What does the selection process look like? Is the program competitive?
Admission to the program is competitive, and each candidate is vetted by multiple senior experts in the ELLIS network before they can become an ELLIS PhD student.
The process is as follows:
1) Review (November - December)
During a multi-stage selection process, the application is first checked against the eligibility criteria. Incomplete applications are discarded. Next, applications are pre-screened by a pool of reviewers, typically postdoc researchers affiliated with the participating advisors (pre-screeners are appointed by the participating advisors or selected from the ELLIS network). Each application is assigned to three reviewers. The best applicants are then passed on to ELLIS PIs (participating advisors) for further review (it concerns a general assessment of the candidate, not a personal fit with the advisor's lab). Again, each candidate is reviewed by three PIs. Based on these reviews, the top candidates will be shortlisted for further consideration. At the end of the review stage, students are notified whether they are shortlisted. Shortlisted candidates can be considered for interviews by participating PIs.
Note: if a candidate receives a notification that they are *not* shortlisted, this means they will not be able to join the 'ELLIS PhD program' at this point in time, i.e. it concerns consideration for the ELLIS program in the ongoing central recruiting round based on the reviewing process (individual advisors can of course also recruit outside of ELLIS).
2) Interviews (January - February 15)
Advisors can invite shortlisted candidates for interviews. This process is self-organized. The interview period runs until February 15.
3) Offers and admission (late February - May 1)
Advisors make offers (self-organized) and can interview back-up candidates if necessary. The hiring process is local. Advisors inform ELLIS about accepted offers by May 1. The student is then conditionally admitted to the program.
4) Find a co-advisor and finalize admission (May - September 15)
The primary advisor and student decide on a co-advisor. The two advisors and student sign a letter of intent which determines the funding and graduation plan. Once the letter of intent is submitted and approved, admission to the ELLIS PhD Program is finalized.
The program has so far conducted three recruiting rounds (fall 2020, fall 2021, fall 2022) and the fourth one (fall 2023) is currently ongoing. Between 1,300 - 2,000 candidates register each year. In a typical round, less than 5% of all registered applicants, and between 5-10% of eligible applicants are admitted to the program. Roughly 15-20% of all candidates are shortlisted and roughly one third of the shortlisted applicants get an offer from one of the participating advisors.
We sincerely appreciate the time that students take to prepare their application, and are excited to see such an overwhelming interest in the program. Each year, ELLIS receives a large number of applications from strongly qualified candidates and the selection to our program is therefore highly competitive. Unfortunately, the coordination office cannot provide individual feedback.