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Stanford Biosciences

Applicant FAQ

Photo by Cindy Sandoval Espinoza

Frequently Asked Questions – Eligibility, Funding, Knight-Hennessy Scholars, etc.

In addition to the most frequently asked Biosciences questions below, please also visit the Graduate Admissions FAQ web page for a more expansive list.

Are there any prerequisites or background coursework required for the 14 Biosciences PhD Programs?

A majority of the Biosciences PhD Programs do not have specific course requirements for admission.  The faculty like to see that you have taken a rigorous course load, but they will be particularly interested in your research experience.  While many of our graduate students have undergraduate preparation in a life sciences curriculum, it is feasible to enter from other programs, including chemistry, computer science, mathematics, psychology, or physics.  The Biomedical Data ScienceBiophysicsMolecular and Cellular Physiology, and Structural Biology programs have prerequisite or background course requirements. We strongly recommend that you reach out to the programs to which you plan to apply, to ask for specific course requirements/suggestions.

Can I apply to other graduate programs (e.g. Applied Physics, Bioengineering, Chemistry, Computer Science, etc.) in addition to the 14 Biosciences PhD Programs?

You may apply to only one graduate program per academic year. The only exception is within the 14 Biosciences PhD Programs, where you may apply for two Biosciences programs within a single application. The 14 Biosciences PhD Programs include:

  • Biochemistry
  • Biology
  • Biomedical Data Science
  • Biophysics
  • Cancer Biology
  • Chemical and Systems Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Genetics
  • Immunology
  • Microbiology and Immunology
  • Molecular and Cellular Physiology
  • Neurosciences
  • Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine
  • Structural Biology

Can I defer my enrollment?

Admitted students are expected to enroll in their Home Program in September of the year they are admitted. Deferral requests will be reviewed by your admitting program’s admissions committee and are approved on a case-by-case basis. The maximum length of an admissions deferral granted by Stanford is one year. Typically, deferral requests are only approved for military, medical, visa, or education-related purposes.

Can recommenders submit their letter via mail, email, fax, or a letter service?

All recommendations must be submitted using the online application system as recommenders are required to respond to specific evaluation questions on the recommendation form. Letters of recommendation cannot be mailed, emailed, faxed, or submitted through a letter service (with the exception of Interfolio). For letters submitted via Interfolio, please remember that letters written specifically for your Stanford graduate program tend to be stronger than letters written for general use purposes.

Do any of the 14 Biosciences PhD Programs offer an MS degree program?

The Biomedical Data Science program is the only Biosciences Program that currently offers an MS degree program.  Information about the program and its application process can be found on its website.

If you are not interested in one of the 14 Biosciences PhD Programs, you can find a list of all the currently offered degrees at Stanford (along with their contact information) on the Graduate Admissions Explore Programs web page.

Do I need to hold an MS degree to be eligible to apply?

A Master’s degree is only required if you do not meet the following eligibility requirements.  To be eligible for admission to graduate programs at Stanford, applicants must meet one of the following conditions:

  • Applicants must hold, or expect to hold before enrollment at Stanford, a bachelor’s degree from a U.S. college or university accredited by a regional accrediting association.
  • Applicants from institutions outside the U.S. must hold, or expect to hold before enrollment at Stanford, the equivalent of a U.S. bachelor’s degree from a college or university of recognized standing. See the Office of Graduate Admissions for the minimum level of study required of international applicants.

Do I need to include a department code number when requesting to have my GRE and/or TOEFL scores sent to Stanford?

Applicants should have the Educational Testing Service (ETS) send scores electronically to Stanford. Our university code is 4704 and no department code is required. You will either self-report your scores or indicate the date you will take the test(s) in the online application. Self-reported test scores will be used by the relevant admissions committee in their initial review process. Your unofficial test scores will be validated when your official scores are received by the University.

Do I need to secure a Lab/Thesis Supervisor prior to applying?

You will not need to secure a research supervisor prior to applying. Incoming students usually do 2-4 lab rotations during their first year.  Information on the rotation process can be found on the following website.  If you realize a few weeks into a rotation that the lab is not a good fit for you, then there is no reason for you to stay any longer.

Do I need to submit official transcripts/academic records?

Graduate Admissions only requires admitted applicants who accept the offer of admission to submit official transcripts that shows their degree conferral. More details on this can be found on the following Graduate Admissions webpage.  Please do not send or have sent any transcripts to us or to your program. 

Do you offer fellowships to international applicants?

