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How to Write a Statement of Purpose for PhD Admission


The dreaded doctoral statement of purpose — every PhD program asks for it, but why is it so difficult to write? Writing a strong statement of purpose is essential to getting into your top PhD programs. A PhD statement of purpose gives admissions committees an introduction to your research interests and why their specific program is of interest to you.

Like a cover letter for a job application, a great statement of purpose allows you to highlight your strengths, interests and experience. If you need statement of purpose advice, keep reading for guidance on how to write a successful statement of purpose that will make your PhD application stand out.

Statement of purpose vs. personal statement

Though the two may sound similar, they’re not necessarily interchangeable. A personal statement gives insight into who you are, while a statement of purpose is meant to showcase what you want to do. Rarely will you be asked to write a personal statement for a PhD program.

As you go through the PhD application process, you will likely see schools requesting either a statement of purpose or a research statement. In most cases, they're both looking for the same thing. Admissions committees want to know about your academic background, your research goals and what you hope to accomplish as a candidate in a PhD program.

Your research goals should align with faculty research

Being admitted to a PhD program is a great feeling, but if you enroll in a program that doesn’t match your research interests or help support your career goals, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment later down the road.

Applying for admission to a program is all about fit. Faculty reviewers are looking for students who best represent the department’s mission and will help them obtain their research objectives.

By the time you apply, you should have a solid understanding of what the department’s primary research and content areas are, as well as which faculty members you’d like to work with more closely. This might mean finding information about what their labs do and reading published articles related to their work.

Be sure to include how your interests and past experiences align with the work that they do and how you would be an active contributor to those endeavors. This approach shows that you took the time to look into their program, so the committee will be more willing to invest theirs in reviewing your application.

Don’t be afraid to address your weaknesses

Many people assume they should avoid listing their shortcomings in their essays. The whole point of applying to a program is to impress the reviewers, right? But constructively addressing your weaknesses can be a great way to demonstrate how this program can help you achieve your academic goals.

Look at the catalog and read through the courses that are part of the program. If there is a particular class that fascinates you, talk about how it could help you obtain a new skill or a better understanding of a concept that you’ve struggled with before.

This demonstrates that you are actively seeking programs to help you better your education. It also exhibits that you’re mindful of what areas of your knowledge need some improvement, which shows maturity and the ability to self-assess.

Keep it succinct

If your program of interest does not specify a page word or word limit, it’s best to assume that your statement should not exceed two pages total. It should be enough to give them a glimpse of who you are and what you have to offer but not share your life story.

The aim is to communicate how and why this particular program will help you meet your academic and career goals. Limited space means you must prioritize what you include in your statement.

Create an outline before you start writing to ensure you are including points that are relevant to your application and the program to which you are applying. Your statement is also an example of how well you can write. By framing your essay before you write it, you can avoid stream-of-consciousness writing that can often come across as undefined and incoherent.

Proofread! And read it over and over

When you think you have a finished product, read your essay out loud. This makes it easier to catch typos, poor grammar, and oddly worded sentences. If you have a friend who is also applying to grad school, help each other out by editing each other’s essays.

Having someone else read your statement and ask questions can help you clarify your points and make it more compelling. Your statement is your one chance to present yourself professionally in your own words. The occasional mistake is excusable, but messy writing will make them think you lack attention to detail.

Before you hit submit on that application, be sure that you have attached the correct document for the right institution. It can be very embarrassing if your statement mentions the wrong faculty member’s name or refers to another school’s library! It could also cause the reviewers to think you are not as serious about their program.

You’ve spent a good amount of time perfecting your application, so take your time to review everything before you submit it so you can rest easy knowing you’ve presented your best.


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StandOut CV

CV for PhD application example

Andrew Fennell photo

You’ve wrapped up your degree and are keen to embark on your PhD journey.

But before you can get stuck in, you’ll need to secure your place by putting forward a compelling PhD application and CV.

If you’ve never written an academic-style CV before, the process can be daunting. That’s why I’ve created this step-by-step guide to writing a CV for a PhD application.

I’ve also included a PhD CV example, to give you a better idea of what you need to include. Here’s what I’ll cover in the guide:

Guide contents

PhD application CV example

  • Structuring and formatting your CV
  • Writing your CV profile
  • Detailing your education
  • Detailing your relevant experience

CV templates 

PHD Applicant CV-1

As you can see from the CV example above, a PhD CV is structured differently to a traditional CV. Instead of focusing on work experience, academic experience and accomplishments are prioritised.

However, the fundamental CV writing  rules stay the same. Therefore, the candidate has put forward their information in a way which is clear, concise and formatted for easy reading.

CV builder

PhD application CV structure & format

PhD programmes receive thousands of applications, meaning the university admissions teams are generally very time-strapped.

As such, you need to  structure and format  your CV to make it as easy as possible for them to review.

First impressions count and a cluttered or disorganised application won’t do you any favours.

Instead, you should aim for a clean, well-organised and professional appearance throughout.

Formatting Tips

  • Length: While academic CVs are generally longer than standard CVs, it’s still best to aim for a short, relevant and concise document. For PhD applications, a length of one or two A4 pages is ideal. This is more than enough space to highlight your suitability without  overwhelming the reader with irrelevant information or excessive detail.
  • Readability: The information on your CV should be laid out logically, with clear section headings for easy navigation. Break up large chunks of text into small, snappy paragraphs and include bullet points where appropriate.
  • Design:  Opt for a clear, legible font and stick to it throughout – consistency is important. Ensure your headings are formatted for attention by using bold text or a slightly larger font size.
  • Things to avoid:  Steer clear of elaborate designs, fancy fonts, images or logos – they’re simply not needed and might distract from the all-important written content.
  • Things to consider: CVs ‘rules’ differ from country to country, so if you’re applying to an international university, take some time to research what’s expected of you.

Structuring your CV

Organise your content into the following sections for ease-of-reading:

  • Contact details – These should always be at the very top of your CV.
  • Personal statement  – A brief introductory summary of your qualifications, skills and experience in relation to the PhD.
  • Core skills – A short and snappy list of your most relevant skills, tailored to the PhD.
  • Education –  A detailed breakdown of your relevant qualifications, especially your undergraduate and postgraduate degree(s).
  • Career summary/research   experience – An overview of any relevant work or research experience, angled towards your chosen field of study.
  • Additional information –   A space to detail any other relevant information which may boost your application.

Quick tip:  While the simple CV format above is usually ideal, academic institutions often have their own preferred structure. Double-check their guidelines before you start writing – their preferences should be prioritised – and use a CV template if you want to speed things up without sacrificing quality.

CV Contact Details

Contact details

Commence your CV by sharing your basic contact details

  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • Location  – Rather than listing your full address, your town or city, such as ‘Manchester’ or ‘Exeter’, is enough.
  • If you have one, add a link to your LinkedIn profile or a portfolio of work.

CV for PhD Personal Statement

Your profile / personal statement  is essentially your first impression on the reader and is a great way to hook their attention.

It should provide a snappy summary of who you are and why your qualifications, skills and ambitions make you a perfect candidate for the PhD.

CV profile

Tips to consider when creating your personal statement:

  • Tailor to the PhD:  Every PhD programme should have a description available, which you can use to tailor your personal statement ( and your CV as a whole). Focus on proving you have the appropriate educational background, skillset and knowledge to carry out the project.
  • Prove your enthusiasm: It’s important to put forward your drive and motivation for your field and explain why the specific PhD is so well-matched to your wider interests and ambitions.
  • Avoid clichés:  Clichés and generic phrases like “I’m a motivated team player”  and  “gives 110%”  won’t impress the admissions team.
  • Keep it short:  A paragraph length of around 8-15 lines is perfect. This is only an introduction – the detail can come later on in your CV.

What to include in your CV for PhD personal statement?

  • Your academic background  – Give a brief overview of your undergraduate degree and/or masters and how they’ve brought you towards this PhD.
  • Impressive results  – PhD students are normally academically extraordinary, so make sure to point out any impressive results or feedback – whether that’s your degree as a whole or a particularly relevant assignment/project grade.
  • Relevant skills  – Use the PhD project description to find out what the university is looking for in candidates. Then, try to incorporate the core skills into your profile.
  • Relevant experience – Not everyone will have any relevant research or work experience to their name at this stage, but if you do, make sure to briefly highlight it here.
  • Interests, goals & motivations  – Give a brief insight into your motivation for taking on a PhD, why you’re so committed to your specific research topics(s) and what you think you can add. It’s also helpful to summarise how the course will fit into your wider career ambitions/goals.

Core skills section

Next, create a punchy list of core skills, organised into 2 or 3 columns of bullet points.

Use the project description to identify the required skills and knowledge, then use your findings to inform your list.

CV core skills

This will help the busy admissions team to see that the PhD is right for you at a glance.

Education & Qualifications

A PhD CV is  all about academic achievements and qualifications, so this section should make up the bulk of your CV.

Working in reverse chronological order, provide a detailed breakdown of your undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications.

If you have any GCSEs, A-Levels or other academic qualifications that are particularly relevant to the PhD subject, they might be worth listing, too.

Structuring your education

By working to a considered structure, you can ensure your education is easy to navigate and that your key achievements stand out.

For each of your relevant qualifications, break up information into the following sections.

Start by detailing the type of qualification, the title, the achieved grade, the academic institution at which you studied and the year you graduated.

MSc – Environmental Engineering (Distinction)

Middlesex University (2018)

Course content

Next, discuss your thesis or dissertation title (if applicable), the modules you studied and any relevant projects you were involved in.

What you choose to write here should be tailored to the PhD you’re applying for – focus the detail on the most relevant aspects of the qualification.

Thesis: “Identification of the Bacterial Profusion and Variety in Nuclear Waste Disposal”.

Modules: System Analysis in Urban Water Management; Process Engineering in Urban Water Management; Air Quality Control; Waste Management; Ecological Systems Design, and Remote Sensing and Earth Observation.

Project: “Research Study for Anaerobic Wastewater Treatment”

Key achievements (optional)

Finish up with a snappy list of key results,  accomplishments or learning outcomes you achieved.

This might be an impressive grade for a highly relevant assignment, an award you won or a quote of exemplary feedback from a tutor.

Career & Research Experience

Next up is your career & research summary, which should be tailored to the PhD in question.

You could include  relevant research experience here, as well as any related employment (even if temporary or voluntary).

Make sure to be selective with the type of employment you list, though. For example, a part-time waiting on job isn’t worth including, but a laboratory or tutoring job might be. Ultimately, it should be related to your field or have helped you develop relevant skills or knowledge.

When discussing your research roles, make sure to detail the techniques you used, the skills developed and any interesting findings.

