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Prerequisites

  • Education Level: BA or equivalent.
  • GPA: No minimum required.
  • GRE: GRE not required. The Field of Entomology does not accept or use the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) general or advanced “subject” test in any aspect of the application process.
  • TOEFL/IELTS: TOEFL Writing ≥ 20; Listening ≥ 15; Reading ≥ 20; Speaking ≥ 22 or IELTS > 7.0
  • Other Requirements: A general Insect Biology course or to take Insect Biology when you arrive.

Program Contacts

Please contact us with any questions you might have about graduate education in entomology at Cornell.
 

Graduate Field Administrative Assistant
Stephanie Westmiller
st342 [at] cornell.edu
 

Director of Graduate Studies
Jennifer Thaler, Ph.D.
jst37 [at] cornell.edu

Apply

Applications must be submitted online to the Cornell Graduate School.

Application Requirements

  • Demonstrate your preparation for graduate work and show your passion for the chosen field of study.
  • Hold (or expect to hold at the time of matriculation) a baccalaureate degree, or its equivalent, granted by a university of recognized standing.
  • Have fluent command of the English language.
  • Apply before the deadline of 11:59 p.m. on December 1.

Application Timeline

It is strongly recommended that you identify a field member or members with interests closely matching your own and correspond with them regarding their program and their potential for taking on new graduate students prior to applying. Here is a tentative timeline to help you apply:

  • Summer or early fall semester: Contact faculty member (see FAQs section for more information).
  • October/November: Complete application form
  • December 1: Last day to apply

Required Materials

Instructions

Please use the Academic Statement of Purpose to describe (within 1,000 words) your academic training, skills, research experiences, and accomplishments relevant to your future graduate work. Discuss the types of research questions you are interested in pursuing during your graduate studies. In addition, explain how our program would help you achieve your intellectual and short and long-term professional goals.  Within your statement, please identify specific faculty member(s) whose research interests align with your own interests.

Description

The Academic Statement of Purpose (ASOP) is one of the most important documents in your graduate school application. It is a space to describe your previous research experiences and express why you are interested in pursuing a graduate degree in Cornell Entomology. The admissions committee will use your ASOP to determine whether you are a good match for the department and for the lab(s) you have selected. Please read this excellent article provided by the Graduate School for how to write a strong ASOP; we will summarize a few key points described in that article and expand on details relevant to the department of Entomology.

Prior research experience

The ASOP is the place to describe what specific skills you have gained from your prior research experiences and how they connect to your future academic goals. For example, do you have experience doing field work, if so what did you do and why? Have you used molecular methods before, if so which ones and for what purpose? Do you have experience analyzing and/or presenting data? Do you have independent research experience? What have you learned from all of these experiences and how has that shaped your interest in science and in pursuing a graduate degree at Cornell Entomology? While you describe the specific skills you have gained, be sure to also briefly include the general context for the research: what was the question being asked, how did you go about answering it, and what did you find? Most importantly, what was your specific role in the project?

Other relevant experience

You can describe other experiences that have prepared you for graduate school, including internships, work experience, and/or leadership in extra-curricular organizations. The Entomology department is very active in science outreach and extension and thus welcomes students who are interested in engaging with stakeholders of different backgrounds.

Please know that resiliency is a key characteristic for succeeding in graduate school, so don’t be afraid to describe challenges that have come up in your work life and how you have overcome them.

Research questions of interest with specific faculty

In addition to describing relevant prior research experience, discussing the types of research questions you are interested in pursuing during your graduate studies and how they connect to the work that your potential PI currently works on is a critical part of a strong ASOP. You do not need to have a specific research project outlined, but it is important to generally describe your ideas for the types of research and questions you would like to pursue. It is very important to describe why you are a good match for the specific lab you are applying for. Show that you know what research they do in that lab (e.g. refer to recent publications and the lab website), what techniques are used (e.g. molecular techniques, fieldwork in agricultural settings, bioinformatics, etc.), and how that relates to your goals. Describing your goals for graduate school and beyond can help the committee pinpoint whether the PI you have selected is set up to help you succeed. This is a place where you can describe what makes you a strong candidate and a good match for the department and for the specific PI you are applying to work with.

If you have submitted a research proposal such as an NSF-GRFP, please attach it as an additional writing piece.

