PhD How to Apply

Ways to Study

  • On-Campus


Deadlines for Fall 2023:

  • August 11, 2022: NursingCAS and Supplemental Applications Open
  • November 21, 2022: NursingCAS Application Deadline
  • November 29, 2022: Supplemental Application* Deadline
  • Program begins: August 2023

*A link to the UNC Supplemental Application will be sent to you by email within a few business days of submitting your completed NursingCAS application.

You can learn more about our PhD program and the application process in the recorded information sessions below:

The steps below will walk you through our application process which opens for entry into the PhD program in the fall. If you have questions after reviewing the instructions, please contact us at

Please read and follow the instructions carefully to ensure that your application is reviewed!

Match Your Research Interest +

Our goal is to admit promising students who are a good fit for our program and desire a research career upon program completion. To support PhD student-faculty engagement in the mentoring process, applicants must have a research topic that aligns with the research area (i.e., the scientific expertise in content, methods, and/or population) of one or more faculty members in the School of Nursing.

Research at the School of Nursing attracts national attention and support for its ongoing high quality and innovation. Faculty are highly successful in obtaining external grant support from the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, to name only a few. The following are the areas of concentration for faculty research and scholarship:

  • Acute Care and Severe Illnesses
  • Aging and Elderly Care
  • Chronic Conditions
  • Health Disparities and Equity
  • Maternal, Child and Family Health
  • Mental and Behavioral Health
  • Patient Safety and Quality of Care
  • Public and Global Health

During the application and interview process, prospective doctoral students are asked to identify a specific area of research and potential faculty with whom they might work during their doctoral program. Faculty assist students to link their interests with one of the above areas of concentration. The doctoral program prepares students to recognize the value of, and to capably use a variety of methodological and analytic approaches from the biological, behavioral, and social sciences and the humanities. Interdisciplinary education and research participation are hallmarks of research in the School of Nursing. We strongly encourage students to enroll in courses outside of Nursing and collaborate with students and faculty in other disciplines to strengthen their dissertation.

The overall goal of the Program is to prepare competent, culturally sensitive, and compassionate scholars of nursing who will, through their active engagement with and passion for scholarship, contribute to the goal of improving the health of our nation.

  • Once you have identified potential faculty research advisors or if you need assistance identifying potential advisors, please complete a brief online survey. In this survey, you may identify the faculty members of interest and submit a description of how your research interest aligns with the ongoing work of each faculty member identified, or request assistance identifying a potential faculty member. Completion of this survey alerts PhD Program Leadership who will contact you. Taking the time to determine student-faculty match is a crucial part of the admissions process, as a clearly articulated match, or “fit” with faculty members will strengthen your application.
  • Applicants are strongly encouraged to connect with their potential mentor(s) prior to applying.

Please be mindful that faculty members accept new students each year based in part on the faculty member’s capacity to commit to additional students. Each faculty member strives to provide a wide variety of guided research experiences and ample advisement time for each student accepted into our program. We only admit students for whom there is an appropriate research faculty match, and when a faculty member identified as an appropriate match has the capacity to work with you upon admission.

Prerequisites +

  • Education Requirements: The minimum education requirement for all applicants is the Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from a CCNE or NLN-AC accredited School of Nursing in the US or an international equivalent. The bachelor’s degree in nursing must have been earned prior to matriculation in the PhD program. In addition to the BS degree, applicants may have earned a masters degree in nursing or a master’s degree in another field, but a master’s degree is not required. Applicants who have completed an RN to MSN program and are without an earned bachelor’s degree in any field may need to submit additional documentation about the curriculum of their specific RN to MSN program (please contact Office of Student Affairs for details, at either
    • Competitive applicants will present a grade point average of at least 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) in the major courses of their undergraduate nursing program.
    • Applicants with a master’s degree in nursing are expected to have earned a 3.5 cumulative grade point average in graduate coursework
  • All applicants must be admissible to all previously attended colleges/universities. If you have been declared academically ineligible and as such are unable to return to any previous institutions, you must contact that institution and seek documentation that reinstates your eligibility or your application cannot undergo review. Copies of ALL correspondence regarding your reinstatement request must be submitted in the application. Additionally, if your final institutional cumulative GPA is below 2.0 (on a 4.0 scale), please upload documentation of your eligibility to return to that particular institution in NursingCAS under Program Documents as “Other”

Starting Your Application +

After establishing your NursingCAS account, please be sure to select the correct application for your program of interest. Students may apply to only one program and one specialty per application cycle at UNC Chapel Hill School of Nursing.

