I am a Taiwanese undergraduate student in chemistry studying in Taiwan (National Taiwan University). I want to apply chemistry PhD programs of top US universities (MIT, Stanford, UC Berkeley, etc) right after getting bachelor's degree. Although my target schools don't explicitly require journal paper publications, I am worried about my competitiveness compared to other applicants if I don't get one. So I wanna ask two questions as following supposing I get other factors done well (GPA 4.15 out of 4.3, TOEFL 105, and two years of research experience):

  1. Do most successful applicants (like > 50%) have publications?
  2. Are only papers in which I am the first author helpful?

Thank you for reading this somehow naive question. Thank you very much in advance!

2 Answers 2


In the US there is not an expectation to come into a graduate program with publications. In fact, it is fairly rare for an undergraduate to have a peer-reviewed publication under their belt (let alone a first author one). It would certainly make you more competitive, especially for top programs, but it isn't a requirement. It sounds like you already have a good application with plenty of research experience. That already puts you in a good spot - a publication is just the cherry on top at this point. As for being first author, that isn't necessary either. Having your name on any publication, regardless of position, is an accomplishment and will be helpful to your application.

Some unsolicited advice, don't get too caught up with name-brand schools - admissions are competitive and can be almost random (or at least they can feel that way). There may be a program out there that aligns with your goals but isn't at the very tip top of the rankings. Don't be afraid to search around to find a good fit. There are plenty of excellent universities to choose from.

  1. No, without publications people can get admission
  2. No, papers with co-author also can be helpful
  • Your answer #2 is a bit unclear. Do you mean "papers in which OP is not the first author is also helpful" ?
    – Nobody
    Jul 8, 2023 at 5:45

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