Structuring your experience section

Ensure your career & research section is clear, scannable and easy to read by working to the following structure:

Outline the dates of employment/contract, the role title and the organisation or institution you worked for.

Aug 2018 – Sep 2019 Research Intern Hydro Continental, London

Give a brief overview of the position or research project as a whole, discussing the team you worked with (or lead), who you reported to and what the goal of the project was.

“Undertook a short-term assignment pertaining to the Economics of climate change in order to research and drive improvements in energy consumption and emissions; reported to the Executive Engineer.” 

Key responsibilities 

Then use bullet points to pinpoint your duties and responsibilities within the role, making sure to mention any relevant techniques or skills used that could benefit your candidacy. E.g.

  • Employed the Marginal Abatement Cost (MAC) curve tool to present carbon emissions abatement options.
  • Built partnerships and participated in open discussions with other country modellers and research associates.
  • Amassed and processed varied data from multiple sources.

Writing your CV for PhD

Applying for a PhD is a daunting yet exciting time, but a flawless CV can help you achieve your goals.

Remember to tailor your CV to the specific PhD you’re applying for and aim to make a compelling case for your suitability and aligned goals.

Before you send off your CV, try to get a second opinion from a current or previous tutor, trusted family member or friend.

It’s also worth checking the finished document with our quick-and-easy CV Builder , to eliminate the risk of overlooking mistakes.

Best of luck with your PhD application!

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How to prepare a strong phd application.

Doctoral candidates and departmental coordinators at the Wharton School outline a few tips to help you navigate the PhD application process.

It’s no secret the application process can be intimidating. Where do you start? What exactly are schools looking for on your application? What materials do you need to submit? Doctoral candidates and departmental coordinators at the Wharton School have outlined a few tips to help you navigate the process.

Don’t Delay the Process

A successful PhD applicant starts thinking about their application months or even years before the deadlines. For Alejandro Lopez Lira , a third year student in Finance, the application process began a year before he actually submitted the paperwork. He said, “I spoke to my advisors way before, like one year before, about my letters of recommendation, where to apply, everything involved in the process.”

Each program has different requirements, which can make for a tedious process. Karren Knowlton , a third year in Management, said, “I took a little while to draft a personal statement. I had my mom, who teaches creative writing, and a few other people that I trust just read over it. Then you have to tweak it for different schools because they want slightly different things.”

Taking time to prepare your application is critical. Starting the process sooner rather than later gives you several advantages:

  • It allows your letter of recommendation writers enough time in advance to thoughtfully prepare a letter that speaks to who you are as a PhD candidate.
  • It gives you more time to review your materials, fix any errors, and proofread, proofread, proofread.
  • Finally, it means a lot less stress when the deadline starts rapidly approaching. By planning ahead, you’ll have a much smoother process applying.

Get Letters of Recommendation

Prof. Matthew Bidwell , who previously served as the doctoral coordinator for the Management program , said a common mistake he sees are letters of recommendations from employers. Although he said it is impressive to see work experience, having an employer write a letter is not the best choice.

“We don’t pay very much attention to those because rightly or wrongly, we worry that they’re not looking for the kinds of things that we’re looking for,” he said. “If you have one, it’s not a disaster, but when you see people with two or three — most of their recommendations coming from their work — that kind of heightens our concern. You’re committing to a fairly specialized career, do you really know what that career entails?”

Instead, he suggests getting to know an academic who will be able to write a recommendation attesting to your ability to manage doctoral-level research and work.

Include Research/Work Experience in Your Field

Each program has a unique set of criteria to evaluate applicants, but several doctoral coordinators agree that some research and work experience in your field of interest will strengthen your application overall.

Prof. Fernando Ferreira , doctoral coordinator for the Business Economics and Public Policy and Real Estate programs, thinks work experience can be useful in demonstrating an applicant’s abilities. He said, “Any work experience after undergraduate school is important. If that experience is more related to research it’s even better, but work experience in general is always good.”

Prof. Guy David , doctoral coordinator for the Health Care Management & Economics program , thinks that work experience benefits applicants in terms of giving them a broader view of business. “Work experience creates retrospection about how the world works, how organizations make decisions, and how people function in various situations,” he said.

However, he warns that spending too much time away from an academic setting can have its drawbacks too. “It may lead people to start their PhD later when they are not in the habit of immersing themselves in rigorous studies and have a shorter horizons to develop a name for themselves,” he said.

Although having both research and work experience can strengthen your application, you will not be denied entry because you are lacking either.

Prof. Bidwell said, “I think research experience does give us some confidence that people have some idea about what it is that we do. In terms of work experience, I think we don’t have a strong view. We quite like work experience, but we also take people straight out of undergrad.”

Prepare for the Standardized Tests

Most PhD programs require students to take the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE). Having high test scores is a key part of an application as it tests skills learned over the course of many years in school. Quantitative skills are especially important when applying to doctoral programs in business areas. Much like any other standardized test, the GRE requires preparation.

Karren, who took the GRE twice to ensure her scores were high enough, offered advice to those who may be struggling. “I would absolutely recommend practicing the writing beforehand. Look up examples and have your outline structured,” she said. “So much of it is just getting the right structure and how you formulate your arguments so knowing what they’re looking for is key.”

Test prep can be time-consuming, but like anything else, practice makes perfect. There are multiple text books and online sites to help you prepare for the exam. Karren aimed to improve her math scores the second time she took the GRE and recommended this site to help strengthen math skills.

Taking advantage of resources to help you study can limit the number of times you need to take the GRE while ensuring you score high enough to remain in the applicant pool.

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Start your doctoral journey.

Whether you’re just starting your research on PhD programs or you’re ready to apply, we’ll walk you through the steps to take to become a successful PhD candidate.

Deciding to get a PhD

You might be surprised to find out what you can do with a PhD in business.

Is an Academic Career for You ? What Makes a Successful PhD Student

Preparing for the Doctoral Path

The skills, relationships, and knowledge you need to prepare yourself for a career in academics.

How the PhD Program Works How to Become a Successful PhD Applicant

Choosing the right program

What’s the difference between PhD programs? Find out how to choose one that fits your goals.

What to Consider When Choosing a Doctoral Program What Differentiates R1 Universities?

Starting an application

Tips for a successful application process.

Application Requirements Preparing Your PhD Application

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How to Write a Personal Statement for a PhD Program Application

Personal statement guidelines, general guidelines to keep in mind:.

  • One size does not fit all : Tailor your personal statement to each program and department you are applying to. Do your research to learn what is unique about each of your choices and highlight how this particular program stands out.
  • Yes, it’s personal : Showcase your unique strengths and accomplishments. Explain what influenced your personal decisions to pursue the program. Ask yourself, could this be applied to your friend or neighbor? If so, you need to be more specific and provide examples. Saying that you are a “good scientist” isn’t enough. Provide examples of your previous research experience, projects you’ve completed, and what technical skills you learned. Explain how you overcame any challenges along the way.
  • Set aside enough time :  Although personal statements are generally short in length (approx. 700 words; 1-2 pages), give yourself ample time to write a strong, well-written statement. It takes more time than you think to develop a final draft for submission.
  • Focus on your spelling, grammar, and vocabulary :  It’s important to present a well-written statement with good grammar and vocabulary. Write concrete, succinct sentences that flow well. Avoid flowery language. Visit the  Writing Center  for additional review and feedback.
  • Proofread one more time:  Check your grammar and spelling again before submitting your final draft. Ask a friend, professor, or advisor to proofread your final draft one more time before sending it in. 


  • Why do you want to complete further research in this field?  Write down a list of reasons as to why you are interested in pursuing further study in the field. When did you become interested in the field and what knowledge have you gained so far? Describe how your previous work provided the foundation and for further study.
  • Why  have you  chosen to apply to this particular university ? Does the institution have a particular curriculum, special research facilities/equipment, or interesting research that appeal to you?
  • What are your strengths ? Demonstrate how you stand out from other candidates. Highlight relevant projects, dissertations thesis or essays that demonstrate your academic skills and creativity. Include IT skills, research techniques, awards, or relevant traveling/ study abroad experience.
  • What are your transferable skills?  Be sure to emphasize transferable skills such as communication, teamwork, and time management skills. Give examples of how you have demonstrated each of these with specific examples.
  • How does this program align with your career goals?  It’s okay if you don’t know the exact career path you plan to take after completing your PhD. Provide an idea of the direction you would like to take. This demonstrates commitment and dedication to the program.


For examples of successful personal statements, visit the  Online Writing Lab (OWL) .

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How to write a research proposal

What is a research proposal.

A research proposal should present your idea or question and expected outcomes with clarity and definition – the what.

It should also make a case for why your question is significant and what value it will bring to your discipline – the why. 

What it shouldn't do is answer the question – that's what your research will do.

Why is it important?

Research proposals are significant because Another reason why it formally outlines your intended research. Which means you need to provide details on how you will go about your research, including:

  • your approach and methodology
  • timeline and feasibility
  • all other considerations needed to progress your research, such as resources.

Think of it as a tool that will help you clarify your idea and make conducting your research easier.

How long should it be?

Usually no more than 2000 words, but check the requirements of your degree, and your supervisor or research coordinator.

Presenting your idea clearly and concisely demonstrates that you can write this way – an attribute of a potential research candidate that is valued by assessors.

What should it include?

Project title.

Your title should clearly indicate what your proposed research is about.

Research supervisor

State the name, department and faculty or school of the academic who has agreed to supervise you. Rest assured, your research supervisor will work with you to refine your research proposal ahead of submission to ensure it meets the needs of your discipline.

Proposed mode of research

Describe your proposed mode of research. Which may be closely linked to your discipline, and is where you will describe the style or format of your research, e.g. data, field research, composition, written work, social performance and mixed media etc. 

This is not required for research in the sciences, but your research supervisor will be able to guide you on discipline-specific requirements.

Aims and objectives

What are you trying to achieve with your research? What is the purpose? This section should reference why you're applying for a research degree. Are you addressing a gap in the current research? Do you want to look at a theory more closely and test it out? Is there something you're trying to prove or disprove? To help you clarify this, think about the potential outcome of your research if you were successful – that is your aim. Make sure that this is a focused statement.

Your objectives will be your aim broken down – the steps to achieving the intended outcome. They are the smaller proof points that will underpin your research's purpose. Be logical in the order of how you present these so that each succeeds the previous, i.e. if you need to achieve 'a' before 'b' before 'c', then make sure you order your objectives a, b, c.

A concise summary of what your research is about. It outlines the key aspects of what you will investigate as well as the expected outcomes. It briefly covers the what, why and how of your research. 

A good way to evaluate if you have written a strong synopsis, is to get somebody to read it without reading the rest of your research proposal. Would they know what your research is about?

