The Application Process

Application Categories | Application Requirements | How Admissions Decisions Are Made

The application process requires an investment of time and resources, but careful planning can help you create an application that stands apart from the competition. The following sections provide tips to help you prepare your application.

Before you Apply

  • Perform a self-assessment, particularly with the goal of identifying your major interests, and work on achieving focus without being overly narrow.
  • Ask for advice from faculty members about schools that have programs compatible with your interests.
  • Use the Web or other materials to research program offerings, faculty, program rank, selectivity, funding practices, and demographics (size, location, etc.).
  • Compile a list of programs to which you intend to apply, then contact the programs for additional information.

Financing the Ph.D.

  • Most doctoral programs will cover your tuition costs and provide a stipend via assistantships or fellowships.
  • Assistantships usually require service of up to 20 hours per week, but fellowships are usually service-free.
  • At Notre Dame, the basic stipend is $17,500 to $21,000 per year on a nine-month basis, depending on the discipline. There are also prestigious fellowships available that carry higher levels of support.
  • Loans and grants are also available to help you fund your doctoral education, but the rule of thumb is this: Do not go if they do not pay you.

Tips for Acquiring the Best Possible Letters of Recommendation

  • Select and contact potential recommenders early.
  • Ascertain whether the person you selected would be able to write you a strong letter of recommendation (this implies that they have time and can comment favorably about your potential for graduate work).
  • Prompt your letter writers with points you would like them to address.
  • Provide letter writers with all necessary forms and instructions.
  • Provide your C.V. and a draft of your statement of intent.
  • Provide deadlines for each program.
  • Follow up to ensure that letters were mailed or submitted electronically.

Statement of Intent

The statement of intent should capture your intellectual development and interests. It should generally be 1–3 double-spaced pages in length. Once you have drafted your statement, ask a few faculty members to review it. A trip to the writing center is also beneficial as you work to polish the finished product. This is your opportunity to present a strong argument about why you would be an excellent student in the program, so be sure that you are completely satisfied with the document you submit.

  • Establish your desire for the degree and how you envision using your training and knowledge in the future.
  • Articulate why you have selected your specific program, i.e.. how your interest coincides with those of the faculty.
  • Identify the strengths that you would bring to the program (e.g., credentials, experience).
  • Explain any unusual situations but refrain from providing excuses.
  • Be sure to include your name and prospective program on each page of the statement—even though you submit the document electronically.

Timeline

  • Summer: Draft statement and conduct Web research to identify programs and faculty members of interest.
  • Early Fall: Consult with faculty at your current institution, solicit letters, and schedule and take GREs and/or English proficiency test (TOEFL/IELTS).
  • Mid-Fall: Finalize list of target programs, customize statement of intent, order unofficial transcripts to upload after deciding whether you should include grades for the fall term.
  • November: Complete applications, give recommenders final information for each program, retake GREs and/or English proficiency test (TOEFL/IELTS) if advisable.
  • December/January: Submit application; follow up to ensure that letters of recommendation and test scores were sent.
  • January–March: At Notre Dame, admissions for top candidates are usually decided during this period. Some candidates who did not receive a first-round offer but who are still being considered for admission may not receive any news until April 15 or shortly thereafter.
  • April: Most programs expect a response to an offer by April 15. Assess any offers you receive and make a decision.