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Biomedical PhD Admissions & Application

The Walter S. and Lucienne Driskill Graduate Training Program in Life Sciences (DGP) evaluates applicants for admission based on the entire application package. Our goal is to identify and offer admission to those individuals with potential for success in graduate school and beyond. To this end, we carefully examine each applicant's academic achievement and hands-on research experiences. Our admissions committee places great emphasis on quality research experiences, strong letters of support from research and/or academic advisers and a dedication to graduate training.

The application deadline is December 1. Priority will be given to applications that are complete (including letters of recommendation) by this date.

 Complete the Online Application

Applications for the 2023-2024 academic year can be submitted starting in September, 2022. The deadline for receipt of completed applications is December 1. Submissions after the deadline will be accepted only with permission from the DGP office.

To begin the online application process, read the instructions and complete an online application via The Graduate School of Northwestern University website.

Choose "DGP-Driskill Life Sciences: PHD (L20PH)" as your Academic Program from the pull-down menu. Applicants to the MPH/PHD program should choose "Life Sciences and Public Health" (L21PH). The nonrefundable application fee must be paid via credit card at the time of application submission, and the application will not be processed without payment of the fee. Students that meet certain eligibility requirements may apply for a fee waiver from The Graduate School. The fee waiver application is embedded in the application itself. DGP does not offer any additional fee waivers.

 Submit All Supporting Documents Online

As part of the application, you will need to upload the following supporting materials.

Letters of Recommendation

Please submit letters from three or more advisers/professors who are familiar with your work and achievements and can assess your potential to succeed in a PhD program. At least one (and preferably more) of your letters of recommendation should be from an adviser who can comment on your performance in a scientific research setting. Letters should be submitted online by your recommenders. Please follow the instructions on the online application website.

Official Transcripts

The Graduate School requires all applicants to upload a scanned copy of their transcripts. Please do not have transcripts sent by mail.  We do not need official transcripts at the time of application

Resume or Curriculum Vitae

Please be sure to include date (month and year) for all research experiences.  Also be sure to include any publications or presentations of your work to scientific audiences.

Personal Statement (Submit as Statement of Purpose)

In your personal statement, describe your goals and motivations in one page or less. Consider including your reasons for attending graduate school, career goals, how you have prepared yourself to reach your goals, your reasons for choosing Northwestern and the DGP, the field(s) of study you are currently interested in and the reasons for your interest. Applicants can indicate one of the research clusters in which they plan to specialize.

Description of Research Experiences (Submit as Supplemental Material)

Successful applicants are able to communicate a clear understanding of their own scientific experiences both in writing (application) and orally (during interviews).

Describe your previous scientific experience(s) in two pages or less. You may address some of following questions:

  • What were the larger questions that you were investigating?
  • What aspect of the overall problem did you pursue, and why was this aspect important?
  • What was your individual contributions to the project(s)?
  • What did you learn from the experience, and how did it shape your career goals?
  • Are there any individual accomplishments from your research (papers, presentations, etc.) you wish to mention?


Diversity Statement (Optional)

A diverse student body enhances the graduate school educational experience and the scientific enterprise as a whole.  Diversity can come in many forms, including but not limited to race or ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, religion, disability, place of origin, or other unique circumstances or experiences.  You are invited to use this statement to describe how you will contribute to the diversity of the program.

 Test Scores

The DGP no longer requires the submission of GRE general or subject tests. DGP will accept GRE scores if you believe they will help your application. We would like to stress that submission of scores is truly optional. In the admissions cycle for 2022 admits, only about 15% of applicants submitted GRE scores. The percentage of applicants admitted who submitted GRE scores and those who did not were the same. International students with degrees from non-US institutions may benefit more from submitting GRE scores.

  • If you decide to submit GRE scores, please have your official GRE scores sent by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) directly to The Northwestern University Graduate School (Institution code 1565, no department code needed). You should also self-report your scores as part of the online application

A TOEFL score of 90 (internet) for all international applicants is a requirement of NU Graduate School and cannot be waived by the DGP. However, students who obtain an undergraduate or graduate degree from institutions within the US or from institutions where the language of instruction is English are exempt from the TOEFL requirement. If your TOEFL is not automatically waived, please contact us.

  • TOEFL: For international students, valid TOEFL scores ARE required by the NU Graduate School unless you have a degree from an institution in the US or in which English is the language of instruction. The DGP cannot waive this requirement. The test must be taken no more than two years before the intended quarter of entry. For the TOEFL, you must score 90 or higher on the internet based test. The Graduate School's school code for TOEFL is 1565. When prompted, IBT test takers should request that their scores be sent to the graduate office. ALL scores sent to school code 1565 are made available to all programs, regardless of the "departments" selected on the ETS form.
  • IELTS: The IELTS may be used in place of the TOEFL. For the IELTS, you must receive a score of 7.0 or higher.

 Holistic Review

The DGP uses a holistic review process for admissions.  Holistic review means that we take into account all aspects of your application, including your experiences and academics, as well as how you would contribute to the scientific and learning environment at Northwestern.  We do not use cut off scores or other metrics that eliminate applicants without a thorough review of the entire application.

 For the written application, we ask admissions committee members to consider the following aspects of the application:

  • Research experience and scientific thinking (e.g., the ability to define a questions, form a hypothesis, discuss an experimental approach beyond the technical details, etc.) as evidenced in research statement
  • Research accomplishments, including publications and presentations
  • Letters of recommendation, with emphasis on evaluation of potential as a scientist from research advisors
  • Academic qualifications—GPA, courses completed, trajectory through undergraduate/graduate education
  • Contribution to class diversity, ability to bring unique perspectives to the program, and community involvement
  • Motivation for graduate school
  • Evidence of persistence in research and ability to overcome obstacles
  • Leadership potential

 In addition to the above, interviewers are also asked about the following aspects in interviews:

  • Ability to engage in thoughtful discussions about research; both ask and answer questions
  • Scientific curiosity, demonstrating interest in science beyond a specific project
  • Evidence of problem solving ability
  • Communication skills
  • Applicant’s confidence, understanding of their own strengths and weakness, and ability to grow


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