Now that you have your question clarified, it is time to explain the why. Here, you need to demonstrate an understanding of the current research climate in your area of interest.

Providing context around your research topic through a literature review will show the assessor that you understand current dialogue around your research, and what is published.

Demonstrate you have a strong understanding of the key topics, significant studies and notable researchers in your area of research and how these have contributed to the current landscape.

Expected research contribution

In this section, you should consider the following:

  • Why is your research question or hypothesis worth asking?
  • How is the current research lacking or falling short?
  • What impact will your research have on the discipline?
  • Will you be extending an area of knowledge, applying it to new contexts, solving a problem, testing a theory, or challenging an existing one?
  • Establish why your research is important by convincing your audience there is a gap.
  • What will be the outcome of your research contribution?
  • Demonstrate both your current level of knowledge and how the pursuit of your question or hypothesis will create a new understanding and generate new information.
  • Show how your research is innovative and original.

Draw links between your research and the faculty or school you are applying at, and explain why you have chosen your supervisor, and what research have they or their school done to reinforce and support your own work. Cite these reasons to demonstrate how your research will benefit and contribute to the current body of knowledge.

Proposed methodology

Provide an overview of the methodology and techniques you will use to conduct your research. Cover what materials and equipment you will use, what theoretical frameworks will you draw on, and how will you collect data.

Highlight why you have chosen this particular methodology, but also why others may not have been as suitable. You need to demonstrate that you have put thought into your approach and why it's the most appropriate way to carry out your research. 

It should also highlight potential limitations you anticipate, feasibility within time and other constraints, ethical considerations and how you will address these, as well as general resources.

A work plan is a critical component of your research proposal because it indicates the feasibility of completion within the timeframe and supports you in achieving your objectives throughout your degree.

Consider the milestones you aim to achieve at each stage of your research. A PhD or master's degree by research can take two to four years of full-time study to complete. It might be helpful to offer year one in detail and the following years in broader terms. Ultimately you have to show that your research is likely to be both original and finished – and that you understand the time involved.

Provide details of the resources you will need to carry out your research project. Consider equipment, fieldwork expenses, travel and a proposed budget, to indicate how realistic your research proposal is in terms of financial requirements and whether any adjustments are needed.


Provide a list of references that you've made throughout your research proposal. 

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how to write an application for phd admission

  • Writing an Academic Cover Letter for a PhD Application
  • Applying to a PhD
  • The aim of an  academic cover letter  is to convince the supervisor that you are a strong candidate for the PhD position on offer.
  • Your cover letter should be  half a page to a full page  in length; it should be concise and to the point.
  • Your PhD cover letter should include your  personal details , the position you’re applying for, your  motivation  for applying, what you know about the project, what  relevant experience  you have and what makes you suited for the position.

The two documents crucial to get right when  applying to a PhD  are your CV and covering letter.

In this article, we’ll set out the core guidelines you should follow to create an effective academic cover letter.

What Is An Academic Cover Letter?

An academic cover letter is a written document that accompanies your CV and application form when applying for a PhD.

It’s different from a CV as instead of being a structured summary of your skills and experience, it is a summary of why you believe you are suited for a particular PhD programme. As a result, all academic covering letters should be tailored for the specific position you are applying for and addressed to the supervisor who is overseeing the project. They also shouldn’t repeat what is already stated in your CV, but rather expand on the details most related to the position you are applying to.

Note:  An academic cover letter is sometimes referred to as a PhD application letter, but never a motivation letter. The latter is different in that it concerns the reasons as to why you want to undertake research, while a cover letter focuses on demonstrating your suitability for a programme. This is an important distinction to note.

What Is the Purpose of An Academic Cover Letter?

The aim of an academic cover letter is to convince the PhD supervisor that you are the perfect candidate for the PhD project.

Academic cover letters should complement your CV and sell you as a person – will your potential supervisor be excited to work with you after having read your cover letter?

What Should I Include in My Academic Cover Letter?

You should demonstrate that you have the skills which make you suited for research. It is essential that you recognise these skills in you and that you use them to promote yourself.

1. Your Personal Details

Include your name, address, email address and phone number in the top right corner of the letter. This is so the supervisor can reach you should they have questions or require any further information.

2. The Position You’re Applying For

Help the supervisor establish exactly which PhD position you are applying for as there may be several positions being advertised at one time. If they provide a reference number as part of the project description, it would be a good idea to include it in brackets.

3. Why You’re Interested in The Position

Use this section to explain your motivations for applying to the specific PhD and where your research interests stem from. Is it related to the dissertation you produced as part of your final year undergraduate dissertation, etc?

Whatever your motivation for applying to the PhD, make sure that your enthusiasm comes across clearly. The supervisor will appreciate how great a role self-drive plays in completing PhD projects and you will want to convince them you have the level of drive required to be successful.

4. What You Understand About the Project

Besides explaining your motivations for undertaking the project, show that you possess a basic understanding of it. In doing so, make sure you reinforce each point with some level of evidence; avoid making general statements or talking loosely around the research subject. This will show the PhD supervisor that you’ve taken the time to research the background to the project.

5. What Relevant Experience You Have

In this section, briefly discuss your academic background and any relevant experience you have within the field of research. Don’t worry if you have little experience in this area as this will be the case for most applicants. If this the case, then use this section to explain how you will be committed to the PhD research project. If you have experience in conducting research, explain what your role was, the analytical methods you used and any other aspects of your work which may be relevant. Similarly, discuss any teaching experience if you happen to have it.

6. Closing Statement

Keep this short and concise. Thank the supervisor for taking the time to read your application and let them know that you’re looking forward to hearing from them.

How Long Should My Academic Cover Letter Be?

Your academic cover letter should be between half a page to one full page .

To keep it effective, make it as concise as possible and only discuss points which are either relevant to the project or the aspect of being a doctoral research student. This may feel difficult to do, especially if you have much you want to include, but keep in mind that your cover letter can also be used as evidence of your communication skills, more specifically, whether you can convey important information in a clear and logical manner. As this will be a key skill of any research candidate, the prospective supervisor will take it into account when evaluating your capabilities.

How to Format an Academic Cover Letter for A PhD Application

Your cover letter should be written in paragraph format, with bullet points only reserved for situations where a list would improve clarity. This is because a cover letter is one of the few places where you are expected to show your personality, so using too many bullet points will diminish your ability to do this. The best way to approach writing your application letter is to see it as a very short personal essay.

Use a common font like Times New Roman or Calibri, and if possible, avoid the use of highlighting, underlining and tables as they become too distracting. Keep your font size between 10 to 12 points and your margins to at least 0.5 inches around all edges. Try to match the font size, type, line spacing and margin size to your academic CV for neat and consistent presentation.

Your cover letter should be addressed to the PhD supervisor, starting with a “Dear [academic title] [surname]”, for example, “Dear Professor Williams”.

Hopefully, you now know what it takes to write a successful cover letter for a PhD application. While a strong cover letter will go a long way to helping you stand out, you will need to learn how to create an equally strong CV if you really want your application form to excel. To this effect, we recommend you next read our step-by-step guide for creating effective academic CVs .

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how to write an application for phd admission

The Guide to Your PhD Application in 2023

Find PhD programmes abroad

If you have found a relevant PhD programme on PhDPortal.com make sure to pay particular attention to the section REQUIREMENTS for each programme. This section will give you an indication of what you need to do to be able to apply for the chosen doctoral programme.

1. Your academic record

One of the main things the universities will be looking for is a good or excellent academic record which is especially important if you are applying for a PhD scholarship. Some programmes would require a Master's degree prior to entering a PhD programme.

However, it is not unusual to proceed directly to a PhD after your Bachelor's degree in some countries. Again, you will need to check with a specific university about this requirement.

Make sure you submit official academic transcripts from your previous school that you graduated and will include all courses you attended and details of your degree examinations.

2. English or another foreign language certificate

If you are planning to do a PhD in a language that is not your native one, you will most likely have to pass a language exam. For English-based programmes, it is common to present the results of IELTS or TOEFL. This will be specified in the "Requirements" for each individual PhD programme.

3. Letters of recommendation

Most universities require you to provide three letters of recommendation. One of the recommendation letters should be ideally provided by your previous academic advisors, university tutors etc., since they will be able to comment on your academic abilities. In addition, letters of recommendation can also be written by people who supervised you in a work or community service/volunteering setting.

The letters of recommendation should focus on stating your suitability for admission to your chosen doctoral programme.

4. Research proposal

The research proposal is probably one of the most important parts of the application process since it will demonstrate your background knowledge of the topic, methodology and your proposed research plan.

Try to get some advice and feedback on your proposal from your academic colleagues, tutors or even a potential supervisor. The more feedback you get, the better chances you have of producing an excellent proposal.

Apply for PhD.jpg

5. Letter of motivation

You will always be required to submit a letter of motivation in order to specify your objectives and determination to work hard on a project. Focus on describing the research area(s) you’re interested in, how your experiences, qualities and qualifications can contribute to the field of study, and your plans for your future profession.

Mention experiences that have prepared you for advanced study or research, and provide any additional details that might have a positive impact on the admission committee.

Check details on how to write a good motivation letter for a PhD.

6. PhD entrance exam

Some universities also require you to take a PhD entrance examination. This is called the GRE (Graduate Record Examination), and sometimes an additional test related entirely to the subject (field of study) you plan to focus your research on may be required – the GRE subject test.

Outline your education, research experience, work experience, publications in academic journals, prizes and honours received, and any other extracurricular activities.

Other important aspects of your application for a PhD programme:

Finding a supervisor.

The success of your application process depends not only on your background and skills but also whether a specific academic department can provide supervision in your specific topic.

That is why it is important to do preliminary research early on to identify key people who can be your potential supervisors during the duration of the PhD programme, and contact them to discuss it.

Making a good impression at the interview

If you are able to fulfil all or most of the requirements above, you will most likely get your ticket to a face-to-face interview. This is your star moment when you can demonstrate your motivation, abilities and meet future supervisors.

In an interview for a PhD, prepare to answer to:

  • questions about yourself – stress on your own personal qualities as a student, team member and individual, mention relevant academic and professional achievements
  • questions about your PhD project – state and prove as much as possible that you have the skills, experience and understanding to complete a doctorate. Furthermore, be very specific about your knowledge, skills and qualifications and how they all make you the right candidate for the PhD you applied.
  • questions about your choice for this university – try not to exaggerate in any way, but you could mention a few details about why you consider their laboratory or research group appealing to you and how can you bring a positive contribution to them.

Stay positive and motivated!

Despite seeming a bit daunting at first, the application process for any PhD programme is just a set of steps that you need to follow diligently and with patience. Just keep positive and motivated!

