PhD Acceptance Rates: The Shocking Truth — The Admit Lab

Philippe Barr, PhD
7 min readApr 26, 2023

Do you want to pursue a PhD but are discouraged by the seemingly insurmountable odds of getting accepted? Feeling like you don’t have what it takes or that your chances of success are too low? Don’t worry, there may be hope yet! The statistics regarding PhD acceptance rates often fail to tell the whole story, and while they can serve as important data points during decision-making, they don’t necessarily tell us all we need to know.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss the shocking truth about PhD acceptance rates and provide helpful advice on how students can increase their chances at achieving academic success!

PhD Acceptance Rates Data

The acceptance rate for doctoral programs in the United States varies widely depending on the specific program and university. Generally, Ph.D. programs are more competitive than master’s degree programs and have lower acceptance rates overall.

According to the Council of Graduate Schools, 20.8% of doctoral applicants were accepted into a PhD program in 2022. In 2023, the acceptance rate for PhD programs is expected to remain at a historically low level. This is due in part to the increased number of applicants and decreased available spots in many fields of study.

According to this survey, overall acceptance rates appear to be decreasing, with some top universities seeing a decrease of up to 10 percentage points from 2021. This could be due to new restrictions and requirements that have been put in place by many institutions in response to changing academic demands.

On the other hand, some universities seem to buck this trend and have maintained or even increased their PhD acceptance rates. These schools are likely doing something different when it comes to evaluating prospective students and creating a more welcoming environment for them. Regardless of the cause, it is certainly worth further exploration as it could have major implications for those looking into enrolling in graduate school.

(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)

What doe PhD acceptance rates really mean?

The acceptance rate is simply the number of students who are accepted into a particular PhD program divided by the total number of students who applied. In other words, it tells you the percentage of students who got accepted into a PhD program. However, there are some caveats to keep in mind. For instance, some programs may have a higher acceptance rate but they may receive fewer applications, while others may have a lower acceptance rate but receive a high volume of applications. So, be sure to take the number of applications into account when interpreting the acceptance rate.

What factors affect your chances of getting accepted into a PhD program?

The acceptance rate is just one factor to consider when applying for a PhD program. Other factors that can affect your chances of getting accepted include your academic performance, GRE scores, research experience, recommendation letters, and the fit between your research interests and the program’s faculty expertise. You should also keep in mind that some PhD programs have specific requirements or prerequisites that you need to fulfill to be considered for admission.

How competitive is the application process for PhD programs?

PhD programs are generally considered to be more competitive than other graduate programs. This is because they require a higher level of academic achievement and research potential. In addition, PhD programs often have a limited number of spots available, which makes the competition even more fierce. However, this doesn’t mean that you should be discouraged from applying. If you have a passion for research and a strong academic background, you still have a good chance of getting accepted.

What can you do to increase your chances of getting accepted into a PhD program?

There are several things you can do to improve your chances of getting accepted into a PhD program. First, make sure that you have a strong academic record and excellent research potential. This means taking challenging courses, getting involved in research projects, and publishing papers or presenting at conferences. Second, prepare for the GRE and aim for a high score. Third, build strong relationships with professors who can write you enthusiastic recommendation letters. Fourth, carefully tailor your application to each program and demonstrate your fit with their research interests and faculty expertise.

Should you choose a PhD program based on its acceptance rate?

The acceptance rate is just one factor to consider when choosing a PhD program. You should also consider other factors such as the quality of the program, the resources available to support research, the faculty expertise, and the location and culture of the university. Remember, you will be spending several years working on your PhD, so it’s important to choose a program that fits your goals and interests.

Should PhD acceptance rates be an intricate part of your application strategy?

YES! When researching PhD programs, it is important to consider their acceptance rates. Coming up with a list of PhD programs based on their acceptance rates can help ensure that you get admitted into a program. Start by researching the most highly ranked programs in your field and then narrow down the list to those with the highest acceptance rates. Once you have narrowed down the list, you can seek to obtain more information about their admissions criteria and application deadlines.

Having a wide range of programs to choose from when applying for a PhD can make all the difference in achieving acceptance into the program. A well-rounded list of potential schools and programs can increase your chances of entering your desired program and being accepted on your own merits.

Furthermore, having a broad selection of programs can allow you to find those that best fit your goals, interests, and abilities-increasing the likelihood of success during admission. Additionally, by examining each program’s acceptance rate, you can gauge how competitive is each option, adjust your selection and expectations accordingly, and set realistic goals for the application process.

Ultimately, taking ample time to research and reflect on various options will help you find the best possible program for you, and give you the greatest chance of being accepted into your desired PhD program.

Finally, you should consider that many programs are tailored to specific areas of study with different acceptance rates. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the degree requirements for each program and select those that offer the best chances of success when applying. In short, having a vast selection of programs based on their acceptance rates can help you increase your chances of admission into your desired PhD program.


Aiming for a PhD should never be taken lightly and can feel daunting, but you now have the tools to help make your dream become a reality. Having all of the necessary qualifications for admission isn’t just about transcripts and scores, it’s about having the determination and desire to overcome any obstacle that comes your way.

It may take time and effort, but you can do it! With hard work and preparation, you’ll find yourself closer to achieving your academic goals. Don’t hesitate to reach out for support if you feel lost along the way- we provide resources as well as application services to make this process easier.

Set realistic goals and don’t forget to celebrate your successes — if it is your dream to be accepted into a doctoral program, success is achievable if you commit yourself to reaching new heights. So take a deep breath — you are prepared to succeed and attain higher education success. Check out our PhD application services today and let us help guide you on your educational journey.

With a Master’s from McGill University and a Ph.D. from New York University, Philippe Barr is the founder of The Admit Lab. As a tenure-track professor, Philippe 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, Philippe 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.

Originally published at on April 26, 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: