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Admissions

Take the first steps toward your future today.

Van Andel Institute Graduate School trains today’s students to be tomorrow’s professional scientists through an innovative, scientifically rigorous and problem-based Ph.D. program in molecular and cellular biology. Housed within Van Andel Institute, a world-class biomedical research organization based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the Graduate School offers students an exceptional scientific education, mentorship by experienced faculty members and exposure to fields across the full spectrum of research.

Interested in learning more? Meet with our Director of Admissions: Schedule Now ➔

One Degree. Endless Possibilities.

Van Andel Institute Graduate School’s Ph.D. in molecular and cellular biology is a research-intensive, interdisciplinary program that prepares students for successful careers as independent investigators. The Ph.D. curriculum was designed to train students to think like scientists through a problem-based learning approach. VAI also partners with Michigan State University College of Human Medicine and Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine to offer an M.D./Ph.D. Dual-Degree Programs.

About VAI Graduate School

Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, the Graduate School prepares students as future biomedical research leaders in academia, industry, government, and advocacy roles. The Graduate School headquarters is in a newly renovated building adjacent to the Institute and currently has 49 students with 40% enrolled from diverse countries.

Student Life

We are deeply committed to supporting our Ph.D. candidates throughout their time at the Institute, both in and out of the classroom. With numerous support services available, our Ph.D. candidates feel right at home in the vibrant city of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Apply to the Graduate School

Learn how to start your journey to a Ph.D.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Discover answers to some of the top questions asked.

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Financial Support

The Graduate School offers a strong financial support package for its students.

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Learn more about VAI Graduate School

Simply click on the videos below to watch.

Become a VAI Graduate Student

The Graduate School offers students an exceptional scientific education, mentorship by experienced faculty members and exposure to fields across the full spectrum of research.

Interested in learning more? Meet with our Director of Admissions: Schedule Now ➔

From Student to Scientist

Van Andel Institute Graduate School is intended for students seeking a Ph.D. in molecular and cell biology that prepares them for leadership positions in biomedical research.

The program is open to all applicants regardless of race, gender, ethnic or national origin, religion or age. Individuals from demographic groups that are underrepresented among professional scientists are especially encouraged to apply. The Graduate School welcomes international applicants (those who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents). International applicants admitted to the Graduate School will be sponsored in the F-1 student visa program.

To ensure full consideration for fall admission, applications should be received by December 1 the year prior to that in which the student will matriculate. If you have any questions about the application process, please contact the Graduate School office at [email protected] or call 616.234.5722.

How to Apply

The application for the 2025 cohort will open in early fall 2024. 

The FREE BioMedCAS application will require standard personal information. As part of the BioMedCAS application, upload the following materials:

  • Please include a one-page research statement that describes your previous research experience, including project details, your role in the work, what you learned, and the significance of the work.
  • A personal curriculum vitae or resume
  • Electronic versions of transcript(s) of your academic records. Unofficial copies are acceptable for application, but official copies sent directly from your home institution(s) must be submitted prior to matriculation.
  • Bachelor of Arts or Science (B.A. or B.S.) degree or equivalent from an accredited college or university prior to enrollment –Typical preparation includes courses in chemistry, biochemistry, biology, physics and mathematics. Applicants with other academic backgrounds may be considered if they provide appropriate evidence of excellent training, qualifications and motivation.
  • Research experience – As an important part of admission criteria, research experience may include undergraduate research internships, summer research programs, Master’s thesis research or medical research clerkships. Successful applicants will demonstrate these experiences have provided a thorough understanding of what a research career entails, that they have a passion for research and that they have exceptional talent and aptitude for science.
  • Overall academic excellence – The Graduate School does not have a GPA threshold; however, students should demonstrate a solid academic record and commitment to academic excellence.
  • Three letters of recommendation from faculty members – It is highly recommended that applicants acquire letters from faculty members who know them and their academic work and, if applicable, who supervised independent study or research. The recommenders’ contact information must be entered in the Supporting Information quadrant of the application and the system will automatically email the recommenders.
  • Proof of English proficiency (international applicants only) – Before an offer of admission can be made, international applicants must provide additional documentation showing Proof of English proficiency. View accepted methods ➔
  • Transcript evaluation – All transcripts from academic institutions outside of the United States must be accompanied by an official course-by-course evaluation, including U.S. GPA conversion. Learn more ➔
  • High competence in skills important to a career in scientific research – These skills include critical thinking, writing and public speaking.
  • A deep passion for understanding the mysteries of life and disease as well as a commitment to the improvement of health.
  • Good character

Please note: GRE is not required.

