Holistic Review & Application Guidance

UChicago Biosciences graduate programs evaluate applicants using a holistic review process. All applications are assessed to identify individuals likely to succeed in graduate school in the context of the opportunities that have been available to them. Below are some components that we look for and take into consideration during the initial application review:

  • Academic preparation. We expect to see that the applicant has completed relevant courses and has, in general, passed them with high proficiency. Applicants may also demonstrate an improvement in coursework performance over time or show that weak grades were in a well-defined time period. The applicant may also have engaged in independent scholarly activities beyond their coursework (e.g. seminars, workshops, online courses, external reading of relevant literature). Academic merit awards, scholarships, and noteworthy mentions from instructors may also be considered.                                                                                                              
  • Research experience. The applicant has taken advantage of available relevant research opportunities. We encourage applicants to describe the research process in some detail, articulate the primary research question, briefly describe the experimental approaches and their role in the project, and list any publications or presentations resulting from the project. 
  • Motivation to pursue the field and the program. The applicant is encouraged to articulate scholarly/research interests, and how they developed through prior experiences and academic pathways. The applicant displays an understanding and vision of why the selected program and the available faculty will effectively facilitate their long-term and short-term goals.
  • Leadership and Mentorship. The applicant has taken initiative and shown leadership in academic or civic communities, and is committed to continuing to do so. We appreciate descriptions of mentoring or teaching experiences in any setting.
  • Service to the Community. The applicant provides evidence that they have played an active role in outreach activities, such as relevant leadership or organizational experiences such as efforts to address societal problems, community involvement or service, etc. 
  • Creativity and innovation. The applicant demonstrates evidence of independent thinking, creativity and innovation in approaching science and/or problem-solving.
  • Teamwork and time management. The applicant engaged in academic, research or extracurricular activities that required collaborative work and organizational skills. Such experiences can also provide evidence of talents and skills that are applicable to the research or teaching process, but which might have been obtained through non-academic jobs or training.
  • Resilience and Perseverance. The applicant is encouraged to articulate any specific challenges, obstacles, or failures they have faced, and how they successfully navigated them. We recognize that candidates have lived through a wide range of experiences and seek individuals who are well-prepared for the challenges of a PhD program.

Please note that not all components may not be relevant to the individual applicant.

Letters of Recommendation

Three letters of recommendation are required. We highly recommend that recommendation letters address the attributes outlined above, including those that may not be easily assessed in other parts of the application (e.g. creativity, perseverance). Letters may reflect a mix of backgrounds (academic or employment), but at least one should come from an individual who is qualified to evaluate in detail the applicant’s ability to carry out independent research, for example a faculty mentor or equivalent. We encourage you to share these guidelines with your references to inform them about the whole suite of attributes that we will consider in our review process.