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PhD Application FAQs


What transcripts don't you accept?
  • notarized copies
  • photocopies
  • original transcripts in a language other than English or French with no translation - note that French language transcripts are accepted from Canadian universities only
  • translated transcripts without the original language (we need both!)
    This is Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies policy.
Do you accept electronic transcripts?

Yes. At the time of the application, please upload scans of your official transcripts (in PDF format) from all colleges and universities attended, including all front and back pages, in the online application system. Please do not mail official transcripts to our office. Applicants who are offered admission to the program will be instructed to mail official transcripts to Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.

Can I apply if I have completed my Master's degree, or will complete my degree by April, but my transcript does not indicate that it has been conferred?

This is a common occurrence and applicants may apply to the PhD Program by the application deadline. The Admissions Committee will evaluate the applicant based on the most recent official transcript (scanned and uploaded to the application) and may offer admission to the program based on these transcripts. This offer will be conditional and subject to the applicant meeting our admission requirements based on the official, final transcript that also indicates the student has successfully completed the degree requirements.

I use an agency that compiles all transcripts and references for me. Will you accept transcripts and references from the agency or do I need to get originals sent to you?

We do not accept transcript information that has been collected and summarized by an agency (e.g. WES). All transcripts uploaded must be original, and if not in English, accompanied by a translated copy. This is Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies policy.

I've taken some previous graduate-level coursework. Can I transfer any of it into my degree?

PhD students are not normally eligible for transfer credit. In doctoral programs where there is a prescribed amount of coursework, students may be eligible for course exemptions on the basis of previous courses taken.

I did one semester abroad during my previous degree. Do I need to submit transcripts from that university?

If your transcript does not include the course number, title and final grade achieved from the institution attended abroad, official scans of transcripts from all institutions attended must be uploaded by the application deadline.


How is my GPA for admission calculated (credentials from Canada & U.S.A.)?

All of the courses you completed during your Master's degree.

How is my GPA for admission calculated (credentials from outside of Canada & U.S.A.)?

All undergraduate courses are used to calculate the GPA. As an international student, there are specific requirements for each country, which can be found online at the UBC Graduate Studies Web site. Please follow this link, scroll to the bottom of the page, and select the country. Applicants must meet the minimum requirements set out for their particular country/university.

I have two or more degrees, which will be used for my GPA for admission?

We will use all eligible degrees to calculate GPA for admission. For example, if an applicant has two Degrees (at any level), and only one degree meets the minimum academic requirement set out by Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, the applicant is eligible for admission. If both (or all) degrees meet the minimum requirement, then the applicant is eligible for admission. If neither/none of the Degrees meet the minimum academic requirement, the applicant is not eligible for admission.

Does the course I use to meet your quantitative admission requirements count towards my GPA?

For all PhD applicants, the mathematics or statistics course you use to meet our quantitative admission requirements will only count towards your GPA if it appears on your Master's transcript.

Do I have a chance of getting in the program if my GPA is under a B+ (or equivalent)?

Generally speaking, if applicants don’t meet the minimum academic requirements, they are not eligible for admission to any UBC graduate program. However, if an applicant has taken a couple of additional undergraduate or graduate courses and achieved a B+ or higher to demonstrate academic ability, AND the applicant has an extensive track record of working in public health, excellent reference letters and a focused letter of intent, the Admissions Committee will review the application and if successful, write a letter requesting consideration of the applicant by Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies may or may not respond affirmatively to the letter.

Application Deadline

How strict is the application deadline?

The deadline is firm for the completion of the online application as well as the receipt of all application documents. This is due to the high volume of applications we need to process and our responsibility to meet deadlines set by UBC Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.

My referee can't get the reference in on time, can he/she email it after the deadline?

No. The application deadline cannot be extended for anyone due to time constraints on the PhD Admissions Committee. Applicants must choose a referee who can get the reference letter to the program office (online or by mail, see “References” section) on time. It is the responsibility of the applicant to make sure their referees have sent references in on time.


Do I need to find an academic supervisor?

