Ph.D. Application Instructions

The Graduate School and the Division of  Biology and Biomedical Sciences (DBBS) uses ApplyWeb, an electronic application system that allows us to receive a candidate's application immediately upon submission. Applicants can easily track and monitor the status of any required supporting documents on-line. For a guide to opening an ApplyWeb account, submitting an application and monitoring documents, please review the ApplyWeb Instructions page​.

Washington University encourages application from and gives full consideration to all candidates for admission and financial aid without respect to age, sex, sexual orientation, race, handicap, color, religion, or national origin. This information is part of the application for admission to the Ph.D. programs in the DBBS which is a part of The Graduate School at Washington University. Students are usually admitted to DBBS only for the fall semester. Please note that neither DBBS nor its component departments accept students for a Master's degree.

Applicants who wish to study for both the M.D. and Ph.D. degrees at Washington University must apply for admission to both the School of Medicine and the Medical Scientist Training Program. Acceptance to the Medical Scientist Training program is equivalent to admission into one of the Ph.D. programs of DBBS; therefore this application should not be submitted by combined degree applicants.


The application consists of:
  • Demographics
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Academic history
  • Test Scores 
    • GRE (not required, but optional for some programs)
    • TOEFL, IELTS, or Duolingo (if applicable)
  • Two essays 
  • 10 word  undergrad research description & 10 word descripotion of graduate research interest
  • Listing of Major coursework
  • Work history
  • Awards/Honors
  • Publication list (if any)

Applicants who have applied in the previous year must submit a new application and answer Yes to the question, "Have you previously applied to a program at Washington University?".

All application materials (transcripts, test score reports, letters of recommendation, and additional materials sent to us by the applicant) become the property of the Division of Biology and Biological Sciences at Washington University and cannot be returned to the applicant or forwarded to another school/department.


The application deadline for Fall 2022 enrollment is December 1, 2021 @ 11:59 PM PST. All applicants are encouraged to submit ealry.  Submission of the application prior to November 1, 2021 will allow for a discounted application fee.


DBBS welcomes applicants with outstanding baccalaureate training in natural, physical or engineering sciences that are committed to a career in research. The strongest applicants will have had significant research experience and have a strong undergraduate record not only in their area of concentration, but also in related disciplines. For example, some of our programs will give preference to applicants who have strong training not only in biology, but also 3 to 6 semesters of chemistry (including biochemistry) as well as appropriate course work in calculus and physics (1 to 2 semesters each). Other programs, depending on their emphasis, will consider individuals with less extensive backgrounds in chemistry, physics, psychology or mathematics but with related training in biology. For example, Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Structural Biology gives preference to applicants that have completed one semester of physical chemistry or an equivalent course.

Minimum Requirements:
  • All applicants must have a U.S. bachelor’s degree or its equivalent from an accredited institution.
  • The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General test is not required to apply to DBBS.  Please refer to "Test Scores" below for additional information.
  • Proficiency in English is required of all applicants. Applicants whose native language is not English must demonstrate English proficiency and are required to provide an official ELP exam score report. Please refer to "Test Scores" below for additional information.​  


Applicants are encouraged to give considerable time and thought to writing the two essays. (Some schools ask for a general “personal statement”, however DBBS requires that the applicant respond to specific essay prompts.) The Admissions Committee evaluates a number of characteristics in order to assess a candidate’s ability to benefit from and contribute to their selected program. These include academic ability, research experience, leadership, teamwork, communication skills and other personal qualities. The essays are an opportunity to help the Committee relate to the applicant’s distinctive values, motivation, and perspectives and obtain as much information as possible about their previous research experience.
Essay 1: a) describe your research project(s) and specific contributions to the work; b) discuss your motivations for graduate study; and c) relate a fundamental biological, biomedical, or data science question that most intrigues you, highlighting potential Washington University faculty mentors.
Essay 2: drawing on your past experiences within or beyond your research, please provide a statement showcasing your strengths as an applicant and articulating why you will be an outstanding graduate student.​
Applicants are requested to upload each essay as either a PDF or Word document. Applicants will be allotted approximately two (2) pages per essay (or approximately 8000 characters including spaces). Please address each essay question separately. Do not insert a personal statement, CV, resume or publication in lieu of the two essay questions.


Three letters of recommendation must be submitted from research mentors, faculty advisors and/or employers acquainted with the applicant’s work in the major area of study. Please use the recommender’s professional e-mail address. Do not use personal e-mail addresses through services such as AOL, Hotmail or Yahoo. Upon submission of the recommender’s name and e-mail address, an e-mail will be sent to the recommender containing a web link. The recommender will then be able to complete the necessary recommendation. Online recommendations are instantly attached to your application. Please notify recommenders that they will receive this notification via e-mail and encourage them to respond promptly. If your recommenders use a SPAM blocking tool, please be sure to have them add the email address Washington University in St Louis <> to their known/safe addresses.

