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How to Write a Personal Statement for a PhD Program Application

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



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How To Write a Perfect Essay Like a PhD

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In 2017, 39% of high school students taking the ACT lacked the English skills necessary to successfully complete a college course. After college, 44% of hiring managers say recent grads still lack writing proficiency

Essay writing may be a pain, but it’s an important step toward getting your dream job

Before You Begin:

Review the requirements Follow all assignment guidelines, including rubrics and examples Determine the essay type Narrative: Tells a real-life story

College application usually ask for narrative essays

Write as vividly as possible and build toward a conclusion This is the only type of essay you’ll write in the first person (using “I”) Expository: Explains or defines a topic

Includes compare & contrast, cause & effect, and “how-to” questions

Present a balanced analysis of the topic Use facts, statistics, and examples ㄧ avoid emotional appeals Persuasive: Convinces the reader to believe or do something

Answers a question by taking a side or defending a position

Build a case using facts, logic, examples, and expert opinions Present all sides, but clearly explain why one position is correct Develop a topic

Narrower is better─Go deeper into a single point and how it affects the whole

Explore background information Read any required texts closely Form a working thesis (topic sentence) to guide your research

The perfect essay doesn’t come from how you write, but what you read

Research & Analysis:

Pick the Right Sources Determine the author’s credibility Is the author respected in their field? Do they cite their sources? Are they presenting a neutral, objective view of a topic?

A little author bias is okay, but your sources shouldn’t all have the same slant

Decide whether the source is appropriate Is it published in a peer-reviewed journal or a reputable institution? Does it contain the information needed for a proper citation? Was the article published within the last 5 years?

Some fields, like sciences, change rapidly and will require more recent sources

Read closely & take notes

Close reading allows you to either: Report the author’s content accurately Use key elements as background for an argument

As you read, make note of: Terms to look up Questions for further research

At the end of each chapter or article, write a brief summary of what you’ve read Always write notes in your own words to avoid accidental plagiarism Analyze the evidence

Let your notes sit for a few days to get a fresh perspective for analysis

Review notes and any new connections or thoughts Analyze the biases of each source and author Evaluate which evidence best supports your thesis Consider opposing viewpoints

Professional writers, more than anyone, spend time revising and editing their work

Writing & Revising

Create an outline


Get your readers’ attention Give context with relevant background information

Thesis statement should: Present a thesis of 1 or 2 sentences Present the topic of your paper Comment on your position or argument

To make your thesis statement more specific, use conjunctions that indicate the relationship between ideas, such as “although” or “because”

Determine the best order for your ideas

Depending on the topic, order ideas based on: Chronology Cause and effect Complexity Conclusion Restate your thesis Summarize your main points End with an interesting final statement

Write Your Essay

Use your outline as a guide to develop paragraphs Include evidence from your research to back up your arguments Cite your sources

Each discipline specifies a style for citations, but what to cite remains the same

What needs to be cited?

Quotations: Copied text identical to the original Paraphrases: Longer sections put into your own words Summaries: Restatement of the main idea(s) from a source

Edit, Review, Revise

Common grammatical errors:

Spelling errors & Incorrect homophones Solution: Always proofread; spell-check won’t catch everything

Run-on sentences Solution: Add a comma followed by a conjunction

Misusing commas Solution: Add commas to separate interrupting phrases

Wordiness Solution: Replace phrases with words that are more specific

Passive vs. active voice Passive voice sounds more formal, but can be difficult to decipher E.g. The ball was kicked by him Active voice is more direct and easier to understand E.g. He kicked the ball Solution: Use a mix of passive and active sentence for the best result, but aim for less than 20% passive voice

[Incorrect] “When writing essays good grammar ought to be considered very important you should defiantly ask, someone, to proofread you’re work.”

[Correct] “When writing essays, good grammar is essential, so you should definitely ask someone to proofread your work.”

Common structural mistakes:

Burying the thesis statement Solution: Place your thesis statement at the end of the introduction

Introduction is a summary of the essay Solution: Draw in readers’ attention with a just hint of what’s to come

Conclusion introduces new information Solution: Revisit your thesis and summarize your arguments

From your first college application to doctoral dissertation, knowing how to write a good essay is essential for success

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Writing a Statement of Purpose

Top 10 Tips for Writing a PhD Statement of Purpose


Drexel LeBow offers PhD programs in economics, finance, marketing and more. Learn more about our PhD programs today.

If you are applying to a PhD program, trying to figure out what to say in your statement of purpose or personal statement can be the hardest part of the application, but it is the most important. You are certainly not alone if you are getting stuck on what to say.

Below are tips for undergraduate and graduate students on writing these essays for doctoral applications. Many of these tips also apply to writing personal statements for other graduate program applications.

1. Talk about Yourself

Tell us about you! The whole point of the essay is for you to tell us who you are. The essay should convey your intellectual trajectory and how to came to the decision to further your education. Do not waste space telling the university and faculty how great they are and how much of an honor it would be to study under such brilliant minds (they already think that). We want to know who you are.

2. Explain Why

Answer the questions: Why do you want to obtain this degree? Why do you want to focus on this field (e.g. economics, finance, organizational behavior)? Why do you wish to study at this particular university?

