Applying to BMS

The Biomedical Sciences (BMS) Graduate Program trains students studying for the Ph.D. degree. A master's degree program is not offered. Ph.D. students are admitted once each year for fall quarter matriculation.

The online application for Fall 2021 can be found here: https://gradapplication.ucsf.edu/.  Application opens September 1st!

Important Dates and Deadlines

Applications are accepted for admission in the Fall quarter only.

All application materials including the online application, GRE general test (if electing to submit scores), TOEFL or IELTS for international students only, transcripts and letters of recommendation must be received by the application deadline of December 1, 11:59 p.m., PST.

For Fall 2021: We recommend that the required GRE general test should be taken no later than October 2020 to ensure timely delivery of test scores by the deadline (though GRE scores are NOT required for admission).

Review of applications starts on December 2nd.  We expect to notify applicants where they have been invited to interview by no later than December 19, 2020.

BMS hold two interview weekends - January 28-30, and February 11-13, 2021.  Due to COVID, all recruitment activities will be held virtually.  If we can safely bring admitted students out to visit campus at a later date, we will do so for those who are interested.

Starting Your Application to BMS

The BMS program is diverse in its faculty, the nature of their scientific interests and the experimental approaches they apply in their research. In light of this diversity, we expect and encourage applications from students with varied undergraduate training and research experiences. Interest in experimental biology and the themes represented in the program are obvious overarching requirements for admission. Successful applicants are also typically distinguished by their strong academic records and by prior exposure to scientific research. Such research experience might include undergraduate thesis projects, laboratory internships, technician positions or summer research programs in university or corporate laboratories (e.g., the UCSF Summer Research Training Program). An account of such exposure is one of the key components of a successful application to the program.

The minimum requirement for application to the BMS program is a baccalaureate degree; a master's degree is not a prerequisite for admission. There are no specific course requirements for admission, but courses in biology, molecular biology, chemistry, physics, biochemistry, computation, or related fields represent typical and highly appropriate preparation.

To apply to the program, complete the online application and arrange for at least three letters of recommendation to be submitted on your behalf. Scores from the GRE general test are OPTIONAL (TOEFL scores for foreign applicants are required) and an official transcript from all institutes of higher learning attended are also required.

You may apply to only one UCSF graduate program in an academic year. It is therefore important to consider which program suits your interests and apply to only that program. Listed below are other graduate programs at UCSF with whom we share faculty, along with a link to their respective websites. Each graduate program maintains its own admissions procedure.

Biological & Medical Informatics (BMI)
Biophysics Program
Chemistry & Chemical Biology Program (CCB)
Developmental & Stem Cell Biology (DSCB)
Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP)
Neuroscience Program
Pharmaceutical Sciences & Pharmacogenomics (PSPG)
Tetrad Graduate Program(includes PhD programs in Cell Biology, Genetics and Biochemistry)
UCSF/UCB Joint Graduate Group in Bioengineering

There is sometimes confusion between BMS and other UCSF programs due to overlapping research areas. However, BMS is a distinct program that maintains a separate curriculum and separate admission process. If you are unsure which program may be right for you, we encourage you to review the curriculum pages on each program's respective website (linked above) to help you in your decision-making. Also see our Frequently Asked Questions for additional information.

UCSF is committed to ensuring access to graduate education for all students. If you are an applicant with a disability, please visit our Resources page for more information on how we can accommodate you to have the best possible experience at UCSF.

Evaluation of Applications

Academics:  We look carefully and holistically at the academic history and experience of each applicant, including anhy challenges you faced, which can be discussed in the person statement.  "Academic history" means much more than GPA and the name of the undergraduate institution you attended.  We consider GPA, the institution and its philosophy on grading, the courses you took, your major(s), extracurriculars, work history, and other components of your academic experience across undergraduate or postgraduate education that you provide in your statements.