View the Checklist page often to see if your recommenders have submitted the form. If not, please contact them and ask them to complete by the deadline of December 1st. If your recommenders have not received the recommendation email request, you may resend the request from the Application Status page.
The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 and its amendments guarantee students access to educational records concerning them. Applicants are also permitted to waive their right of access to recommendations. The recommendation is used to help reach decisions on admission. It is not retained as part of the academic record of a student who enrolls at Washington University. Should you decide not to waive your right, you will have access to the recommendation only if you enroll in the Graduate School at Washington University and request to review the form by September 1st of the year you enroll.
The Admissions Committee uses recommendations as one means to obtain an independent assessment of capabilities, experience, and determination for the applicant’s chosen degree program. Applicants are required to inform the recommenders whether they have waived the right to access the letter in their student record. This choice is the applicant’s preference; however, it may affect the information submitted by the recommender.


  • Prior to submitting your application, you are required to upload one copy of your scanned transcript from each institution you have attended.
  • Transcripts must be in English, or be accompanied by notarized translations.​
  • The transcript must be issued by the institution either through the Registrar’s Office or a Student Web Portal.
  • Scan the transcript at high resolution and verify each page can be read before uploading it.  Upload the transcript from each institution as a single document. Each individual university transcript must be uploaded as one file and not page by page.
  • Official transcripts are not required for the review process. If you are offered admission and accept the offer you are then required to submit an official and final transcript from each degree granting institution you have attended.
  • DBBS reserves the right to rescind any offer of admission if discrepancies are found between your uploaded transcript and the official transcript.


Calculate the GPA for each school attended on a 4.0 scale.  To convert:

GPA/max. score X 4 = reported score to us (rounded to the nearest 0.1)

For example:
          On a 100 point scale: 92/100 = .92 X 4 = 3.7
          On a 5 point scale: 3.9/5 = 0.78 X 4 = 3.1

Test Scores

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General test is no longer required by DBBS Programs, however it is optional for some. Please refer to the individual program web page ( to see if GRE scores may be optionally submitted.  If so, scores must be from tests taken in the last five years.

ETS Institution Code - 6929

English Language Proficiency Exams:

Proficiency in English is required of all applicants. Applicants whose native language is not English must demonstrate English proficiency and are required to provide an official score report from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or Duolingo. Only scores from tests taken within the last two years will be accepted.  If you have not taken the test, please enter the date you plan to take the test.  Your application can be reviewed with your self-reported scores. Scores must be from tests taken within the last two years. Request TOEFL score reports to be sent to Institution code 6929. IELTS or Duolingo scores will need to be mailed to DBBS PhD Admissions, 660 S. Euclid Avenue, MSC 8226-04-13, St. Louis, MO 63110.

The English proficiency testing requirement may be waived for applicants who meet any of the below criteria: 

•    You have completed an undergraduate or master’s degree in the U.S. and completed the entire program while in the U.S.

•    Is a citizen of Australia, Cameroon, Commonwealth Caribbean nations, Ghana, India, Ireland, Kenya, Liberia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Singapore, Uganda, the United Kingdom, or Zimbabwe.

•    Has completed a minimum of three years of documented study in a university-level academic program in the United States or one of the countries listed above.

•    Has completed a minimum of three years of documented study in an English-medium academic program in Canada, Hong Kong, or South Africa.

Please note that the English proficiency testing requirement is only waived for immigration if criteria in bullets above are met.

Transfer Students

Students currently in a graduate program wishing to transfer to Washington University must submit an application. Transcripts from the current graduate institution and a letter of recommendation from the current Research Mentor are required to be uploaded in the on-line application.

Re-Applying Applicants

Applicants re-applying to the Division must submit a new application.

Application Review Process

Early submission of the Ph.D. application is recommended. This allows each application to receive the greatest consideration for admission.
The length of time it takes for review of an application depends on each Program's process. Programs review applications on a rolling basis as application files become complete. Most applicants are notified prior to February 20th regarding the decision to interview the applicant.

Criteria for Review

There are many applicants for each available position in the graduate program. DBBS typically receives around 1000 applications for a total of 80 positions in our entering class. Several factors are used to assess an applicant's potential for success. Competitive candidates will possess:

  • An average of 12 cumulative months of laboratory research experience
  • A GPA of 3.0 - 4.0 (US scale)
  • Rigorous STEM course work
  • Three (3) strong letter of recommendation
  • Demonstration of scientific sophistication, research methodologies, creativity, independence, determination and perseverance through responses to essay questions on the application


DBBS conducts interviews by invitation only after the completed application and materials have been submitted, received and evaluated. Interviews are not conducted prior to submission and evaluation of an application. 
The interview allows the applicant an opportunity to gauge the quality of the program, the interest of the faculty, speak with current students, and determine how well his or her research interests might be supported. Interviews are typically conducted from mid-January to the end of February. Applicants being interviewed on campus will arrive on Thursday afternoon and leave either Saturday afternoon or Sunday.

Checking the Status of your Application

Applicants can verify the status of all supporting materials by logging into their application to see if the letters of recommendation, official GRE and TOEFL scores (if applicable) have been received. Please review often and follow up with the appropriate institution or person to ensure that the information is sent to DBBS. Timely receipt of these documents is necessary for the review of the application. Applicants will be notified via telephone or e-mail if invited for an interview.

Financial Support

For complete financial information, click here.

Washington University Internal Fellowships

For information on Washington University Internal Fellowship opportunities click here.


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