3. Show Fit

Tell us how you fit with our program. Answer the question: Why are you a good match for this program? While point one says you should avoid showering faculty with praise, you should demonstrate knowledge of the program. Such knowledge is available on the program’s website or by talking with people in the program. Your essay should demonstrate knowledge of the university’s research and how you and your interests fit with that.

4. Display Your Intellectual Curiosity

What ideas and questions get you excited? Do you truly enjoy doing research? Why? Give us some examples that display your intellectual curiosity in action.

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. However, teaching may or may not be a part of your doctoral program. Even if it is, the faculty will want to see that you are focused on research.

6. Include Research Experience and Skill Sets

Help out the admissions committee by highlighting any relevant experience and skills you have. Be sure to point out any research experience in your essay even if mentioned on your resume. Such experience, in any context, helps demonstrate your interests and skill set. Also be sure to mention any other relevant skills for research that you may possess such as computer programming (e.g. C++, Python, etc.), software (e.g. SPSS, MATLAB, STATA) and writing. Be sure to highlight any recognition you received for writing; high level writing skills are a major plus.

7. Address Past “Issues” Directly

If you have any “black marks” on your record, such as poor grades, leaving a college program or any other issues, it is strongly advised that you address these head on in your letter. Admissions committees will not react well if it appears you are hiding or avoiding a topic. Failure is a common event in research. Showing how you successfully rebounded from setbacks bodes well for you.

8. Proofread, edit, proofread, edit, proofread, edit

This tip, you’d think, should go without saying. But, surprisingly, we often see sloppily written essays with typos, poor grammar, addressed to a different university and any other number of mistakes that could have easily been fixed. Be sure to ask others to proofread these essays for you. A sloppy essay signals you would be a sloppy researcher.

9. Be Cautious in Focusing Too Much on Work Experience

If you have work experience in the field, please note that this is not always helpful in applying to PhD programs. If you can link your work experience to your motivation and the relevant research topics, great! Be sure to do that. Having 5, 10 or 15+ years of experience may make you an excellent employee or manager, but that does not always translate into the academic research environment.

10. Circulate your Statement

In particular, be sure to share your essays with your recommendation writers. That helps them write stronger letters of support for you and ensures what they say is consistent with what you are saying. Furthermore, if you have drafts of your essay completed early enough, it is reasonable to ask them for feedback. They may not have time, but most faculty are quite willing to help their former students out if given sufficient notice.

Our PhD in Business programs specialize in accounting, operations and business analytics, finance, marketing, and organizational behavior and strategy.

LeBow College seeks applicants with exceptional ability and motivation to succeed in research-oriented business and economics doctoral programs.

How to Write an Essay for Doctorate Admissions

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If you work toward your Ph.D., you’ll write a lot of essays. But the essay you write before you get into the doctoral program -- the admissions essay -- may count more than the rest of them. Good transcripts are important, good references are important, but nothing resonates with an admissions committee quite like a good essay.

Specify Research Interests

If you want to enter a doctoral program, chances are you have a good idea what you want to study. Clearly outline your research interests in your admissions essay. Identify a problem that you feel merits further research. Don’t try to solve that problem in the essay -- you’ll have a chance to do that later. Keep in mind you’re not committed to studying exactly what you say you want to study: If, for example, you say that you want to study Locke’s influence on liberalism, it’s OK if you later decide that you want to study Hobbes’ influence on liberalism. But demonstrate to the admissions committee that you have a clear direction in mind.

Why This Program?

Discuss why the particular program is well suited to your research interests. Don’t apply to a program without knowing a lot about it first. Honestly evaluate whether it is a good fit with your research interests and your needs before you apply, because the admissions committee will be evaluating the same thing. Is there a particular scholar in the department whose research interests align with yours? Are there courses that particularly interest you? Is the department’s philosophy appealing to you? Address these questions in your essay to demonstrate that you’re familiar with this specific department and that entering it would be a seamless transition.

Previous Academic Accomplishments

The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Committees look to your previous academic record for some indication of how you might be expected to perform. Your transcripts will give them a good idea of this, but transcripts only tell part of the story. Highlight areas that you performed best in, and relate those courses to your research interests. If there are small blemishes on your transcript, don’t worry about it; if there are gaping holes, you may want to address them in the essay to ease the committee’s concerns.

Highlight Relevant Experience

Doctoral programs are far less interested in your extracurricular activities than many undergraduate programs are -- doctoral programs tend to focus on scholarly pursuits. However, if you have worked or volunteered in a field relevant to the topic you plan to study, do expand upon it. Explain what you did, how it inspired you and what you learned from it. If you want to study whales, don’t neglect to mention the year you spent volunteering for the Wildlife Fund.

Living in Canada, Andrew Aarons has been writing professionally since 2003. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of Ottawa, where he served as a writer and editor for the university newspaper. Aarons is also a certified computer-support technician.

Tips on Writing a Graduate School Letter of Intent

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How to Write a Doctoral Admissions Essay

Doctoral Admissions Essays

Writing your doctoral admissions essay may feel like a daunting task. Here are the basic elements required, followed by some doctoral admissions essay tips.