The curriculum vitae, also known as a CV, is a comprehensive statement of your educational background, teaching, and research experience. It is the standard representation of credentials within academia. It should be divided into sections based on subject matter, including: 

  • Education
  • Relevant experience
  • Publications and presentations
  • Volunteer and outreach
  • Awards and honors
  • Additional optional sections 

We will go into more detail about the contents of each of these sections below, followed by formatting guidance and some general tips to help you make a great CV. At the end, you will find some links to further guidance, as well as example CVs, which you can reference or download in order to use the formatting. When writing your CV, it is important to remember that review committees will spend at most 2-5 minutes looking at your CV, so it should be succinct and clear, with simple formatting.

Sections

Heading:
  • Name, email address
  • Optional: mailing address, phone number, and social media
Education:
  • Undergraduate institution, degree, major, minors
  • Honors: E.g. Summa, Magna, Cum Laude; dean’s list (do not list all awards here, just general academic awards)
  • GPA: optional
  • Thesis title: optional
Publications and presentations:
  • Peer-reviewed publications
    • Can list “in prep”, “under review” if it has not been published yet
  • Presentations at symposiums/conferences
    • Remember to include virtual presentations, too!
  • Senior/honors thesis projects
  • Include all co-author names, bold your name
Research experience:

One of the most important parts of grad school application CV.

  • Include the title of project, lab/organization name, city and state, and dates position was held
  • Explain the project in about ~2 sentences
  • Be specific about the skills that you have gained 
  • Emphasize independence where appropriate
  • Include result of research (e.g. poster, paper, grant, etc.)
Teaching experience:  
  • For each position, include the title, organization name, city and state, and dates position was held. Provide a short description of the position, including your responsibilities and contribution to the class/learning experience.
  • Examples of teaching experience:
    • Undergraduate TA-ships
    • Tutoring (science, writing)
    • Guest lectures

Volunteer and Outreach/Extension:

  • For each experience, include organization name, dates, and position title, when relevant. Provide a short description of the experience.
  • Typically only include post-high school activities 
  • Emphasize leadership, management roles
Awards, Honors, and Grants:
  • Competitive scholarships, fellowships, and assistantships
    • Include award name and granting agency
  • Optional: include award amount
  • Scholastic honors, teaching, or research awards
  • Grants
    • Include name of grant, name of granting agency, date received, and title of research project
    • Optional: include award amount
Optional Sections:
  • Skills: A summary of relevant strengths or skills
    • Lab techniques  (e.g. PCR, etc.)
    • Field techniques (e.g. mist-netting)
    • Personnel/volunteer management
    • Advanced software skills (R, perl, etc.)
    • Language proficiency
    • Soft skills (e.g. conflict mediation, leadership, teamwork, etc.)
    • Do not include Microsoft office (Word and Excel)
  • Certifications: Relevant certifications and the year received (e.g. insecticide application)
  • Professional Society Membership: List relevant professional societies of which you are a member (e.g. Entomological Society of America). 
    • Topic areas in which you have substantial expertise/experience: If there is a specific subject in which you have a lot of experience, you can create a subsection specifically for that subject. For example, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion or Science Communication. This will highlight your experience and dedication to that subject.
  • Extracurriculars: This can be a great way to highlight the skills and/or leadership you have gained through clubs, sports, etc.
    • Non-research work experience: It is important for the review committee to know if you have spent substantial time on non-research work. This takes time away from available time to work on research/academics. You can also gain important skills through this work.
    • This resource provides some good ideas about skills/traits to emphasize in regard to work and hobbies.
  • Hobbies: If you have hobbies that are important to you, this can be interesting for the committee to see.
  • Professional social media accounts: If you have a Twitter/Instagram/Facebook/etc devoted to science communication, this can be great for the review committee to see! 

Formatting

  • Organize with categories/sections 
  • Arrange categories in order of importance (to reader - e.g. for a research program, put research experience near the top)
  • Within categories, list experiences/positions in reverse chronological order 
  • In general, place leadership positions within the title of the activity (e.g. President of Entomology Club)
  • Place associated dates on the right
  • Use succinct phrases and action words (e.g. “researched” instead of “research was performed”)
  • Keep formatting clean and simple
  • Be concise and to the point
  • Be consistent (e.g. Jan. 2021 vs. January, 2021)
  • Leave empty space (margins, section spacing, etc.)
  • Font should be readable and professional, 11-13 pt. font with Arial, Calibri, Helvetica, or Times New Roman fonts
  • Use bold, CAPs, underline, italics for emphasis
  • Save and send as a PDF - formatting can change slightly between computers when opened in Word. Double check that your PDF is formatted correctly.

