“4 Things To Know About Applying To Ph.D Programs”

So you want to be a doctor…

Ok, not that kind of doctor. The other kind of doctor, a Ph.D. Someone who is a certified expert in their given field. It takes many years of work and sacrifice, and should be well thought out before beginning. But how do you get there? If you’re the first in your family to pursue advanced education, the route may not be too simple. So here are some things to know:

You don’t have to have a master’s degree.

For many programs, a masters’ degree is not a prerequisite to application. Be aware that this is field specific. In your research, look at the norms for your field to determine what is best for you. If a master’s degree isn’t required, build your resume during college and even gain some relevant, full-time work experience before applying to Ph.D programs as an alternative to a master’s degree. There are multiple ways to build your resume outside of a formal master’s program.

You don’t have to go into debt.

As a Ph.D student, you will receive a tuition waiver for your university. Receiving free tuition is one of the ways the university compensates you for conducting research, publishing papers, and being a TA for classes. In addition to your tuition waiver, most universities will provide a stipend for your living expenses. According to Glassdoor, the average graduate student salary is $30,105. Keep in mind that this amount will vary depending on your institution, and may be lower for non-STEM students. Some institutions also offer bonuses when you secure a grant, and pay additional stipend amounts for teaching activities. Whatever your stipend amount, it should be enough to support a basic student lifestyle.

You may not have to pay to apply (or interview).

If you are facing financial hardship or come from a low-income family, you may be able to receive application fee waivers from schools. You will want to research this well in advance, because the fee waivers may have their own application and documentation requirements. Additionally, if you are in a program like McNair scholars or are a veteran, you should be eligible for a waiver so long as you provide documentation of your status. If you can’t find information on waivers, ask! All they can do is say no. And if you are invited to interview for your program, you should not have to pay for your travel. If the university does not offer to pay for the travel but you want to attend the interview, tell the program and they may be able to help you.

You can do it.

Finally, you can do it. If I can get into a Ph.D program, you most certainly can. A positive attitude can take you so far, and a confident attitude will show the admission committee why they want you in your program! We all have unique experiences, skills, and traits that we bring to our programs. Whatever yours is, don’t be afraid to let that light shine through your application.

– Ashley Queener, Ph.D student in Immunology based in Chicago, IL


First and Last Name: Ashley Queener

Occupation: Graduate Student

Side ventures: Studying for qualifying exams 🙂

Hometown: Fort Wayne, IN

How can people contact Ashley for more information: 

Twitter: @aquee__ 

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