Ph.D. Application Instructions

Welcome to the on-line application for the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, to the Division of  Biology and Biomedical Sciences (DBBS). Our electronic application system makes the admission process easier for the applicants as well as us. It 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, as well as saving time and money on postage and handling.

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 Washington University's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. 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 (if applicable)
    • TOEFL (if applicable)
  • Two essays and a 10 word research description
  • 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 with the application type marked as “Re-Apply”.

All application materials (transcripts, GRE/TOEFL 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 2019 enrollment is December 1, 2018. All applicants are encouraged to submit ealry.  Submission of the application prior to November 1, 2018 will allow for a discountrd 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 4 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 required by some DBBS Programs. Scores must be from tests taken in the last five years. The Subject test is not required.  Applicants are strongly encouraged to schedule the exam early so the official scores will reach DBBS before the December 1 deadlineSee “Test Scores” below for additional information.
  • Applicants, whose native language is not English, must demonstrate English proficiency and are required to provide an official score report from ETS for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Applicants who have earned an undergraduate or graduate degree from an institution where the language of instruction is English, are exempt from submitting a TOEFL score report.


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 answer the specific essay questions listed.) 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.
For essay 1 you will provide information on your research experiences.  For up to your 3 most substantive research experiences provide mentor name, Institution, length of project in months, and the approximate hours per week of effort, up to Dec. 1 of this year. (A grid will be provided to capture this information). You will also write an essay for one or more of these experiences providing your specific contributions to the work.  Please also describe your motivations for graduate study and a fundamental biological question that most intrigues you, highlighting potential Washington University faculty mentors. Drawing on your past and planned experiences, please conclude with a statement articulating why you will be an outstanding graduate student. 
For essay 2 you will describe an experience that demonstrates your resilience, perseverance, and/or leadership skills in response to a challenge in any area of your life.
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 in lieu of the two essay questions.


Three letters of recommendation must be submitted from faculty members 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.

At least one recommender must be from the applicant’s faculty advisor or research mentor. Other likely candidates for recommendation are professors and/or employers that can assess qualities in ways that professors cannot. Recommendations from family members are not appropriate.
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. 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 of Arts and Sciences 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.  Please include the transcript key (that is typically located on the back page of the official transcript).
  • The transcript must be issued by the Registrar’s Office (a copy issued to the student is fine).  The uploaded transcript should not be printed from the University’s web site. 
  • The process of uploading transcripts is intended to eliminate the need for you to mail your transcripts, as DBBS will review your application based on your uploaded transcripts.
  • 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 sealed transcript from each university you have attended. We ask that you not send us any material in the mail unless asked to do so.
  • Transcripts must be in English, or be accompanied by notarized translations.
  • All matriculating students will be requested to send an official final transcript to DBBS before matriculation to:
    Washington University
    Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences
    Attn: Ph.D. Admissions
    Campus Box 8226
    660 S. Euclid Ave.
    St. Louis, MO 63110
  • 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

Graduate Record Examination (GRE)

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General test is required by some DBBS Programs. Please refer to the individual program web page ( to see if you need to submit GRE scores.  If so, scores must be from tests taken in the last five years. The Subject test is not required. Applicants who need to submit scores are strongly encouraged to schedule the exam early so the official scores will reach DBBS before the December 1st deadline.

Institution Code - 6929

When the official scores have been received from ETS, enter the scores into the application. However, if the application has already been submitted, email the scores to the contact person or to and the scores will be added to the application.  If the application is complete except for the official GRE scores, submit the application and e-mail the scores when received.

Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)

The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is required of non-native speakers of English if the applicant has not earned a bachelor's or master's degree at an English-speaking institution. Scores must be from tests taken within the last two years.

Non-native speakers who earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree from a school where all instruction is in English are exempt from the TOEFL.

Institution Code - 6929

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 procedure. Some programs review applications on a rolling basis as application files become complete; other programs review applications on a scheduled basis. 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. Letters of recommendation from faculty members are very important. The applicant's responses to essay questions on the application form are also heavily weighted in assessing an applicant's potential for graduate study. In addition, each applicant's academic background and test scores are closely reviewed. Most successful applicants to the Division score at or above the 80th percentile in the Graduate Record Examination general test and have grade point averages ranging from 3.3 to 4.0.


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.  Please note: Official transcripts are only required from the applicants accepting the DBBS offer of admission.

Financial Support

For complete financial information, click here.

Washington University Internal Fellowships

For information on Washington University Internal Fellowship opportunities click here.


Contact Us:

Washington University
Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences
Attn: Ph.D. Admissions

660 S. Euclid Ave. Box 8226
St. Louis, MO 63110
Fax (314) 362-3369
(800) 852-9074

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