Review Process

After you submit your online application, an in-depth review of your file is conducted by the admissions committee. All applications are reviewed with respect to openings in the program and the strength of other applicants. Attention is given to every aspect of an application, with emphasis placed on past scientific achievement as well as scholarly potential. Academic records, letters of recommendation, your personal statement and CV/resume are all taken into consideration.

December

Applications will be reviewed by a team of Van Andel Institute Graduate School faculty members.

January-February

Selected candidates will be invited to visit
Van Andel Institute for interviews. Visitors will meet with the admissions team, with faculty members who might serve as future research mentors and with current students and/or postdoctoral associates. In some cases, students may be interviewed virtually.

March

The admissions team will recommend admission for selected students; offers of admission will be issued by the Graduate School Dean.

April

Students receiving offers will respond with their decision by April 15.

Explore VAI Graduate School’s frequently asked questions (FAQS)

If you have additional questions, reach out to us by phone at 616.234.5708 or via email at [email protected].

What do you look for in a prospective student?

The admissions committee looks for students with research experience and a passion for research. VAI Graduate School provides a collaborative environment for students, so the committee looks for individuals who enjoy small, interactive classes.

Do you offer tours? 

At this time, we do not offer in-person tours of VAI or VAI Graduate School. We invite you to watch our virtual tours of the Institute and our new Graduate School building.

How many students are admitted to your program each year?

View VAI Graduate School admissions statistics ➔

What is the size of your graduate school/program?

Van Andel Institute is a biomedical research institute with more than 500 employees and 37 research labs. Currently, VAI Graduate School has 49 students and hopes to bring in a cohort of 12 students in 2023 (as of Aug. 2022).

Where have your alumni gone after they graduate?

Our alumni have pursued excellent careers in academia, research and industry. Explore our alumni directory ➔

Does Van Andel Institute Graduate School offer tuition and/or stipend support?

Yes! Van Andel Institute Graduate School offers 100% tuition coverage for our graduate students. Students also receive a generous living stipend of $41,670 and medical, dental and vision insurance, independent of citizenship. In addition, the Graduate School provides a laptop computer and up to $2,500 per year to attend scientific conferences. Lastly, we offer a one-time relocation allowance of up to $1,500. Students also may receive a 10% stipend increase in recognition of receiving an independent fellowship such as an NIH National Research Service Award (NRSA), NSF Graduate Research Fellowship (GRFP), or other prestigious fellowship award.

What degree programs do you offer?

We offer a Ph.D. in molecular and cellular biology. Our first-year curriculum includes five four-week modules, each focused on a different area of research conducted at VAI.

Is a master’s degree required to apply for the Ph.D. program?

No, students can apply to our program after completing their bachelor’s degree.

What makes your curriculum different?

Van Andel Institute Graduate School’s Ph.D. in molecular and cellular biology is a research-intensive, interdisciplinary program that prepares students for exceptional careers as independent investigators. We combine extensive practical experience and rigorous scientific training with in-depth academic coursework and professional development — a powerful combination that gives our students a springboard for success.

Here’s what sets our curriculum apart.

  • Problem-based learning – Our students are scientists. Coursework is designed to mirror the research process, immersing them in problem-based learning from day one.
  • Adaptive curriculum – Our curriculum is designed and revised to encompass the latest advances in science. This responsive approach ensures our program meets the needs of today’s students to help them become the scientific leaders of tomorrow.
  • Early and extensive lab experience – Our graduate students complete three lab rotations and select their thesis lab by the end of their first year. This approach maximizes research and mentorship time.

What M.D./Ph.D. programs do you offer?

We offer M.D./Ph.D. programs with Michigan State University College of Human Medicine (MSU) and Western Michigan University’s Stryker School of Medicine (WMed). Learn more about each program and how to apply ➔

Are there undergraduate courses you recommend applicants take?

We recommend general, analytical and organic chemistry; cell and molecular biology; genetics; and at least one semester of biochemistry (although two semesters would be beneficial). Additionally, some students have completed courses in immunology, virology, microbiology, bioinformatics and/or biostatistics.

What undergraduate majors do you recommend for applicants?

Although we do not have a strong recommendation for an undergraduate major, most students accepted to VAI Graduate School have majors in biology, biochemistry, cell and molecular biology, biotechnology, biomedical sciences or genetics.

How do I apply?