If you can't decide which PhD programme is the most suitable one for you, have a look at the article "How to choose a PhD programme that is right for you?"

If you can't decide which PhD programme is the most suitable one for you, maybe you could use our useful tips to consider before applying .

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CV for PhD Application: How to Write One Like a True Scholar (+CV Example)

  • Klara Cervenanska , 
  • Updated March 13, 2024 11 min read

A PhD is the highest level of academic qualification you can achieve. To secure your position, however, you first need an impressive CV for your PhD application.

Earning a PhD degree requires you to produce extensive research in a narrowly defined subject within a certain discipline and to make a considerable original contribution to your field.

Hence why PhD programs are always very selective. The admission rates hover around 10% and only about half of the admitted candidates actually finish the degree, according to a recent psychology research .

As a result, less than 1% of the population attains a PhD.

So, how do you become a part of the 1%?

The process of attaining a PhD starts with a strong application which includes an impressive academic CV .

A CV for PhD application needs to be carefully crafted, well formatted, and contain specific sections.

We'll show you how to craft a stellar PhD application CV, and a sample academic CV from a real person admitted to a PhD program in France.

Table of Contents

Click on a section to skip

What is an academic CV?

What to include in an academic cv for phd application.

  • How to write an academic CV for a PhD application?

Tips on how to write a CV for PhD application

How to tailor your cv for different phd programs, phd cv example.

First, there are two types of career documents job seekers widely use. A resume and a Curriculum Vitae (CV).

These two documents are similar but not identical.

So, let's have a look at the key differences between a CV vs a resume :

  • A resume is used when applying for a position in industry, non-profits, or the public sector. It should focus on skills and past experience while being tailored to a specific job position. The length of the document shouldn't be more than 1 or 2 pages.
  • A curriculum vitae (CV) is used when applying for positions in academia, science, or medicine. It focuses on education, research background and scholarly accomplishments. Finally, its length depends on the number of references, publications, etc.

There are even more types of CVs. A general CV, an industry (professional) CV, or an academic (research) CV — which is exactly the one you'll need.

In a nutshell, an academic CV is a career document that provides extensive information about your educational and research background. Scholars and researchers use this document when applying for jobs in academia — such as a PhD application.

Lastly, an academic resume is a term you can often come across, too. To avoid any confusion, it's the same as an academic CV. A more appropriate term is, however, the latter.

Rules are important in academia. That's why all academic CVs usually follow pretty strict structures regarding their content and formatting.

First, let's have a look at the resume sections you should include in a CV for PhD application:

  • Contact information. Include your full name, email, phone number, and location.
  • (Research) objective. A concise, brief paragraph outlining your research plans and strategies.
  • Education. It should form the bulk of your CV and detail you educational background.
  • (Research) experience. Your research experience can often set you apart from other candidates.
  • Publications. Include anything from journal articles, published reports, to your research dissertation.
  • Awards. Mention all awards and accomplishments you’ve received in reverse chronological order.
  • Skills. These should be relevant to the PhD project or show that you have what it takes to succeed as a researcher.
  • References. Finally, try to include at least two references, such as your dissertation supervisor and one other member of staff.

Let's have a closer look at each of the 8 CV sections in the next chapter.

How to write an academic CV for a PhD application ?

Applying for a PhD will be a lot less stressful if you follow this quick guide on how to write a CV for a PhD application:

You should always start your CV or your resume by providing your contact details to form the CV header . Include your full name, your professional email address, and your mobile number. Additionally, you can include your location. However, we don't advise including your full home address for privacy reasons. Entering the country and city you reside in is usually enough. Since a CV is a bit different than a resume, we don't recommend including links to your social media .

Research objective is basically a brief paragraph at the beginning of your CV outlining your research plans, interests, and strategies. It paints a picture of you as a person and will guarantee that the admissions committee will be interested in reading and learning more about your professional background. Your research plans and strategies should align with the PhD project you're applying for. Hence, read the project description carefully and make sure to tailor your objective accordingly. Ideally, without making stuff up.

The education section should form the bulk of an academic CV. No one expects a potential PhD candidate to have 10 years of experience in the field. But what's expected is an appropriate educational background. A common practice is to list your education in a reverse chronological order. This means listing your Master's degree first and then a Bachelor's degree. For each degree, provide the full name of the degree, the type, its duration, the relevant courses and modules, the corresponding (or expected) marks, GPA , and any relevant projects or presentations. Also, include the name and the description of your final year dissertation project.

In this section, introduce all of the research projects you worked on, whether they were a part of your undergraduate degree, your master's degree, or you have undertaken this project elsewhere. You can include any voluntary , part-time , or full-time work experience you deem relevant for the PhD project of your choice. For instance, skip the part-time bartending job and rather include a teaching experience or a voluntary project you undertook.

Of course, it's okay if you don't have any publications yet. If that's the case, simply skip this section. However, if you do have any work published at this stage, list it in this section. The publications can include anything from journal articles, published reports, contributions to peer-reviewed journals, or an adaptation of your dissertation project. Make sure to check the citation style your institution or field prefers and use it consistently in your publications section. The most common ones are APA, MLA, and Chicago.

In this CV section, list relevant honors, achievements, or awards you earned for going beyond average — again in reversed chronological order. It includes scholarships, university fellowships, competitions, work-related awards, or academic awards . For instance, you can mention a very high GPA, subject-specific awards, or any grants you received. However, keep in mind that mentioning how much money was involved is only common in scientific fields.

The skills you mention in your academic CV should be relevant to the PhD project you're applying for or show that you have what it takes to succeed as a researcher. Between the two types of skills , hard and soft, hard skills are more appropriate to include in your CV for PhD application. Examples of hard skills include Python, data analysis, polymer synthesis, C++, Chem Draw, Ahrefs , languages, or other computer skills . However, completing a PhD degree usually also involves demonstrating your teaching abilities. For this reason, listing soft skills such as a good oral communication and presenting is also a good idea.

While a references section in a regular resume is pretty much redundant, in a CV for PhD application it's a must-have . Why? Well, having a person attest to your skills and achievements is a great way to leverage your professional experience. The person you ask should be articulate and in a reputable position. Your best bet is to ask your dissertation supervisor, a professor you had a good relationship with, or one who taught the subject most relevant for the desired PhD program. Finally, don't forget that your references have to agree with having their contact information shared, first. Read our quick guide on how do you ask someone to be your reference .

Apart from making sure the content of your CV is spot on, you should also follow some well-established formatting tips.

A clear layout and composition ensure your CV is professional and easy to read.

Here are a few tips to help you achieve that:

  • Keep the formatting consistent. If you choose a certain font type and size, stick to it. The same goes for margins, spacing, and capitalization.
  • Less is often more. It might be tempting to use bolding, italics, or underlining in order to make the document "easy" to read. However, an excessive use of these features actually has the exact opposite effect.
  • Avoid long paragraphs. A CV is all about providing objective facts regarding your professional background. Hence, no need to provide generic statements or go into too much detail. And if you happen to write more text, you can always divide it using bullet points.
  • Use professional language. It goes without saying, but don't use slang. Similarly, use professional jargon and abbreviations within reasonable limits.
  • Don't limit yourself to one or two pages. The length of your academic CV depends on the number of publications, awards, references, and experiences. Unlike a resume, a CV is a complete summary of your academic and professional background.
  • Convert your CV to PDF. Doing this considerably reduces the risk of compatibility and formatting issues. A PDF file keeps your formatting intact across various devices.

Too much to keep in mind? Kickresume's CV & resume builder can save you the headache and provides useful templates with appropriate formatting designed by career professionals.

When applying for different PhD programs, it's crucial to tailor your academic CV to suit each specific program. 

This doesn't just improve your chances of catching the eye of admissions committees ; it demonstrates your genuine interest and alignment with their goals. 

To effectively tailor your CV for different PhD programs, follow these three tips:

#1 Understand program requirements and values

How do you do that? Start with in-depth research about the PhD program:

  • Visit the program's website
  • Look at the curriculum
  • Attend open days
  • If possible, reach out to alumni 

Once you have a clear picture of the program's values and requirements, you can begin to customize your CV. 

For example: If a program emphasizes community outreach, you might highlight your involvement in science education for underprivileged youths or your participation in community-based research projects. 

This demonstrates not only your alignment with their values but also your active contribution to areas they care about.

#2 Emphasize transferable skills for PhD programs

This applies to people switching fields or applying to a program that isn't a direct continuation of your undergraduate degree. 

Let's say you're moving from a background in chemistry to a PhD in molecular biology. 

It's crucial to highlight how your analytical skills, understanding of chemical processes, and any lab work or research experience directly apply to molecular biology. 

For instance: Discuss your experience with techniques that are common in both fields, like chromatography or spectrometry, and how they've prepared you for the research you aim to conduct in molecular biology. 

Tailoring your CV in this manner demonstrates your ability to bridge different disciplines and apply your skills in new contexts.

#3 Adapt your CV for international PhD programs

Adapting your CV for international programs involves more than just translating it into another language. 

Start by researching the academic culture and CV formats preferred in the country you're applying to. This might include:

  • the preferred length
  • whether to include personal information such as a photo
  • emphasis on certain types of experience or qualifications

For instance: in some countries, a detailed list of courses and grades might be important, while in others, a focus on research experience and publications is key. 

Websites of the target universities, country-specific academic career resources, advice from current international students, or even online forums like Reddit are invaluable for this purpose.

Finally, to help you tie everything we talked about together, we thought one picture is worth a thousand words.

Here's a CV sample from a person who managed to get accepted into a PhD program at the university of Lyon in France.

There are several things Herrera included to ensure her CV was successful:

  • A complete professional and academic background. We can see that this section forms the bulk of the resume. As it should.
  • Plenty of hard skills. Herrera included 7 hard technical skills and multiple languages. All of these skills are very valuable in academia.
  • A succinct description of all projects. She includes the full name of the projects, their duration, and theme.
  • References, publications, and certifications. All of these sections are included in the full version of this resume and can be found by clicking the button below the sample CV.

Lyon University PhD Student Resume Sample

This resume sample was contributed by a real person who got hired with Kickresume’s help.

Klara graduated from the University of St Andrews in Scotland. After having written resumes for many of her fellow students, she began writing full-time for Kickresume. Klara is our go-to person for all things related to student or 'no experience resumes'. At the same time, she has written some of the most popular resume advice articles on this blog. Her pieces were featured in multiple CNBC articles. When she's not writing, you'll probably find her chasing dogs or people-watching while sipping on a cup of coffee.

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  • How to Write a Great PhD Research Proposal | FindAPhD.com

How to Write a Great PhD Research Proposal

Written by Mark Bennett

You'll need to write a research proposal if you're submitting your own project plan as part of a PhD application. A good PhD proposal outlines the scope and significance of your topic and explains how you plan to research it.

