September 1 – December 1 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST)

DBBS accepts applications for fall enrollment only; we do not have rolling admissions.

Applicants submit a single application to DBBS and select a first and second program choice. The first program choice should reflect your primary research interest. If you are interested in another program that DBBS offers, please select a second program choice for that area of interest.

All applicants must have a US bachelor’s degree or its equivalent from an accredited institution. Please note that neither DBBS nor its component departments accept students for a master’s degree.​

DBBS uses an electronic application system that allows us to receive a candidate’s application immediately upon submission. Applicants can track and monitor the status of any required supporting documents online.

All application materials sent to us by the applicant become the property of the Roy and Diana Vagelos Division of Biology and Biological Sciences at Washington University and cannot be returned to the applicant or forwarded to another school/department.

Application fees and waivers
  • $20.00 for applications submitted on or before October 31st
  • $45.00 for applications submitted on or after November 1st

Eligibility for a fee waiver is assessed on submission of an application. Waivers are granted for a variety of volunteer service-based organizations, scholar programs, and academic pipeline programs (full list on application).  Waivers are also granted to trainees of DBBS alums, DACA students and for financial need (domestic applicants only).

If you think you may qualify for a fee waiver based on one or more of these criteria, email

Please Note:  International students residing outside the United States are not eligible for a fee waiver.

Application contents

The application consists of the following components:

  • Contact information
  • Demographics
  • DBBS program choice
  • Three (3) letters of recommendation
  • Academic history
  • Test scores
    • GRE (not required for any program; optional for some)
    • TOEFL, IELTS, or Duolingo (if applicable)
  • Two (2) essays
  • Ten (10) word description of undergraduate research interest and work
  • Ten (10) word description of graduate research interest
  • Listing of major coursework
  • Work and research experience
  • Awards and honors
  • Publication list (if any)

While many peer programs ask for a general Personal Statement or Statement of Purpose, DBBS requires that you respond to two (2) essay prompts. The admissions committee is looking for characteristics that predict your ability to benefit from and contribute to biosciences discovery. These include academic ability, research experience, leadership, teamwork, communication skills and other personal qualities.  Your intellectual contributions to past research experiences are particularly important and should be the focus of essay 1.  Our training environment values diversity of experience as a driver of innovation. Your perspectives and motivations may derive in part from your race, nationality, regional affiliation, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender identification, or other aspects of your identity. Feel free to discuss these personal attributes in your response to essay 2. You may also choose to focus on professional or extracurricular experiences. Applicants are strongly encouraged to give considerable time and thought to writing the two essays. Ask advice on drafts from trusted friends or advisors.

Essay 1: For one or more of your research experiences, a) describe your research project(s) and specific contributions to the work in the most comprehensive way possible, including the question, the approach, the results, and the interpretation; 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 DBBS faculty mentors.

Essay 2: Drawing on your life experiences (personal and/or professional), please provide a statement showcasing examples of core strengths (e.g., courage, creativity, perseverance, determination) that forged your leadership characteristics and resolve. How will these traits enrich the biosciences training community?

Please upload each essay as either a PDF or Word document. Submit no more than two (2) single-spaced pages per essay (or approximately 8000 characters, including spaces). DBBS does not accept a personal statement, CV or publication in lieu of the two essay questions.

Letters of recommendation

Three (3) 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. Upon submission of the recommender’s name and email address, an email will be sent to the recommender containing a web link. The recommender will then be able to complete the necessary recommendation. Please use the
recommender’s professional email address. Do not use personal email addresses through services such as Gmail or Yahoo. Letters of recommendation must be submitted with the online application on or before the application due date.

You may submit your application before all letters have been received in our system, though we advise you to monitor the submission of letters of recommendation to ensure all letters are received by the deadline. If letter(s) have not yet been submitted, please contact the recommender(s) and remind them to submit the application by the deadline. If you need to resend the recommender request email or if you need to change the recommender, you can do so via the Application Status Portal. If you are concerned your letters will not be submitted on time, please reach out directly to

TIP: If your recommender has not received the request email, it may be blocked by a SPAM filter(s) that your school or recommenders are running. If your recommender uses a SPAM blocking tool, please be sure to have them add our email address to their known/safe addresses. Also verify that the email address you submitted to us is the correct email address for your recommender.​

Applicants are asked whether they wish to waive the opportunity to view their recommendation letters. Selecting Yes indicates that you will not be able to view the content of the recommendation letter in the future. Selecting No indicates that you may wish to view it in the future. Your decision will be shared with your recommenders and designated program so that they understand whether you waived the ability to see the content of the letter. Once you make a selection, you cannot change it, so consider the choices carefully. 

Please note: recommendation letters are used to help reach decisions on admission and are not generally retained as part of the academic record of a student who matriculates at Washington University in St. Louis.


As part of your application, you are required to upload PDFs of your unofficial transcript(s) from each institution attended. The transcript must have your name, the institution name, and be translated to English when necessary. Make sure your transcripts PDFs are at the highest quality and verify that each page can be read before uploading them. Each individual university transcript must be uploaded as one file and not page by page.

​We accept translations of transcripts by services (e.g., WES). Please be aware that translations alone are not acceptable, and the translations must bear an original ink signature and seal. Please upload both the English translation and the original transcript as a single PDF, with the English translation first, followed by the transcript in the original language.

Official transcripts are not required for the review process. If you are offered admission and accept, you will be required to submit an official final transcript noting degree confirmation 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.

