Doctoral Program Consultants: Useless or Helpful? -

Philippe Barr, PhD
8 min readAug 15, 2023

Are you planning to apply for a doctoral program? If so, you are about to embark on a journey that requires unmatched commitment and dedication. Doctoral programs are rigorous and challenging, and the admission process is highly competitive. To succeed, you need to put your best foot forward and showcase your skills, knowledge, and experience. But how do you do that? Are doctoral program consultants useful or is the help they provide overblown? In this blog post, we’ll determine if doctoral consultants can help you or not throughout your application journey and what to look for if you decide to get some help in reaching your academic dreams.

Are PhD Applications Demanding?

High Selectivity

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree is widely regarded as the pinnacle of academic achievement across various fields of study. In Canada and the United States, these programs are known for their intense competition, being smaller in size compared to master’s programs and significantly smaller than undergraduate degrees. Moreover, they are highly sought after by both domestic and international students, leading to a significant number of applicants vying for a limited number of available spots.

The level of competition for admission to doctoral programs can vary significantly across different institutions and fields of study. With numerous postgraduate options available, it becomes challenging to gauge the overall competitiveness of PhD admissions. However, by examining the admissions information of specific schools and programs, it becomes evident that there is still substantial competition to gain admission to doctorate programs. This is particularly true for top 10 schools.

To insight into the level of competition, it’s crucial to verify the admissions statistics for the particular school and programs that pique your interest. By obtaining this information ahead of time, you can effectively tailor your application and be better prepared.

(Would you like to know what PhD admissions committees are looking for? Watch this quick video to find out key elements to highlight in an application)

Rigorous admission requirements and an intricate application process

Gaining admission to PhD programs necessitates meticulous planning, dedication, and perseverance. Universities typically seek students who demonstrate both academic excellence and social aptitude, ensuring a thriving environment. Consequently, institutions often establish a set of criteria that must be fulfilled prior to considering an applicant for admission. However, it’s important to note that meeting these requirements alone does not guarantee admission. To secure a spot in the program, you must distinguish yourself as a competitive candidate.

Understanding the role of doctoral program consultants

Doctoral program consultants are experts who offer advice to doctoral students at various stages of their application journey. Their role is to help students navigate the complex process of gaining admission into Ph.D. programs. Doctoral program consultants:

  • Determine the best program for you. Doctoral program consultants are highly experienced in the admission process of doctoral programs. They can help you determine which program best fits your academic and career goals. They can also guide you on which schools are more suited for individuals with your skill set and interests. By providing you with their network of contacts, you can become acquainted with individuals who graduated from these programs and get insights into the program’s rigor and challenges.
  • Assist you with your application. Doctoral program consultants can also guide you through the entire application process, including reviewing your essays and personal statements. Their expertise in this area will ensure that you submit a high-quality application that is tailored to each school’s requirements. They will also help you in presenting your experiences, achievements, and potential in the most compelling and professional manner. By seeking the services of a consultant, you will increase your chances of getting accepted into your preferred doctoral program.
  • Provide insights and resources. Doctoral program consultants have a wealth of knowledge on the different doctoral programs and the admission process. As such, they can provide you with insights and resources that will help you navigate all aspects of the application process. They can also direct you to several online resources that can assist you in writing essays, constructing resumes, and preparing for interviews. By having access to such resources, you can be certain that you are well-prepared and equipped to handle any questions that come your way.
  • Help determine your research areas. As a doctoral student, research is a significant part of the program and eventually leads to completing a dissertation that is integral for the completion of your doctoral program. Doctoral program consultants can assist you in identifying and developing the research area that aligns with your academic and professional goals, as well as your interest areas. Consultants can provide you with insights into the current publications and research work that is happening in your field. As such, you can develop a research idea that is innovative, relevant, and intellectually challenging.
  • Provide mentorship and guidance. Doctoral programs are rigorous and demanding, and many doctoral students can feel overwhelmed and unsure of their academic path. Doctoral program consultants can provide you with the necessary mentorship and guidance throughout your application journey. They can assist you in navigating any challenges that you may face in the program, and ensure that you are maintaining the correct course for your academic and career aspirations. With their support, you can be certain that you are adequately equipped to handle any obstacle that comes your way.

