Frequently Asked Questions

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The Graduate School handles all requests for application fee waivers. Please read through their policy.

All applications must be turned in by December 1 (writers of letters of recommendation have until December 15 to submit their letter). We invite a small set of applicants for a video-chat interview with one or two faculty members (usually about eight weeks after the application deadline). We send notifications within a few weeks of the interview.

Among the factors we consider as part of the admissions process is whether applicants have a fit with faculty research interests and goals. Prospective students are encouraged to investigate field faculty members’ research areas before applying and identify those faculty members with whom they might be interested in working. The application allows you to "tag" faculty and it is also helpful if you mention names in the research statement. Individual faculty members may not respond to specific inquiries from prospective applicants. This is not a reflection of their interest but rather represents the collaborative approach Cornell COMM takes to admissions. Moreover, we share a commitment to interacting with prospective applicants in the fairest way possible.

To ensure that incoming students receive the best support possible, our department has moved toward a more holistic admissions process. While we assign all accepted students a temporary advisor, our field faculty make admissions decisions collaboratively, rather than relying on individuals.

Our program evaluates candidates for academic preparedness and potential, motivation for study, and fit with the field’s goals, among other factors. Admission to our program is very competitive. Faculty use the whole application to make decisions including what we learn in the interview.

An important question we ask is: are you ready to start a PhD program and could you excel at academic research? While many applicants are very smart and capable, not all are prepared or have the same potential to succeed within a research-oriented PhD program. We pay attention to classes relevant to your proposed area of study, your grades in those courses, your letters of reference, and your writing sample. Letter writers should be people who can comment on your potential as a researcher. Your writing sample and academic statement of purpose should illustrate your ability to do research-quality writing and demonstrate your familiarity with theoretical ideas and research methods. A clear, compelling academic statement of purpose can also demonstrate your familiarity with theoretical ideas or research methodologies. Your personal statement can also put areas of your transcript or background in context.

Your reasons for seeking a PhD are also important. A doctoral degree is a multi-year journey of learning, inspiration, and perseverance. Research breakthroughs and publications often take place years after the initial inspiration for an idea. We want to learn why you want a PhD and whether you are able to see it through. We are especially guided by your personal statement and letters of recommendation from people who know you well. Your CV may also demonstrate your ability to pursue long-term intellectual projects.

We are looking for candidates whose interests are well-suited for training in our program. We want to know: can you flourish, find success, and contribute to our program? While the goals of individual faculty vary, the overall goal of the Field of Communication at Cornell University is to cultivate excellent researchers and teachers who bring diverse perspectives to important communication questions. Your background may not always tell the story of why you fit with our program, so we need you to make this clear in your application, especially in your academic statement of purpose and your personal statement.  Before you apply, read our materials very carefully and make sure that Cornell's program is the one you want to attend. We are looking for evidence that you truly understand our program and have given some sincere thought to how your goals could be achieved here.

Our program is very competitive. Many candidates are excellent in many respects but are edged out by other candidates who appear a bit stronger. Keep in mind that we depend on the materials you provide. If your application is clear, compelling, and comprehensive, it will be easier for us to see your potential.

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, the 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.

Yes. The Graduate School sets the policy, so please read through their page on the language proficiency requirement.

Possibly. Please see the Graduate School’s policy for further specifications concerning the language proficiency requirement and exceptions.

Recognizing the serious challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic for student learning, faculty teaching, and academic performance assessment, the Field of Communication strongly supports and has adopted the principles for admissions review that consider COVID-19 disruptions as described by the Graduate School.

Grades are one way that we evaluate your ability to do academic work. While they are important, they do not tell the whole story. Your personal statement and letters of reference can put lower grades in context, allowing us to see your broader academic preparedness and potential despite a particular grade, or even set of grades. Importantly, then, students with weaker grades will need to use the other materials to demonstrate your strong preparedness and potential.

All admitted students are offered a competitive financial support package that includes full tuition, health insurance, and a stipend for five years, including summers. Continuing support by the program is conditional on satisfactory progress toward completing the degree. The Field typically supports students through teaching and research assistantships and fellowships. Some students do seek out external funding and we absolutely encourage it, though it’s not a requirement to enter our program with outside funding. If you’re interested in seeking external funding, please see the Graduate School's website for additional fellowship information. Five years of funding is awarded to both domestic and international students alike. 

All PhD students admitted to our program are considered for research and teaching assistantships. Many of these assistantships require very high levels of skill in written and spoken English; particularly in public speaking and writing classes. Additionally, anyone receiving a graduate assistantship must be eligible to work in the United States. Please see the Office of Global Learning's website for additional information about working in the United States.

A Master’s degree is not required. Typically, those who enter the program without a Master’s degree take five years to finish as they spend an extra year taking courses and preparing for their A exams.

No. We only admit students for the fall semester.

No, our degree is not available online. All students admitted must study on campus in Ithaca.

Please see the Courses of Study for a list of courses offered at Cornell, both in and outside of the Department of Communication.

If you received new grades or marks after applying, you can upload an updated copy of your unofficial transcript through your application checklist. Find the checklist on the activity page in your ApplyWeb portal. Contact your proposed field of study directly to let them know you submitted an updated transcript. Please note, this will not satisfy our final transcript requirement for enrolling students. All other materials cannot be updated after you have clicked submit. Be sure to check your application before submitting it.

Still looking for answers?

The Graduate School maintains an extensive and searchable Admissions and Admitted Student FAQ. If you have trouble finding answers to your questions on the Communication and Graduate School's websites, please contact Joanna for assistance.