Whether you are applying for study in Touro University Worldwide’s Business Management , Human and Organizational Psychology , Physician Assistant , or Business Administration program, there are three basic components required for an acceptable doctoral admission essay:

With this basic essay structure in mind, let’s take a deeper dive into each element and how to craft and submit your essay.

Writing a Great Doctoral Admissions Essay

Each of the previously mentioned elements builds on the other to create a solid foundation for defining who you are, your experience and interests, and how you will use the doctoral program to advance your career and research goals.

Taken in a thoughtful, step-by-step approach, the essay you write will help clarify your own intellectual and career ambitions as well as demonstrate to Touro University Worldwide why you are a good candidate for the doctoral program.

Biographical component:

This section should include prior learning, both formal and informal. Describe the type of learning experiences you’ve had and the outcomes of your study. Include relevant work experience and any previous scholarly research.

Your personal story should highlight your talents, passion, motivation, and general career goals. How does doctoral study dovetail with your personal narrative?

Career plan component:

This section is used to describe your career plan in detail. Explain how pursuing the doctoral program integrates with your background and experience. How will these combined elements further your career goals?

Doctoral program goals:

Start with why you are pursuing doctoral study. Discuss the reasons you’ve selected Touro University Worldwide’s doctoral program as opposed to any other such programs. Make sure to demonstrate your understanding of the requirements for doctoral study at Touro University Worldwide.

Additionally, describe what goals you anticipate achieving through completion of the doctoral program. Discuss your intellectual curiosity and interest in research. Talk about your particular strengths, experiential and intellectual insights, as well as skills you want to develop further. List potential ideas for your dissertation or research project.

Finally, show how all this makes you uniquely suited for study at Touro University Worldwide.

Doctoral Admissions Essay Tips

Expect to write at least three drafts of your essay: (1) rough draft, proofread, and edit; (2) revised draft, proofread and edit; and (3) final draft, proofread and submit. Even the best writers are their own worst editors. After carefully reading your essay, try to have someone else read it before submitting the final draft.

Your doctoral admissions essay should be a balance of information and compelling biographical narrative. The essay is a reflection of who you are and how you think, so make sure to be organized, writing with clarity and concision.

Finally, when submitting your essay, include a cover letter, title the essay “Doctoral Admission Essay,” provide the date of submission, and address the packaged documents to Touro University Worldwide.

Applying for doctoral study is an exciting step in your career and intellectual life. Adhering to the guidelines and tips outlined here will ensure a rewarding experience as you embark on this worthwhile journey.

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Writing Personal Statements for Ph.D. Programs


So you’ve decided to apply to a Ph.D. program—how exciting! While the application process can be harrowing at times, being accepted to a graduate school that is a good fit for your interests and skills is a privilege that will be well worth your efforts.

Before we get too wrapped up in the future, though, let’s return to the task at hand: writing a thoughtful personal statement that compellingly represents your academic journey and makes a persuasive case for your admission. This page will orient you to the process of writing a personal statement. The subsequent pages in this section will give you some general guidelines for constructing a convincing statement.

The advice on these pages is designed for students who are applying to Ph.D. programs in the U.S. While some of what we say may be applicable for graduate school applications to master’s degree programs, professional schools (like business school, law school, or medical school), or other kinds of courses of study, keep in mind that some (or many!) aspects of these applications may be different.

Although the title of this page mentions personal statements, the truth is that each department has different names for the essays they require for admission. Some departments require only a personal statement, others will ask for a personal statement and a research statement, still others will request only a statement of purpose (among other permutations!). While the personal statement, statement of research, and statement of purpose may seem like different essays altogether, this is not always the case. For this reason, it is critical that you read through the admissions guidelines for each program you are applying to. Carefully dissecting and understanding the criteria for each part of the application is an important part of applying to graduate school.

If you have any question about the kind of essay a school requires, your first defense should be your advisor (a professor in the field to which you are applying). Together, you can strategize about the requirements for the essay and can determine if you should reach out to the graduate coordinator for clarification.

That being said, this guide will focus primarily on personal statements, which we will define as essays in which applicants give details about their interest in an academic discipline and intellectual journey. Applicants may also be asked to write about challenges they have faced or the kinds of academic questions that most interest them. These statements’ main purpose is to convince admissions committee that the applicant is a good match for graduate work.

As you write your personal statement, be sure to read through these pages:

The Writing Process and a Suggested Timeline

Now that we know what we’re talking about, let’s think about how you will actually write this statement. What follows is a brief outline of one process for writing a personal statement. Keep in mind, though, that everyone is different. You may find that you are able to rigidly follow this process and timeline, but this also may not be the case.

Before you start your applications, think carefully about the kinds of writing you have done in the past. What kinds of writing processes have worked for you? What hasn’t? At what point in the day or week can you get the most work done? When are you not usually as productive?

Based on your answers to these kinds of questions, create a schedule for yourself and set deadlines for completing writing goals (like finishing a first draft of your personal statement, for example). Transcribe this schedule onto a physical calendar, your phone’s calendar application, or a boatload of sticky notes—whatever makes the most sense for you. Just make sure that you can see easily see your schedule in the places where you work.

One last note: try to build in extra time. Most students applying to Ph.D. programs are able to quickly write short essays, so you may be tempted to assume that you’ll also be able to write your personal statement without devoting too much time or effort to this process. Although personal statements are short, they’ll require more time than you might expect. This kind of writing is hard word—and can be emotional, especially because you’ll need to share your statement with tough critical reviewers. Sometimes, too, these reviewers may take a while to get back to you with feedback, so make sure that your schedule can accommodate these anomalies.

What follows is a suggested (and we think, realistic!) timeline for crafting a compelling personal statement based on the assumption that applications are due in December. Here, we’ve outlined a rough schedule that covers when you should start a particular element of the writing process, but we haven’t attempted to say how long each element will take. (For example, we say that you should write the first draft of your personal statement in August, but we don’t say how many hours you should devote to completing this draft.) We hope that you will use the schedule below to create your own calendar that includes your own estimates for the amount of time each element of the writing process will take. For example, you may want to schedule four two-hour writing sessions in August that you can use to write your first draft. Once you have a sense of how long it takes to write this kind of draft, you can tailor your calendar to your own writing habits.

March: Schedule a meeting with an expert in your intended field (usually an advisor and/or a professor with whom you’ve developed a close relationship) and let them know that you’re planning on applying to graduate school. During this meeting, be prepared to explain why you are interested in doing an advanced research degree and to talk about the specific fields or subfields within the discipline that you’d like to pursue. It’s a good idea to ask about this expert’s experience in graduate school and for advice about your intended programs. May: Ask professors or others who know you well and can speak to the quality of your work if they’d be willing to write a letter of recommendation for you in the fall. This is usually best done in person. Read “Before you Begin: Useful Tips for Writing your Essay” and “Frequently Asked Questions.” The Summer: Brainstorm for your personal statement and do research about the programs to which you’d like to apply. Many students have said that they’ve found it useful to create a spreadsheet that contains all of the relevant information for each program and school. Complete the “Guided Brainstorming Exercises.” August: Write the first draft of your personal statement. Remember that first drafts—since they really are only your first foray into writing this particular genre—can and should be messy! Don’t try to perfect your writing immediately. Instead, write a shaggy draft and just aim to get your thoughts on the page. September and October: Polish up your draft a bit and then meet with the people who are writing your recommendations and ask them to read it over. See “Get more Help with your Statement” for more information. November: Wrap up your final edits. Make sure that someone has seen the final version of each of your statements to ensure that it is clear and error-free. December: Send in your personal statements!

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John K.

Write The Best Ph.D. Essay By Following These Tips!

Published on: Jan 5, 2023

Last updated on: Jan 23, 2023

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Do you have to write a Ph.D. Essay but are stuck at the start? 

It can be hard to know where to start when writing an essay for Ph.D. It's even harder to make your essay stand out from the rest. Most students feel overwhelmed, and many struggle to produce their best work. 

But don’t be stressed! 

In this blog, you’ll find tips and steps that can help ease your writing process. We've put together these steps to help you write an amazing Ph.D. essay that will set you apart!

Let’s get into it!

How Do You Write a Phd Essay?

There are a few general things to keep in mind when writing a Ph.D. essay. 

First, your essay should be clear and concise. It should get straight to the point without beating around the bush. Your main point should be well-defined.

Second, you need to make sure that your essay is well-organized and flows smoothly from start to finish. All paragraphs should be connected in some logical manner and should sound coherent.

Lastly, your essay should be free of errors. Errors can be grammatical, structural, and factual. You need to ensure that all types of errors are removed from your essay.

With these general things in mind, let's take a closer look at how to write a Ph.D. essay step by step. 

Have a Strong Personal Statement

Your PhD essay should contain a strong personal statement . A personal statement should be personal and should showcase your unique strengths and accomplishments. Ideally, it should answer questions such as:

Pick a Specific Topic

The first step in writing a Ph.D. essay is picking a topic. Ideally, you should pick a topic that you're passionate about, and that falls within your field of expertise. 

This will make writing your essay much easier.

Although, choosing a topic at the Ph.D. level is not as simple. The topic must be highly specific and should include terms that are technical but clearly defined. 

The exact topic you will finally choose depends on your discipline and the purpose of the essay. 

For instance, if the essay is for seeking admission into a Ph.D. program, then the topic shall focus on demonstrating your knowledge and interest. 

If it is part of an assignment, you must choose a topic that shows your learning and progress. However, if you are still confused about which topic to choose, you can take help from our expert essay writing service . 

Take Time To Do Some Research

After you've chosen your topic, it's time to start researching. 

You'll need to read up on the latest scholarship to comprehensively understand the subject matter before you start writing your essay. 

It's important to remember that a good Ph.D. essay is based on solid evidence and sound arguments. If you don't have both of those things, your essay will fall flat no matter how well-written it is otherwise.

Researching for your essay includes doing a literature review and collecting evidence that can build up your point. 

You will have to read for information and comprehension simultaneously. 

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Create A Tentative Outline 

Once you've done all of your research, it's time to start making an outline for your essay. Making an outline is necessary for organizing your main points and the evidence you gathered. 

It will also help you organize your thoughts and structure your argument in a way that is easy for you to write. 

However, remember that you might need to change your outline as you proceed along the way. You inevitably have to edit your outline as you put more thought into it and perform more research. 