Tips

  • Align your experiences and skills to the lab/position you are applying to
  • Identify your strengths and emphasize them on your CV (e.g. by creating an additional CV section to highlight your strengths)
  • Focus on clarity – don’t try to take up space (a short CV is normal at this stage)
  • Ask others to proofread your CV!
  • Have a master CV with all of your experiences and positions which then you can tailor for the specific position you are applying for
  • Remember to update your CV frequently! It is easy to forget things that you did.

Additional resources:

Instructions

Please describe how your personal background and experiences influenced your decision to pursue a graduate degree. Please share your perspectives and experiences on being independent, persistent and resilient in overcoming challenges. 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.

Structure, Format, Style

Format

Use a common font such as Times New Roman size 12 and follow the application instructions regarding spacing and length. The Entomology department asks for a personal statement that does not exceed 1,000 words.

Include your full name and proposed program of study at the top of each page – if faculty are not reading an electronic version of your essay, pages can become separated.

Structure 

  1. Conceptually
    1. This structure is more free-form than the narrative structure and revolves around a key idea you want to convey (e.g., “persistence and curiosity motivate my science”). 
  2. Narrative 
    1. A narrative statement typically flows in chronological order. You might start with an experience from early in your career or childhood that got you hooked, then outline relevant experiences from then to now. This is a popular structure because it is intuitive.

Style

Write with confidence and in an active voice – doing this makes your sentences clear and less wordy/complicated.

Language should be positive and focused. Since faculty are the ones reviewing your application, it is fine to use discipline-specific terminology, tone and style in your ASOP.

Purpose of the Personal Statement

This statement is less research-focused and more about you as an individual. The admissions committee uses this to get to know what motivates you as a scientist, what experiences or character traits you have that will help you succeed in graduate school, why you want to go to graduate school (and why specifically at Cornell), your academic background and how you will prioritize an inclusive environment within the department. This statement is an opportunity to show both hard and soft skills that make you stand out from other applicants. Applicants typically draw on a range of life experiences in this statement. 

In both your Personal Statement and Academic Statement of Purpose, try to convey who you are and what you want. Think of a few characteristics that represent you and that will help you succeed (i.e., resilient, communicative, creative, goal-oriented, persistent, curious, hard-working, problem solving, detail-oriented, organized, enthusiastic, practical). Try to frame your statements around those characteristics. 

Information to Include

Experiences/background that motivate decision to attend graduate school

Here you can talk about motivations as well as resources that Cornell/your potential advisor has to help you succeed in graduate school. A graduate degree is a huge commitment -- the committee wants to know that you have strong motivations. This is a good opportunity to speak to a couple of those characteristics you have (resilient, creative, goal-oriented, persistent, curious, hard-working, etc.) that will help you go the distance. With all of these it is important to be specific. Some motivations that people have written about include the following:

  1. Personal Experiences: 
    1. Employment/internships/volunteering (e.g., “I worked/volunteered at a conservation organization. Once I have graduate training I’d like to return to that field to do insect conservation. Dr. X has extensive experience working with land managers to achieve insect conservation goals. Additionally I will take advantage of the department’s exciting Education and Outreach Assistantship to gain experience educating the public about conservation”);
    2. Childhood  (“I didn’t learn about the fascinating world of insects until I was an adult. When I graduate I want to curate and coordinate outreach for a museum collection so that younger generations learn to appreciate insects from a young age in a way that I did not. With its impressive collections and Dr. X’s expertise on systematics Cornell’s Entomology program is uniquely able to help me reach this goal.”);
  2. Future Goals: 
    1. Job outcomes (e.g. “I love to teach and want to be a professor”)
    2. Skills you’d like to gain in graduate school or the kind of research you’d like to do
  3. Academic Experiences
    1. What academic, lab or research experiences (coursework, journal articles, jobs, presentations, etc) piqued your interest in your chosen field. If you choose to write about research or job experiences, specify your role and what you learned.

Share your perspectives and experiences on being independent, persistent and resilient in overcoming challenges. 

This can include almost anything. You may write about how managing multiple responsibilities (school, work, family) during your undergraduate years helped you develop time management skills. Alternatively you might draw on life, employment or academic experiences that forced you to problem-solve independently; or discuss how you have dealt with failure. Reference any aspects of the program that might support you in overcoming challenges (e.g., if you have struggled with statistics, discuss how you might benefit from the Cornell Statistical Consulting Unit).

Provide insight on your potential to contribute to a community of inclusion

Do this by discussing either past times you have helped develop an inclusive environment, or how you will do so in the department. You can reference leadership roles you have had or experiences working with diverse groups of people.

