Tips For Reapplying to PhD Programs — The Admit Lab

Philippe Barr, PhD
7 min readMar 2, 2023


Are you feeling discouraged and overwhelmed after getting rejected from your PhD dream program? It’s tempting to give up, but before you do that, take a deep breath — and read this blog post.

Here, we will explore the pros and cons of reapplying to PhD programs so that students like you can make an informed decision about what’s best for their academic ambitions. Take it from us: Much though it may seem like a daunting task to jump back into the application process again, with determination, strategy and resilience (plus a few pointers gained here) it is entirely possible to reapply and gain more success in your forthcoming applications!

You Did Not Get In: Here Is The Good News

Every year, countless PhD applicants face rejection to the limited number of spots available. It can be disheartening for these hopefuls who have spent a considerable amount of time and effort crafting compelling research projects, applications, and interviews.

The admissions rate for PhD hopefuls who apply to PhD programs a second time can vary, depending on several factors such as the specific program, the applicant’s credentials, and the strength of their application. Generally speaking, studies have shown that those who apply a second time tend to have a higher success rate than those who only apply once. In one study, researchers found that nearly two-thirds of applicants who applied a second time successfully gained admission. This is likely due to the fact that applicants have greater insight into what they need to do to make their application more competitive. They may have had experience with the process and are better able to articulate their strengths, research interests, and what they can bring to the program. They often have a clearer idea of what their areas of expertise are and how to present them effectively. And, in many cases, applicants reach out for help. By taking advantage of these opportunities, applicants who apply a second time are often successful in gaining admission.

Reapplying to PhD programs can be a daunting task, as it involves carefully reviewing your application and making necessary changes in order to maximize your chances of being accepted. Before you reapply, there are a few steps you should take to ensure that you’re submitting the best possible application.

Take a Critical Look at Your Candidacy and Identify Areas for Improvement

Have you considered the possibility that your applications may have fallen short due to not applying to enough schools, or worse yet — applying only to one school? It’s definitely worth exploring a greater variety of programs and broadening your search for potential universities. After all, putting all your eggs in one basket (in this case Harvard) is far from an ideal strategy!

Are there any deficiencies on your application that you can address by earning more experience, reapplying for the GRE, securing a better letter of recommendation, or taking classes? In some cases, applicants may stand to benefit from attaining a master’s degree before enrolling in PhD program — particularly if they are transitioning fields or you do not have much research background.

(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)

Bring Your Research to The Next Level

Take a moment to assess your research experience. Is additional time needed before reapplying to PhD programs for you to broaden and hone your expertise? With the applicant pool becoming more stringent, researching is not just another way of differentiating yourself but an integral piece of crafting a comprehensive application.

One way to quickly bulk your research experience before reapplying to PhD programs is by reaching out to faculty and professors in the field of your interest. Often, faculty members may be looking for students to help with research projects or require assistance in their labs. You can also look into conferences, volunteering, and undergraduate research opportunities. By becoming involved in the research process, you can show that you are committed to your chosen field and gain the valuable experience necessary to increase your chances of getting into a PhD program. Additionally, you can look for ways to expand and enhance your knowledge by reading research papers, attending workshops, and engaging in self-study.

Add More Skills and Experiences to Your Profile

Grades are important, but excelling in the classroom is not enough for aspiring PhD candidates. To stand out among your peers when reapplying to PhD programs, you must seek out leadership and service positions outside of academia that showcase an array of desirable qualities. With such a wide variety of options available to choose from, it’s paramount to find something that genuinely interests you and will help develop yourself as an individual.

You might want to sign up or document any extra courses, seminars, or workshops to demonstrate your commitment to learning new things. Additionally, you can seek out more volunteer experience or conduct independent research, mentioning these activities in your application can also be helpful. Furthermore, it is important to demonstrate that you have the necessary communication and interpersonal skills to work in the academic environment. Working on projects or internships that require collaboration and networking can be useful for this purpose. Finally, gaining experience with teaching can also be beneficial, as many PhD programs require teaching components. Taking the initiative to get involved in any or all of these areas can help you build a strong and comprehensive application that will make you stand out from the crowd.

Improve Your PhD Application to Make it Exceptional

If your statement of purpose didn’t make an impact on admissions last year, simply resubmitting the same one isn’t going to have a better outcome. It’s time to review and revise it so that you can craft an even more compelling application

Consider your past statement of purpose and ask yourself:

  • Is the content clearly presented and easy to read? Would it leave a strong impression if you were reading this about another individual? Does it demonstrate that you are PhD student material?
  • Was your account of research experience thorough and precise, rather than just a compilation of activities? Did you back up any statements about your skills with persuasive evidence?
  • Did your narrative illustrate the crucial characteristics sought after in graduate students such as commitment, accuracy, objectivity, inquisitiveness, critical thinking skills, and rigor?
  • Was your written content free of typographical mistakes or grammatical inaccuracies?
  • Did you have a second set of eyes to review your content and style before submission?

Your Strategy to Reapply to PhD Programs Should Involve Top-Notch Recommenders

Though they are not technically your own representation, recommendation letters are a pivotal part of any application/reapplication process. Consequently, it is essential to find faculty members who can deliver an impressive letter on your behalf.

To get the best possible letters, you should strive to strengthen the relationships you have with your recommenders. Reach out to them and make sure they know that you are applying a second time, remind them why you want to pursue a PhD, and why you believe you are the best candidate for the program and seek out their input. You might also want to review your strategy and ask for letters of recommendation from other professors.

Additionally, it is important to give your recommenders ample time to write the letter, so make sure you inform them at least two months in advance. Doing this will allow them to provide a comprehensive and strong letter of recommendation. Asking for feedback and advice is also a great way to build a relationship with your recommender and demonstrate your dedication to the process. Finally, make sure you provide your recommenders with a copy of your CV along with any other documents that may be helpful. This will ensure they have all the information they need to make a strong case for your candidacy.

When reapplying for a PhD, it is important to review your choice of recommenders. Depending on the time that has passed since you first applied, your references may have changed and it is important to ensure that they accurately reflect your current accomplishments and experience. Writing new letters of recommendation can also be beneficial to showcase your growth and development in the past year, as well as to demonstrate your dedication and commitment to the program.

Applying to PhD Programs Again With a Plan

Although being rejected from a PhD program can be disheartening, there is hope. Rejection isn’t the end of the story, it’s an opportunity to strengthen and pivot your application. By utilizing these step-by-step guides, you can learn how to craft a more compelling story about why you are the ideal applicant for a PhD program and make your dream of receiving an acceptance letter into one come true.

Don’t wait and take action today. If you require further guidance, take a look at our rejection review service which can help you assess your prior application and find ways to rework it before reapplying, or sign up for a free admissions consultation to discuss your case. Don’t feel down, you can come out of this stronger and reach for your highest ambitions. Believe in yourself, with strategy and hard work, we have no doubt you can realize the future you desire for yourself and make your dreams come true.

Originally published at on March 2, 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: