The Guide to Your PhD Application Get accepted to university

If you are planning to embark on a PhD journey as many lucky and brave ones have done before you, make sure to do your research on eligibility and PhD entry requirements early on. Here are several tips that can help you with this.

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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.

Browse through 4,214 PhD programmes

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.Application 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.

Browse through 4,214 PhD programmes

7. Resume

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?"

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?"

Good luck!

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