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I have just finished my third year at a very prestigious US university and I have been looking at Biology PhD programs (Neurooncology/cancer biology in particular). All of the programs that I have looked into explicitly require that students have a bachelor’s degree before matriculating. I am really eager to start PhD work and I understand that some applicants to PhD programs are admitted without a full four-year bachelor’s degree. With the exception of a full bachelor’s degree, I think I otherwise have a very strong application (in terms of prior research, letters of recommendation, and past academic history). Are there universities that do no explicitly require a bachelor's degree for students who want to pursue a PhD? Given that I do not have a full bachelor’s degree, if I were to apply for PhDs now, what things should I first do?

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If you just finished your third year at a US institution, is it safe to assume that you will receive your "full bachelor's degree" one year from now? If so, since the next application season is in the fall (most apps due Dec 2022, to start August 2023), you are completely fine; it is completely standard to apply in the fall before your graduation (Dec-Jan), then be accepted into a PhD program (Jan-April), then graduate after your acceptance (May-June), and finally matriculate after you have your bachelor's (August-Sept).

In some fields---including biology, from what I gather---applying right out of undergrad will put you at a disadvantage in some ways as many students do research for a while after undergrad, but this is by no means a requirement.

If I have incorrectly assessed your situation and you're planning on enrolling in this PhD program before you even finish your bachelor's, the answer is simple: don't. Just wait. No university will accept you for a PhD when you don't even plan on finish your undergraduate degree.

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    Maybe biology is different, but in my field (mathematics), it's too late to apply for admission to a Ph.D. program starting this September. You'd have to do what this answer assumes: apply this fall for a program starting in September 2023. Jun 7, 2022 at 17:29
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    @AndreasBlass Yes, in the US, PhD applications in biology are typically due around December for admission the following fall.
    – Bryan Krause
    Jun 7, 2022 at 19:05
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    Also, in any case, I don't think there is any mandate to spend four years completing a B.S. degree in the U.S. Fulfill all requirements and graduate, if you want!?! That might not be optimal for grad school applications (not to mention the timing issue), but I suspect it is possible, if you insist. Jun 7, 2022 at 20:22

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