PhD Admissions: How to Find Programs and Potential Advisors

How do I Find PhD Programs?

There are a few ways that you can find PhD programs. First, you should think about your research interests. Because my research interests are focused on how the media influences the identity development of young people, I applied to a mix of PhD programs in Developmental Psychology, Human Development, and Communications. Here was my method of looking for these programs (not the best, but still effective!):

NOTE: Geographic location was a huge factor for me when researching programs. I only looked at institutions that were located in cities where I could see myself living. That is one way to cut down the number of programs that you have to look into! Also, think about other factors that may be important to you in a program and be sure to look for those qualities as you do your research. Check out this video by Dr. Casey Fiesler about choosing the right PhD programs when applying!

How Many Programs is Enough to Apply to?

I don’t think there is a “perfect” number when it comes to how many programs a prospective applicant should apply to, but I would say 5-10 is a good range. I applied to 8 programs and felt that that was a solid number. However, if you are applying to really competitive programs (e.g., Clinical Psychology PhD), then applying to more than 10 is understandable.

Applying to Multiple Programs at the Same University

If your research interests are grounded in more than one field (like mine), that’s okay! You can apply to more than one program at a university if you think both of them are a good fit for you (and if the school allows it, some don’t). I applied to the Developmental Psychology and Communication and Media PhD programs at the University of Michigan and was accepted to both. One concern with doing this is that you may look “scattered”, but as long as you know why you are applying to these programs, you’re good.

How to Find Potential Advisors?

You can find professors that you may be interested in working with in a number of different ways including:

  • Looking through program websites and seeing which professor’s research interests align with yours
  • Reading articles and taking note of what names you keep coming across and what colleges/universities they work for. Also see if there are any videos on YouTube of these professors giving a lecture or presenting at a conference!
  • Ask your mentors for their advice about who you should work with based on similar research interests. Also reach out to grad students if you know any!

NOTE: If any of you are interested in the media’s influence on identity development, let me know and I can give you the names of some professors who I know do that work!

One thought on “PhD Admissions: How to Find Programs and Potential Advisors

  1. Note as an amendment to your first bullet point that many universities may also offer a search tool to help identify supervisors. This may be especially helpful for applicants who are considering different disciplines because they see their research interest as interdisciplinary. For an example, see our https://www.grad.ubc.ca/prospective-students/application-admission/finding-supervisor at the Univ of British Columbia which allows you to search by a topic rather than program/department.

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