Benefits of working with a doctoral program consultant

Working with a doctoral program consultant ensures personalized support for students, both academic and personal. Students can tap into the expertise of consultants, who have in-depth knowledge of the requirements and processes of various doctoral programs. Students who wish to get their degree and launch themselves into an academic career after the Ph.D. will find this guidance particularly helpful. Additionally, consultants can help students tailor their experience to meet their academic goals, factoring in their career and personal objectives.

  • Expertise and insider knowledge: Doctoral program consultants are individuals who have extensive knowledge and experience in the academic world. They understand the nuances of the admission process, the requirements of different programs, and the expectations of admissions committees. By working with a consultant, you can benefit from their expertise and insider knowledge to navigate the complexities of the doctoral application process successfully.
  • Personalized guidance and support: When you work with a doctoral program consultant, you have the advantage of receiving personalized guidance and support tailored to your individual needs. Consultants take the time to listen to your goals, strengths, weaknesses, and challenges and help you develop a plan that maximizes your strengths and minimizes your weaknesses. Whether you need assistance with crafting your personal statement, selecting the right program, or preparing for your interview, a consultant can provide the necessary guidance and support to ensure your success.
  • Save time and reduce stress: Applying for a doctoral program can be time-consuming and stressful. Between managing your coursework, professional obligations, and personal life, it can be challenging to dedicate the necessary time and focus to your application. By working with a consultant, you can delegate some of the work to an expert who can efficiently manage the process, saving you time and reducing your stress levels.
  • Unlimited access to resources: Doctoral program consultants have access to a wealth of resources that can help you throughout your academic journey. From personalized feedback on your application materials to mock interviews and insider advice, a consultant can open doors to resources that are not openly available to the public. This can give you a significant advantage over other applicants and increase your chances of success.
  • Building a relationship for life: Finally, working with a doctoral program consultant can provide more than just support for your application. A consultant can be a valuable ally and mentor throughout your academic journey and even beyond. Building a relationship with a consultant can provide you with an ongoing source of advice, support, and guidance that can help you navigate the complexities of academia and reach your full potential.

The process of working with a doctoral program consultant

The process of working with a doctoral program consultant typically involves an initial consultation to discuss the student’s academic interests, goals, and qualifications. The First session may also cover topics such as the selection of potential programs and funding sources. Once the students have started the Ph.D. program, the consultant may help him/her set up robust academic habits, provide feedback on drafts, navigate personnel and ethical issues that may arise, and give report feedback.

How to choose a competent doctoral program consultant

Choosing the right doctoral program consultant can be crucial for achieving your academic milestones. Here are some key factors to consider when selecting a consultant- certification, their focus areas, expertise, past success rates, and feedback from the students who availed their services. When reviewing consulting specification outlines, look for those individuals who have experience in the same field, communicate clearly, and have an excellent reputation.


Pursuing a doctoral degree is a significant investment, and working with a doctoral program consultant can be an effective way to maximize your investment and achieve your academic and professional goals. With personalized guidance and support, insider knowledge and expertise, access to resources, and a committed relationship for life, a consultant can help you unlock your full potential and maximize your chances of success. If you’re considering applying for a doctoral degree, don’t go it alone. Consider partnering with a consultant to help you navigate the road ahead. Need help with the application process? The Admit Lab offers comprehensive help with your PhD application or more targeted insight. Feel free to check out our PhD application services. Got questions? Sign up for a consultation, or send us your draft for an estimate. It’s FREE!

With a Master’s from McGill University and a Ph.D. from New York University, Dr. Philippe Barr is the founder of The Admit Lab. As a tenure-track professor, Dr. Barr spent a decade teaching and serving on several graduate admission committees at UNC-Chapel Hill before turning to full-time consulting. With more than seven years of experience as a graduate school admissions consultant, Dr. Barr has stewarded the candidate journey across multiple master’s and Ph.D. programs and helped hundreds of students get admitted to top-tier graduate programs all over the world.

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Originally published at on August 15, 2023.



Philippe Barr, PhD

I am Philippe Barr, founder of The Admit Lab, a graduate school admissions consultancy that helps students get admitted into grad school: