Admissions

This page covers two topics of interest to prospective Ph.D. students:

For general information about the Ph.D. program, please see the Ph.D. program overview. The Ph.D. Applicant FAQ also answers many common questions.

Applying for the Ph.D.

A successful application will include the following:

Students apply online using the admissions site of the Cornell Graduate School. You should not mail any application materials; this may delay your application. Any additional materials beyond those above, such as research paper manuscripts, may be uploaded to the online application system as “writing samples”.

Deadlines The department accepts applications for the fall semester only. The deadline for the fall semester is December 15th. Applying early is strongly advised. You may submit your application before you have taken your exam(s) however we strongly advise that you plan test taking dates accordingly to ensure that your application is complete by December 15. Delays in receiving your tests, will delay the the review of your application.

Cornell University requires all applicants to complete their application materials without the use of paid agents, credentials services, or other paid professional assistance. The use of such services violates University policy, and may lead to the rejection of application materials, the revocation of an admissions offer, cancellation of admission, or involuntary withdrawal from the University.

The evaluation process There is no formula that guarantees admission. We will carefully evaluate all the above components of your application. We tend to look for the following:

  1. A coherent body of coursework with a high average grade in the A− to A+ range.
  2. Adequate mathematical background including freshman and sophomore calculus and at least two other courses (e.g., linear algebra, abstract algebra, analysis, statistics).
  3. Basic background in computer science.

It is important to stress that these are only guidelines and not a rigid policy. An applicant whose record is weaker in some respect (e.g., GRE scores) may be admitted if strength is revealed in some other respect (e.g., exceptional letters of recommendation).

Transcripts

Your application should include complete and scanned transcripts of all previous college and university work, including any work done at Cornell. If you are submitting unofficial transcripts, the Graduate School will require that you submit official transcripts should you be accepted into the program. In this case, please make sure your transcript has your name, birthdate, and the name of the attended university.

Applicants should scan their transcripts and upload the documents into the on-line application themselves as part of the submission process. For students who are subsequently admitted and accept the offer of admission, an official paper transcript will be required prior to matriculation; students will be reminded of this requirement on the “response to offer of admission” form.

International credentials All transcripts or academic records must be official documents provided in the original language. If that language is not English, they must be accompanied by certified translations into English. If not issued by the college or university as original documents, they should be notarized, full-sized photocopies. They should include grades received in each subject each year, and the number of weeks and hours per week that each subject was studied. Courses must be described in detail. The general subject name (e.g., “mathematics”) is not sufficient. The particular subject (e.g., “differential equations,” “algebraic topology”) must be identified.

If you are admitted into the program and you accept our offer of admission, the Graduate School will require an official transcript. They will contact you directly about this requirement.

Grade point averages If your school uses a GPA scale other than 0–4.0, just leave this field blank when submitting your application. If you feel you must, you may enter 0. We will review your transcript and will rate your performance on the grades you received, not the number you enter into this field.

How to scan transcripts

  • Scan at the lowest dpi that results in a legible document (we recommend less than 200 dpi if possible).
  • Ensure that the institution name and other identifying marks are not missed during the scanning process and that your scanned copy is clearly legible and can print on letter-size paper (8½"x11").
  • Save your document as a PDF file.
  • Scanning in “gray scale” or black and white may produce the best results.
  • If the scanned file is too large, make a photocopy first (experiment with different settings until you find one that results in the smallest file size) then scan the photocopy.

If all the above fails, please send the scanned document (no larger than 2MB) to phd@cs.cornell.edu. Please name the file as follows:
FirstName_LastName_SchoolName_Transcript.

Statement of Purpose

You should think carefully when writing your statement of purpose. Express your plans and interests in Computer Science in a concise and clear manner. It may be helpful to include a list of some of the principal reasons why you consider yourself a strong applicant to our program.

Letters of Recommendation

Your application must include three letters of recommendation. The letters should be from professors who are familiar with your work and who can testify to your potential as a researcher in Computer Science. Once you have submitted your application, a notification will be sent to your recommenders within 48 hours. These letters are a very important part of your application, and you should ensure that they are submitted into the electronic application system by December 15. We discourage mailed letters of recommendation as this delays the processing of your application.

GRE (Graduate Record Examination)

The department requires that all applicants to the doctoral program take the GRE general test. Please arrange to have scores sent directly to Cornell University (institution code 2098) from the Educational Testing Service. We do not require the GRE subject test for computer science.

Please note that we are aware that the GRE may only be available in December for some applicants. We will accept GRE scores after the December 15th deadline only if the remainder of your application is received by December 15th and you attach a statement including the date you will be taking the exams. If your scores are more than three years old, you should retake the GREs.

TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS (International English Language Testing System)

International applicants must demonstrate competency in the English language. Acceptable proof of competency is:

  1. Internet-based Test (iBT) version of the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language). Each section (writing: 20, Listening: 15, Reading: 20, Speaking: 22) has its own minimum score as noted. Applicant scores must meet the minimums set by the Graduate school. A cumulative score is NOT the correct measure and is NOT sufficient for an offer of admission.
  2. The Graduate School requires an overall band score of a 7.0 or higher on the IELTS. Please email gradadmissions@cornell.edu for information about how to send your scores.

In some cases, international students who are admitted will be required to take a remedial course in English.

Please see the Graduate School's link for the TOEFL requirements.

Exceptions:

The TOEFL requirement may be waived if the applicant meets at least one of these criteria:

  • is a native citizen of the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand or Canada (except Quebec). Applicants who are citizens of India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Hong Kong, or Singapore, are not exempt from the TOEFL requirement.
  • studied in full-time status for at least two academic years within the last five years in the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, or New Zealand, or with English language instruction in Canada or South Africa. You must submit a transcript that shows you have attended college in one of these approved locations.

Funding

Admission into the doctoral program in the Field of Computer Science is based purely on academic merit. Financial need plays no role in the admission procedure.

All Ph.D. students in Computer Science are fully supported during the academic year as long as they remain in good academic standing. Support from Cornell includes tuition and stipend. Support is available in the form of teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and fellowships. For students entering in the fall 2012 semester, a Teaching Assistantship (TA) or a Graduate Research Assistantship (GRA) covers full tuition, and pays a salary of $22,900 for nine months. Fellowships also cover tuition in full and pay a stipend, which is typically higher than the TA or GRA stipend. Summer support is often available, and pays an additional salary of approximately $7,800.

Teaching Assistantships

Each TA is assigned to a course with an expected time commitment of 15 hours per week helping the course instructor. TA assignments typically involve grading homework, holding office hours, preparing assignments, or teaching recitations.

Research Assistantships

A GRA is given to a student whose research interests coincide with a sponsored research project. Typically, the work of a Gradaute Research Assistant is an integral part of his/her dissertation research. The faculty member in charge of the project grants a GRA. GRAs are generally given to continuing, rather than incoming, students.

Fellowships

Applicants are also encouraged to apply for external fellowships, such as NSF, Microsoft, IBM, Hertz, Intel, Yahoo, VMware, or DOD Fellowships. These fellowships are highly prestigious, and they free the student of the responsibilities of an assistantship. Whenever possible, the department helps students in the fellowship application process.

In 2013–14, approximately 20 of the department's graduate students hold fellowships, some of which are granted by the National Science Foundation, NDSEG, Microsoft, Facebook, and Cornell. Applicants are encouraged to apply for external fellowships. 

The following is a partial list of fellowships available to graduate students in computer science:

National Science Foundation NSF fellowships are available to United States citizens or permanent residents, and only to incoming or first-year students. Support is for three years. The deadline for application is mid-November. You can obtain an application from your undergraduate institution, or from the NSF directly (Fellowship Office, National Research Council, 2101 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20418). Also, see their Web site, http://www.nsf.gov.

Hertz Foundation This fellowship is open to United States citizens only. It provides support for up to four years. The deadline for application is November 1. You may obtain an application from your undergraduate institution or from the Hertz foundation directly (Fannie and John Hertz Foundation, P. O. Box 5032, Livermore, CA 94551-5032). Also, see their Web site, http://www.hertzfoundation.org.

Cornell Fellowships The Graduate School awards a number of one and two-year Cornell fellowships to incoming graduate students. Your application for admission automatically serves as the fellowship application. However, your application and all supporting credentials must be received by December 15 in order to be considered for a Cornell Fellowship.

The McMullen Fellowship is a one-year fellowship for an incoming Computer Science student. All incoming students are automatically considered. The department selects the recipient of this fellowship.

IBM This fellowship is open for continuing students. The department nominates the candidates for this fellowship.

Facebook   This fellowship is open for continuing students. The department nominates the candidates for this fellowship.

Google This fellowship is open for continuing students. The department nominates the candidates for this fellowship.

Microsoft This fellowship is open for continuing students. The department nominates the candidates for this fellowship.

Simons This fellowship is open for continuing students. The department nominates the candidates for this fellowship

VMware This fellowship is open for continuing students. The department nominates the candidates for this fellowship.