Thank you to everyone who attended the How To Be a Strong Applicant event this year. We received a high number of questions during the event and unfortunately were not able to answer all of them. To answer these questions we have now created the below FAQ section. Hopefully this helps you in your future applications. If you have any suggestions, or questions you would like to be added to the below please do email:

The recording of this year's event can also be watched on MS Stream by following this link.

Applications and deadlines

When should someone apply for a PhD?

Every opportunity will have its own deadline and application process. It's important that you read the application process for each opportunity to understand the various steps and how much time it will take you before submitting a completed application. Most funded PhD schemes open in the autumn term (Sept-Nov) to start in the following year.  

Will there still be some PhD positions open after March? I need some time to decide which specific area I want to study.

Generally, the autumn term is when most PhD funded schemes open, but there are likely to be others after March. The FindaPhd website is a great place to look for opportunities.

How many applications can you submit within a department and among different departments at Imperial College London?

Where the application is part of the Imperial College application portal, you will be limited to two choices. However where you are required to simply send in a CV and personal statement, there is no limit.

CV and Personal Statement

What is the format and layout for the CV we should use if there are no guidelines?

We recommend the Careers Service guide to CVs for advice on this. You can also have your CV checked by a Careers Consultant if you are an Imperial student by booking an appointment with them.

How long should a CV for a Master's application be?

Ideally a CV should not be longer than two pages. The Careers Service has lots of helpful tips for CVs on their website. 

What level of educational qualification is relevant to add to my CV?

It depends on the role you are applying for and what information they are asking for. It is always useful to book an appointment with a Careers Consultant at the Imperial Careers Service to have your CV checked. 

Ideally, how long should a personal statement be?

Usually, each opportunity specifies how long they want the personal statement to be. If not, please ensure to format your personal statement in a way to make it easy to read, e.g. sensible margins, include paragraph breaks, headings where useful etc.


Can I apply for a scholarship if I don’t have a project yet?

Some funded programmes are student-led, and projects are decided after students have been awarded the studentship - this is the case with the MRC DTP programme for example.

Does the MRC studentships only provide funding at home fees rate and international students will have to make up the difference?

We welcome applications from international candidates. If successful, international students will receive an identical funding package as home students. Tuition fees are covered at home level for all successful students. Currently there are no additional funds to cover fees up to the international rate. UKRI is the central organisation that oversees all Research Councils including the MRC and EPSRC, and they have provided detailed guidance on this. 

As the announcement from UKRI is very recent, discussions about tuition fees for international students are ongoing and we are unable to provide any detail at this time. We would, however, recommend that you do not delay applying for the studentship/s, and we will update the residence eligibility guidance with any changes. 

Are we allowed to apply for multiple funding opportunities at the same time?

Yes, we recommend that you apply for as many as you can. 

Are there any funding opportunities for Master’s or PhD programmes?

The following document, Additional information regarding funding, finance and support.pdf has been put together to provide further information, including links to other resources which may be of use to students looking for funding opportunities.


Can someone choose their own supervisor when doing a PhD?

Yes, if you are successful in gaining a student-led studentship, i.e., the award is made to you and you are not applying for a specific project, then you will sometimes be able to choose your supervisor and project as well. This is the case for the MRC DTP Studentships. 

How do I know which people to email about an opening in their lab/team?

There is no right or wrong method. Perhaps make initial contact with someone in the lab and make enquiries. They will be able to put you in contact with the right person about vacancies. Sometimes it's very helpful to speak to other PhD students for example; you can find out what it's like to work in that lab.


Should my referee be from my MSc programme, or it can be from my BSc?

Your referees should be people who know you, therefore rather than two referees from your MSc which you have perhaps only recently started, it's far better for at least one of these to be from someone who knows you from the BSc.

If I am applying for multiple PhD programmes should I use different references for each application?

Not necessarily, it would be fine to use the same referees. It is accepted that candidates will apply to several different programmes, and that is fine.

How early on should we ask a referee to provide a reference?

We would recommend giving your referees as much advance warning as you can.


Does Imperial prefer someone who already studied there, for a PhD?

Every year, wwelcome students from lots of different universities who have never studied at Imperial. 

How can someone become a research assistant?

A good place to start searching for research assistant jobs is on The traditional entry point to an academic job for PhD graduates is as a research assistant or research fellow. It may help you to read the guidance provided on the Prospects website.

I want to apply for the MRC studentship but my MRes has just started. Can I clarify that the 3.5 years start after the completion of my masters?

Yes in the current programme whether you apply for the 3.5 year pathway or the 4.5 year, it will start in October 2021. However, with the MRC DTP there is a level of flexibility and you may be able to start a bit later/earlier if you wished to.