This is fine, so don’t worry if your outline doesn’t turn out perfect the first time. 

Still, once you begin writing, try to follow the outline so that you and your readers can easily follow your argument.

Produce The First Draft 

After you’ve produced an outline, start writing your essay. Elaborate on each point of the outline with as much detail as possible. 

Provide your evidence and an analysis of the evidence. Explain how the evidence proves or supports your point. Discuss any limitations, provide backing, and discuss related points. 

While producing the first draft, you will continuously need to go back to your outline and research. That will help you write a complete first draft that includes all the points you initially planned and add more relevant points.

Edit The First Draft

The next phase after writing the first draft is to edit it. Improve and build upon the points you wrote in the first draft. Improve the overall structure and the logical coherence of your argument.

You will have to go back to your outline and research yet again, as it will help you improve your first draft a lot. 

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Proofread, Format, And Finalize 

The final step of writing your Ph.D. essay is proofreading it and removing any errors. Remove any grammatical or other errors you spot in your essay. It will also help if you ask an expert to proofread your essay.

Moreover, you will also need to format your paper according to particular citation and formatting guidelines. 

There are several academic formatting styles, such as the APA, MLA, Chicago, AMA, Harvard, and others. Depending on your institution and discipline, you will be asked to format the paper according to one of these styles. 

Formatting your paper accurately is important at the Ph.D. level. However, there are many official online guides and software programs that will facilitate you in formatting your citations and pages. Or you can also take help from an essay writer .

And your essay is ready to go! Once your essay is successfully complete, read it thoroughly once again and submit it with confidence. 

PhD Essay Format

A PhD essay can be written in different citation styles, such as APA, MLA, Chicago, and others. 

But there are some formatting rules that are common across different citation styles . These include:

However, always confirm the formatting requirements from the university's guidelines before submitting the final version of your essay.

PhD Essay Examples by Experts

If you want to get an idea of how a well-written Ph.D. essay should look, check out a few examples and read them thoroughly. 

Here are a few examples you can read:

PhD Essay Example - Download Free PDF Sample

Md/Phd Essay Example - PDF Sample For Students

Read more Ph.D. essay samples to see how successful essays are written.

Interesting Phd Essay Topics

Writing a Ph.D. essay requires that you think carefully and critically about your topic.

You need to choose topics that fit the scope of your research and are within the subject matter of your academic discipline. 

Here are some examples of topics to consider: 

These are a few examples that will help you think of your own topic.

So there you have it – everything you need to know about how to write a PhD essay. By following the tips and examples we’ve provided, you should be well on your way to producing an excellent paper. 

However, if you don’t have time to write a Ph.D. essay by yourself or are stuck with some problems, don’t stress! Our Ph.D. essay writing service  will craft an essay for you in no time!

Contact us to learn about how you can hire our Ph.D. essay writer !

Frequently Asked Questions

What makes a good phd essay.

A good Ph.D. essay is well-researched and based on reliable sources. The argument should be logically structured and supported by evidence. A good essay should also demonstrates originality in thought and creativity. Additionally, it must adhere to the specified academic style guidelines, such as APA or MLA formatting.

How do I choose a PhD essay topic?

To choose a PhD topic consider what interests you and begin researching relevant topics in your field of study. Narrow down your choices to those that focus on an area you are passionate about. Make sure the topic is original and within the scope of your research. Additionally, it should be feasible for you to acquire information and resources to complete your research.

John K. (Research, Literature)

John K. is a professional writer and author with many publications to his name. He has a Ph.D. in the field of management sciences, making him an expert on the subject matter. John is highly sought after for his insights and knowledge, and he regularly delivers keynote speeches and conducts workshops on various topics related to writing and publishing. He is also a regular contributor to various online publications.

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How To Write Your MD PhD Essays

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Reviewed by:

Luke Hartstein

Former Admissions Committee Member, NYU Grossman School of Medicine

Reviewed: 4/25/22

Suppose you’ve decided that pursuing the MD PhD dual degree is right for you. In that case, you may have noticed that the application process is slightly different than applying to MD programs at allopathic medical schools. Namely, besides submitting the required application materials through the AMCAS, MD PhDs must also write two additional essays: the MD PhD essay and the significant research experience essay.

Today’s guide will review what an MD PhD is, what you can expect from MD PhD dual degree programs, and how to apply to MD PhD programs in the United States. You will also learn how to write compelling MD PhD essays by utilizing our tips for making your essays stand out. 

Are you ready to succeed? Let’s dive right in.

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What is an MD PhD?

An MD PhD is also known as a physician-scientist or a medical scientist. An MD PhD holds both the Doctor of Medicine degree (MD) and the Doctor of Philosophy degree (PhD) in scientific research. 

The difference between MDs and MD PhDs is that while MDs are typically in medical school for the traditional four years, MD PhDs must complete four years of medical training in addition to three to four years of training to become physician-scientists. 

In total, MD PhDs complete their dual degrees in seven to eight years, making their pathway long and challenging but ultimately rewarding for those who are passionate about conducting biomedical scientific research. 

In short, MD PhDs combine clinical medicine with scientific research and have comprehensive knowledge of important topics in medicine. According to the AAMC , physician-scientists research various topics in the following disciplines:

What are MD PhD Programs?

