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Dorsal aorta of an E10.5 mouse.
Dorsal aorta of an E10.5 mouse. CD31 (red) is expressed by endothelial cells. CD41+ (green) cells are blood cells in the aorta. Runx1 (blue) is a master regulator of hematopoiesis expressed in the endothelium and blood. CD31+ primordial germ cells can also be seen migrating along the ventral side of the aorta.
Credit: Amanda Phillips, CAMB

General Questions

Application Questions

GRE/TOEFL questions


General Questions

Where is the online application?
The online application for Fall 2017 will be available in October 2016. Please check back for a link on that date.

What is the application fee?
The application fee is $80, which is due before we can begin processing your application. The fee can be paid by credit card through the online application.

Is it possible for me to obtain a waiver of the application fee?
We regret that we cannot waive the application fee for international applicants. U.S. citizens and permanent residents may request a waiver in cases of documented financial hardship. To request a waiver, please email the Admissions Coordinator with an explanation of your situation prior to submitting your application. S/he may ask for additional documentation.

When will I know if I’ve been accepted?
Graduate groups arrange to interview all applicants whom they are considering for admission. Interviews of overseas applicants may be conducted by phone and/or videoconference. Most interviews take place between late January and early March. Applicants are accepted on a rolling basis between late January and April 15. All notifications will be available from BGS by April 15.

Please be sure to keep the email address used in your online profile (created when you first logged into the system) current; we will use that address to communicate admissions decisions to you.

What if I can't decide which group to apply to?
Applicants should choose to apply to the group that best matches their research goals and experiences. BGS Graduate Groups are highly interdisciplinary in nature, and students are generally free to take classes and work in labs throughout BGS. If a student’s interests and research focus change, BGS policy permits students in good academic standing to apply for a transfer from one group to another at any point during the first year of study.

Does BGS offer financial aid?
Students accepted to Biomedical Graduate Studies’ PhD programs receive a fully funded fellowship—including tuition, fees, health insurance, and a competitive stipend—regardless of financial need. Funds for these fellowships are derived from reserves provided by the School of Medicine and the University Provost, NIH training grants and individual fellowships, research grants, and other funding sources.

In general, students accepted into Biomedical Graduate Studies are awarded financial support for the anticipated five to six years required to attain the doctoral degree. The annual stipend for students entering in Fall 2017 is $32,000. In addition, as of Fall 2014, BGS provides new students with a $1,000 relocation award, to help cover start-up costs such as moving expenses and apartment security deposits.

I am an international applicant. Is there any additional information I should know?
Biomedical Graduate Studies seeks to recruit the most talented students from a variety of international institutions. However, please be advised that we can only accept a small number of international students. Competition for these positions is intense, and thus we advise prospective applicants to be sure our graduate programs are a good fit for their research interests and abilities. Successful applicants will have extensive training in their area of proposed study, very strong academic records, and high GRE and TOEFL scores

I already have a professional degree and want to obtain a PhD Is there any additional information I should know?
BGS accepts applications from applicants who have already obtained an MD, VMD, DMD, PhD, or other professional level degree. However, if such an applicant is accepted the applicant is responsible for securing his or her own funding for the entirety of the PhD program; BGS is unable to offer any financial support. These applicants must follow the normal application procedure. Some allowances may be made for standardized testing requirements; please contact the Admissions Coordinator with questions.

Does BGS accept transfer students?
Students who are already enrolled in a PhD program elsewhere may apply to transfer to BGS. Transfer applicants must follow the normal application procedure. At least one of your letters must come from a faculty member at your current institution who is familiar with your work, and your personal statement should include your reasons for wanting to transfer programs.

My question is not answered here or in the application instructions. Who can I contact for more information?
If you cannot find the answer on our website or in the application instructions, you may contact the Admissions Coordinator or the coordinator of the graduate group to which you are applying. Please understand that in the midst of the admissions season we are processing over a thousand applications; because of this a response to your inquiry may be delayed.

Application Questions

What other materials do I need to submit with my application?
A complete application consists of:

Application materials are received and processed by the BGS office and then forwarded to the individual graduate groups for consideration.

What is your transcript policy? Can I submit scanned copies?

All BGS applicants are required to upload up-to-date unofficial transcripts from all institutions attended. For students currently enrolled in programs, transcripts must include Spring 2016 semester grades and Fall 2016 semester course enrollment. Transcripts from completed programs should show proof of degree conferral. A final, official transcript showing conferral of degree will be required of all accepted students prior to matriculation.

Where do I send application documents?
Most documents will be uploaded through the online system, but if you need to provide additional documents (official transcripts, offline letters of recommendation), please send them to one of the following addresses. Please mail hard copy materials to:

Admissions Coordinator
Biomedical Graduate Studies
160 BRB II/III - 421 Curie Blvd.
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6064

Official electronic transcripts can be sent from the issuing institution to:

Once the application is submitted, applicants may login to ApplyWeb to see whether transcripts and recommendation letters have been received. Please allow at least two weeks following the deadline for items to be posted to the application.

