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Apply for Neuroscience Graduate Program

There are two ways to apply to the University of Michigan Medical School Neuroscience Graduate Program. However, all international applications MUST be routed through PIBS. Jump to the section below to walk through the application process and learn some tips for applying:

How to Apply

There are two ways to apply. Which one is best for me?

Please note that prospective students must apply through one of the two routes highlighted below to matriculate into our graduate program. If you are an international student, you must apply via the Program in Biomedical Sciences. Individual faculty members are not able to accept a student into their laboratory until the student has matriculated into the program via one of the following routes and have met program requirements.

Additionally, for those interested in dually pursuing an MD/PhD degree, apply through the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP).

Application Deadline

Applications go live early September and the deadline is December 1st.

Routes of Admission

Applicants choosing to apply DIRECT to the Neuroscience Graduate Program (NGP) know they would like to obtain a degree in Neuroscience. Many applicants coming from a systems or behavioral background prefer to apply via this route. The DIRECT pathway cannot accept international applicants. Ability to rotate in any of the >150 labs on campus that are affiliated with the NGP. DIRECT students take the courses detailed on the neuroscience curriculum page.

Applicants choosing to apply through PIBS have a strong interest in Neuroscience but might also have overlapping interests in related fields like Cell and Developmental Biology, Pharmacology, and Physiology. The PIBS path leaves open the option of switching to one of the other 14 degree programs that PIBS encompasses.

International applicants must apply through PIBS. PIBS applicants can be domestic and international.

Ability to rotate in the >500 labs that are part of the PIBS program:
If you decide to do your dissertation research in a lab not affiliated with the NGP, the lab PI would need to become affiliated with the NGP or you would need to change to a different PIBS degree. In addition to the courses required of DIRECT students, PIBS students take the PIBS Seminar during their first year.

Both DIRECT and PIBS students are combined into a cohort of ~15-20 Neuroscience PhD students and belong to a community of >80 current Neuroscience PhD students. PIBS students also have connections to the broader community of PIBS students, which consists of ~90 incoming students each year. Both paths provide the same stipend and health insurance. Both paths guarantee stipends and benefits for all students in good standing throughout the entirety of their graduate studies. Matriculated students from either route of admission will complete the same neuroscience courses within the NGP. All students will receive the same packages of financial support, regardless of route of admission.

*The GRE is NOT required for either Direct or PIBS admissions.

Application Tips
  1. Gather Information: Gather information (via websites, social media, and emails) to help you identify a select number of programs to apply to.
  2. Start Early: Start the application process early, it is time consuming!
  3. Use a Spreadsheet: Make a spreadsheet that lists the programs you are applying to and what is needed for their application - revisit and update accordingly. Note if there are multiple programs of interest within a school and identify the best fit. Note if the GRE is required and plan accordingly.
  4. Letters of Recommendation: Ask for letters of recommendation at least 2-3 months prior to the deadline. Make sure that recommenders know you and your research. Provide recommenders a copy of your CV or resume, and, as needed, give them polite reminders about application deadlines.
  5. Identify a Theme: Identify a “theme” for your personal statement(s)/essays. Is there something you can incorporate that will make you stand out from others?
  6. Address Potential Issues in the Essay: If there is anything about your application package that you wish were different (e.g. low GPA, no letter from research mentor), consider addressing it in your essays. Don’t leave it up to the evaluators to fill in gaps or address potential deficits, do it for them.
  7. Demonstrate your Knowledge: When writing about research experiences, demonstrate your knowledge. Don’t just list the techniques you learned, include a brief description of the rationale behind your project(s) and your interpretation of the results.
  8. Elicit Feedback: Ask peers and mentors to provide feedback on your essays.
  9. Do your Research: Do your research on particular programs/PIs ahead of time and convey why you are applying to a given program in your statements. Mention potential PIs in your statement(s) and indicate why their lab(s) would be a good fit for you. Don’t limit yourself to one PI in your statement, you want to have options.
  10. Be Genuine: Be genuine. Your essays are a major part of how we get to know you, so take time to ensure your essays represent you well.
  1. Happy and Supported? Do current students seem happy and feel supported there? Don’t hesitate to reach out to students to ask, even ahead of the application process.
  2. Program Expectations? Does the structure and academic rigor of the program (curriculum, preliminary exams, teaching requirements, time to degree) meet your expectations?
  3. PhD Advisors Taking New Students? Are the potential PhD advisors you are considering taking new graduate students? Don’t hesitate to email them to ask, even ahead of the application process.
  4. Multiple Research Interest? Is there more than one potential PhD advisor and/or multiple research areas represented that pique your interest?
  5. Geographic Location? Does the geographic location meet your needs? (Consider proximity to loved ones, among other things.)
  6. Demographics? Will you be comfortable given the size of the city and population demographics?
  7. Climate? Will you be happy in (or able to tolerate) the climate?
  8. Fun? Will you be able to find things to do for fun in the surrounding area?
  9. Money and cost of living? What is the stipend relative to the cost of living?
  10. Health Benefits? What do the health benefits look like?
Frequently Asked Questions

All International applicants are required to apply through PIBS. International applicants must submit scores from the TOEFL exam unless the program verifies that English is their native language or they have obtained a Bachelor or Master degree from an English speaking institution. (Institution code 1839).

Learn more about the international application process

Most fee waivers are administered by the Rackham Graduate School and more details are available on their website. In addition, the NGP is happy to provide further information about fee waivers and encourage those who need fee waivers to reach out to us through this "request for information form", including Neuro specific fee waivers.

Applications are evaluated by an Admissions Committee comprised of Neuroscience faculty and student representatives who represent areas within the program. The most important criterion for admission to the Program is a demonstrated aptitude for and commitment to laboratory research in neuroscience. A Bachelor's degree or its equivalent is required. All applicants must meet Rackham's Minimum Requirements for Admission.

Prior to admission many of our applicants take courses in:

  • Introductory biology (or other courses such as cell biology, physiology, or genetics)
  • Introductory neuroscience, physiological psychology or animal behavior
  • Mathematics through calculus
  • Physics
  • Chemistry (organic, inorganic or biochemistry)

These courses are not required and are only an example of typical courses that many of our applicants take. All applicants are required to upload a scanned copy of their transcript (official or unofficial issued to student) with the online application for review by the admissions committee faculty.

The GRE test is not required for either route of admission and any scores submitted will not be reviewed by the admissions committee.

The NGP is committed to a holistic review process and gives careful consideration to the entire application packet, including (but not limited to) the personal and educational statements and letters of recommendation. The following categories are evaluated for each applicant:

  1. Research experience
  2. Academic preparation
  3. Research potential and growth-capacity
  4. Motivation and perseverance

Each applicant is reviewed by multiple members of the Admissions Committee. The committee then collectively discusses the applications and decides who will be invited for interviews.

Yes, applicants who are strong candidates for admission will be invited to interview with NGP faculty members, members of the admissions committee and NGP administration and current NGP students. All applicant interviews are financially supported by the NGP including flights and accommodations. Invited students will spend time learning about the Graduate Program and Ann Arbor and getting to know our graduate students. 

Applicants who are being considered for interviews will begin hearing from us in mid to late December. All final admissions decisions will be communicated to applicants no later than March 30th.

All NGP students receive an annual stipend, tuition and health insurance while in good academic standing. This funding comes from a variety of sources depending on your year of study, eligibility for training grants, and faculty mentor. In addition, at least one term of support will come from a teaching experience. Direct or PIB applicants that are admitted to NGP are guaranteed funding for their entirety, as long as they remain in good academic standing. The program is unable to offer paid leave of absences.