It's helpful to think about the proposal like this: if the rest of your application explains your ability to do a PhD, the proposal demonstrates the actual PhD you plan to do. Of course, being able to effectively plan and explain a research project is one of the key qualifications for being able to complete one, which is why the proposal is such an important part of the PhD application process.

Thankfully, the secret to writing a good research proposal isn't complicated. It's simply a case of understanding what the proposal is for, what it needs to do and how it needs to be put together.

On this page

What is a phd research proposal.

First things first, do you need a research proposal for your PhD? It depends on the kind of project you want to do:

  • If your PhD is advertised by a university, you probably won't need to submit a research proposal for it. The broad aims and objectives for your PhD will already be defined: you just need to prove you're the right person to do it.
  • But, if you're proposing your own research topic to research within a university's PhD programme, you will need to write a proposal for it (the clue is in the word "proposing")

As a rule, advertised PhDs are very common in STEM subjects, whereas Arts, Humanities and Social Science students are more likely to propose their own PhDs.

Some PhD programmes actually wait and ask students to develop their research proposal during the degree (usually after they've completed some initial training). This is normal in the USA , but it's becoming more common for some UKRI-funded UK PhDs.

For the purposes of this guide we're going to assume that you do need to write a good research proposal for your PhD application. So let's explore what's involved in that.

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What should a research proposal for PhD admission include?

It's natural to be a little intimidated at the thought of structuring a PhD proposal, particularly if you've never written anything like this before.

But here's the thing: a research proposal isn't a fiendish test designed to catch you out and stop you ever doing a PhD. It's actually much more boring than that.

All a research proposal really is is a document that demonstrates three things:

  • Your PhD is worthwhile
  • Your PhD is feasible
  • You are capable of completing it at this university

Or to put it even more simply: the PhD is worth doing, it's doable and you can do it.

Demonstrate your PhD is worthwhile (the what and the why)

A successful PhD project has to make a significant original contribution to knowledge. If it doesn't, it won't meet the criteria for a doctoral degree and will probably fail the viva exam .

Your PhD proposal itself doesn't have to meet those criteria (or pass a viva!) but it does need to indicate that your PhD project eventually will.

It does that by first demonstrating that your research topic is original. That means nobody else has studied this same topic (or one very similar) before.

There are all sorts of ways a PhD can be original. You might examine new data or primary sources, to look at existing material from a fresh perspective, or deal with the impact of new events. It doesn't matter how your project is original, so long as your proposal is really specific about what makes it original.

You also need to explain why your proposed research will be academically significant. To do this properly, you'll need to acknowledge relevant existing scholarship and explain how your research will relate to it. You don't need to be exhaustive at this point, but you should be able to show how your PhD will contribute to its field and – ideally – indicate some of the gaps in knowledge it will aim to fill.

The final step in demonstrating your PhD is worthwhile is to suggest what will become possible as a result of your research. How could other researchers use or build upon your results? What might closing those gaps in academic knowledge mean for audiences outside the unviversity?

Demonstrate your PhD is feasible (the how)

It isn't enough just to show that your research is worth doing; it also needs to actually be doable.

The length of a full-time PhD is around three to four years in most countries (it's longer in for a PhD in the USA , but you don't spend all that time doing research).

Three years may seem like a long time, but researching a PhD is a lot of work and you'll probably spend at least some of your time on other activities like teaching, conference presentations or even publication.

So, one of the things your proposal needs to do is demonstrate that your project is feasible: that it fits within the scope of a PhD.

The most important criteria for this is to be clear about what you plan to do. It should be obvious from your proposal what the scope of your project is – what is and isn't included within it.

You also need to outline how you plan to go about your research. Where will you start and what order do you expect to proceed in? Is the logic for that obvious? If not, it's probably a good idea to explain it.

Finally, you need to explain the methodology you plan to use. This could include techniques for collecting data and sources, theoretical perspectives for analysing them – or both. You may also need to detail specific equipment you expect to use or fieldwork you'll need to undertake (including trips to archives or other external resources).

None of this needs to be exact or completely final. The key word here is 'plan' – but you do need to have one.

Demonstrate that you can complete it at this university (the who and the where)

So far we've thought about the project itself: what makes it worth doing and how it's going to get done. But your proposal also needs to address the who and the where: why are you the right person to carry out this research, and why do you want to do it at this particular university?

The first part of this is easier than it probably looks. Writing a good research proposal demonstrates enthusiasm for your project much more convincingly than simply saying you're very interested in it (a classic case of 'show, don't tell').

You also don't need to repeat your grades and academic achievements (other parts of your PhD application will cover those). Instead, try to underline experiences that relate to this project. Has a particular module or Masters dissertation topic prepared you with useful subject knowledge or methodological skills? If so, highlight it.

It's also fine, within reason, to be honest about the skills you don't have and to identify your training needs. This shows you're being practical about your project and thinking seriously about what it will require. Just make sure you can realistically acquire the skills and training you need within the time available (this goes back to the feasibility).

Showing your project is a good fit for the university is also relatively simple. There should already be some reasons why you've chosen this university for your PhD so make sure you explain what they are. Perhaps there's a particular supervisor you'd like to work with , or facilities and resources your research could use. The key is to emphasise the fit between the project and the university – so don't just say you want to research there because it's highly ranked .

PhD research proposal structure

Hopefully the above sections have given you a few ideas for the things your proposal needs to include. Let's be honest though, the scariest thing about a proposal isn't deciding what to include: it's actually writing it.

But, if we flip that on its head, we remember that all a research proposal really is is a piece of writing that follows a pretty standard format. And that's a lot less scary.

Research proposal structure

Because proposals for PhD all have to do the same things, they mostly follow a similar structure. Yours will probably go something like this:

  • Title – Keep it simple and descriptive: the clever alliteration and quotes can come later when you write up your thesis. For now, you just want the person reading this to know exactly what your research is about and, perhaps, which prospective supervisor to send it to.
  • Overview – Start by defining your research question (the what) and explaining how it contributes to current work in your field (the why). This is also a good place to reference one or two pieces of scholarship: the full literature review can wait until your PhD begins, but you should show that you have some understanding of relevant academic research.
  • Methodology – Make sure the reader understands the practical and / or theoretical approaches you'll take to your research. What data will you collect, how will you collect it and how will you analyse it? Ideally refer to relevant research methods and models. It's also a good idea to provide some sort of roadmap for how you'll go about things. Don't worry, you can change it later (and you will).
  • Outcomes and impact – What will exist as a result of your research (other than just another PhD on a library shelf) and what will it make possible? You don't need to identify every specific outcome from your project (blue sky research is fine) but you should think about what some potential outcomes might be.

You probably won't need to include a specific conclusion - it should be obvious, by now, what your project is doing, how you're going to do it and why that matters. A quick summary sentence is fine though, if you think it will help.

Writing tips

Being able to effectively communicate academic concepts, ideas and results is a key skill for PhD research in all subjects . Think of your proposal as a chance to demonstrate this.

The good news is that the key principles of good proposal writing aren't that different from other work you've probably done as a Bachelors or Masters student:

  • Be clear – The person reading your research proposal should know exactly what it is you're proposing to research, with no room for ambiguity and confusion. This is important on a practical level (they need to know where to send it) but it's also important to the success of your application: a confusing proposal suggests a confused project. Try having a friend read it and ask them "do you know what it is I'm proposing to do here?" (even if they don't understand the details).
  • Be concise – You will have more ideas than you can include in your proposal. That's fine. Choose the best ones and leave the others for your interview .
  • be coherent – Follow something like the structure above. Don't start with your methodology, then say what it is you want to research.

How long should a PhD research proposal be?

Honestly? As long as the university asks for it to be. Most will have guidelines and you should follow them closely if so.

If you honestly can't find a suggested word count for your proposal, then consider asking a prospective supervisor . If you still aren't sure, aim for somewhere between 1,000-2,000 words .

As a very general rule, Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences are a bit longer than STEM proposals (and a lot of STEM students don't have to write one anyway, as we've explained).

Research proposal for PhD admission - dos and don'ts

Research proposals are a popular topic over on the FindAPhD blog , where we've shared stories of how students wrote theirs , along with mistakes to avoid and a counter-intuitive look at the things a PhD proposal doesn't actually need to do .

Here are a few general tips and mistakes to avoid:

#1 Give yourself enough time to do a good job

Preparing to write a PhD proposal takes time and effort. None of this is wasted as the process of evaluating and framing your ideas for a proposal will improve your project plan immensely. So will the need to decide which ideas to include.

But you need time and space to do that, so make sure you get it. How long it will take to write your PhD proposal is heavily dependent on your personal working style, but you'll likely need to give yourself at least a few weeks to do a good job.

#2 Set out to impress

A good proposal isn't a begging letter. You're approaching the university with a great idea that's going to contribute to and enhance their research. Be honest, be realistic, but don't be unnecessarily humble. They should want you and your project.

#3 Demonstrate original thinking!

You may not need to present original research findings yet, but your proposal does need to present original ideas – and it should be clear why and how those ideas are original.

Make sure you indicate how your project is going to expand, enhance or even correct existing work in your field. Remember that making an "original contribution to knowledge" is a key part of what a PhD is .

#1 Send the same proposal to several universities

A good proposal needs to explain why you want to do your research at a particular university. That's a big part of the feasibility (the fit between project, person and place) and methodology (how are you going to use this university's equipment and archives; when and where will you need to travel).

It's OK to apply to more than one university in parallel, but, in that case, you're writing research proposals .

#2 Use online proposal templates (without evaluating them first!)

It can be tempting to search for PhD proposal samples on the internet, but make sure you evaluate what you find. Some websites may host old proposals from previous PhD students, but there's no way of knowing how relevant these are to your subject and university – or if they were even successful! More 'generic' research proposal examples can offer guidance, but they won't be tailored to your specific project.

The best place to look for a PhD proposal sample is your university. Consider asking your supervisor if they can share a good proposal from a previous student in your subject – or put you in touch with a current student you can ask.

#3 Confuse the proposal with the PhD

We've covered this on the blog , but it's simple enough to include here too.

You're setting out to do a PhD, but you (probably!) haven't done one yet. So you don't need to include research findings, in-depth analysis or a comprehesive literature review. You need to make a case for the research and analysis you want to do.

#4 Ignore your university's help and guidance

The advice on this page is necessarily quite general. We're considering adding guides to writing PhD proposals in specific subjects in future but, for now, the best place to get specific advice for your academic field is probably the university you're applying to.

See if you can get some subject-specific tips by contacting a supervisor , or just checking with the admissions team for your department.

And remember: if they give you a structure and a word count, stick to it.