Test scores

It is strongly recommended that you complete all testing (if applicable) within four to six weeks before you begin your application. It takes approximately 15 days to receive the test scores.

GRE General Test:
The GRE General test is no longer required for admission to any DBBS program. However, it is optional for the following programs:

  • Biochemistry, Biophysics, & Structural Biology
  • Computational & Systems Biology
  • Evolution, Ecology, & Population Biology
  • Molecular Microbiology & Microbial Pathogenesis
  • Neurosciences
  • Plant & Microbial Biosciences

If you choose to submit your GRE scores as part of your application, scores must be from tests taken in the last five years.

Official GRE Scores: Washington University in St. Louis – School code 6929.​

Please note: DBBS Program Admissions Committees engage in a holistic review process of applications. Submission of GRE scores for these programs will simply offer another piece of information about you as a candidate and will neither help nor hurt your overall chances of admission, nor will it provide you with an advantage over candidates who do not report their scores.

English proficiency test requirement for international applicants:
As part of the application review, we are required to verify that each nonnative English speaking applicant has sufficient English language proficiency to succeed in the academic program.

The English proficiency test requirement is waived for citizens of Australia, Cameroon, Commonwealth Caribbean nations, Ghana, India, Ireland, Kenya, Liberia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Singapore, Uganda, the United Kingdom, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. It may also be waived for students who by the time of matriculation have completed three or more years of study in an English-medium academic program in Canada, Hong Kong, South Africa, the United States, or any of the countries noted above.

If you are required to provide proof of English proficiency, the application will prompt you to self-report English proficiency scores that are less than two years old. Official test scores should be sent to Washington University in St. Louis on or before the application deadline of December 1.

English proficiency tests accepted for the 2023-2024 application

Official TOEFL IBT – Minimum Score 100: Send electronically through ETS to school code 6929

Official IELTS – Minimum Score 7: Send electronically by selecting Washington University in St. Louis Graduate Admissions
Official Duolingo – Minimum Score 125: Send link with scores to

TIP: We encourage early submission of official GRE general exam scores for the programs that accept them, and ELP scores (if applicable). It is better to have the official scores sent to us as soon as possible, but no later than the December 1 deadline date.

Applicants currently in a PhD program

Students currently in a graduate program who wish 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 online application.

Re-applying applicants

Applicants who have previously applied must submit a new application.

Application submission, review & decision timeline

Early submission of the PhD application is recommended. This allows each application to receive the greatest consideration for admission.

Once you submit your application to DBBS, you cannot go back and make changes to it.

However, supporting documents, such as recommendation letters and test scores, can be uploaded to your application after you have submitted it. Supporting documents should be submitted on or before the application deadline of December 1.

The length of time it takes for review of an application depends on each program’s process. A formal notice of the admission decision is sent to each applicant as soon as possible after the application and completed records are received and the Admissions Committee has made its recommendations. Most applicants are notified prior to the end of January regarding the decision to interview the applicant. Interviewed applicants will be notified of a final decision no later than mid-March.​

Checking the status of your application

Once submitted, you may review the status of required supplemental materials through the Status Portal​. Timely receipt of these documents is necessary for the review of the application; incomplete applications will not be reviewed. Applicants will be notified via telephone or e-mail if invited for an interview.

International applicants

DBBS does not have a set number of international students that we accept each year. The admissions committee reviews the applications, evaluates interview comments, and selects the most qualified applicants for our program. All accepted applicants receive the same funding and financial support.

Historically, international students comprise approximately 35% of the entering class. Outcomes are in correlation with the quality of the applicant pool of the application year.​

Deferral request

An applicant admitted to the Roy and Diana Vagelos Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences may request to defer admission for one year. Admitted candidates should submit a request for deferral to the DBBS Director of Admissions. The request should provide a general statement regarding the reason for the deferral. Deferred applicants are expected to contact the Division by April 1st to confirm their admittance for the following fall.​

Admissions in unpredictable times

We know that many public health and social concerns can lead to unpredictable circumstances. For example, you might be worried that COVID-19-related disruptions to research and lost opportunities could negatively impact your application. We want to tell you that, as in previous years, we are committed to assessing each application holistically. We want to understand what drives you, what challenges you faced (in research and otherwise), how you responded, what you learned, and where you want to go. You can help us by describing this clearly in your essays. We look forward to reading your application.

Washington University encourages and gives full consideration to all applicants for admission, financial aid, and employment. The university does not discriminate in access to, or treatment or employment in, its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, age, religion, sex (as required by 20 U.S.C. § § 1681-1688 and 34 CFR Part 106), sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, veteran status, disability or genetic information. Inquiries about compliance should be addressed to the university’s Vice Chancellor for Human Resources, Washington University, Campus Box 1184, One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO 63130. 

Title IX

In compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX), 20 U.S.C. § § 1681-1688, and the new Title IX Final Rule, 34 CRF Part 106, Washington University in St. Louis provides the following information:

Our Title IX Coordinator may be reached at 314-935-3393,, One Brookings Drive, MSC 1175-0153-0B, St. Louis, MO, 63130.

Inquiries about the application of 20 U.S.C. § § 1681-1688 and 34 CFR Part 106 may be referred to the University’s Title IX Coordinator, or the Assistant Secretary of Education, or both.

The University’s Title IX grievance process, including how to report or file a complaint of sex discrimination, how to report or file a formal complaint of sexual harassment, and how the university will respond, may be found at