What to Avoid

Many people write about childhood experiences as motivation for pursuing a graduate degree, likely because these experiences can be influential. However, it is best to be specific but brief when referencing them -- use them as a jumping off point to talk about who you are/what motivates you now.

It is always useful to have at least one other person read your statement. It can be helpful to get feedback at multiple stages as you write more drafts. For this reason try to give yourself as much time as possible to write the statement.

Requirements to apply: Three letters of recommendation

The Cornell Graduate School application utilizes an electronic recommendation letter submission system in which applicants provide the names and contact information for their recommenders as part of the online application. Recommenders then receive an email instructing them how to submit their letter. Learn more about Cornell’s letter of recommendation requirements here.

Our advice on recommendation letters

Do not underestimate the importance of reference letters in determining whether or not to accept an applicant into our graduate program. We highly recommend choosing letter writers who know you well and are able to describe your strengths. Encourage letter writers to be specific and share examples of what makes you an excellent candidate. If a letter is too short or generic, it will be difficult to tell if you are a strong candidate. 

What is a recommendation letter?

A recommendation letter is a letter written by someone who has taught or supervised the applicant in an educational setting that provides detailed information about the characteristics, accomplishments, experience, and preparedness of the applicant for entering our graduate program. This is done by describing what the applicant has done in their educational career thus far, as well as describing the potential of the applicant to succeed. 

What should be included in a recommendation letter?

The letter should begin by describing the relationship between the letter writer and the applicant. For example, is this person a former professor who taught the applicant or someone who has supervised the applicant in a research setting? It can be helpful to explain why the letter writer feels qualified to write a letter for the applicant.

The middle paragraph(s) should describe examples of the applicant’s experience, characteristics, and accomplishments that will make them successful in our graduate program. The letter should explain why the applicant is qualified for admission to our graduate program and what makes them likely to be successful.

The letter should close with an offer for the writer to answer further questions or provide more information if needed and an affirmation of the writer’s recommendation of the applicant. 

Letter writing resources:

Upload course transcripts from undergraduate and any prior graduate education (unofficial is fine).

Mailing address for transcripts: Stephanie Westmiller, 2134 Comstock Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853.

All instruction at Cornell is in English, and fluency in English is essential for graduate study.

If your first language is not English or if you have not studied at least two years in a college program in a country where the native language is English, you must take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and obtain a satisfactory score (550 or higher on the paper-based exam; for the computer-based exam, Cornell requires minimum scores of 20 on Writing, 15 on Listening, 20 on Reading, 22 on Speaking).

International English Language Testing System (IELTS) scores are now accepted by Cornell’s Graduate School; an overall band score of a 7.0 or higher on the IELTS is required. Please contact your test center and request that your scores be sent to the following IELTS e-download account: Cornell University Graduate Admissions, 143 Caldwell Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853. We will not accept paper IELTS test report forms unless a test center is unable to transmit your scores electronically.

Further details can be found here: English Language Proficiency Requirement.

Frequently Asked Questions

The Entomology Department guarantees full financial support for 2/5 years (Masters/PhD) once you have been accepted into the program and conditioned upon continued progress toward your degree. The support includes a stipend that is considered a livable wage in Ithaca/Geneva, tuition and health insurance. 

There are different types of Financial Support options such as fellowships, Graduate Research Assistantships (GRAs), Teaching Assistantships (TAs), Research Assistantships (RAs) and/or External Support. We strongly encourage external students to apply for external fellowships. An external fellowship may be used to replace assistantship funding or to extend the number of years of support for your degree program. Cornell supports a generous supplementation program to “top-off” external awards to the established academic year TA funding rate. See Financial Supplementation of External Fellowships.

The Department of Entomology has the resources to support graduate student research through an in-house, small grants program. Graduate students can compete for funding for research supplies through the Griswold Endowment fund. Griswold grants generally run in the $1,000 to $2,000 range and are meant to provide seed funding for projects that the thesis advisor does not currently have the funds to support. Students wishing to attend meetings or conferences can apply to the Graduate School as well as to the Rawlins Endowment (within entomology) for travel-related expenses. A complete list of funding options is available under the funding for graduate studies page.

The Graduate School has many competitive fellowships in support of diversity including for students who are first generation college students, a member of an ethnic or racial group historically excluded or underrepresented in graduate education, McNair or Mellon Mays Undergraduate Scholars, or other, identities and/or experiences historically underrepresented or marginalized. Please see the web site below for a complete description. Completing this personal statement plus checking the box on the application is sufficient to be considered for the graduate fellowships described here: Graduate School Fellowships in Support of Diversity.