Prospective PhD students should select 2023 Fall PhD.

Transcripts +

Official transcripts are required for your NursingCAS application. It is best to request official copies of your undergraduate and graduate college transcripts as soon as you begin your application in NursingCAS, as it can take several weeks for transcripts to be issued by your school, posted to your application, and verified by NursingCAS. Please contact NursingCAS directly at 617.612.2880 to inquire about the status of your transcripts.

Letters of Recommendation +

  • Three recommendation letters are required. Favorable recommendations should be submitted by at least three academicians whose class(es) you have taken. Faculty must be familiar with your intellectual ability, academic achievement, research potential, and professional commitment and address these areas in their letter. At least one of these individuals should hold an earned doctorate. Additional references from employers may be submitted. Letters from relatives, family friends, fellow staff members, clients/patients or religious/spiritual leaders will not be accepted. The online application will prompt you to submit the email addresses for your three required recommenders. The recommender will then receive an email request for recommendation and must upload the letter into the application.
  • Note: The Letters of Recommendation are traditionally the most challenging portion of the process to complete for applicants. To ensure that your application is reviewed, please follow these instructions carefully.

Statement of Goals and Research Interests (Personal Statement) +

Please write and upload a two-part essay. It is most important that you address each bulleted item noted and format the document as requested. Each part of the essay should be approximately three double-spaced, typed pages. Please include APA-formatted references on a separate page.

In Part A, describe your background, including:

1. Why are you pursuing a PhD at this time and why have you chosen UNC? Identify one or two other institutes, centers, or resources that align with your area of interest with whom you would collaborate at UNC.

2. What particular experiences in the professional, clinical, and/or research realms have contributed to your decision to pursue a PhD?

3. How will having a PhD contribute to meeting your career goals?

4. What are some of the personal and/or academic strengths and weaknesses that may affect your PhD studies?

5. In addition, if there is anything in your application that you believe may need further explanation, please elaborate here.

Selecting a research topic is critical part of entering a PhD program. You may modify or enlarge your topic during your studies but having a research idea is the first step toward a successful PhD education. In Part B, discuss your research interests.

1. Provide a brief review of the literature about your research topic that supports the area as one in need of further study (include citations from the scientific literature to support your point).

2. Describe how your academic and/or personal background has prepared you for the area of research you wish to pursue.

3. Tell us more about your area of research interest including but not limited to potential research question you want to explore further, population or health system of interest, and the significance of how the problem impacts the individual, family, community, or health system.

4. Working with your mentor(s) is an important part of scientific development. Identify two School of Nursing faculty members as potential mentors and provide a detailed description of how your interests align with their ongoing scientific work. Alignment can include area of interest (topic), methodological approaches, geographical location, settings, or similar populations (across the lifespan, developmental stages, etc.). Applicants are strongly encouraged to connect with faculty prior to applying. Provide details about connections (email or verbal correspondence) you made with potential faculty mentors at UNC Chapel Hill School of Nursing.

CV or Resume +

Please upload a current curriculum vitae or resume to detail your career path, explaining any gap in employment greater than one year. Full disclosure of your complete education background, including a list of all colleges and universities you’ve attended is required.

Manuscript +

Please upload a manuscript or example of scholarly work for which you are first author. Manuscripts may include a published paper, unpublished paper, a completed research project, or a thesis. Submission of one full-length manuscript or report of completed or ongoing research is encouraged, although a course paper is acceptable. If these are not available, a 2-5 page paper examining a clinical problem or issue critical to the profession may be submitted. Manuscripts will be evaluated on the importance of the topic, the appropriateness of the approach taken, flow, clarity, and correct use of formatting.

Interview +

Competitive applicants will be interviewed by faculty members selected by the PhD Admissions Committee. The interview is conducted in person, by telephone or by Skype depending on the applicant’s location. The interview is an opportunity for both parties to clarify information submitted in the application and further explore applicant fit with the program.

International Applicants +

We welcome international applicants, but it is essential that you be fluent in English. Presently, the University (including the School of Nursing) does not offer ESL programs or an English language institute. For this reason, candidates interested in attending the University must be able to understand rapid, idiomatic English as spoken in lectures, group discussions, and clinical settings by individuals of widely varying accents. Students from non-English-speaking countries must be able to communicate quickly and clearly in spoken and written English.

