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Prospective Students

The Neurosciences Graduate Program is a multidisciplinary program committed to excellence in training young neuroscientists. The students accepted into the program, many with diverse backgrounds, reflect outstanding undergraduate records in the physical, biological, and social sciences as well as a demonstrated commitment to research.

Although there are no strict course requirements for admission, a suggested undergraduate preparation includes at least one year each of general biology, calculus and physics, two years of chemistry (general, physical, or organic), as well as advanced course work in other areas of science, such as biophysics, biochemistry, cell biology, genetics, molecular biology, neurobiology, microbiology, and immunology.

How to Apply

The Fall 2024 online application opened on September 6th, 2023. Deadline to apply is December 1st, 2023.

A completed application contains:

  • Payment of application fee ($135 U.S. citizens and permanent residents; $155 international)
  • Uploaded transcripts: Scan the front and back side, even if the back is blank. All transcripts from post secondary institutions including community colleges and study abroad should be submitted. Please do not send hard copy transcripts unless you are asked to do so upon admission.
  • Three letters of recommendation minimum
  • Resume/CV
  • Statement of Purpose (750 word limit): From your Statement of Purpose, we hope to get a sense of what drives and motivates your passion for neuroscience research. To that end, writing about how your interest in the field developed can be insightful. In addition, please feel free to take this opportunity to discuss both the ups and downs of your path into scientific research or any perceived shortcomings in your application.
    How did your life trajectory lead to applying to graduate school at UC San Diego? What drives your interest and passion for neuroscience?
  • Research Statement (750 word limit): If you have research experience, describe how this has shaped your scientific thinking. What are the neuroscience research questions you have worked on in the past? What outstanding questions in neuroscience would like to address with your future research? Focus on the science and approach. Assume an ideal scenario in which money, resources, etc. are not a concern.
    In your research statement, try to refrain from listing all the techniques you have learned. Instead, tell us about what questions you have focused on, how you addressed them experimentally or analytically, and how your findings fit into the broader knowledge base of the field. Discuss experiences when your experiments answered a question (i.e., “worked”), as well as how you experienced times when experiments failed or offered ambiguous results. Describe the type of neuroscience research you would like to pursue during your PhD. As appropriate for you, contextualize these goals in terms of your past research, course work, life experience, and/or the environment at UC San Diego.
  • Official English Language Proficiency* scores (international applicants)
    • TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE

*A test of English language proficiency is required for international applicants whose native language is not English and who have not studied full-time for one uninterrupted academic year at a university-level institution in which English is the language of instruction and in a country where English is a dominant language.

Beginning with the Fall 2020 application cycle, the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is no longer used in our admissions process.

Address inquiries to:

Neurosciences Graduate Program
University of California, San Diego 
9500 Gilman Drive 0634 
La Jolla CA 92093-0634

Phone: 858-534-3377 
Fax: 858-534-8242 

Admissions FAQs

Who can write me a Letter of Recommendation?

You need at least 3 Letters of Recommendation for a complete application. There are no set guidelines from Graduate Division or the Program on who can write you a letter of recommendation. We encourage you to seek letter writers that can speak to your strengths as a scientific researcher, this usually includes laboratory or other professional experience. The best letters often come from Faculty with whom you have worked.  Letters from course instructors carry less weight. 

Do you Accept Letters of Recommendation after the Deadline?

If you have listed a recommender on your application prior to submission we may accept the letter after the application deadline. The admissions committee begins their review of applications immediately after the deadline, however, and we cannot guarantee that late letters will be reviewed with your application.  We strongly encourage you to work with your letter writers to ensure that all recommendations arrive before the application deadline.

Do I need to upload Official Transcripts?

Unofficial transcripts from all institutions attended [since high school] should be uploaded to your application.

*Applicants will be required to scan and upload transcripts directly into their graduate application when completing their application. Do not send official transcripts until it has been requested by the Program or Graduate Division. Official transcripts will be requested when/if you are admitted into our program.

What is the Institution Code for the TOEFL?

The Institution Code is 4836. The Program Code is no longer necessary.

What is the minimum TOEFL Score?

The following are the University issued minimum TOEFL scores (they vary upon type of TOEFL test taken):

PBT (Paper-Based Test) 550

CBT (Computer-Based Test) 213

IBT (Internet-Based Test) 85

Am I exempt from the TOEFL Requirement?

Non-native English language speakers may be exempt from this requirement if they have earned or will be earning a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree from either:

  • A regionally accredited U.S. college or university where English is the sole language of instruction, or
  • A foreign college or university which provides instruction solely in English. You may verify whether your institution meets this requirement by looking up your institution in the IAU World Higher Education Database (WHED). If English is not the sole language of instruction listed, if no language is listed at all, or if the institution does not appear on the WHED website, you are required to submit English proficiency exam scores. No other documentation (e.g. letters, language certificates, school websites) may be used in place of WHED as a means to obtain an exemption from the English proficiency requirement. 

What is the minimum IELTS?

IELTS minimum score: 7

What is the minimum/average GPA?

The University requires a minimum GPA of 3.0 or above on a 4.0 scale (or equivalent).

What funding do you provide?

UCSD NGP provides a competitive financial support package. You can read more here:

What are the housing options?

UCSD provides on-campus housing opportunities for graduate students. There is also a variety of off-campus housing in the surrounding communities. Information on housing options can be obtained from the UCSD Housing Office.

On Campus Graduate Housing:

Off Campus Housing:

If I don’t have an M.S. can I apply for the Ph.D.?

Students can apply directly to the Ph.D. program without an M.S. degree. Students admitted into the Ph.D. without an M.S. can obtain an M.S. degree during their studies at UCSD.

Do I need to fill out everything on the application?

Yes, we recommend submitting all of the required materials and answering all of the required questions. You may see some optional questions listed on the application. Sometimes optional questions are used for funding nominations. We recommend answering as many of the optional questions as possible.

I applied last year, do I need to reapply this year?

Yes. Applicants must submit a new application (and supporting materials) each year they apply.

Do I need to contact Faculty?

No, applications are reviewed by an Admissions Committee. You can list Faculty you are interested in working with on your Admissions Application, but we don't recommend reaching out to Faculty at the application stage. If admitted you will have time to speak to and meet Faculty in the Program. Applicants who are admitted will rotate in 3 different faculty labs in their first year to help them select their Lab. A list of Faculty who are accepting new students into their Lab is provided quarterly to first year students to help them in selecting their Lab Rotations. We do not provide the list to applicants. 

I am an International applicant, are there any differences?

How many International students do you accept? Are you accepting international students? We do accept international students. There’s no cap, but we are a highly competitive Program. The admissions committee reviews all applications and offers admission to the top applicants. 

Do you fund international students? International students are funded at the same level as domestic students:

Do you have Admissions Statistics?

Please check the Graduate Division website:

They list:

  • Admissions Data
  • Enrollment Data
  • Degrees Awarded
  • Completion Rates
  • Initial Placement for Alumni.

How can I check the status of my application?

Log into your application at Your Application Status page will show updates as soon as they are posted. If you are missing any part of your application and you are being considered for admission, you will be contacted.

If you think your submission didn’t go through or you are having computer problems, please email

What is the timeline to hear a result?

All application Decisions and Offers are made by April.

For more answers to FAQs about the application process please see the Graduate Admissions FAQ page.

If you still have questions about the Program, please email: