We're excited to receive your application!

Admission to the PhD program in the Field of Communication at Cornell University is highly competitive (view our program statistics). The Graduate Admissions Committee considers several factors for admission to the graduate program, and all applicants must meet the general admission requirements set by the Graduate School. Once admitted, all students are fully funded by the Department for five years through assistantships and/or fellowships, provided suitable progress is being made toward completing the degree.

Deadlines and Details:

  • Please use the Graduate School's online application. The application for Fall 2025 will be live on September 1, 2024.
  • The application deadline is December 1, by which all application materials must be submitted. Letters of recommendation are due by December 15. Incomplete applications will not be reviewed and changes to the application will not be made after it has been submitted.
  • You can find information about the application fee and waiver process on the Graduate School's website. 
  • The Field of Communication only accepts students for the fall semester. We do not have a spring admissions cycle.
  • All materials need to be uploaded to the application. No hard copy materials will be accepted.
  • Be sure to read through our field's FAQ, as well as the Graduate School's admissions and admitted student FAQ. The Graduate School's admissions team can be contacted via their form.

If you are currently employed at Cornell University and would like to complete the degree through the Employee Degree Program (EDP), please see the EDP admissions instructions here.

Application Requirements

Click on each accordion section below to see additional information and guidance. A reminder that the application readers are assessing academic preparedness and potential, motivation for study, and fit with the field's goals. Applications cannot be changed after they have been submitted, so please check your materials beforehand.

The academic statement of purpose is your chance to articulate the research you’d like to do and to explain how you see our program helping you achieve your intellectual goals. This statement should describe the substantive questions you are interested in. It should also indicate your intellectual interests and any training you have received that you believe has prepared you for our program. We encourage you to familiarize yourself with the research interests of our faculty. Mentioning specific faculty members who match your research interests will strengthen your statement. If any of your research interests relate to important social issues including (but not limited to) diversity, inclusion, access, and equity, you should mention them in this statement. Academic statements of purpose should be no more than 1000 words.

The personal statement should explain your reasons for seeking a PhD in communication. What motivates you? What are your long-term goals? What important experiences have shaped your perspective to this point? As relevant, your essay should include information on your ability to be both persistent and resilient, especially when navigating challenging circumstances. Additionally, provide insight on your potential to contribute to a community of inclusion, belonging, and respect where scholars representing diverse backgrounds, perspectives, abilities, and experiences can learn and innovate productively and positively together. This is not an academic statement of purpose, but a discussion of the personal journey that has led to your decision to seek a graduate degree. Personal statements should be no more than 1000 words.

For consideration for nomination for a Graduate School Diversity Fellowship, your personal statement should also indicate how one or more of the following identities and/or experiences apply to you:

  • First-generation college student (neither parent/guardian having completed a baccalaureate degree)
  • Member of an ethnic or racial group historically underrepresented in graduate education (Black/African American, American Indian/Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiian or other Native Pacific Islander, Hispanic/Latinx)
  • McNair or Mellon Mays Undergraduate Scholar (the Graduate School will verify an applicant’s status as a McNair Scholar or Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow while pursuing a baccalaureate degree at a U.S. institution)
  • Other identities and/or experiences historically underrepresented and/or marginalized within graduate education including by not limited to the following:
    • Those who manage a disability
    • Being of a gender and/or sexual orientation identity historically underrepresented in your field of study
    • Those who identify as a military veteran
    • Holding DACA status
    • Those who identify as refugees
    • Those who have experienced housing and/or food insecurity
    • Single parents

Three strong letters of recommendation incorporating details of the applicant's educational and research background are preferred over-generalizations about the applicant. Letters should be from people who are likely to comment on your academic aptitude and research abilities. Recommenders have until December 15 to upload their letter to your application. If your recommenders are having trouble submitting their letter, please reference the Graduate School's FAQ for troubleshooting tips.

Applicants are required to submit a form of scholarly writing such as a sample essay, article, or book chapter that they have written (solo or first-author only). The maximum length is 30 pages (including the bibliography). Complete theses or longer works are not acceptable forms of writing for this application.

Applicants are required to upload unofficial transcripts from all colleges and universities attended. If you are currently enrolled in a program, include an in-progress transcript and update it through the checklist after your fall grades are available. If transcripts are in a foreign language, please submit only the English-translated version. Please do not send this directly to the University; hardcopy official transcripts are required only upon matriculation.

In addition to transcripts, applicants with international credentials must also provide a certified copy of the diploma and/or degree certificate for any conferred degree. All academic records must be official documents issued by the college or university and provided in the original language. A certified or notarized English translation must accompany the academic records if the original language is not English. A complete set of academic records should include the name of the degree program in which you were enrolled, your dates of attendance, a list of courses taken each year, grades received in each course, and the date your degree was conferred (if applicable). Combine multiple pages from the same set of academic records into one file; the file size for each upload cannot exceed 10MB. 

The Graduate School has a useful reference page for what is best to include in this document.

In order to be successful in Cornell’s rigorous graduate and professional degree programs, students must be highly proficient or fluent in English. Students in doctoral degree programs who are appointed as teaching assistants (TAs) must demonstrate a higher level of English proficiency. These students are supported through Cornell’s Center for Teaching Innovation. Language proficiency policy is set by the Graduate School. Please their website for further specifications, including information on exemptions.

Additional Information:

In light of both recent concerns about the availability of the GRE for students across the globe related to COVID-19, and broader concerns about the inequities inherent in this standardized test, Cornell's Graduate Field of Communication will not accept GRE scores from applicants. We will review all applications blinded for GRE scores. Please do not make any reference to a GRE score in your personal statement or academic statement of purpose. We will review all applications for such references and will not accept statements that make reference to this test anywhere in the application.

Recognizing the serious challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic for student learning, faculty teaching, & academic performance assessment, the Graduate Field of Communication will adopt these principles for admissions review that consider COVID-19 disruptions as described by the Graduate School at Cornell University.

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