Apply to VAIGS

From student to scientist

Van Andel Institute Graduate School is intended for students seeking a Ph.D. in molecular and cellular 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 VAIGS will be sponsored in the J-1 student (college and university) visa category; Van Andel Institute is not currently designated to sponsor F-1 visas.

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 registrar@vai.org or call 616.234.5722.

Admission requirements

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. In addition, a sample of your writing (such as a research report) will be required on your application. Successful applicants will demonstrate these experiences have provided a thorough understanding of what a research career entails, that they have 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.

TOEFL score
Official TOEFL scores (for international applicants only). Only scores that are less than two years old will be considered.

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.

High competence in skills important to a career in scientific research
These skills include critical thinking, writing and public speaking.

We do not require the GRE. 

A deep passion for understanding the mysteries of life and disease as well as a commitment to the improvement of health.

Good character

How to apply


Step one: Fill out the BioMedCas application, which may be accessed by clicking APPLY NOW above.

  The BioMedCAS application will require standard personal information.
  VAIGS requires letters of recommendation from three faculty members who know you and your 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. The system will automatically email the recommenders who can then respond with their feedback to BioMedCAS by email.

As part of the BioMedCAS application, upload the following materials:

  A cover letter stating your interest in Van Andel Institute Graduate School. Tell us why you want to pursue a research-focused Ph.D. and, specifically, why Van Andel Institute Graduate School is right for you.
  A personal curriculum vitae or resume
  A sample of your writing, such as a research report or essay describing your research experience and interests. The sample should demonstrate your ability to think and write scientifically.
  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. All applicants with transcripts from institutions where instruction was conducted in ANY LANGUAGE OTHER THAN ENGLISH must provide an official transcript evaluation with course by course evaluation and a U.S. GPA conversion at your own expense completed by World Education Services (WES).

Step two:

International applications must provide proof of English proficiency by one of the following methods:

  • Graduation with a baccalaureate degree (or higher) earned from an accredited United States college or university, or an international college or university with instruction conducted in English. Degrees earned online may not be used to verify English proficiency.
  • Official scores from an English proficiency standardized test (e.g. TOEFL, IELTS) sent by the testing agency to Van Andel Institute Graduate School. Official scores must be less than two years old. Minimum required scores are as follows:  TOEFL PBT: 580, TOEFL iBT: 90, IELTS: 6.5.


Review Process


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


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 by telephone instead.


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


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