PhD (School) Letter of Intent

Updated June 01, 2022

A PhD letter of intent is used to strengthen one’s application to a graduate school, specifically for applications to complete a Doctor of Philosophy degree. This letter should outline the applicant’s qualifications, achievements, education, work experience, as well as their passion for the program for which they are applying and their goals for the future. A letter of intent for a PhD program is also known as a “statement of purpose.” The committee in charge of new students will have a plethora of application packets to review; a PhD letter of intent will help them narrow down their options. Applicants should make sure to include information that is relevant to the program and integral to their chances of being accepted. Each school/program will have information on their website telling students what their letter of intent should contain and may even go into detail regarding formatting and submission information.

What is a PhD?

A PhD, short for Doctor of Philosophy, is a postgraduate doctoral degree awarded to students who complete the most advanced schooling in any given discipline. This type of doctorate degree is classified as an academic degree where recipients concentrate on research, development, teaching, whereas applied degrees, such as medical doctorates (M.D.), law doctorates (J.D.), etc., focus on practical and professional careers. Studying philosophy is not part of a PhD (although it can be), the word “philosophy” is used because of its Latin roots. For example, five of the most common PhD degrees in America are Accounting and Finance, Applied Math, Audiology, Biomedical Engineering, and Business Administration.) All PhD students spend their education studying literature within their field, conducting research and collecting results, and completing an original thesis establishing new knowledge or a fresh point of view in their discipline. The thesis will be submitted as a dissertation and the student must discuss their thesis with examiners (called a “viva voce”) in order to earn their degree.

PhD Letter of Intent – Sample

June Smith
1220 W Beach Park Dr.
Tampa Bay, FL, 33641
(813) 222-9988

June 10, 2019

Admissions Committee, Counseling Psychology PhD Program
Northwestern University
633 Clark St, Evanston, IL, 60208
(847) 491-3741

Dear admissions committee,

It is a privilege to be writing to you at this time to state my intent to pursue a degree in counseling psychology at Northwestern University. I’ve been following the details of the PhD program, and it would be an honor to take part in such a well-developed and successful program. If the committee decides I am a deserving applicant, I won’t hesitate to accept; Northwestern University is without a doubt my top choice.

I received my BA in psychology from the University of Miami and have an unblemished academic track record throughout my educational career. I maintained a 3.2 GPA and participated in a number of extracurricular activities. My passion for psychology began when I was nearing the end of high school. Witnessing the difference that the counselors made on the student body was inspiring. I intend to earn my PhD to encourage and promote innovative ideas to advance psychological research and professional counseling.

I have included a research paper in my application packet that I think will interest the committee. It demonstrates my knowledge in the field of psychology and my ability to complete complex research projects. I know I still have much to learn but my professors have stated that I have shown a lot of promise and that my desire to soak up as much knowledge as I can is going to allow me to thrive in the field of counseling psychology.

My interest in Northwestern’s counseling psychology program is heightened by the school’s exciting and influential research being completed in the psychological sciences today. I’ve heard great things about the dynamic and experienced community of scientists and scholars at Northwestern and I believe that with the right training and education, I can succeed in the discipline for which I have the utmost passion.

I am positive that my acceptance into the counseling psychology program at Northwestern will benefit both myself and the school. Northwestern is my number one choice and it would be high praise to be accepted as a PhD student. Please consider my application and contact me if you require any further information.



June Smith