Biostatistics Graduate Program

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Frequently Asked Questions

How many applications do you receive in a typical year?  How many students do you admit?

In a typical year, we receive about 160 applications. We aim to recruit four PhD and four Master’s students each year.

What are your GRE score requirements?

We do not have a minimum GRE score requirement for admission. We do not screen applications by GRE scores; every application is reviewed in whole. However, in our past experience, applications with GRE scores less than the 70th percentile on either the verbal and the quantitative tests are often not competitive in our applicant pool.

Do I need to submit TOEFL scores if I have graduated from a University in the United States?

The TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) is required for all applicants whose native language is not English and who have not received a degree at an English-speaking university. If you have graduated from a University in the United States, the TOEFL requirment is waived.

Do you accept the IELTS (International English Language Testing System)?

The IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is accepted. Vanderbilt University Medical Center only accepts scores submitted electronically by the IELTS test center. No paper test report forms are accepted. An institutional code is NOT required. Please contact the test center directly where you took the IELTS test and request that your test scores be sent electronically using the IELTS system. All IELTS test centers worldwide are able to send scores electronically to our institution.

Do I need a specific undergraduate degree to apply?

No. We consider applicants with a variety of educational backgrounds as long as they met the minimum mathematics requirements listed below:

a. 3 semesters of calculus (through Multivariate)

b. 1 semester of linear algebra

c. 1 semester of statistics

d. Familiarity with mathematical notation and reasoning

Incoming students have found undergraduate courses in biology, probability, and real analysis helpful (but they are not required for admission). Previous exposure to statistical programming (e.g. R, STATA, SAS, SPSS) or coding (e.g., JAVA) or formal training in computer science is also helpful.

Is a Master’s degree a prerequisite to applying for a PhD?

No, an MS is not required. Incoming students with a Master’s degree in Statistics or Biostatistics can attempt to test out of the first year of classes by passing the first year comprehensive exam. However, the option to test out is approved on a case-by-case basis during the admission process.

Can I apply for both the Master’s program and the PhD program?

Yes, the admissions committee will select the degree program that they think is most appropriate for the candidate.

Can I continue working full-time and study for the PhD?

Currently we do not accept part-time students.

When is the application deadline for Fall?

Our application deadline is January 10th. Applications received after that date are reviewed on a rolling basis if space and funding remain available.

How do you make admission decisions?

The Admission Committee reviews applications and identifies students who are a good fit for our program. Because we only recruit 4 PhD and 4 MS students each year, the committee carefully considers each applicant’s training, potential, and motivation. Admission decisions are typically made in the second half of February or early March. Students not selected are notified by email in March. A small number of highly qualified candidates are placed on a waiting list and are offered admission if/when a slot and funding become available.

Vanderbilt University is a member of the Council of Graduate Schools and supports the April 15th Resolution. This means applicants who receive an offer of admission have until April 15 to make their decision. We encourage students admitted to the program to visit us.

Is funding for graduate study available?

All PhD admission offers comes with full funding, which includes a 12-month stipend, a full tuition waiver, student health insurance and activity fees. The funding mechanism is either a fellowship, research assistantship, or training grant support. All PhD candidates (i.e., PhD students who have passed their oral qualifying exam) are supported by research assistantships. Continuation of funding is dependent upon the student making good academic progress in the program (as determined by their Dissertation Committee, Advisor, and Director of Graduate Studies) and satisfactory performance on their research assistantship. When these conditions are met, funding typically lasts for at least five years.

All students admitted to the Master’s program are offered an 80% tuition waiver. Continuation of waiver is dependent upon the student making good academic progress in the program (as determined by their academic performance, Advisor, and Director of Graduate Studies).

Can you tell me if my background is good enough to apply?

We do not pre-screen applicants. If you are interested, please apply. There is no application fee and the Admissions Committee reviews all applications.

Can you tell me the backgrounds of accepted students?

We do not release student statistics. Our students have a wide variety of backgrounds consisting of Physicians, PhD scientists, statistical analysts, and undergraduate majors in biology, computer science, literature, religious studies, mathematics and statistics.

Does the department accept international students?

Yes. We treat international applicants the same as U.S. citizens.

May students apply to enter in the spring?

We do not accept applications for the spring semester.

May I visit campus?

Students may visit the campus on their own accord, but we strongly encourage students to first submit an application and get feedback from the Admission Committee before visiting. Students who are actively being considered for admission by the Admission Committee are sometimes invited to campus for an interview. In those cases, we help schedule the visit, arrange meetings with individual faculty members and current graduate students, and reimburse students for all or part of the travel costs.

Can you tell me more about what Biostatisticians do?

Please consult this page: Learn about biostatistics.

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