How Prepare a Strong Application

Criteria Considered

In addition to the eligibility requirements (see Apply page), we consider a variety of qualities in an applicant.

  1. Academic promise
  2. Interest in pursuing an academic career in an MMUF-designated field of study.
  3. Potential for serving as a mentor and teacher to a wide variety of students.
  4. Demonstrated commitment to activities and leadership roles that reflect an interest in social justice issues and the promotion of diverse perspectives
  5. Commitment to participating fully in all aspects of the MMUF program, including attendance at conferences and meetings.

Please note that financial need and GPA are NOT considered when making a decision about who we admit to the program.

Pursuing a PhD is a rigorous life choice. Consequently, our application process is a rigorous one. Successful applicants reflect upon and are able to clearly communicate responses to questions such as:

  • “Why do I want to earn a PhD in this field?”
  • “How and why does this field excite me?”
  • “How do I envision the Mellon Mays program assisting me in my future goals?”
  • “Why am I uniquely qualified to participate in the University of Chicago’s Mellon Mays Program?”

Statement of Research

It is important to prepare a thoughtful statement on what you would like to take on as a research project. Expect to edit your statement of research interest a number of times. The statement should convey a depth of knowledge, focus, and familiarity with some of the literature on the issues you hope to study, and should give a sense of the questions and “problem” you hope to solve through your research.


In the interview, you should be able to persuade the application review committee that you have the passion, focus, and determination that will be necessary to carry you through a PhD program and beyond. Also, you should be prepared to address why your aims and goals would honor and mirror, in some way, the life and work of Dr. Benjamin Mays (you can locate a short biography of Mays at

To help you prepare a strong application, you should plan to meet with Elise LaRose, the MMUF Program Director, a few times to discuss your research project, what to expect in the interview and how to secure a faculty mentor. To schedule an appointment, email