For the PhD program you are required to identify a faculty member as your supervisor in order to apply. The best way to find a potential supervisor is to study our Faculty biographies and research interests, then contact the Faculty member who you would be interested in working with, and inquire whether they would be willing to serve as your interim or permanent supervisor.  When you apply for admission, if you have identified a potential supervisor, please ensure this form is completed and sent directly to the PhD Program Office via email or hard copy indicating that they are willing to act as your supervisor. If you require guidance on finding a supervisor please see Looking for a supervisor?

Letter of Intent

How long does the LOI need to be?

The LOI should be no longer than 700 words.

What should be in the LOI?

Applicants should use the letter of intent to articulate their reasons for pursuing the PhD at UBC. It should identify how the applicant will use the skills and knowledge gained in the PhD program to pursue their career goals. It’s important not to duplicate information in the curriculum vitae.

Can I send the LOI separately?

Hard copies are not required to be mailed to the program office. We accept the LOI via upload in the Program-Specific Questions section of the application.

To whom do I address the LOI?

Applicants can address their LOI to the PhD Admissions Committee.


What should be in a reference letter?

We ask that referees provide comments that offer a picture of the applicant's abilities and potential to succeed as a graduate student. Specifically, we seek input on the applicant’s:

  • Academic ability and initiative
  • Critical thinking and complex problem solving skills
  • Ability to interpret and communicate data clearly and effectively
  • Demonstrated compassion, professionalism and integrity

If possible, please provide examples for your assessment of the applicant on these criteria. It is also useful to provide information on the context in which you have got to know the applicant (e.g., work environment, applicant’s role and responsibilities or the educational/course setting). The admissions committee finds it helpful if the referee can compare the applicant to other students or staff in a quantitative way, i.e. this student is in the top 10% of students I have previously taught or supervised in the past number of years.

Do you accept electronic references?

Yes. Referees have the option to complete an electronic reference in the online application system, or write and upload a letter. If applicants list the referee’s email address on their application, an email will be sent to the referee after the applicant has submitted the application. Emails must come from a business email account (eg. @ubc.ca). The reference will come to us instantaneously, avoiding the hassle and delay of mailing. Referees with web-based email addresses (Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail) can not complete the electronic reference in the online application; they must send a paper copy of the reference to the Program Office. Please note that applicants must submit their application online well in advance of the deadline so their referees have enough time to complete the reference.

If a referee is going to send a letter or the reference form by mail, here are some rules and guidelines: First, it should be typed on official letterhead. Secondly, the document should arrive in an envelope with the reference’s signature over the seal. If an applicant collects the letters from their referees, please ensure that the signature is unbroken. We cannot accept references that don’t have a signature over the seal. This is Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies policy.

I don't have any recent academic references. Can I use work references instead?

We prefer academic references, but would also accept a reference that speaks to your potential to perform in an academic environment.

Do my referees have to use the electronic reference or can they write a letter?

Referees can write and upload a letter in lieu of the electronic reference.

How can I re-send the notification to my referee about e-references?

Referees now receive automatic reminders 10 days prior to the earliest referee deadline. Applicants also receive automatically generated emails about the status of their references anytime through the online system, e.g. when the reference is submitted, a referee declines, or the referee address has failed.

Can I change my referee after the application is submitted?

You have the option to change a referee in your online application yourself. Alternatively, you can submit a request to change the referee in your application by contacting mhsc@ubc.ca, clearly indicating who will no longer be sending through a reference letter and details on the replacement referee.


What is a CV?

An excellent online guide to developing and organizing the CV is provided by the UBC's Centre for Student Involvement & Careers.

Can I email my CV to the program office?

No. Due to the high volume of emails that come through during admissions, the PhD program does not have enough email capacity to accept hundreds of applicants’ attachments. We accept CVs via upload in the Standard Questions Section in online application.

Quantitative Requirement

What is the quantitative requirement? Why is it needed?

The quantitative requirement is a university-level math or statistics course taken within the last 10 years wherein a grade of B+ (76% at UBC) was achieved. Applicants may also provide a GRE test score that is less than 5 years old with a result of no less than 153/170 for both the Verbal and Quantitative components to fulfill the requirement.

