Application to the Field of Horticulture


We are glad you are interested in the Field of Horticulture. This is an exciting time in our many areas of research and extension. The deadline for MS/PhD application is December 1. 

Preparing your application

All applications for Graduate Studies at Cornell are online and accessible through the Cornell Graduate School. You will be asked for a Statement of Academic Purpose, a personal statement, transcripts, relevant research and work experience, and letters of reference.  

The Statement of Academic purpose describes what you want from your graduate education and how our program is likely to provide that training, as well as the experiences and achievements that make you likely to be successful in our program.  

The personal statement provides a broader context of your interest in graduate education and life goals. How is horticulture a medium for reaching those goals? If you have requested consideration for a fellowship is support of diversity, this is a good place to describe the diversity you bring and how you can support our efforts to be inclusive of a more diverse audience.  

There is a fee to apply.  Applicants for whom the fee is a financial hardship or who participated in certain pipeline programs may request a fee waiver

Cornell University expects 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. 

How we evaluate you

There are many criteria we consider in evaluating a student for acceptance in the Field of Horticulture. A strong background in life sciences is important; as evidenced by grades, coursework, and research projects undertaken. A high motivation for graduate study in horticulture is essential. We look carefully at the student's statement of purpose and experiences in horticulture or plant sciences. The more in-depth the experiences, the better. We welcome applications from non-traditional students with significant life experiences and a strong desire to study in the field of horticulture, as well as students coming directly from their undergraduate degrees. Letters of recommendation are also extremely important. We are interested in getting all the information we can about the students' motivation and aptitude for graduate research. 

Our admissions process uses a holistic review, in that we look at how your qualifications and potential fit together as a whole. In order to capture the many relevant dimensions of PhD applicants, we use a rubric with these criteria: 

  • Academic preparation. Does your education to date prepare you for success in our program? 
  • Fit with mission and expertise. Are your goals consistent with our mission? Does our program provide the kind of training you seek?  
  • Life skills. Can you do realistic long-term planning and execute on that plan? Are you resilient in the face of setbacks?  
  • Research potential. How do you know that you will thrive in a research environment? How do you deal with the complex issues that describe most research problems?   
  • Diversity contributions. Will you enhance diversity and inclusion in horticulture and research? Do you bring novel and valuable perspectives to your research topic? 

Admission is competitive.  Although students are not required to have an undergraduate degree in horticulture, a strong background in life sciences is essential for success in our graduate program. Students considering graduate school as a means to change career paths, but lacking extensive background in life sciences, are encouraged to consider a Master of Professional Studies (MPS) degree in the Field of SIPS instead of the MS or Ph.D. degrees. 


English language requirement 

International applicants must demonstrate sufficient proficiency through either the TOEFL or IELTS exam. The Graduate School sets minimum scores though the Field can require higher scores where necessary for the proposed program. The Graduate School proficiency requirements can be found on their website.  Scores must be sent electronically (e-delivery) to the Cornell University Graduate Admissions, Caldwell Hall e-download account. E-delivery may also be referred to as an e-TRF by your test center. More information: English Language Proficiency Requirements. 

GRE requirement 

GRE scores are not required. If you choose to submit them, the scores will be considered, along with the totality of your academic record, solely to assess the strength of your academic preparation. 

Institution and section codes 

TOEFL - Cornell University = 2098, section code = 30  
GRE - Cornell University = 2098, section code = 0109 

Process and Timeline 

December 1 - Application deadline for Fall Admission to MS, PhD, and MS/PhD programs. Supporting documentation, letters of references, and test scores are all required by this date. Contact the Graduate Field Coordinator for more information.  

January- Review of applicants and evaluation by prospective advisors. Applicants may be contacted by prospective advisors for more in-depth discussion of potential role in their research program. 

Early February- On-campus recruiting event. Select applicants will be invited to a two-day recruiting event to further explore the opportunities offered at Cornell.  

Mid-February through April 1- Admission offers are made on a rolling basis as funding packages are developed. We fully fund every admitted PhD student.  

April 15- Admission and support offers must be accepted by this date. 

Accepted applicants will receive an acceptance email that will include funding information, the name of the advisor assigned to them, and other pertinent information from the Graduate School.   

Financial support 

Students may obtain support in several ways including teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and fellowships. 