We participate in the BioMedCAS application, a centralized application system for biomedical graduate programs. Our FREE application requires a cover letter/personal statement, three letters of recommendation CV/resume and transcripts from previous institutions. To submit an application or learn more about applying to VAI Graduate School, visit vai.org/apply.

What is the application deadline?

The application deadline is Dec. 1. The Admissions Committee begins its review soon after the deadline. In rare, extenuating circumstances, we will accept applications beyond Dec. 1. Please email [email protected] for questions.

Is GRE required?

No, the GRE is not required.

Is there an application fee?

No, our application is FREE.

Are students required to contact a principal investigator before applying?

No, applicants apply to the Graduate School, not to a specific lab. Students complete three lab rotations during their first year before selecting a lab for their dissertation studies.

Do you require international students to demonstrate English proficiency even if they are from an English-speaking country?

Yes, all students from outside the United States must demonstrate English proficiency.

If so, what are the accepted methods to provide to prove my English proficiency?

You can provide Proof of English proficiency by one of the following methods:

  • Official scores from an English proficiency standardized test (TOEFL, IELTS or Duolingo) sent by the testing agency to Van Andel Institute Graduate School. Official scores must be less than two years old. The minimum required scores are as follows: TOEFL PBT: 580, TOEFL iBT: 90, IELTS: 6.5, Duolingo: 110.
  • Official signed transcript from an accredited United States college or university showing completion of a baccalaureate degree or higher. Degrees earned online may not be used to verify English proficiency.
  • Official signed transcript from an international (non-U.S.) college or university showing completion of a baccalaureate degree or higher with instruction conducted primarily in English. If the transcript does not explicitly state that English was the primary language of instruction, an official signed letter from the Registrar’s (or equivalent) Office must also be submitted stating that English was the primary language of instruction. Degrees earned online may not be used to verify English proficiency.
  • English proficiency waiver – Van Andel Institute Graduate School may waive the English proficiency documentation (i.e., test score or official final transcript) requirement in the following two circumstances:
    1. The prospective student holds a passport from a country in which the primary official spoken language is English, as indicated in The World Factbook; OR
    2. The prospective student is currently enrolled in or recently graduated from a baccalaureate degree program (or higher) at an accredited U.S. college or university OR international (non-U.S.) college or university with instruction conducted primarily in English, and as a result, cannot submit an official final transcript prior to Van Andel Institute Graduate School admission. *Please note that an official final transcript will still be required for enrollment purposes prior to matriculation; the waiver is only for purposes of proving English proficiency prior to issuance of Form I-20 or DS-2019.
    3. Waivers are not automatic. To be eligible for a waiver, the student must request the waiver and demonstrate suitable English proficiency during their Van Andel Institute Graduate School admissions interview to successfully complete the academic program and function safely on a day-to-day basis in the United States.

Do transcripts from institutions outside the US need to be evaluated by a transcript evaluation service?

All transcripts from academic institutions outside of the United States must be accompanied by an official course-by-course evaluation, including U.S. GPA conversion from World Education Services (WES), International Credential Evaluators, or another agency approved by the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services. Transcript evaluations will be at the applicant’s own expense. The original document that was evaluated and an English translation (if applicable) must be included with the evaluation.

  • If you cannot provide an official transcript evaluation when you submit your application, you must submit the documents outlined below so the Admissions Committee can conduct a preliminary review. Please note, it is still best to submit the official course-by-course transcript evaluation when you apply if you are able.
      • Unofficial college transcripts (must be in English)
      • U.S. GPA equivalent (4.0 scale) — You may use a free online resource such as WES; this must be your cumulative undergraduate GPA.
  • An official offer of admission cannot be made until the official evaluation is received and reviewed by the Admissions Committee. The evaluation may be submitted after an applicant is interviewed, if necessary.

Learn more about VAI Graduate School

Simply click on the videos below to watch.

  • Tuition

    Van Andel Institute Graduate School offers 100% tuition coverage for our graduate students. Tuition for non-graduate school students who wish to take courses is $25,000 for a full year (three semesters including summer). For individual courses, tuition will be assessed at a rate of $825 per credit hour.

  • Fellowships

    Students in the doctoral program at the Graduate School are supported by institutional (internal) fellowships for five years. These fellowships include a stipend of approximately $41,670 per year along with health, dental and vision insurance for the student (and family). The Graduate School also provides a laptop computer and up to $2,500 per year to attend scientific conferences. Additionally, we offer a one-time relocation allowance of up to $1,500.