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  • Writing a research proposal for a PhD application

How to write a research proposal for a PhD application

What is a research proposal.

A research proposal gives details of the direction of your future research, usually based on a research question and a chapter-by-chapter approach to answering it.

For PhD applications, this proposal will be assessed to see:

  • whether the project is likely to be completed within three years of full-time research
  • whether it can be effectively supervised at the university
  • whether you are competent and keen enough to complete it.

There may be other factors affecting whether you get a place at the University of Brighton:

  • whether the project fits a growing or established research priority of the university
  • how the proposal fits with a current cohort and the research environment

A successful proposal will leave the panel in no doubt on these, and you should prepare to show the strength of your idea and demonstrate your suitability.

Within the proposal, you should take the opportunity to clearly outline your research idea; your research methodology and critical approaches; your experience in this field of research where you can; and how your work will be offering an original contribution to knowledge, theories and/or practice. 

Find more details about a PhD in your discipline at the University of Brighton

How to get a prospective supervisor's help with your proposal

The strongest proposals are often ones that have been written jointly between a prospective student and prospective supervisor.

As Professor Pollen states in our film, supervisors have an understanding of the language used in proposals and the skillsets that asessors will want to see -- whether for a university position or a funding application.

To develop a strong proposal, we recommend you  work with a possible supervisor  at the University of Brighton who can help shape your project for feasibility and suitability within our institution. This person may then become your lead supervisor.

Please enable targeting cookies in order to view this video content on our website, or you can watch the video on YouTube .

What journey leads to a PhD application?  This film was made by the University of Brighton for UKRI and features University of Brighton students and academics as well as those from other partner universities.

Finding a PhD theme and understanding the university research environment

You may be responding to an advertised call for a particular project that has already achieved funding. Alternatively, you may want to propose a personally developed project. 

If you are responding to a call then the advertisement will have clear guidance as to what research experience and interest a candidate will need. This should help you structure your PhD research proposal.

If you are proposing a personally developed project then it should be carefully written to show the viability within the university's current research environment and a specific supervisory possibility at the university.

Some applicants have found our repository of theses helpful for the development and refinement of their research idea. You can find over 1000 theses completed at the University of Brighton over the past 40 years at our repository of successful PhD student theses . 

Our research database has useful leads to potential supervisory staff and a strong idea of the university's current research priorities online:

  • Explore our PhD disciplinary programme search tools including free search and A-Z 
  • Explore our research centres (COREs)  or our research groups (REGs) 
  • Visit our research database of staff, projects and organisational units.

Once you have identified a potential lead researcher of a research project most aligned to yours, do not hesitate to email them.

Explain who you are, your motivation to do a PhD in their field of study and with them. They will let you know if they are interested in your project and would be interested in potentially supervising your PhD. If they cannot commit, they may be able to help you identify another researcher who could be available and interested.

By liaising with a suitable supervisor, your proposal will benefit from expert help and be channelled towards the appropriate disciplinary environment.

If you are in doubt about whether we can offer the appropriate supervision, please contact the  Doctoral College .

Find out more about your opportunities for a PHD on our FAQ page

What should a research proposal contain?

A research proposal should include the following:

1. Indicative title of the topic area

This should accurately reflect what it is that you want to study and the central issues that you are going to address.

It may be useful to present this in the format of a statement (perhaps a quote) and a question, separated by a colon. For example: '"The tantalising future of research": how are research proposals developed and assessed?'

2. Context / rationale / why is this study important? (300 – 500 words)

Introduce your specific area of study. You should identify the theoretical context within which your research will be developed by discussing the discipline(s) and or field/s of study relevant to your research.

This means outlining the key theoretical area(s) you will draw upon to enable you to find out what it is that you want to know (for example, how it is underpinned from methods in the social sciences; arts and humanities; life, health and physical sciences).

What we are looking for here is an indication that you understand and have done some research into the wider theoretical context.

Developing the context is just one part of this section; you are building a case / rationale for the study area. Why is this study important, which theoretical areas support this? Can you identify any gaps in current understanding that help you build the case for this research study?

For example, this section might take the form of: a series of statements on the current landmark areas of thought; a recognition of what has not yet been done thoroughly enough or where there is territory for research between these landmark studies; and where your study will fill the gaps you have identified.

3. Literature review (approximately 700 – 900 words)

Here you are demonstrating that you are aware of what has been and what is currently being written about your topic.

It will certainly include the up-to-date and relevant past landmark academic literature. It may also include other evidence of current thought and attitude, for example, government documents or media coverage. Practice-led PhD studies may make reference to innovation and trends in industry or professional practice.

We are looking for you to make links between this body of literature and your proposed area of study. This will support the ways you have identified gaps in the current global knowledge-base. A PhD thesis arises from original research leading to new knowledge or a significant contribution to existing knowledge. If, at this stage, you have some thoughts on how your research is likely to contribute to knowledge then include details in your proposal.

This section should include citations which are compiled into a reference list at the end of the document (see point 7).

4. The research questions or hypotheses (approximately 200 words)

Having told us what you want to study and why, and then illustrated these ideas with reference to a body of literature, the next task is to distil your ideas into a tentative set of research questions, hypotheses, aims and objectives (as per the underpinning discipline requires) that are manageable and achievable within a normal PhD timeframe (see 6 below). There are typically between three and ten questions/aims of this kind.

5. Research approach/ methodologies / methods (approximately 400 words)

There will be many research approaches open to you. In your proposal, suggest the methodological approach that you might take and make a reasoned case as to why the research questions you have posed are best addressed by this approach.

You might also suggest what methods you would use to generate data that can help you address your research questions.

6. Timescale/research planning (approximately 200 words)

A full-time PhD should take three years to complete, although you may require more time to acquire the relevant skills prior to commencing your research. Part-time study will take longer (up to five - six years). Within this timeframe, you will need to demonstrate your awareness of time management and planning, for example the length of time for primary research/ fieldwork.

7. Reference list 

You should include a reference list of all the sources that you referred to in the text using a recognised referencing style appropriate to your discipline (for example Harvard or Vancouver for Sciences).

Evidence of thorough background reading might include between ten and twenty citations at this point. They should demonstrate to an expert that you are knowledgeable of the landmark work in your field.

There are a number of books widely available that may help in preparing your research proposal (as well as in completing your research degree), here are a couple to point you in the right direction:

Bell, J (2010, 5th edn) Doing Your Research Project: A Guide for First-time Researchers in Education & Social Science , Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Baxter, L, Hughes, C and Tight, M (2007, 3rd edn) How to Research , Buckingham: Open University Press.

a man at a desk writing

Research proposals in practice-led and professionally-based disciplines

The University of Brighton prides itself on the quality of its research in areas that intersect with professional practices and direct impact through in-the-field relationships with co-producers.

We are very supportive of doctoral projects that bring positive results from these methodolgies and practices.

Some of the subject areas that have supported personal practice as research include: design, art, architecture, media production and creative writing, with successful approaches including autoethnographic methods and public participation or site-specific interventions. 

Some of the areas that have benefited from significant professional practice and industry relationship-focused research have included: engineering, nursing, business administration and teaching. 

The research proposal will still need to demonstrate your capability as a researcher with a project that is workable and fits with the university's interests and capacities. 

You should, however, adapt your proposal to demonstrate the value that your practice can bring to the research. This should be in tandem with a clear understanding of the relationship between practice and research.

A clear competence in practice should be evidenced, but do be aware that your proposal will be judged on its research and the new knowledge that is developed and shared, rather than the quality of practice in and of itself.

Personal practices, experiences and data gained through professional relationships may form part of a standard PhD thesis and proposal as description of work and resulting data. You will only be appyling for a practice-led component to be taken into account if this will form a significant part of the representation and examination of the knowledge-base. In such cases, the thesis is signficantly shorter.

Some pitfalls in the applications for practice-led or practice-focused research include:

  • An imbalance between the practical and theoretical elements
  • Too arbitrary a divide between the practice and theory
  • Using practice to simply provide personal illustrations of established theories or concepts
  • Insufficient sense of how the research knowledge will be held and disseminated
  • Insufficiently contained scope for a three-year project – for example, where the practice is described as a life-long investigation – with no clarity on an end-point
  • A project that could be better or similarly tackled through a standard PhD in terms of efficient response to the research questions. For example where the practice element might be represented as data or results instead of examined practice.

Your potential supervisor will be able to advise where a proposal will include significant elements beyond the traditional thesis. For further information, please contact the Doctoral College .

Hand gripping toothbrush designed with two flexible handles designed to be squeezed as help for rheumatoid arthritis sufferers

A set of designed objects submitted as part of a practice-led PhD project in medical therapeutic design, by Dr Tom Ainsworth, who went on to become a teacher, researcher and supervisor at the University of Brighton.

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5 Ways to Perfect Your Graduate School Application Essay

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If you’re considering graduate school , you have probably come across application essay requirements. To many, the thought of distilling your experiences and personality into one brief essay can be daunting. How do you show these graduate admissions teams all of the great reasons why you would be perfect for their program within a couple of pages? Today’s blog will help you navigate the application essay process. We’ll provide tips on how to write a strong application essay that will stand out to graduate admissions teams.

Tip 1: Give yourself plenty of time

Everyone’s process is different, but in my experience, the best writing comes from taking your time. For me, I need a day or two to step away from my writing before I can edit it with fresh eyes. If I can take my time during the editing process, I’m able to catch the fine details, like a sentence that reads awkwardly or a tiny typo. Polishing your work is important, especially for graduate school applications. Schools are looking for applicants who can write and analyze at a graduate level, and your application essay is a glimpse into those skills. If your application essay doesn’t flow well or has grammatical issues, it can shed a poor light on those skills. 

To ensure you have plenty of time to make your essay shine, start writing 3-4 weeks before the deadline. This way, you have time to write a draft, step away, edit it with fresh eyes, and even ask a friend to look over your draft. The fine-tuning process may just help your essay stand out among the dozens of other applicants who may have rushed their essays.

A monthly calendar or planner sits open on a table

Tip 2: Make a plan

Now that you’ve set aside plenty of time for writing and editing, it’s time to plan what you want to say. Your plan could look like a formal outline , or it could just be a brainstorming session. Whatever works for you, take some time to sit with the application prompt and plan how you will answer. 

It’s important to plan what examples you want to provide in your essay. You will probably write about your personal or professional qualities that make you a good fit for the program. Provide examples that demonstrate those qualities to your reader. As you read the essay prompt, think about specific anecdotes from your life that you can use to answer the question. 

For example, let’s say a publishing program asks you why you want to study publishing. In your response, you might talk about how you read an article about disparities in the publishing industry and how that made you want to become an editor who promotes authors from historically marginalized groups. If you have an example of how you promoted equity in a past job, add that to your response to show you have already started taking action. 

