Advice on applying for PhD programs

It’s fall, and about time for the flood of grad school inquiries.

Like many of my colleagues, this is one of the most common questions I get in office hours from my students. Partly because of the blog, I must get an email every other day from a prospective student. Most faculty get peppered with questions about their grad programs, more emails than we can answer.

In the interests of efficiency (meaning my time and that of my colleagues) I’ve written up my thoughts on the most common questions:

  1. Should I get a PhD?
  2. Is School X a good fit for my interest Y? Should I apply?
  3. Thanks for the general advice, but what about you and Columbia?
  4. Do I need to have faculty advisers picked out in advance?
  5. Should I contact faculty in advance? Can we meet or have a phone conversation before I apply?
  6. So what makes a successful application?
  7. Do I need an MA?
  8. Do I need experience?

My answers here.

Note: I write this partly to absolve the guilt that comes from not answering all the emails I get about graduate school and career advice. Sorry if I can’t respond individually, and I hope these advice posts help instead.

26 thoughts on “Advice on applying for PhD programs

  1. What would you think of someone trying to transfer in from a much lower-ranked PhD program- is it like someone applying with an MA, or better, or worse? Would you find it worth it to attend Columbia instead of a bottom-ranked econ program if it meant an extra 2-3 years in school?