Frequently Asked Questions


What are the required prerequisites for admission to the UCSF Neuroscience Graduate Program?
The Program requires a completed application and a Bachelor’s degree conferred prior to enrollment.

What factors are important for admission to the Neuroscience Program?
The UCSF Neuroscience Graduate Program aims to provide world-class training in experimental and theoretical neuroscience, emphasizing cross-disciplinary research. Admitted applicants will have high potential for success in scientific research and will contribute to a diverse scientific and cultural environment at UCSF. The Admissions Committee considers all aspects of the application (see below for additional information).

Is prior research experience important for admission to the Neuroscience Program?
Prior research experience (undergraduate thesis projects, internships, technician positions, summer research programs, etc.) is an influential factor considered during the admissions process. These experiences can provide valuable insight into applicant’s scientific background and commitment to completing a PhD.

Does the Neuroscience Program require applicants to take the GRE?
No. The Neuroscience Program no longer accepts GRE scores.

Which aspects of academic transcripts are evaluated?
The Admissions Committee evaluates the entire transcript, including GPA, course load and the apparent rigor of coursework, regardless of whether the material is STEM or non-STEM. The Committee looks for evidence of intellectual breadth and commitment to excellence. The Committee takes into account improvements in GPA over time as well as any extenuating circumstances affecting grades or continuous enrollment. 

What information should applicants include in their Research Statement?
Applicants should emphasize their contributions to and comprehension of their previous research experiences rather than simply listing techniques. Evidence of engagement in the research process – from hypothesis generation to troubleshooting to formulation of conclusions – is particularly important to emphasize.

What information should applicants include in their Statement of Purpose?
The Statement of Purpose should be well-written, concise, and genuine. In addition to the information in the prompt, the Statement of Purpose may include discussion of career goals, motivation to attain at PhD, research interests, or unique personal experiences that help the Committee better understand the applicant as an individual. Applicants should feel comfortable sharing extenuating circumstances that might address lapses in grades or continuous educational trajectory, but this is not necessary. 

Whom should applicants ask for letters of recommendation?
Applicants should ask for letters from individuals who know them well. Ideally, letter writers can provide specific examples highlighting an applicant’s commitment to and aptitude for independent research. Particularly valuable are statements attesting to the potential for an applicant to positively contribute to a broad, diverse scientific community. Letters are typically written by a research supervisor, but could also be contributed by a senior member of a research team. Letters attesting to research experiences at universities, research institutes, community colleges, or companies are all valued. Letters from professors that know an applicant only by their performance in a class carry less weight, but are still useful. While the Admissions Committee requires three letters, applicants may submit up to five. 

Should applicants discuss experiences unrelated to research or STEM in their applications?
Experiences in athletics, student council, activism, volunteering, visual arts, music, and writing (among many others) can demonstrate individuality, passion, and commitment to a topic, task, or job. Applicants are encouraged to provide any and all information that they feel speaks to their potential for success in scientific research and that informs the Committee of the contribution they would make to our community.

The application states that including a CV is optional. Under which circumstances should applicants include a CV in their application? 
Some applicants have work experiences outside academia that are not captured by the rest of the application. Applicants have the option to provide a supplemental CV to capture these experiences. 

Are international applicants admitted?
Yes. We seek to admit the most qualified international applicants each year. Please see the UCSF International Students and Scholars Office’s website for more information.

Are undocumented applicants admitted?
We adhere to the policies of the University of California. For more information, please see the UCSF Undocumented Students Support Services’ website and the Undocumented Prospective Student FAQ.

Who is required to submit TOEFL scores?
International applicants whose training has been in a language other than English are required to submit scores for the TOEFL or the IELTS. More details about the TOEFL requirements can be found here.

Can applicants apply to more than one UCSF graduate program?
No. Applicants may apply to only one UCSF graduate program in a single academic year. Each graduate program maintains its own admissions process. Applicants should consider which program suits their interests and apply to only that program. A list of all UCSF graduate programs is available at the UCSF Graduate Division's website. Listed below are a selection of graduate programs at UCSF that applicants may want to consider, along with a link to their respective websites.

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

Before applying, should applicants contact faculty?
There is no need to contact faculty in advance of applying. But if you have questions about a particular faculty member’s research, you are welcome to contact them. Please see a list of current UCSF Neuroscience faculty members.


Does the Neuroscience Program offer a Master’s degree?
No. The Neuroscience Graduate Program is a PhD program.

How long does it take to complete a PhD?
The Program typically takes between 4-6 years to complete. Across the UCSF Graduate Division, the median time to PhD degree is 5.75 years.

What is the difference between the Neuroscience Program and other programs at UCSF, such as the BMS Program or the Tetrad Program?
Neuroscience is a distinct program that maintains a separate curriculum, a separate admission process, and a unique set of primary faculty. However, students are encouraged to pursue their unique scientific interests through collaborations or by joining certain non-Neuroscience laboratories throughout the greater UCSF scientific community.

Do international students or undocumented students need to secure their own funding to enroll in the Program?
No. International students and undocumented students receive the same financial support as U.S. citizens and permanent residents. This includes a stipend for living expenses, payment of tuition and fees, and health insurance (medical, dental, vision, and mental health).

Can students apply for work or fellowships to help pay costs?
UCSF Neuroscience is a full-time research program leading to the PhD degree. Because outside employment is not permitted, all students who are admitted to the Neuroscience Program and who remain in good academic standing will receive an annual stipend for living expenses plus tuition/fee remission until graduation, regardless of citizenship. Fees includes medical, dental, vision and mental health insurance.

We encourage all students to apply for extramural funding, such as the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship. Please see Funding & Fellowships for more information about sources of extramural funding.

What kind of jobs do Neuroscience students get after graduation?
Please see UCSF Graduate Program Statistics.