Whatever traits you highlight in your response, try to include real-life examples that illustrate these qualities. Once you have a plan of what you want to say in your response and what anecdotes you’ll use to support your points, it’ll be easier and quicker to get a draft written.

Tip 3: Fill in the gaps

When I started writing graduate application essays, I often fell into the trap of just rewriting my resume in a paragraph format. I was so anxious to demonstrate my experiences that I ended up just creating a list rather than a story. Don’t fall into the same trap!

Instead, think of your application essay as a way to fill in the gaps in your story. Your resume shows admissions teams what you have done, but your application essay should show them what you have learned from those experiences. How did you grow from that volunteer experience? What about your last job made you decide to return to school and change careers? These are the kinds of questions your application essay will answer for the admissions readers.

Additionally, your application essay is the place to showcase your personality . You want to keep your writing professional, but it’s okay to weave a bit of humor or quirkiness into your essay. Graduate programs want students who will add to the learning community, and showcasing your personality helps them envision how you’ll contribute to other students’ experiences. 

A graduate applicant sits at a desk and types an application essay on their laptop. They wear an orange cardigan and an engagement ring and have a notebook and coffee mug to their left.

Tip 4: Avoid generic stories and phrases

Because essay prompts are often general, it’s easy to write generic responses. If the prompt feels cliche, you might be tempted to use cliches in your response as well. Try to avoid this, since cliche phrases can make your writing seem less authentic to you. You’re trying to showcase your unique qualities, so using an over-used saying won’t help your cause. Some example cliches to avoid are “against all odds,” “little did I know,” “I learned more from them than they did from me,” etc.

The same goes for the anecdotes you use. The stories you tell in your essay should be unique to you and relate directly back to the prompt. Try to avoid tangential or cookie-cutter stories that don’t relate to your overall essay theme. For example, instead of talking about your babysitting business in high school to show that you are industrious, tell the admissions team about a recent work or school project you helped make possible. 

Tip 5: Be aware of your audience

This final tip relates back to the editing process we discussed earlier. Regardless of the field, graduate programs need students who can read, analyze, and write at an advanced level. As such, be sure the writing mechanics in your essay are really tight. Make sure you don’t have run-on sentences, typos, or spelling issues. Try reading your essay aloud to find any problems with the flow of your writing. If you take the time to polish your writing, it will show, and you will be a more appealing candidate.  Ultimately, there is no key to writing the perfect application essay. Hopefully, with these tips, you will feel more prepared to write a great essay. If you have more questions about the application process for Emerson graduate programs, be sure to schedule a call with us! We look forward to your unique stories and application essays.

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  • Statement of Purpose, Personal Statement, and Writing Sample

Details about submitting a statement of purpose, personal statement, and a writing sample as part of your degree program application

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Statement of Purpose 

The statement of purpose is very important to programs when deciding whether to admit a candidate. Your statement should be focused, informative, and convey your research interests and qualifications. You should describe your reasons and motivations for pursuing a graduate degree in your chosen degree program, noting the experiences that shaped your research ambitions, indicating briefly your career objectives, and concisely stating your past work in your intended field of study and in related fields. Your degree program of interest may have specific guidance or requirements for the statement of purpose, so be sure to review the degree program page for more information. Unless otherwise noted, your statement should not exceed 1,000 words. 

Personal Statement

Please describe the personal experiences that led you to pursue graduate education and how these experiences will contribute to the academic environment and/or community in your program or Harvard Griffin GSAS. These may include social and cultural experiences, leadership positions, community engagement, equity and inclusion efforts, other opportunities, or challenges. Your statement should be no longer than 500 words.

Please note that there is no expectation to share detailed sensitive information and you should refrain from including anything that you would not feel at ease sharing. Please also note that the Personal Statement should complement rather than duplicate the content provided in the Statement of Purpose. 

Visit Degree Programs and navigate to your degree program of interest to determine if a Personal Statement is required. The degree program pages will be updated by early September indicating if the Personal Statement is required for your program.

Writing Sample 

Please visit Degree Programs and navigate to your degree program of interest to determine if a writing sample is required. When preparing your writing sample, be sure to follow program requirements, which may include format, topic, or length. 

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how to write an application for phd admission

  • Personal History Statement

The Personal History Statement helps reviewers learn more about you as a whole person and as a potential graduate student. This may include relevant details on community service, leadership roles, participation in diverse teams, and significant barriers that you overcame to pursue graduate studies.

The Purdue University graduate application allows applicants to select up to two campuses and/or graduate majors per application.  If you are applying to a 2nd choice program, you are only required to submit one personal history statement with your application. Be sure your personal history statement is is all-inclusive, and supports your suitability for your enrollment in all the graduate programs listed on your application. 

Required of all applicants:

  • Describe how your background and life experiences contribute to your ability to be both persistent and resourceful in your graduate studies.
  • Describe how your life experiences have prepared you to contribute to an academic community where scholars with diverse research interests, abilities, backgrounds, and experiences are supported, respected, and valued.
  • Please address concerns that you may have that your academic record does not reflect your true capabilities and discuss mitigating factors that have affected your academic record. Reviewers will be interested in understanding your accomplishments relative to your opportunities.

The Academic Statement of Purpose and the Personal History Statement are two of the most important documents in your graduate application. The documents should be concise, clear, and free of spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. You should have others review your document for content, organization, and to ensure that there are no errors. Information in the Personal History Statement should complement but not duplicate information in the Academic Statement of Purpose.

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Before applying to the Ph.D. Program at Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, review our full list of prerequisite information and complete admission requirements. The admissions committee reviews all completed applications through a holistic review process to select candidates for interviews.


Candidates for the Ph.D. Program must meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • Completion of a bachelor's degree, preferably in the biological or physical sciences, from an accredited institution. 
  • A minimum cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. GPAs from graduate degrees may also be considered for competitive candidates if improvement of academic record is evident.
  • Degree conferral before the program begins (program begins in July).

Suggested undergraduate coursework:

  • Applicants to our Ph.D. program are encouraged to have completed coursework with demonstrated proficiency (B average or above) in their math and science courses. Additionally, advanced courses in biology, chemistry, and physiology are encouraged.
  • Applicants interested in applying to the Biomedical Engineering and Physiology Track are advised to take courses in quantitative science and engineering, such as signal processing, computer science, and instrumentation.

Holistic review

Our Ph.D. program prepares students to translate scientific discoveries into applications that improve patient care. This requires a wide range of skills, aptitudes, and characteristics. Along with the basic set of prerequisites, the track admissions committees take a holistic approach to admissions; meaning, they take into consideration the many factors that make up an applicant. These acceptance factors include:

  • Academic performance
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal statement
  • Research experience

Transfer student policy

The only pathway to matriculation at Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences is through application during the annual application window, September 1 - December 4.

The Ph.D. program does not accept transfer students; however, transfer credits for graduate courses taken at another institution may be considered if appointed to our Ph.D. program.

Application window

Apply between Sept. 1 and Dec. 4 for the following academic year.

To get in touch with the Ph.D. Program, fill out the form on the Contact Us page .

how to write an application for phd admission

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Old Dominion University junior Ishan Perera is on track to become a neurosurgeon. With a biology major and minors in chemistry and computer science, Ishan wants to make a difference in the lives of hospital patients. Through hands-on classroom experiences in ODU’s Human Cadaver Dissection course, Ishan learned the inner workings of human anatomy to prepare him for a career in medicine. Ishan is applying the skills he’s learning at ODU to his work as an emergency room technician and volunteer with the Virginia Beach EMS, the nation’s largest volunteer prehospital medical services. As a student in the Perry Honor’s College, Ishan participated in medical research and shadowed doctors and observed surgeries with local health practitioners. ODU’s metropolitan campus is in close proximity to Eastern Virginia Medical School, and level one trauma hospitals, allowing students to further their education and get jobs in the medical field after they graduate.

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Professional creative writing - literary genres in book publishing certificate, admission requirements.

Terms and Deadlines

Degree and GPA Requirements


Additional standards for non-native english speakers, additional standards for international applicants.

For the 2024-2025 academic year

Fall 2024 quarter (beginning in September)

Final submission deadline: July 26, 2024

International submission deadline: June 4, 2024

Winter 2025 quarter (beginning in January)

Final submission deadline: November 22, 2024

International submission deadline: September 9, 2024

Spring 2025 quarter (beginning in March)

Final submission deadline: February 14, 2025

International submission deadline: December 9, 2024

Summer 2025 quarter (beginning in June)

Final submission deadline: May 2, 2025

International submission deadline: February 24, 2025

Final submission deadline: Applicants cannot submit applications after the final submission deadline.

Degrees and GPA Requirements

Bachelors degree: All graduate applicants must hold an earned baccalaureate from a regionally accredited college or university or the recognized equivalent from an international institution.

Grade point average: The minimum undergraduate GPA for admission consideration for graduate study at the University of Denver is a cumulative 2.5 on a 4.0 scale or a 2.5 on a 4.0 scale for the last 60 semester credits or 90 quarter credits (approximately two years of work) for the baccalaureate degree. An earned master’s degree or higher from a regionally accredited institution supersedes the minimum standards for the baccalaureate. For applicants with graduate coursework but who have not earned a master’s degree or higher, the GPA from the graduate work may be used to meet the requirement. The minimum GPA is a cumulative 3.0 on a 4.0 scale for all graduate coursework undertaken.

Program GPA requirement: The minimum undergraduate GPA for admission consideration for this program is a cumulative 2.5 on a 4.0 scale

Applicant must have successfully completed or be admitted to the Denver Publishing Institute course.

Official scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), International English Language Testing System (IELTS), C1 Advanced or Duolingo English Test are required of all graduate applicants, regardless of citizenship status, whose native language is not English or who have been educated in countries where English is not the native language. Your TOEFL/IELTS/C1 Advanced/Duolingo English Test scores are valid for two years from the test date.

The minimum TOEFL/IELTS/C1 Advanced/Duolingo English Test score requirements for this degree program are:

Minimum TOEFL Score (Internet-based test): 80 with minimum of 20 on each subscore

Minimum IELTS Score: 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 on each band score

Minimum C1 Advanced Score: 176

Minimum Duolingo English Test Score: 115 with a subscore minimum of 105 for Literacy, Comprehension, and Conversation and minimum subscore of 95 for Production

English Conditional Acceptance Offered: No, this program does not offer English Conditional Admission.

Read the English Language Proficiency policy for more details.

Read the Required Tests for GTA Eligibility policy for more details.

