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FAQs about applying to U-M graduate programs

Should I apply for a Master’s degree or for a PhD?

The answer depends on what you want to do. Most Master's degrees emphasize coursework and are typically intended to give you advanced training that will be of immediate use in your career. In contrast, the PhD is primarily a research degree. While PhD students take some courses, the major focus is on developing your skills in conducting independent research and teaching.


Do I need to have a Master's degree before applying for a PhD?

Generally not. If you have completed a four-year undergraduate degree, you can apply directly to a PhD program. If your undergraduate degree was only 3 years, then it is often necessary to complete a Master's degree before beginning your PhD studies. In some countries, you can complete a one-year “honors degree” after a three-year bachelor's degree — the combination of a three-year bachelor’s plus one-year honors also typically satisfies the eligibility requirement for PhD study in the US.


When should I apply?

Almost all graduate programs at U-M start with the “fall” semester (September-December). While admission deadlines vary from program to program, students who want to start in September 2023 should submit their applications in November or December of 2022. For more details, check the website of the specific program you are interested in.


How do I find out more about a department and the faculty in that department?

Every graduate program has a website that describes the research programs of all of its faculty. All programs will list an email address for their student services contact; this person can often point you to additional resources. The Rackham Graduate School Programs of Study would be a great starting point for locating departmental websites.


I have a degree in XXX; is it possible to apply to a graduate program in YYY?

Yes!  Michigan prides itself on being very interdisciplinary; many of our students (and faculty) have research interests that cross disciplinary lines. It depends, of course, on what XXX and YYY are, but our concern is whether or not you have the preparation to succeed in a program, not with the name of your degree.


What is the cost of a graduate degree?

Students admitted to a PhD program at Michigan generally receive a guarantee of 5 years of funding, i.e. full scholarship (tuition, fees, and a stipend). Stipend support can vary from program to program but often includes a mixture of research assistantships and instructional appointments. The situation is more varied for Master's programs, but generally, these do not include financial aid.


What is the acceptance rate?  What sorts of jobs do graduates get? 

This information can be found on the Rackham Graduate School's Program Statistic page.


How do I convert my GPA to the US system? 

Details on this and on other required credentials can be found on  Rackham Graduate School's Required Academic Credentials from Non-U.S. Institutions page.


Will my application be reviewed if I submit an unofficial transcript?

This will depend on the department. You should ask them. Some will be able to review an unofficial transcript, but you will need to submit the official run before admission can be finalized.


Is it ok to have a letter of recommendation from someone who is not a professor?

Yes. What is important is that the letter writer has direct knowledge of your background and skills and in particular, your aptitude for research.


Do I need to have published work?

No, this is not necessary. If you have publications, you should describe these in your application and explain your role in the work. If you have been involved in research but do not have publications, that’s fine (and quite common). In this case, you should describe what the research was and what your role was in the project.


Do I have to take the TOEFL?  

Students whose native language is not English will need to demonstrate that they are prepared to succeed in our courses. If all of your undergraduate (or Master's) program was taught in English, you should be eligible for a waiver on English certification. If you need to demonstrate your English ability, we accept a number of tests, including the Michigan English Test, TOEFL and IELTS. For more information on English requirements, including when waivers are available, see Rackham Graduate School's Tests page.

Should I contact individual faculty before I apply to a program?

While it might sometimes make sense to inquire if a particular faculty member is going to be taking new students, it is not necessary. Please note that admissions decisions are generally made by an admissions committee, not by individual faculty. Contacting a faculty member does not generally affect your prospects for admission.


What is the most important part of an application?

Michigan uses a holistic evaluation procedure, so all aspects of your application are important. We pay particular attention to any prior research experience, to your description of the research that you’re interested in pursuing, and to your letters (particularly if they speak to your research aptitude). We look at your academic statements and (where required) your writing samples as a way to understand whether your interests are a good match with our faculty and to evaluate your preparation for advanced study.