MD PhD programs are dual degree programs that allow students to obtain their MD and PhD degrees simultaneously. The MD PhD curriculum is continuous, meaning you will work on both degrees throughout your medical and graduate school education. The following infographic provided by the AAMC breaks down what a typical MD PhD program looks like:

TimelineDescription automatically generated

Of course, there may be variations depending on the school’s curriculum, so be sure to check with the programs to which you apply to learn more about year-to-year coursework, training, and research. 

Currently, there are over 100 MD PhD programs in the United States, and over 40 programs are partially or fully funded by training grants known as MSTPs (Medical Science Training Programs). Because of these grants, most MD PhD students complete their dual degrees with very little or zero student debt. 

To decide which MD PhD program is right for you, you will have to do some preliminary research. Use the following checklist of questions to determine which program is a good fit:

How to Apply to MD PhD Programs

Take a leaf out of Patrick's book: he got into six fully funded MD/ Phd programs with our help! 

The application process for MD PhD programs is similar to applying to MD programs. For most allopathic medical schools, you will use the AMCAS (American Medical College Application Service). 

Of course, not every medical school uses the AMCAS—osteopathic schools use the AACOMAS (American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service), and Texas medical schools use the TMDSAS (Texas Medical & Dental Schools Application Service). Be sure to verify that you are using the correct application service for the school to which you’re applying.

So, let’s revisit the AMCAS, as that will be the main application service you will use to apply to MD PhD programs. In the AMCAS, you must select “MD PhD” as the program to which you’re applying.

There are nine sections that you must complete in the AMCAS: ‍

Sections 1, 2, and 3

The first three sections in the AMCAS are where you will enter your basic information such as your name, background information, biographical information, identifiers, and the previous schools you have attended.

In section 4, you will enter all your information about course requirements (prerequisites) and school transcripts. 

In section 5, the AMCAS work and activities section, you will enter your relevant extracurricular activities , work experience, and hobbies . Strong extracurricular activities include, but are not limited to, clinical experience , medical shadowing , and volunteering .

However, the most important extracurricular you can participate in before applying to the MD PhD program is research . This goes without saying: You must showcase substantive research experience to gain a competitive edge over other candidates. Gaining substantive research experience requires some effort and commitment on your part. 

You should aim to have multiple summers of research experience throughout your undergrad program, and it is beneficial to have at least one year of continuous research experience. This may mean that you take a gap year before applying to the MD PhD program, but it will be well worth it to boost your application and show admissions officers your dedication and passion for research.

In section 6, you will upload all of your letters of recommendation . 

In section 7, you will select that you are applying to the MD PhD program. You will also enter any other information about the school, such as whether you’re applying for an early decision.

In section 8, you will enter your personal statement . For the MD PhD program, you will also submit two essays in addition to the personal statement. They are the MD PhD essay and the significant research experience essay. 

Section 9 ‍

In section 9, you will enter all information about standardized test scores, such as the MCAT .

How to Write Your MD PhD Essays

The overall purpose of the MD PhD essay is to answer the question, “Why did you choose to apply to the MD PhD combined program?”

The MD PhD Essay

Admissions committees want to ensure that the applicants they accept into the MD PhD program are devoted to the field. After all, why would anyone spend seven to eight years in research if they didn’t absolutely love it? 

To that end, the MD PhD essay must convince the admissions officers that you are passionate about research and can’t imagine doing anything except the work of a physician-scientist. 

To structure your MD PhD essay, follow academic and professional standards of writing. There should be a consistent format of an introduction, body, and conclusion. View the table below for a general outline of the MD PhD essay:

image of general outline of the MD PhD essay

A strong introduction immediately pulls the reader in and briefly summarizes your motivations for pursuing the MD PhD program. You can achieve this with a personal anecdote that neatly ties in your experience and goals. 

The body paragraphs are the meat of the content. You should detail how you prepared for a career as a physician-scientist by demonstrating your clinical and research experiences. Because of limited space, you should aim to write about two to three substantive experiences that showcase your strengths and what you learned. The body paragraphs should focus on quality rather than the number of experiences. The body paragraphs should also reinforce why the MD PhD path is right for you.

Finally, a strong conclusion leaves the reader with the impression that you are a strong candidate for the MD PhD program. You can achieve this by reiterating your motivations and goals, calling back to the introduction/personal anecdote, and concisely tying together your experiences. 

The Significant Research Experience Essay

The purpose of the significant research experience essay is right there in the title—to provide details about your significant research experiences. 

The significant research experience essay . . .

For the format of your significant research essay, you can structure it as a narrative that adheres to a general introduction, body, and conclusion. Or, you can structure the essay in entry format where each research experience has a subheading that includes identifying information about the research projects, mentors, and affiliations.

For example:

1. Professor X, MD/PhD, Columbia University Department of Psychiatry, February 2019 – March 2021

[Enter details about the experience here.]

If you prefer the entry format for your essay, it’s still a good idea to write one or two introductory sentences and a strong conclusion to tie everything together. Just because it is in entry format doesn’t mean it should be overly technical or indifferent. You should still aim to tell a compelling, unique narrative.

