Although I have seen a lot of questions similar to this, my situation is substantially different. I want to pursue a Ph.D. but since the deadlines are soon approaching for this academic year (most of the deadlines are in December) and due to my lack of readiness (partially due to my poor planning and busy schedule) in terms of not having written GRE and preparing my SOP and LORs, and most importantly not having contacted any professors yet, it is highly unlikely for me to pursue Ph.D. from fall 2020. Is there any chance universities accept students for Ph.D. for spring 2021? Furthermore, when should I start contacting professors i.e emailing them? Is it okay to start emailing them a year in advance? P.S - I only have a bachelor's degree in engineering.I am currently working in a lab (mechatronics to be precise). I have done some research work but do not have any publications yet, although I am writing a patent on my work.

  • 1
    Is your question about a certain geographic region?
    – user115896
    Nov 12, 2019 at 17:26
  • Not really, but I only have a bachelor's degree in engineering. I've heard that only the U.S and U.K accept a direct Ph.D. without masters (I prefer the former in this case). I wouldn't mind applying elsewhere if they don't require masters. Nov 12, 2019 at 17:33
  • UK positions are advertised at all times of years, usually you don't really need to (actually, shouldn't) contact the professors until the positions are advertised, and can start at any time of the year (there are PhD students in my lab that started in January, April, August, September, and even early summer I think)
    – penelope
    Nov 13, 2019 at 12:37

2 Answers 2


This really depends on the University and department.

European universities will more often accept PhD students at random times of the year. American ones are more standardized because a PhD student is actually more like a student than an employee and will therefore normally do courses (i.e. a masters as part of a PhD).

Since you don't have a masters yet, you may therefore need to apply for one of the more standardized programs that start in the fall.

But also consider that some universities (again mostly in Europe) will let you apply just a few months before the fall or even just a month. In such a scenario you will definitely need to be in touch with your supervisor before applying.

Aside from that, it makes sense to be in touch with your potential supervisor as early as possible since they can then get a better sense of who you are and it helps them see that you're specifically interested in them. But you need to individualize your email by reading some of their papers first.


I would be surprised if PhD programs admitted students in the Spring semester. at least as far as I know in the US there is a single application cycle each year.

So, as far as i understand it, if you can't pull off an application for Fall 2020 then you're essentially looking at applying for a Fall 2021 start. You'll have to wait for the next yearly cycle. Sorry.

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