Applying to Doctoral Programs
Please Note: This page is still under development
Because doctoral programs have become so competitive, applying requires a good deal of planning and preparation. Here are steps that other students have found useful:
1. Determine the field into which you plan to apply. Some of our students have applied to doctoral programs in Medical Anthropology, of course, but others have chosen programs in Public Health, Religious Studies, and African History. Each of these fields has its own criteria but, in general, you should assemble a preliminary list for review.
2. Study the full website for each program. Pay attention to how they describe themselves, and how they characterize their areas of specialization and related resources. Narrow down your list to programs that look like potentially the best fits.
3. Look closely at who teaches in each program, and whose interests most closely overlap with your own. Read these faculty members’ bios and CVs. If you find them really interesting, read some of their publications. Ideally, a program should have several faculty with whom you want to train.
4. Develop a statement about how you want to focus your doctoral research. Just as you had to develop a research question for your master’s thesis, you need to build a question for your doctoral application.
- What Makes a Good Research Question—Duke
- Ph.D. Thesis Research: Where do I Start? – Columbia University
- Developing Research Questions – DissertationRecipes.com
5. Link the work of individual faculty to your research objective(s). Develop arguments for why their contributions would be important. Do the same with the resources of the particular program and its university. Be very detailed and specific. Doing so will help you to determine which programs look best for you, and to build a strong case for your application. Remember that the more it looks like you’re stretching things, the less compelling your application will be.
6. Write to the faculty with whom you want to work. Concisely describe your background, your specific research interest, and your interest in their program. Ask if you might arrange to speak with them, either by phone or through a campus visit. Do your best to pitch your interest in terms that they can’t turn down (ask our faculty to review your inquiry, if you’d like).
7. Plan to visit the schools that most interest you. Arrange to meet with specific faculty and with students in the program, to sit in on classes, and to see each campus. Use these conversations to get insider views on each program, and advice on what to keep in mind when applying. Adjust your application list accordingly.
8. Retake the GREs if necessary. Many programs look for a range of scores; it is useful to have an idea of what to aim for. If the scores you used to apply to the MACCP program fell below this range, it is worth retaking the GREs. You can either take a prep course or use a test prep book. If testing isn’t your strong suit, do your best, and explain in your personal statement that you don’t tend to perform well on standardized tests. Either way, make sure that the rest of your application is as strong and as polished as you can make it.