Do I have to take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE)?

Applicants will need to take the GRE if they have not completed a university-level math or statistics course OR if the final grade for the math/stats course was below a B+ (76% at UBC) or more than 10 years old.

What codes do I use for the GRE exam so that my scores are sent to the right office?

We do receive GRE scores electronically: Institution Code 0965, Department Code 0616.

Can I apply if I am taking a statistics or math course that is in-progress and the grade has not been obtained by the application deadline?

It is recommended that the quantitative requirement is met by the application deadline. Applicants may apply to the program if they are currently taking a math or statistics course, although this course MUST appear on your official transcript that you upload to the application.  If the Admissions Committee agrees to offer a place in the program, the offer may be conditional to completion of the course and achieving the minimum of a B+ (76% at UBC). Please note this is done by a case-by-case basis.

Can I apply if I am taking the GRE exam and the results cannot be sent to the program office by the application deadline?

Applicants can apply to the program if they are registered to take the GRE but the program cannot guarantee that the application will be reviewed by the Admissions Committee. It is essential that applicants write the GRE exam at least one month in advance of the deadline, so that there is enough time to get the results sent to us on time.

How do I find out the status of my application?

Please note that applicants can only check their document status by logging into their online application. All applicants will be notified formally via email by February or March as to their official application status.

Can I call or email the office to find out the current status?

Due to the high volume of applications that are being processed, phone calls and e-mail inquiries may not receive a response. Please use the application online checklist to see your document status, which is updated regularly during the admissions season.

When will I find out if I was accepted to the program?

An email will be sent to each applicant in due course indicating the final status of your application. This is not available on the online checklist (which is just to see document status). Letters start to go out in February and March. It is a lengthy process and we do our best to keep applicants updated as soon as possible.

Admission Process

Does the PhD program have rolling admissions?

No, the programs have one intake per year, in September. An opening and closing date for the admissions period will be posted on the website well in advance. The Admissions Committee meets after the deadline to review all complete and eligible applications.

Can I send documents, such as reference letters, to the program office before I apply online?

Yes. Although we would prefer these documents be submitted digitally to the application system, any documents received prior to submitting the online application will be kept on file in the program office. Please note that you will not be able to check the status of your documents received until the online application is submitted.

Do you give preference to local applicants?

The School of Population and Public Health does not have a limit to out-of-province or international students. We rank all completed applications and applicants are admitted based on merit.

Is there an interview during the application process?

There is no interview component to the PhD applications.

If I applied last year to the PhD Program, can I use the same documents?

Previous applicants may indicate on the appropriate place on the application form which specific files they would like pulled from our archive. We can pull transcripts that have not changed. We can also pull references from the previous year if necessary, although current, updated reference letters are recommended. An updated Letter of Intent is required in the online application.

I am an Aboriginal applicant - is there anything I should do to inform you of this?

The online application includes a "Citizenship Information" section to note if an applicant is of Canadian Aboriginal Ancestry if they so choose.

Tuition and Fees

Can my application fee be refunded?

UBC application fees are non-refundable. Please see the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies application fee policy for further information, as individual programs do not manage fees.

How much is tuition?

This information can be found on the UBC Calendar. Tuition fees are subject to change.

Are any scholarships offered for applicants? Where do I find more information?

For PhD applicants, please note that for September 2018 a requirement of admission will be that supervisors must offer successful PhD applicants a funding minimum of $18,000 per year.

All other awards and scholarships are awarded on a competitive basis. Applicants are advised to pursue additional funding opportunities with their identified supervisor.

Information about funding and scholarships can also be found here:


Please also refer to the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies website here:

Students are automatically considered for GES/GSI funding upon admission into the program, though unfortunately there is limited funding available. Students are encouraged to investigate and apply for other external sources of funding. Please see the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies website for a list of awards and financial aid: http://www.grad.ubc.ca/awards


Where are you located?

The School of Population and Public Health building. Directions can be found here.


Who can I contact for more information?

Please contact the PhD Program Office at spph.graduate-programs@ubc.ca or call (604) 822-9437.