Tips for Making Your MD PhD Essays Stand Out ‍

To make your MD PhD essays stand out, use the following tips for success:

1. What is the best pre-med major for MD PhD programs? ‍

Surprisingly, there is no best pre-med major for MD PhD programs, as medical schools do not have requirements for majors. Students are encouraged to pursue their passions and unique interests, even if that means majoring in non-science subjects (such as the liberal arts or the social sciences). That said, the most popular undergrad majors are in the biological sciences.

Whether you choose to major in the sciences or not, the only requirement you must fulfill is completing all prerequisite coursework. Every medical school has its own prerequisite coursework requirements, so verify that you are on track to complete all coursework, including labs. If you are unsure or need help with building your course schedule, speak with a pre-health advisor. 

2. Does it look better to have numerous research experiences? ‍

Yes and no. Find a balance. While you should have multiple substantive research experiences, the emphasis should be on “substantive.” In other words, aim for quality over quantity. What you learn and gain from your research experiences is more important than the number of experiences you have. 

Furthermore, having quality research experiences will make it easier for you to network with supervisors, mentors, colleagues, and peers. You can tap into this support system when you ask for letters of recommendation for your med school application. 

3. Can I have someone look at my essays before submitting them through the AMCAS? ‍

Yes! We strongly recommend that you spend time crafting your essays. Don’t simply type your essays in the application service and hit send. Write your essays over time, and expect to revise your drafts. Ask trusted peers, mentors, friends, or colleagues for their objective feedback. You can also consult with our team of experts.  ‍

4. What should I avoid in my MD PhD essays? ‍ ‍

5. Do I need to have publications before applying to MD PhD programs? ‍

Publications are not required for MD PhD programs, but having publications gives you a competitive edge over other candidates. Admissions officers are aware of how difficult it is to publish so early in your education, but if you do have publications, be sure to list them in your application. 

Also, keep in mind that regardless of your current contributions in research, whether or not you have publications, you must be knowledgeable about your research topics and have substantial research experience.  ‍

6. How many research experiences should I write about in my research experience essay? ‍

You should aim to write about two to three significant research experiences. This will give you a good balance of different research experiences to discuss, including what you learned and your contributions. Writing about two to three experiences will also ensure that you remain within the essay length requirement of the AMCAS, which is 3,000 characters.

Conclusion ‍

If you’re passionate about scientific research, the MD PhD dual degree is a great way to combine your love of clinical medicine and research. For most MD PhD programs, you will apply using the AMCAS. 

The application process is similar to traditional MD programs, but with the MD PhD, you will have to select that program within the application service. Additionally, you will have to write two essays specifically for the MD PhD program: the MD PhD essay and the significant research experience essay. 

To write strong, compelling MD PhD essays, persuade the admissions committee of your reasons for combining clinical medicine with research and why it’s the best pathway for you. Demonstrate how your research experiences have prepared you for a rewarding career as a physician-scientist. We wish you the best of luck as you pursue your MD PhD.

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admission essay phd

How to Write an Admission Essay for your Phd

Essay writing is a very important tool in graduate school. Well, not just essay, but writing becomes a major part in your routine. With practice, writing skill becomes essential in your post academic career right from the application process it can grant you an advantage over fellow applicants, but only if it is practiced correctly.

Enough with the importance of understanding the importance of writing and lets get down to the procedure of writing an admission essay for admission in PhD. The admission essay is done during the application process and most importantly you will be required to submit the essay together with your application details. In this understanding you will need to choose a study area. You will also be required to write a statement of purpose.

When writing the statement of purpose, the applicant can be confused sometimes or maybe led astray and ultimately get it wrong. Remember, the admissions committee has thousands of documents like yours to go through and unless it has some weight and makes sense then you will not be granted your wish. So when writing a statement of purpose here is what you need to know at the back of your mind;

Introduction, my friend, your opening paragraph should command some attention from the great professors handling your work, begin with something that will allow your readers to keep an open mind  that you are the kind of student they want, in fact, you should make them remember your application letter. Let’s give an example, a friend of mine was applying to enter a PhD in nursing and diabetes management in a college and this is the opening paragraph

When I was nine, my grandmother who was then my only guardian after my parents passed from diabetes died from the same monster that killed my parents, I sprang from foster home to another thinking that I could have done something, I choose this study so that I don’t fell helpless anymore. I want to make a difference!

Here, you’ve made known to them that taking this study is your life’s work and dedication that you have, surely they will know who they are dealing with, they will respect you and they will remember you. Make sure you make them understand you.

So, we have learnt that you should start by capturing their attention with a hook, secondly, be brief don’t say too much. Be clear and go straight to the point without beating around the bush. Thirdly be organized in your work. Introduce a little background in your essay, here you have to dig deep and be introspective, truthful and profound. Remember that your statement of purpose should portray you as (1) intelligent; (2) well-prepared academically and personally; (3) be collegial; (4) be able to handle any challenge that comes your way during and after your time at the grad school; (5) be a potential esteemed representative of the grad school during and even in the future career; (6) show that you are passionately interested in the field.

