Application Process

Applying to the Field of Natural Resources

Individual mentoring by faculty is fundamental to our philosophy of graduate education and to the success of our students. Therefore it is critical and required that you correspond with and obtain sponsorship from a faculty advisor during the application process.

Application Timeline and Criteria

When do I need to apply?

Fall semester

The Graduate Field of Natural Resources has a rolling admissions policy and will accept applications through February 28th.

In order to be considered for Cornell Graduate Fellowships and other University-sponsored fellowships Ph.D. applicants should apply by December 1st. Most decisions regarding admission and associated Cornell Fellowships are made in December and January.

Spring semester

Applications may be considered for Spring admission, typically when funding becomes available to a faculty member for a specific research project. Applicants for Spring semester admission should apply by September 30th.

Applications submitted outside our Fall or Spring admission cycle seldom receive consideration unless a faculty member has advertised an opening for a specific research assistantship.

What criteria are used in admissions?

It is essential that you not only have excellent academic credentials, but also have corresponded with faculty members to discuss your background and interests. The most important admissions criteria are: (1) a student's academic record and work experience, and (2) the extent to which a faculty member shares common research and professional interests with the prospective student, plus is willing to supervise that student during their graduate studies. Students are reviewed for admission by the Admissions Committee after a faculty member requests review of a prospective student’s completed application materials: application form, statement of purpose, transcripts, TOEFL or IELTS scores (International students only), a CV, and three letters of recommendation. For additional information about TOEFL or IELTS requirements please review the Graduate School website.

Typical expectations for admitted graduate students include:
  • Undergraduate Major – Students are accepted from a range of undergraduate majors in the natural and social sciences, as well as math and humanities.
  • Letters of Recommendation – Letters of support from university faculty members or other professional researchers provide the best indication of an applicant’s ability to effectively pursue graduate research.
  • Statement of Purpose – Students should provide a clear and concise statement of their proposed research and coursework interests, as well as relevant past experiences that have led them to those interests.
  • Work Experience – Most of our students have several years of relevant work experience following completion of their undergraduate degree.

Any additional considerations regarding your credentials should be discussed with faculty members who are considering you for admission.

How should I apply?

MS and PhD programs

A student who wants a shorter program or to “test the waters” for the PhD should apply for the MS degree. MS students conduct a research project and complete a research thesis. They generally take 2 years to complete the degree, although it is not uncommon to go 2 ½ or 3 years.

A student who has research experience and is ready to commit to an in-depth research project should apply for the PhD. PhD students conduct an original research project and complete a dissertation. They generally take five years to complete the degree, although the time can be reduced if they already have an MS degree.

For a student to be considered for admission, a faculty member must be willing to supervise and ensure funding for the prospective student. Therefore it is important that you correspond with and obtain sponsorship from a faculty advisor during the application process.

A faculty member must sponsor your application for review by the Admissions Committee in order to be offered admission. Individual mentoring by faculty is fundamental to our philosophy of individualized graduate education and to the success of our students.

Please consult our Graduate Field Handbook for more information and Tips for Contacting Potential Faculty Advisors.

It is important to identify a prospective faculty advisor who shares your interests and is willing to make a commitment to work with you during the course of your graduate studies. Identify faculty who have interests similar to your own and send them an email explaining your interests and academic background, and why you think you might be a good member of that faculty’s research team. Include a resume or cv. If you receive a positive response from a faculty member, work with them to schedule a call or visit to meet with other faculty and current graduate students. The entire list of faculty in our field may be found on this Graduate School web page for the Field of Natural Resources.

*Remember, we do not accept students without a faculty advisor, so it is important to have a faculty sponsor. You might also consider applying to related graduate fields at Cornell, including Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Soil and Crop Sciences, Development Sociology, and Global Development. Each graduate field has different admissions procedures so become familiar with the application process for fields you are considering.

Generally, you do not need to meet or speak with the Director of Graduate Studies unless you have specific questions that have not been addressed. If you have questions about application procedures or your application status, contact the Graduate Field Assistant, nregrad [at] (nregrad[at]cornell[dot]edu)  If you have questions about the overall graduate program that have not been answered by faculty who share your interests, contact the Director of Graduate Studies, Marianne Krasny (mek2 [at] (mek2[at]cornell[dot]edu)).

In order to be officially considered for admission you must submit your formal application to the Graduate School.