  • International students must provide a full credit evaluation of all courses completed at a foreign institution through World Education Services, Inc. (WES) or Educational Credential Evaluators, Inc.
    • NOTE: As part of the transcript submission, degree credentials are also reviewed by the UNC Graduate School. Assessment of a foreign degree, including those conferred from institutions participating in the Bologna Accord, is based upon the characteristics of a national system of education, the type of institution attended, its accreditation and the level of studies completed. The following guidelines indicate the level of study expected of international applicants prior to graduate enrollment:
      • British patterned education bachelor’s degree with honours
      • French patterned education degree of diplme requiring four years of post baccalauréat study
      • Germany university Diplom Applicants with very strong academic records may be considered if they have completed the Staatsexamen, a bachelor’s degree after a 13-year Abitur, or at least one year of full-time study beyond VorprfungZwichenprfungVordiplom, or any other bachelor’s degree
      • Other European countries: university degree requiring a minimum of four years of study
      • Canada: university degree requiring a minimum of four years of study
      • Latin America: university degree requiring a minimum of four years of study
      • India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal: bachelor’s degree in engineering or medicine; master’s degree in all other fields
      • Philippines: five-year bachelor’s degree or four-year bachelor’s degree plus one year of graduate course work
      • Other Asian countries: university degree requiring a minimum of four years of study
  • TOEFL or IELTS: Applicants are required to enter their TOEFL/IELTS test information including the date the test was taken and scores under the “Academic History” section within the NursingCAS application. The UNC supplemental application requires official scores reported directly from ETS and/or IELTSThe UNC Graduate School Institution Code is 5816 (no department code). Standardized test scores must be official and are reportable for a period of two years from the date of the exam. Exam results more than two years old cannot be considered. Submitted standardized test scores are kept on file for only one year. Refer to The Graduate School for more information. This is not a requirement of applicants who are residents of a country where English is the official language of instruction or if applicants hold a degree from an accredited United States institution of higher education. Meeting the minimum total score on TOEFL does not guarantee admission to the School of Nursing. Admission decisions are made on the basis of multiple factors including: scholastic performance; English proficiency; essays; letters of recommendation; the appropriateness of the requested advanced practice area to the applicant’s goals and clinical experiences; and verification of financial support to insure proper visa status.
  • Letters of Recommendation: In addition to the three letters of recommendation outlined above, applicants for whom English is a second (or non-native) language are required to submit at least one additional letter of reference that addresses your ability to communicate fluently in English.

Additional resources for international applicants:

UNC Global International Student and Scholar Services
North Carolina Board of Nursing

Application Fee +

Two application fees are required. Please carefully read instructions below for submitting both fees.

  1. $80 to NursingCAS. Follow the instructions in the application to submit your $75 application fee to NursingCAS. Should you wish to request a fee waiver, contact NursingCAS after reading the instructions here.
  2. $95 to UNC Graduate School. A $95 application fee is also required for the UNC supplemental application. Please remit payment via the UNC supplemental application.

Apply Now +


  • A link to your UNC Supplemental Application will be sent to you upon submission of your completed NursingCAS application.
  • Please ensure that the online application is submitted prior to the posted deadline, all requested documents are uploaded properly into the application, and that your application is complete. You can check the status of your application review by logging on to the application to see if any required items are missing. The Admissions Committee only considers complete applications. Please check your application in the online application portal, and follow up with your recommenders and schools. The School of Nursing will contact you directly if we need additional documents or information.
  • Notification of Decision: The School of Nursing and the Dean of the Graduate School will notify you in writing with a decision as soon as they are made. If your address changes during this time, please update it in the “Update Profile” section of the application.
  • After Acceptance:
    • If you’re accepted, you’ll be asked to pay a $250 deposit and submit official transcripts to the Graduate School. Instructions on how to do so will be included in your acceptance letter. If you’re seeking residency for tuition purposes, apply at this site.
    • As noted in the prerequisite section of these instructions, those applicants offered admission who have completed a master’s level statistics course will be contacted by the PhD Program Office with additional information concerning the Statistics Placement Exam. Those without a graduate statistics course must have one prior to spring semester of the first year in the program.

Contact Admissions

Information Sessions & Tours