Personal Statement:  This is your chance to tell us about you!  We are curious about your motivations, how you ended up where you are apply from, why you want to go to graduate school, why you're interested in biomedical science, what faculty you are excited about working with, and related.  Use this statement to explain 'gaps' in time in your application when there are not clear activities.  For example, if you took a gap year what did you do in that time?  Also use this statement to explain career transitions.  If you are moving from industry to a PhD, why?  If you are switching fields, why?  Try to think about any 'unknowns' in your application and shore them up so that the admissions committee doesn't have to guess (we don't know!).  For example, we understand that sometimes it is not possible to request a supportive letter of reference from a prior supervisor.  The personal statement is a good place to make candid statements about recommenders and prior experiences to help us understand your application.

Also use the personal statement to discuss challenges you may have experienced that affected your academics or research experience or other components of your application.  We recognize that it can be challenging when applying for graduate school to have to relieve prior traumatic experiences.  We are not seeking detailed descriptions of trauma and do not try to 'quantify' this, which is impossible.  However, stating the challenges that may have affected your path to UCSF, at a level of detail you are comfortable with, will help us understand your experiences.  Please note, this is sometimes also referred to as a Statement of Purpose.

Research Statement:  We consider prior research experience to an important part of applying to our graduate program for two main reasons: 1) it helps us evaluate your potential as a researcher, and 2) it shows us that you have an understanding of who the intensive experience of graduate school aligns with your future career goals.  Use the research statement to tell us about your prior research experience, whether it be in academic labs, industry, or elsewhere. Some students have worked in multiple labs, whereas others have worked solely in one or concentrated primarily on independent study - there is no single 'best' way to have prior research experience.  In the statement, we would like to know what questions you attempted to answer (even if you didn't answer them), the goals of your research, your specific contributions to projects, information about any publications or future authorship expectations, and anything else you think may be important about your experience.  It is important to indicate what your independent contributions to a project where, both in terms of experiments and intellectual contributions.  Tell us about what your lab experience was like.  Did you go to conferences?  Did you present at lab meetings?  Write a thesis?  We want to know as much as possible.

Reference Letters:  We request that you submit at least three, up to five, letters of reference on your behalf.  These letters should ideally come from prior supervisors who can speak to your potential, independence, research experiences, and character.  Coworkers or teaching faculty can also be strong letters, but the most valuable are often from research supervisors.  Encourage letter writers from industry to discuss their thoughts on your transitioning to an academic setting.  

When considering who to ask for reference letters, it is useful to ask if they can write a 'strong' letter on your behalf.  If there are specific things you would like them to write about, ask them to include these in the letter - this doesn't mean writing the letter for them, rather asking them to discuss something that would strengthen your application.  Reference letters are evaluated in coordination with other application materials both as an assessment of you as a future scientist and to help us understand you better.

GRE & TOEFL Exams

BMS does not require GRE General test scores for admission into the program.  Submission of GRE scores are OPTIONAL.  

If you plan to submit GRE scores for Fall 2021 admission, we recommend that the GRE General test should be taken no later than October 2021 to ensure delivery by the December 1st deadline.

GRE Codes: For purposes of requesting that your scores be sent to us, the institutional code for UCSF is 4840. Department code 0299 may be used, but is not required since we match your scores to your application using your registration number and name.

TOEFL: International applicants are required to take the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language). Please use code 4840, department code 45. The TOEFL will be waived for applicants who have earned a baccalaureate degree at an institution where the language of instruction is English.

We will accept an IELTS score in lieu of the TOEFL. Test results may be sent to:

UCSF Graduate Division
University of California, San Francisco
1675 Owens St., Suite 310
Campus Box 0523
San Francisco, CA 94143-0523

Funding and Fellowships

All students, including international students, admitted to the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program are guaranteed a stipend to cover living expenses, plus payment of tuition, fees, and health insurance.

To make the available funds go as far as possible, all students who are admitted will be considered for fellowships administered by the Graduate Division on this campus, a major source of support for incoming students.

In addition, students are encouraged to apply for support from other sources, such as the National Science Foundation and Ford Foundation predoctoral fellowships. Information about extramural support can be found on the Graduate Division website. If outside fellowship support is not obtained, or if partial awards are made, other money available to the program will be used to supplement the awards up to the guaranteed level of support.