In line with your passion and intelligence be sure to add any other professional skills and publications that you might have had in the past, explain some of the problems you have had in the past, reasons for choosing the specific grad school, some of your personal qualities that may be relevant for the field, some related extra curricular activities that relate to your qualities as an individual. Be sure to use at a minimum of 350 words. But at 500 words the admissions committee will definitely have believed you and ready to say their yes!

Sample Admission Letter for Admission in Foreign University

Administration/ Registrar Office…

University/ Institute Name

Subject: Admission Letter as a foreign Student

I have been informed through internet that your university is providing intensive study program for the students in various fields. Your admission criteria is very easy to follow and fulfill and I really got impressed by that. Your program is known throughout the world as one of the best, and I would like to study at such a renowned institution.

Consequently, the reason for writing this application is to request you for getting admission in your university. Recently I have completed (subject and degree name) with (results, CGPA 3.50 out of 4) from (College/ university name and address). And now I want to do (degree name) in (subject) from your university. After completing my education, I am interested in research related area and passionate to provide my all possible services in relevant filed. I will do my best to prove myself as a devoted, hardworking and committed student. I am friendly, outgoing and eager to spend time in your country so I can learn and bring the experience.

It is my humble request that please consider my application for the admission purpose. For expediency, I have attached all the necessary documents with the application.  Please send me the application form along with the necessary details that you think might help me.

I am cordially waiting for the positive response from your side.  I shall be very thankful to you if you consider me in your institution for admission.

Thanks, and Regards

Yours Sincerely,

Passport and other information…

Contact No.

How it is good and different from other admission letters?

The above sample is a request letter for admission in university as an Overseas Student. Admission letter is the most important point of admission criteria. So, it is very important to make it well explanatory and clear. Moreover, it should contain all the basic information about the students like their name, address, contact number and most importantly their previous academic background. This letter clears about the sponsor, also about the requirement and criteria that university offers. It also provides the space for editing and changes as per the requirement of the universities because every university has its own criteria

Be sure to seek advice from different groups of people in your circle; including friends and your professors. To conclude, your statement of purpose for Phd is the most important document in masters or PhD admission. This is because it says much about you as a person, your achievements and your proudest moments in line with your vision and dreams. Be sure to get them hooked.

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How to Write an Essay for Doctorate Admissions

Avery martin.

Your doctoral personal statement details your personality, mission and purpose.

Graduate school admissions essays must immediately provide the admission officer with a reason to continue reading. The admission officers play a significant role in whether you're accepted, and each department has its own officers. Starting your essay with generic statements and failing to grab the officers' attention immediately won't help your chances for admission. Craft a strong personal statement that grabs the readers' attention. Give them a reason to want to hear your story.

Explore this article

The process of writing a doctoral essay should begin several months before it's due. The process consists of creating lists detailing your main points and reviewing common interview questions to help you organize and prepare your thoughts. Gather information about each program and write an essay tailored to each department. Some information from each essay may be included in other letters, but the goal of the essay is to explain why you are capable of completing doctoral work and how the specific school can help you meet that goal. Don't be afraid to abandon a completed statement if you decide that the essay doesn't effectively portray your motivations and goals. If you have difficulty coming up with ideas, brainstorm by thinking about the topic and writing down any thoughts that come to mind.

2 Unifying Theme

Your essay should have a central theme that supports the work you completed in your undergraduate and master's programs. Avoid discussing information already included in your transcript and use this opportunity to develop a compelling statement that reinforces your purpose. Remember that the doctoral essay requirement is a statement or purpose and should reflect how your past accomplishments have prepared you to complete your education. The theme should permeate every section of your essay without being overtly obvious.

3 Personal Questions

Your personal statement provides a chance for you to tell the admissions officer what you value and how your life experiences make you an ideal candidate. Use specific examples for any statements or declarations you make. Simply telling the committee you're an honest person doesn't provide the evidence to support your claim. Instead, talk about an experience that compelled you to decide on graduate school. Expanding on that, explain how your decisions and experiences molded you as a person and affected your life and decisions. Provide interesting background information that supports your claims.

4 Professional Questions

Doctoral essays often include information that helps the admissions committee determine your commitment to your profession. Discuss the suitability of the college and how the prospective college would benefit your career. Doctoral work must be specific and narrowly defined. Be specific without becoming longwinded while explaining your focus. Vague and general fields show a lack of focus and suggest you might not have the interest or knowledge to do well in graduate school. When explaining why the college fits your goals, talk about professors you admire or research that has been conducted in your field.

5 Word Limits

Doctoral essays have word limits that you should follow, usually between 250 to 500 words. Not adhering to the word limits sends one of two messages -- you can't follow instructions or you don't respect the admission officers' time. If you can't get all of the information you want into your essay with the designated word limits, look for ways to simplify wording. Reduce thoughts that are expressed in two or three phrases to a single conceptual idea. Be creative and find ways to trim your paper to meet the word limit. Some colleges might not mind if you go over, but it's not worth taking the chance of being denied admission.

About the Author

Avery Martin holds a Bachelor of Music in opera performance and a Bachelor of Arts in East Asian studies. As a professional writer, she has written for, Samsung and IBM. Martin contributed English translations for a collection of Japanese poems by Misuzu Kaneko. She has worked as an educator in Japan, and she runs a private voice studio out of her home. She writes about education, music and travel.

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