but that fits your personality). Find a program which can house your academic interests and in which you can do your research. Programs often have particular faculty and research strengths.  Unlike undergraduate study, graduate work is an apprenticeship.  Find a program and faculty who can support your research interests and goals. While looking for programs, search for professors to work with that line up with your own area of research.  

Email Relevant Professors: After finding relevant professors, contact them about their research and how their research interests line up with your own.  For those applying for Fall admission, this email process should be begun during the Spring to receive replies from professors and to make sure they are willing and able to take new students.  A quick and warm response is a positive response (remember professors are busy with their own research DO NOT PESTER THEM).  In addition to emailing relevant professors, email the graduate director as they will be the first person to look at your application.

Gather Application Materials and Plan a Budget

a) Applying to multiple programs can get expensive.  Set personal limitations on how much you are willing to spend on applications.  Choose how many programs you wish to apply to and stick with your top choices.

b) Make sure your GRE scores are within five years and get them ready to send. Secure your transcripts to send to all your choices. For testing centers and dates: click here.

c) Secure Letters of Recommendation from professors who know your work and your plan for future academic work. For a guide on how to go about getting letter of recomendation: click here.

d) The Letter of Intent/Purpose/Personal Statement is important, but you only need write one letter, changing wording to fit the school to which it is going. (CAUTION: Make sure you send the correct letter to the correct school!) The letter of intent should be specific and free of idioms and colloquial phrases.  Keep in mind the requirements and limitations of each school as to not go beyond the word limit or expectations. A letter can follow this paragraph model:

a. Paragraph 1: applying because X, about

b. Paragraph 2: Master’s Thesis and current work

c. Paragraph 3: Proposed Dissertation

d. Paragraph 4: Academic Related work 

e) A writing sample of your academic work will be required in your application.  Plan to have several writing sample of various lengths as different programs have different page limits (a 10 page and 20 page sample should suffice). Make sure that your writing sample is of excellent academic quality since this will be your main venue to show the acceptance committee your work.

Campus Visits: After receiving an offer, schedule a campus visit to meet with professors, other graduate students, and the graduate coordinator for the department.  Prepare questions to ask about the department, the university, and the city and surrounding area. Do NOT be afraid to ask tough questions as the answers may sway your decision to attend (ask questions about faculty-student relations within the department, ask about internal politics, etc.).  Make your visit worthwhile to learn all you can about the department making sure it is the right fit for you.