Per Student & Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) regulation, international applicants must meet all standards for admission before an I-20 or DS-2019 is issued, [per U.S. Federal Register: 8 CFR § 214.3(k)] or is academically eligible for admission and is admitted [per 22 C.F.R. §62]. Read the Additional Standards For International Applicants policy for more details.

Application Materials


Writing Sample

We require a scanned copy of your transcripts from every college or university you have attended. Scanned copies must be clearly legible and sized to print on standard 8½-by-11-inch paper. Transcripts that do not show degrees awarded must also be accompanied by a scanned copy of the diploma or degree certificate. If your academic transcripts were issued in a language other than English, both the original documents and certified English translations are required.

Transcripts and proof of degree documents for postsecondary degrees earned from institutions outside of the United States will be released to a third-party international credential evaluator to assess U.S. education system equivalencies. Beginning July 2023, a non-refundable fee for this service will be required before the application is processed.

Upon admission to the University of Denver, official transcripts will be required from each institution attended.

Résumé Instructions

The résumé (or C.V.) should include work experience, research, and/or volunteer work.

Writing Sample Instructions

Graduate Certificates in Professional Creative Writing require a sample of your creative writing, preferably in the genre of the certificate to which you are applying. The sample may comprise 2-3 double-spaced pages of prose (fiction or creative nonfiction), 30-40 single- or double-spaced lines of poetry, or 1-2 single-spaced pages of dramatic writing (monologue, play, or screenplay). NOTE: Applicants may submit the personal statement from their Denver Publishing Institute application to satisfy the writing sample requirement.

Start the Application

Online Application

Financial Aid Information

Start your application.

Your submitted materials will be reviewed once all materials and application fees have been received.

Our program can only consider your application for admission if our Office of Graduate Education has received all your online materials and supplemental materials by our application deadline.

Application Fee: $50.00 Application Fee

International Degree Evaluation Fee: $50.00 Evaluation Fee for degrees (bachelor's or higher) earned from institutions outside the United States.

Applicants should complete their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by February 15. Visit the Office of Financial Aid for additional information.


  1. Cover Letter for PhD Application: Example From a PhD Student

    Formal salutation. In an official letter like this one, you should address the reader in a professional and formal way. If you know who'll be reading your cover letter, go with Dear Dr. [Surname] or Dear Professor [Surname]. If you don't, go with Dear Sir/Madam. The specific PhD program or position.

  2. How to Write a Cover Letter for PhD Applications

    A cover letter should be addressed to a named person i.e. "Dear Professor Smith". For a PhD application, this will usually be the PhD supervisor, but may be a specific person in charge of recruitment. If you are still unsure who to address the cover letter to, it should be directed to the Head of Department.

  3. 3 PHD Application cover letter examples [Get the job]

    Write your cover letter in the body of an email/message. When writing your PHD Application cover letter, it's best to type the content into the body of your email (or the job site messaging system) and not to attach the cover letter as a separate document.. This ensures that your cover letter gets seen as soon as a recruiter or employer opens your message.

  4. How to Write a Statement of Purpose for PhD Admission

    A PhD statement of purpose gives admissions committees an introduction to your research interests and why their specific program is of interest to you. Like a cover letter for a job application, a great statement of purpose allows you to highlight your strengths, interests and experience. If you need statement of purpose advice, keep reading ...

  5. How to Apply For a PhD: Step-By-Step

    Step 2.2: draft a research proposal. After completing a period of research, you should write up a draft research proposal. While this won't be your final piece for submission with your application, having a draft can be useful when it comes to step three, contacting prospective supervisors. You can find out more about how to write a good PhD ...

  6. How To Write a PhD Cover Letter (With Template)

    How to write a cover letter for your Ph.D. application. Follow these steps to write your academic cover letter: 1. Review the program and organization information. Before crafting your academic cover letter, review the information you have about the program you're applying for. Avoid using the same cover letter for each organization, as they ...

  7. CV for PhD application example + guide [Secure your place]

    I've also included a PhD CV example, to give you a better idea of what you need to include. Here's what I'll cover in the guide: Guide contents. PhD application CV example. Structuring and formatting your CV. Writing your CV profile. Detailing your education. Detailing your relevant experience.

  8. How to nail your PhD proposal and get accepted

    When writing your PhD proposal you need to show that your PhD is worth it, achievable, and that you have the ability to do it at your chosen university. With all of that in mind, let's take a closer look at each section of a standard PhD research proposal and the overall structure. 1. Front matter.

  9. How to Prepare a Strong PhD Application

    It allows your letter of recommendation writers enough time in advance to thoughtfully prepare a letter that speaks to who you are as a PhD candidate. It gives you more time to review your materials, fix any errors, and proofread, proofread, proofread. Finally, it means a lot less stress when the deadline starts rapidly approaching.

  10. How to Write a Personal Statement for a PhD Program Application

    Set aside enough time: Although personal statements are generally short in length (approx. 700 words; 1-2 pages), give yourself ample time to write a strong, well-written statement. It takes more time than you think to develop a final draft for submission. Focus on your spelling, grammar, and vocabulary: It's important to present a well ...

  11. CV for PhD Application

    The purpose of an academic CV for a PhD application is to provide a summary of your educational background and demonstrate the research skills and relevant experience you have that make you capable of undertaking a PhD. It should be divided into nine sections: (1) contact information, (2) research interests, (3) education, (4) research and work ...

  12. How to Write a PhD Motivation Letter

    To help you write a motivation letter for a PhD application, we have outlined what to include in the start, main body, and closing sections. How to Start a Motivation Letter. Introduction: Start with a brief introduction in which you clearly state your intention to apply for a particular programme. Think of this as describing what the document ...

  13. How to write a research proposal for a strong PhD application

    A research proposal should present your idea or question and expected outcomes with clarity and definition - the what. It should also make a case for why your question is significant and what value it will bring to your discipline - the why. What it shouldn't do is answer the question - that's what your research will do.

  14. Writing an Academic Cover Letter for a PhD Application

    Try to match the font size, type, line spacing and margin size to your academic CV for neat and consistent presentation. Your cover letter should be addressed to the PhD supervisor, starting with a "Dear [academic title] [surname]", for example, "Dear Professor Williams". Tip: Make sure to get the title of the supervisor correct.

  15. How to Create The Best CV for a PhD Application (+ Example CV)

    Step 5: Proofread. There's one last important step to writing a CV for a PhD application. Make sure to double check and proofread your CV before submitting your PhD application. An academic CV for a PhD admission should be free of mistakes, so the school will see how dedicated and detail-oriented you are.

  16. Top Ten Tips for Writing a PhD Application Statement of Purpose

    5. Do Not Focus on Teaching. PhD programs are all about training you to do high-quality, independent research. That is the purpose. In your statement, an emphasis on a love for teaching can be detrimental if it comes across as your primary objective. It is true that having a PhD qualifies you to become a university instructor.

  17. The Guide to Your PhD Application in 2023

    This section will give you an indication of what you need to do to be able to apply for the chosen doctoral programme. 1. Your academic record. One of the main things the universities will be looking for is a good or excellent academic record which is especially important if you are applying for a PhD scholarship.

  18. CV for PhD Application: How to Write One Like a True Scholar

    The admission rates hover around 10% and only about half of the admitted candidates actually finish the degree, according to a recent psychology research. ... Tips on how to write a CV for PhD application. Apart from making sure the content of your CV is spot on, you should also follow some well-established formatting tips. ...

  19. How to Write a PhD Cover Letter

    Follow these guidelines to help you write a strong cover letter for your PhD application. 1. Greeting. Like any application letter, a cover letter for PhD a position should have a polite and professional greeting. It's best to address your PhD cover letter to a specific person, such as the head of the department or the admission team. 2. Body ...

  20. How to Write a Great PhD Research Proposal

    Written by Mark Bennett. You'll need to write a research proposal if you're submitting your own project plan as part of a PhD application. A good PhD proposal outlines the scope and significance of your topic and explains how you plan to research it. It's helpful to think about the proposal like this: if the rest of your application explains ...

  21. How To Write a Cover Letter For A PhD Application (With Example)

    Centre your cover letter on where your qualities overlap with the university's expectations. Related: How To Apply For The First Graduate Certificate Online. 2. Write your personal details. The top section of your cover letter includes details that identify you, including your first and last name, email address and phone number.

  22. How to Write a CV for PhD Application (With Example)

    Here are some steps you can follow while drafting an academic CV to send with your PhD application: 1. Research the university and program. Study the application thoroughly, understand the research project, and research the university and program you want to attend before drafting a CV. You can do this by looking at university rankings and ...

  23. How to write a research proposal for a PhD application

    1. Indicative title of the topic area. This should accurately reflect what it is that you want to study and the central issues that you are going to address. It may be useful to present this in the format of a statement (perhaps a quote) and a question, separated by a colon.

  24. 5 Ways to Perfect Your Graduate School Application Essay

    We'll provide tips on how to write a strong application essay that will stand out to graduate admissions teams. Tip 1: Give yourself plenty of time. Everyone's process is different, but in my experience, the best writing comes from taking your time. For me, I need a day or two to step away from my writing before I can edit it with fresh eyes.

  25. Statement of Purpose, Personal Statement, and Writing Sample

    Writing Sample . Please visit Degree Programs and navigate to your degree program of interest to determine if a writing sample is required. When preparing your writing sample, be sure to follow program requirements, which may include format, topic, or length.

  26. Personal History Statement

    Tips for writing your Personal History Statement. Personal History Statement. The Personal History Statement helps reviewers learn more about you as a whole person and as a potential graduate student. This may include relevant details on community service, leadership roles, participation in diverse teams, and significant barriers that you overcame to pursue graduate studies.

  27. Admissions

    This requires a wide range of skills, aptitudes, and characteristics. Along with the basic set of prerequisites, the track admissions committees take a holistic approach to admissions; meaning, they take into consideration the many factors that make up an applicant. These acceptance factors include: Academic performance; Letters of recommendation

  28. Admission Requirements

    Submit an online application for the graduate degree program. Check the program's application deadline and submit all materials by the date listed. Begin the application process at least a month before the application deadline. Select the academic program of interest carefully.

  29. Graduate Admissions

    Graduate Admissions. General Information ... Login with the username and password you created and used to apply for admission. (Application Portal) Check Application Status. Confirm Your Admission. Defer Your Application . 5115 Hampton Blvd Norfolk, VA 23529 Contact ... Writing Center Academic Success

  30. Professional Creative Writing

    Degrees and GPA Requirements Bachelors degree: All graduate applicants must hold an earned baccalaureate from a regionally accredited college or university or the recognized equivalent from an international institution. Grade point average: The minimum undergraduate GPA for admission consideration for graduate study at the University of Denver is a cumulative 2.5 on a 4.0 scale or a 2.5 on a 4 ...