How can I find out if my application and materials have been received?
Applicants may log into the online application to check whether letters of recommendation and transcripts have been received. The admissions office will post your documents to your application page as soon as possible. Please note that this may be up to two weeks after you submit your application. We request that you please do not call or email the admissions office to check on the status of your application. We have over a thousand applications to process and unfortunately we cannot sort through them to find individual documents.

How should Letters of Recommendation be submitted?
There is a section on the online application that will require that you submit recommendation requests to those who have agreed to submit letters of recommendation on your behalf. The recommender will then be issued an email with instructions for submitting the letter, and filling out the recommendation form. While we strongly prefer all letters and forms to be submitted through the online system, there is an option to have your recommender submit your letter offline, in the event that the recommender does not have access to a computer. Instructions and a PDF of the offline recommendation form can be found here.

What if I decide after submitting my application to substitute one letter writer for another? What if I end up with four letters of recommendation?
As long as the letter writer has not begun to submit the letter through the online system, you may log into your online application account and change the recommender information. As long as an applicant has three letters of recommendation, it will be considered a complete application and will be available for faculty review. If a fourth letter is received, it will be added to your application file.

Do you accept letters of recommendation via Interfolio?
While we do accept letters through Interfolio (or other similar document management sources), it is strongly discouraged. Interfolio is unable to transmit the Penn Recommendation Form, which is an essential element of the application review. Without this form, an application is considered incomplete. If you must use Interfolio, you can have the recommenders fill out and submit the offline version of the Recommendation Form. A link to the form and instructions for submission can be found here:

How long should my personal statement be?
Your personal statement allows you to discuss your academic and career objectives. It should be around 500 words in length. Be as specific as you can about the area in which you plan to study and your reasons for wishing to study at the University of Pennsylvania.

If you are applying to certificate program, your personal statement should include a paragraph (~200 words) reflecting your interest in those programs in addition to the doctoral discipline.

How long should my research statement be?
Please provide a description of your research experience(s), including the goals of each project, approaches used, results obtained, and implications of the findings for the project and the field at large. You may choose to describe a single research experience or several experiences, but please limit your statement to around 1000 words in length.

Can I make changes to the personal statement/research statement/CV I have already submitted with my application?
We are unable to update parts of your application after it has been submitted. If you send updated CVs, personal statements, etc., we will add to your file but these will not be updated on the online system. We regret that there are no exceptions to this policy.

My college/university does not use a 4-point GPA scale. How can I enter my GPA?
If your GPA is on a scale other than 4.0, you should note this in the Academic Background section of the application – there is a separate field for this.

I took some classes through my college/university’s study abroad program, and those courses are listed on my college/university’s official transcript. Do I still need an official transcript from the study abroad experience?
If you have studied abroad for a semester or year, and these courses and grades are reflected on your undergraduate institution’s transcript, you do not need to send an official transcript from the study abroad institution.


GRE/TOEFL Questions

Which standardized tests does BGS require?
BGS requires the general GRE for all applicants and the TOEFL or IELTS for students for whom English is not the native language. We will waive the TOEFL or IELTS for applicants who have or will have obtained a degree from a U.S. or other approved English-instructed institution. There are no minimum score requirements. BGS does not require any GRE subject tests.

What are the GRE and TOEFL codes?
Please enter the code 2900 on your GRE and TOEFL tests. You do not need to enter a separate department code. If you are required to enter a department code, you may enter any that are available to you; they will all be sent to us. Because Penn keeps all GRE and TOEFL scores on a central database, if you accidentally sent your scores to another school at Penn we will still be able to match them to your application.

How should I submit IELTS scores?
You should request that the official score report be sent from the testing service to:

Admissions Coordinator
Biomedical Graduate Studies
160 BRB II/III - 421 Curie Blvd.
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6064

What if my GRE scores cannot be reported by the December deadline?
We will accept GRE scores after December deadline if the rest of the application is complete. However, applications will not be considered until the scores are received. Applicants may email the unofficial results of a computer-based GRE test directly to the admissions coordinator and the graduate group; however, no action may be taken on the application until the official scores are received.

What if I took the GRE more than 5 years ago or the TOEFL more than 2 years ago?
ETS will not issue GRE scores that are more than 5 years old or TOEFL scores that are more than 2 years old. Applicants who have expired scores must retake the test(s).

I am an international student who has graduated/will graduate from an English-instructed institution; do I still need to submit TOEFL scores?
No. We will waive the TOEFL requirement for students who have/will have obtained a degree from a U.S. or other approved English-instructed institution. You do not need a waiver for this - we'll confirm this as part of our review process.

I already requested that my scores be sent to BGS, but they are showing as not received on my application. Can you check if my scores have been received?
It may take several days for Penn to receive the scores from ETS, and for the scores to be automatically matched to your application. If you took the GRE or TOEFL under a name other than the name you applied with, your scores will need to be manually matched. Please contact the Admissions Coordinator in order to arrange this.