MS Capstone to PhD Admissions

If you are enrolled in the Master of Science Capstone (MS Capstone) program, and are interested in the PhD program you may apply to internally or externally. Note that internal applications are by invitation only.

Internal Applications 


At the annual review of MS first year students, faculty members can nominate MS Capstone students to apply to the PhD program. Faculty will vote on these nominations and those students approved will be invited to apply to the PhD program and reviewed by the Admissions Committee.  Their application should consist of a resume, statement of purpose, transcripts from previous institutions, and one letter of recommendation from Biostatistics faculty.  MS Capstone students will be informed of their admission to the program (yes or no) in the summer after their first year, contingent on continued satisfactory progress.

If You Accept the Offer

If you are admitted and accept the offer, in fall of your second year you will be given the option to take the STAT 512-13 placement exam. If you do not take the placement exam or do not place out of Stat 512-13 you will take STAT 512-13 (in lieu of two MS Capstone pathway courses, as determined by the Graduate program) in your second year.  Contingent on continued satisfactory progress at the end of the winter quarter of your second year (i.e., completion of all requirements for the MS Capstone degree and either passing STAT 512-13 with 3.0 or higher or placing out of STAT 512-13), the student will formally transfer to the PhD program before Spring Quarter of their second year (and still receive their MS Capstone degree).

Students who are not admitted to the PhD program are required to proceed with completing the remaining MS Capstone degree requirements.

Eligibility Requirements

1. Biostatistics faculty invitation for the application to the PhD program following first year progress review

2.  Strong grades in all courses, especially BIOST 522-23 and BIOST 514-15

3. Evidence of independent research

Note: Eligibility to apply does not guarantee admission.

Admission Review Factors

The MS-to-PhD admissions process is as rigorous as the regular admissions process. The applicant must demonstrate overall excellence, the proven ability to do PhD-level work, and engagement with the field. The Admissions Committee will consider the following as they holistically review each application: 

  • Mastery of knowledge and skills demonstrated by:
    • Engagement in class, class exam scores, and overall course grades.
  • Strong research skills as well as potential for PhD-level work (e.g., Independent Study with a faculty member resulting in a research project, research resulting in a publication, etc.) as evidenced by: 
    • One letter of recommendation from Biostatistics faculty.
    • Publication(s), grants received, etc.
  • Engagement with the field and department as well as a spirit of curiosity and independent inquiry as demonstrated by:  
    • Regularly attending Department Seminars and interacting with the guest speaker and faculty.
    •   Meaningfully contributing to Student Seminar by attending, presenting research, asking questions, and sharing feedback with the student presenters.
    • Communicating with/asking questions of course instructors regarding class material and other aspects of the field.

    •  Seeking out opportunities to talk with/learn from faculty, guest speakers, and more senior students in the department.

To Apply

  • The student submits a revised Statement of Purpose and transcripts from previous institutions and arranges for one Letter of Recommendation to be submitted from a Biostatistics faculty member.
  • This material is sent to The MS-to-PhD application deadline is provided to eligible students in their progress review letter.

Review Process and Decisions

  • The Admissions Committee reviews the application materials listed above along with the student's UW transcript.
  • Admissions decisions are communicated by the end of July.

External Applications (via

MS Capstone students are also free to apply to the PhD program through the regular process. As with all other applications, the Admissions Committee will carefully review each one, but with the limited number of PhD slots available and many strong applicants, the success rate is low - recently around 7% of all applicants have been admitted. For information about application dates, requirements and instructions see:

Internal versus External Applications

To help students assess the likely outcome of any application, please note that the faculty consider all MS students for potential transfer to the PhD program, as a matter of routine, during their annual reviews in Spring of their first year. It is also important to note that there are a limited number of PhD slots, and in some years there are no slots available for a transfer. If a PhD slot is available and you receive an invitation, transfer to the PhD program (if the MS student desires it) is then evaluated by the faculty members on the admissions committee, and assuming (as is usual) they approve, their recommendation is submitted to the graduate program, who typically approves the transfer. Under this mechanism no application fee is required. If you do not receive an invitation, you may still apply to the PhD program - but without extra information, beyond that considered during the faculty’s annual review, the faculty members on the admissions committee are likely to come to the same conclusion as was reached in the Spring annual review process. We recognize that this may be disappointing to students applying to the PhD program but want to be clear about this process and that the likelihood of a successful application is very low. For students seeking a PhD, our recommendation would be that you consider applications to other graduate programs or that you submit an application to our program once you obtain more experience in the field. Both strategies have proven to be successful for some of our MS alumni.