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Advice for New Applicants

The NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Program seeks students of the highest academic caliber who are seeking to obtain a Ph.D. in the biomedical sciences. Successful applicants will spend half their time at the National Institutes of Health and the remainder at either Oxford or Cambridge in an intensive, research-driven, dual-mentored degree program. Students begin work to develop a dual-mentored thesis that meets their academic and research goals immediately upon acceptance. The scholar’s doctorate, usually completed in four years, is conferred by either Oxford or Cambridge, depending on where their research is done; hence applicants must meet requirements for acceptance into the graduate program of the relevant University.

Our expectations for the successful Scholar applicant include:

  • While academic expectations, as measured by grades and test scores, are high--research experience, outside activities and letters of recommendation contribute to a holistic evaluation of the candidate.
  • Successful applications have generally had one or more substantial research experiences, as we have observed that success and satisfaction in a research environment are the strongest predictive factors for success in the Scholars Program. Most successful applicants worked in a laboratory during college, and those with two-three plus years of research experience are not unusual. 
  • Many applicants have co-authored manuscripts in scientific journals, although this is not a prerequisite. In addition, some have presented their work in the form or talks or posters at national meetings.
  • Outstanding letters of recommendation, particularly from research mentors, typifies the successful applicant and is weighed heavily in the evaluation process. Because of the dual-mentored nature of the program, mentors should comment on the student’s focus, organizational skills, and time management abilities as well as intellect, drive, creativity, general research abilities, and potential for a career in the biomedical sciences.
  • Successful applicants have often been honored by their universities for academic or research achievements or by outside agencies such as the Beckman or Amgen Foundations, MARCS program or a Goldwater Scholarship.
  • Applicants are asked to write a personal statement that details their motivation, experience, and long-term goals. The statement, which reflects the applicant’s focus and biomedical interests, factors heavily into the evaluation process. It should include a description of why the applicant feels they will thrive under the dual-mentored, accelerated process that characterizes the program.

While we do not require students to commit to any particular course of study prior to acceptance, we encourage applicants who are invited to NIH for an interview to contact potential mentors and discuss possible projects prior to the interview, as this is viewed as a strength in the application.

We encourage you to contact us via email or phone with any questions. 

 A Few More Tips…

  1. Enter in your references first.
    Outstanding letters of recommendation take time and if you wait until you are ready to submit (and you aren’t submitting until close to the deadline), that doesn’t leave those who are serving as your references much time.  You want to respect the priorities and commitments of everyone involved and guarantee plenty of time to get the best letters possible.  
    Once you have entered in the reference information, click “Save” and you will still have plenty of time to finish up the rest of your application while your references are being submitted.

  2. Take your time.
    Your reference requests should be sent out quickly, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t put some serious thought in to who you select.  As for the rest of the application, remember, it’s not just content that we will be looking at; stop: double and triple check things like grammar and spelling.  There are a lot of brilliant and talentedapplicants out there and we want to know that you have the attention to detail required for a great scientist; don’t submit until you’re certain you’re ready.

  3. Ask questions!!
    You can’t be scared to step up and say that you don’t know something or want clarification.  We don’t expect our scholars to be perfect; in fact, we want to know that you are willing to ask for assistance when you need it.  If there is ANYTHING that you are uncertain about, please contact someone in the NIH OxCam Office for more information.

We also recommend that applicants explore funding options outside of the NIH OxCam Program. We have a list of scholarships available on our page for External Funding Opportunities.

For Tips on Being a Successful Grad Student, visit the Student Resouces Page.

This Page Last Updated on December 12, 2017
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