Fellowships in support of Diversity:

Applicants from a variety of backgrounds or identities historically underrepresented within graduate education are eligible for consideration for a Fellowship in Support of Diversity. We encourage you to self-identify your eligibility. You may then write a Personal Statement to be used in the Diversity Fellowship nomination and selection process. 

Field requirements 

View field requirements for the Graduate Field of Horticulture.

SIPS Graduate Fields: Frequently Asked Questions

The Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Agriculture and Life Sciences degree is a one-year, course-based master's degree, ideal for individuals who are interested in in-depth study of the issues and advancements in plant and soil sciences. Learn more about the program description and MPS specializations.

MS/PhD degrees typically take 2-5 years and involve a combination of coursework and original research. A written thesis based on original research is an important element of MS/PhD degree programs.

At Cornell, graduate study leading to an Masters or Science (MS) or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is organized using a field structure.  Fields are composed of faculty members from a number of departments or sections (in the case of SIPS) who come together around a shared intellectual interest, and may draw from different campuses or colleges.  Graduate students are admitted to fields of study.  Within each field, they select major and minor subjects, which are research interests or concentrations.

Fields span departments and even disciplines.  It’s possible for a student in the field of economics to include faculty on his or special committee from industrial labor and economics, civil and environmental engineering, and sociology along with the more traditional economics and management.

The concentrations listed under each field and topics of recent MS/PhD theses can help you decide which Field is a good fit for you.

Go to the complete list of SIPS faculty. The short profiles list the Graduate Fields of which they are a member.  Note that many faculty are members of more than one field.

Correspondence is welcomed from potential applicants who have a well-informed interest. Be sure to briefly describe your experience and your interests and how they relate to the research program of the faculty you contact. Inquire about the recruiting goals of those faculty for the coming year. Faculty input about individual applicants is extremely important to the decisions of our admissions committee.

No. Students without an MS are admitted to our doctoral program as MS-PhD. This arrangement provides greater flexibility and does not generally take longer.  Note that the Graduate Field of Plant Biology is PhD only with now MS option.

The Graduate School requires that all doctoral students have a full special committee no later than the end of the 3rd semester and all masters students no later than the end of the 2nd semester.

What Constitutes a Special Committee?

A minimum of three members of the graduate faculty for a doctoral student and a minimum of two members for a master's student constitute a special committee.

  1. One member, the chair of the committee (major advisor), represents the major field and concentration.
  2. One member must represent a minor outside the student's major field.
  3. The third member can either represent another minor outside of the field or be in the major field but represent a different concentration from the major one.

Please note that most faculty members are members of several fields. A student can add additional members and ad hoc members depending on the circumstances (an additional member would be another member of the Cornell Graduate Faculty; an ad hoc member is generally someone from another institution such as a collaborator on a project who is not a member of Cornell's faculty).

The Philosophy

The selection of the special committee is up to the student in consultation with his/her major advisor. Theoretically, minor/s can be in any field (Russian Literature, anyone?); however, in practical terms, students will want to select faculty who will, in some way, contribute to or support their research goals.

The Power of the Special Committee

The faculty member who represents a particular subject/concentration on the committee determines the specific requirements for that student (e.g. coursework needed). The committee, as a whole, evaluates the student at the time of exams and determines whether they have met the appropriate standards for original research contributing to the knowledge base of the field (approving the thesis or dissertation). Students are encouraged to meet with their full committee at least once a year to ascertain that everyone is in agreement regarding progress toward degree completion.

Acceptable Committee Formations

Chair, Minor, Minor
Chair, Minor, Additional Member
Chair, Minor, Field Appointed Minor Member
Chair, Co-Chair, Minor Member

Nomination Process

Committee members are nominated through student center (link in advisor box to 11Special Committee"). The GFA is the first approver so if the distribution among fields/concentrations is not correct, the GFA should not approve the committee nomination.

Contact us

Josh Balles
Graduate Field Coordinator
237 Emerson Hall
Phone: 607-255-9573
Email: jeb527 [at] (jeb527[at]cornell[dot]edu)

Taryn Bauerle
Director of Graduate Studies
136 Plant Science Building
Phone: (607) 254-4867
Email: tlb33 [at] (tlb33[at]cornell[dot]edu)