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Tips and Timeline Suggestions for Fall 2022 Applications



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Speaking as a fall 2021 applicant, it's really good that you're starting to think about this early! Here's what I did for PhD applications in molecular/cell biology and biochemistry:

  • Spring semester/summer before applying: Start researching schools where you might want to apply. I used GradTrek to generate a list of schools based on degree and region, then went to the program's website and made detailed notes. I noted things like funding, benefits, teaching requirements, unique research opportunities, and anything that made the program stand out to me. From this, I made a list of the schools where I would be applying and their application requirements.
  • Summer/beginning of fall: Identify your rec writers and ASK THEM EARLY! I cannot stress this enough - professors are busy people and you need to give them enough time to write and submit. Some will ask for a CV/resume so make sure you have that in order. Start drafting your statement of purpose early as well, and give yourself time to refine it and modify it for each school. If you're applying to a program that requires you to reach out to faculty of interest, start doing that. 
  • Fall: Start your applications as early as you're able to, especially if you're requesting fee waivers. I would recommend making a separate folder in your email for everything grad school (you'll be getting A LOT of emails). Remind your rec writers to have everything in by the deadline. Generally, just work ahead of deadlines and don't put everything off until the last minute.  

Best of luck to you in your grad school journey!

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Yay! How exciting! This is what I did for my PhD applications: 

1. Identity research interest. What kind of questions do I want to focus on? What are the questions I've been thinking about? (This will help with everything else.)

2. I made an excel sheet with the basic info (deadlines, profs, etc.) but I also made extra columns for other things that would make my time there fun (baseball parks, comedy clubs, Chipotle, etc.). It honestly made choosing places a bit easier. 

3.  Research, research, research! I cannot express how long it took me to think about school's I'd apply to. I started by looking at schools, departments (in the humanities), and then professors. This took me all spring and I ended up with a total of 70 schools. 

4. I looked other factors too. Current grad students, funding, research, connection to nearby communities to narrow my choice to about half. 

5. By the summer, I started emailing professors I wanted to work with. Some replied right away, some did not. 

6. At the same time, I started thinking about my statement of purpose. I recorded ideas/thoughts and transferred these ideas to a word doc.

7. By late summer, I reached out to the professors I wanted to write my letters of rec. Luckily, they wrote for me before so they were already familiar with my work. Still, I attached a CV and a statement of purpose later on. 

8. By early fall, I started my applications. Early yes, but they're all different and ask for different pieces. Also, started ordering transcripts. 

9.  At this point, I also worked on my statement of purpose almost on a daily basis. I also had a professor/letter recommender look over it with me. We did a few edits. And the rest was really up to me. 

10. I also worked on other pieces of writing (personal statement, writing sample, book review, etc.)

11. Meet with potential advisors. Some called and some Zoomed. Get your elevator pitch ready because leaving a good first impression is important.  

12. Triple check everything and submit. 

It's a long process but totally worth it. Good luck! : ) 



Rejected from: UCSB and Notre Dame

Accepted to: UCLA 

Interviews: 0 

Applied to: UCLA, UCSB, Notre Dame, UIC, UNC, Yale, UT Austin, U Denver



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All good suggestions above. I'll only add a few recommendations.

1) Start applying for 3rd-party fellowships/grants EARLY. The deadlines for a lot of these are ahead of the application deadlines for some schools (no, I don't know why). You're in a STEM field, so definitely go after the DoD/DoE grants like the GRFP. Better yet, start compiling a list of grants you want to apply for. UCLA has a database called GRAPES that keeps tabs on fellowships for grad students. Link here: https://grad.ucla.edu/funding/#/

2) The SoP is a SOB. It's also likely the single most important aspect of your apps, excepting you LoRs. If you have a high GPA, good courses under your belt, research, etc. that's fantastic. A lot of other people do to, but you can really set yourself apart in you Statement. Start writing that early. Do many revisions. Get other people to read it and make edits. Take your drafts to a writing/career center. Cal Berkeley has a really good guide for writing a rock-solid Statement of Purpose, link here: https://grad.berkeley.edu/admissions/apply/statement-purpose/

Speaking of Berkeley, the UC schools have an additonal essay you're supposed to write. It's called a "Personal History Statement" (or similar), and it's different from the SoP. This was easily the hardest essay I've had to write, so if you're looking west, plan on spending some time on this one too.

3) Lastly, application costs are expensive. If you've done an REU with a particular school, or if you're in a recognized national program/fellowship like Fullbright or TRiO, chances are you might be able to wave the fee. Definitely look into that, because otherwise it's pretty steep.

Hope this helps. -UD

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