We have a limited number of fellowships (which include a yearly stipend, tuition, and health and dental insurance) available to the most highly competitive international applicants. The stipend for the 2023-24 Academic Year is $51,600 ($12,900 per quarter). Admittance to the Biosciences Programs for international applicants varies from year to year depending on funding and available space. We strongly encourage applicants to apply for scholarships/fellowships in their home country that can be used overseas. Some useful websites that include information on external fellowships are:

Applying for scholarships/fellowships generally takes some time to arrange, so plan ahead. You will be able to list any scholarships/fellowships that you have applied for and been awarded in the “Additional Information” section of the online application under “External Funding for Graduate Study”.  For more information about the costs and estimated expenses of attending Stanford, please visit the following webpage.

Does the Bioengineering PhD program participate in the Biosciences Interview Session?

The Bioengineering PhD program is not one of the 14 Biosciences PhD Programs and has a separate admissions process and Interview Session.

How do I change one of my recommenders?

On the Recommendations page of the application, click on the recommender’s name you wish to replace, then click Exclude at the bottom of the resulting popup window. You then will see the option to add a new recommender. The recommender you exclude will not receive an email notification.

How does the funding work for those admitted to the Knight-Hennessy Scholars Program and the Biosciences?

The Knight-Hennessy Scholars program funding covers the first three years and your admitting Home Program will cover the remaining years.

I previously applied to the Stanford Biosciences Programs and was not admitted. What application materials will I need to submit?

Applicants who wish to reapply follow the same application process as first-time applicants. Reapplicants have the option of using letters of recommendation from their prior submitted Biosciences application or having new ones submitted.  Prior applications from the Autumn 2021, 2022, and 2023 admission cycles have been retained. It is highly recommended that one new letter of recommendation be submitted on your behalf.  When completing the application, you will be required to enter the information for a minimum of three recommenders (including the information for the letter writers that you plan to reuse).

For the letters you plan to reuse, please notify your recommenders in advance that they will receive a recommendation request but should not take any action.  Once you submit your application, please submit an email to the Biosciences Admissions Office indicating which letters you would like to reuse so we can add them to your application.

I’m an applicant whose first language is not English. Is it possible to have the TOEFL Test requirement waived?

Information about the TOEFL Test requirements, exemptions and waivers can be found on the Graduate Admissions website. Please note that if you submit a waiver request, it will be routed to Graduate Admissions after you submit your application. Allow up to 15 business days after submitting your application for a response.

I’ve applied to multiple Home Programs and was wondering what happens if more than one program is interested in interviewing me?

In that case, the admissions representatives confer and attempt to determine which Home Program best fits your interests and should serve as your host. They will use the information you provided in your Statement of Purpose and on the Biosciences Supplemental Form. In most cases the best match is clear, but in rare cases where this is not the case, an admissions committee member will contact you directly to discuss with you which Home Program would be the best to host your visit. You will also have an opportunity to meet with faculty affiliated with other Home Programs during your visit.

If my school does not use a 4.0 GPA grading scale, how should I report this on my application?

You are asked to enter both GPA and GPA scale for each institution you list on the application. Enter your GPA as it appears on your transcript. Do not convert your GPA to a 4.0 scale if it’s reported on a different scale.

Is there a minimum GPA requirement?

There is no minimum GPA requirement to be considered for admission. The application review process is holistic and all aspects of the application (prior coursework, letters of recommendation, the statement of purpose, prior research experience, and test scores {if applicable}) are considered by the Admissions Committee when making an admissions decision.

What is included in the offer of admission?

The offer of admission for the 2023-24 Academic Year included a stipend of $51,600 ($12,900 per quarter), health and dental insurance, and graduate tuition. The stipend and benefits for the 2024-25 Academic Year will be set sometime in March 2024.  For more information about the costs and estimated expenses of attending Stanford, please visit the following webpage.

What is the Knight-Hennessy Scholars program?

The Knight-Hennessy Scholars program develops a community of future global leaders to address complex challenges through collaboration and innovation. The program will award up to 100 high-achieving students with three years of funding to pursue a graduate education at Stanford. To be considered, you must apply to both the Knight-Hennessy Scholars by Wednesday, October 11, 2023, at 1:00 pm (PST) and to one of the Stanford Biosciences PhD programs by Friday, December 1, 2023, at 11:59:59 pm (PST).  Information about the program and the application process can be found on the Knight-Hennessy Scholars program website.