We recognize that the cost of applying to Cornell can be a burden. You can submit a request to have the fee waived by the Graduate School when you submit your application. You can find a link to the fee waiver request form on the payment page of the online application.

You will submit your application and the fee waiver request simultaneously. Qualified waiver requests are reviewed and approved within 1-3 business days. If the fee waiver can’t be granted, you will be asked to pay the application fee before your application materials can be forwarded to your proposed field of study for review. If you plan to request a fee waiver, be sure to plan ahead and submit your application at least 3 business days before the application deadline.

More information about application fees can be found on the Graduate School website.

Once your application is complete, the Graduate School will forward it to the Field of Entomology for consideration.

Submitted applications will be evaluated by the Graduate Admissions Committee of the Field of Entomology, typically by mid-December. The committee identifies a pool of qualified applicants, at which point those applications are circulated to the graduate field faculty. At least one faculty member must decide whether to invite the prospective student for graduate interviews, which take place over a two-day period in late February. The visit involves a tour of both the Ithaca and Geneva campuses, interviews with Field of Entomology faculty, and meals with current graduate students in the program. In the case of international students, who may not be able to attend the on campus interviews, we will arrange interviews via phone or Zoom. We generally complete our graduate recruiting by mid-March. 

Response to an Offer of Admission is requested as soon as possible, although you are not obligated to notify us of your decision as to whether to join our program until April 15. If you have made your decision to accept or decline admission earlier, however, it is helpful for us to know that so we can update students on the admissions waiting list and make plans for the coming year.

Please contact our Graduate Field Assistant Stephanie Westmiller at st342 [at] cornell.edu if you have any questions or would like any further information about the application process.

Before applying to graduate programs, many departments require you to have contacted a PI as a potential advisor. However, contacting professors when you are looking at graduate programs can be intimidating. So many questions can flow through your mind like: What do I say? What if they don’t respond? What if I don’t make a good impression? It may seem scary, but this step of applying to graduate school can be vital to your success of getting into a program.

Although this step in the admissions process is important, it may not seem clear how to go about emailing a professor, or more importantly when to. The time to reach out varies among countries and universities, but at Cornell it is best to email professors you are interested in working with during the summer or early fall before you apply to graduate school. This may seem far in advance, but it allows for sufficient time to set up a meeting with a potential advisor and to evaluate if they are someone you would potentially like to work with. Below we have compiled a list of tips and a general overview of what that initial email should look like. 

General tips for reaching out to professors

  • Be formal
  • Be concise
  • Show enthusiasm
  • Look through the professor’s website beforehand
  • Use an informative subject line (ex: Prospective Graduate Student)
  • Make sure your reasons for contacting them are clear (how your interests overlap with the PI’s)
  • Be as specific about the professor’s research as possible
  • Attach a CV 

Example email

Dear Dr. [name],

  • State your full name and relevant information (ex: education, current position, what kind of degree you are interested in)
  • Ask if the professor is interested in taking new graduate students (it is important to know that sometimes professors don’t have the resources or the space to take new students)
  • Briefly highlight your own experiences, especially as they pertain to research (e.g. share your major, lab work or senior thesis research)
  • State the reason for your interest in their lab
  • Mention a recent paper of theirs that you read and ask a question about that study or say what you found interesting about the paper (optional but helps)
  • Include goals or reasons for attending graduate school
  • Ask to speak with them
  • Thank them for their time 

Respectfully,

[name]

*Sections do not necessarily need to be in this order — fit it to your own style of writing! Also, sections should not be bulleted in email.

Now that you have put together your email, we would recommend sending it to a current graduate student or mentor before. It is important to keep an open mind during the process, because you never know which professors have openings or are interested in taking you as a student. If you have emailed a professor and they have not responded within 2 weeks, go ahead and send the email again as it may have gotten lost in their inbox. Remember- do not feel defeated if you are ignored by professors! If they are not responsive, they probably would not be a great advisor for you. It is also important to keep in mind that a professor may simply reply by saying that they are not accepting students or that they don’t think you would be a good fit for their lab. This is okay and it saves you the trouble of applying for that program. In general, it is useful to think of your interactions with prospective advisors as an interview for both parties. This means you should consider whether the way they communicate with you (e.g., timeliness of response, communication style, etc) will work for you. 

Hopefully this guide is helpful to you and we wish you the best of luck in the graduate admissions process! 

Additional sources

Feature photo provided: Joel Brown