Application to the Field of Soil & Crop Sciences


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

Please note that consistent with our commitment to holistic evaluation of applications, GRE scores are now optional for the Fall 2021 admissions cycle.

Preparing your application

All applications for Graduate Studies at Cornell are online and accessible through the Cornell Graduate School. 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.

Prospective students must meet the Graduate School's general admission requirements and must also be acceptable to the Field of Soil and Crop Sciences. An applicant for admission to the Graduate School should hold a baccalaureate degree granted by a faculty or university of recognized standing or have completed a degree or diploma program equivalent to the baccalaureate degree program at Cornell; have adequate preparation for graduate study in the chosen Field; and present evidence of promise in advanced study and research. Students from United States colleges and universities who meet these criteria are usually in the top third of their graduating classes. Foreign students must also meet English competency requirements. Applications will not be reviewed without the following elements.

  • A fully completed online application through the Cornell University Graduate School.
  • Complete transcripts of all previous college or university work, including work done at Cornell.
  • Two, and preferably three, letters of recommendation from instructors or professional scientists acquainted with the applicant's work in the major area of study. If the applicant has been out of school for some time, recommendations from those familiar with his or her professional performance might be acceptable; applicants who wish to submit recommendations of this type should consult the Director of Graduate Studies.

Applicants may indicate a second-choice Field in the space provided on the application form. The form will be processed by the first-choice Field (Soil and Crop Sciences) and will be forwarded to the second-choice Field only if the decision is negative.

Admission is competitive. Should you make it through our first screen, you will be interviewed by phone or videoconference. A selection of those interviewed will participate in a longer recruitment event.

Important Message from the University regarding the application process: 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, and may lead to the rejection of application materials, the revocation of an admissions offer, cancellation of admission, or involuntary withdrawal from the University.

How we evaluate you

Applicants will be evaluated on several broad criteria:

  • Subject areas studied at the undergraduate level. Students with prior preparation in Soils and Crops will normally be well prepared for graduate work in crop science and soil science. Applicants with undergraduate majors in basic sciences such as chemistry, physics, mathematics, or biology, or with extensive training in these subjects, will also be well prepared. Students with backgrounds other than these are encouraged to apply, but if they are accepted their graduate programs will include appropriate preparatory coursework.
  • Research experience. For applicants to the Ph.D. program, special attention will be paid to the prospective student's depth of research experience. Though most applicants with the B.S. degree will be admitted to M.S. or M.S./Ph.D. programs, those B.S. applicants who have a particularly strong background in research can be admitted directly to the Ph.D. program at the discretion of the admissions committee.
  • Grade point average (G.P.A.). Applicants should have maintained at least a B average (3.0 grade point on a 4.0 scale) at the baccalaureate level. Students with a lower G.P.A. are seldom admitted unless their test scores, more recent grades, letters of recommendation, or experience indicate that the G.P.A. does not adequately reflect their ability or potential.
  • English competency. Applicants whose native language is not English must provide proof of competency in the English language. Learn more about the Graduate School English language requirement.
    Applicants whose native language is not English should be aware that meeting Graduate School entrance language requirements does not necessarily guarantee that they will initially be able to perform satisfactorily; continued instruction in English may be helpful.
  • Letters of recommendation. Federal legislation mandates that enrolled students must be given access to their letters of recommendation. Applicants who wish to waive this right of access should check the appropriate statement on the recommendation forms. If forms are not available, applicants may indicate that they want to waive the right of access by submitting the following written statement to the recommender: "I hereby waive my right of access, under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, 20 U.S.C.A. Par. 123g(a)(1), to this letter of recommendation in regard to my application for admission to the Cornell University Graduate School. I understand that this letter will be used by the Graduate School in its procedures relative to admission and fellowships." The statement must be dated and signed by the applicant, and it should be attached to the letter of recommendation.
  • Statement of goals. At the time of application, students supply a short essay on their application forms stating their program goals and their purposes for pursuing a graduate degree. Applicants' backgrounds and goals should be compatible with department goals and resources, and their statements should describe how their interests relate to the programs offered by the Field of Soil and Crop Sciences.
  • Faculty supervisor. For an applicant to be approved by the Field admissions committee, at least one faculty member must be willing to serve as chair of the student's special committee or as a temporary adviser, pending selection of a major professor. This faculty member usually becomes the major professor, particularly if he or she is supplying financial aid to the student through a research program. Students should not delay the selection of a major professor beyond one semester of graduate work.


Applying to the Field of Soil & Crop Sciences

  • TOEFL scores are a requirement by the Graduate School and the field for all international students. 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. 
  • GREs are optional.
  • Application deadline is December 1
  • Applicants will be notified by email anytime between March 1 - April 15

Admission to the Graduate School is an academic decision and includes the award of financial support. Students may obtain support in several ways. The section of Soil and Crop Sciences may provide teaching assistantships and graduate research assistantships. Faculty members with external (non department) sources of funding may also have the resources to support a graduate research assistant. A few outstanding students may receive fellowship awards through the Graduate School.


There are three kinds of assistantships: teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and graduate research assistantships. Assistantship include remission of tuition and fees, but generally do not include summer support. The Graduate School has very limited summer support funding available, although most summer support, if provided, is available through faculty research projects. Applicants requesting financial aid from the Graduate School are automatically considered for assistantship support by the section of Soil and Crop Sciences.

Other types of support

A limited number of awards of other kinds - including traineeships, payment of tuition and fees, hourly employment, and fellowships - may be made by or through the section of Soil and Crop Sciences. The Graduate School has a very limited number of fellowships available, and occasionally provides Fields with some funding for fellowships, but it is highly competitive and awards are difficult to obtain. Various international, national, and philanthropic agencies also support graduate students.

Prospective students from abroad should seek information about similar opportunities from the appropriate offices within their own countries before they apply to Cornell. Visa regulations now require students from outside the United States to identify sources and amounts of financial support sufficient to cover necessary expenses. Under no conditions should the long and costly process of graduate study be undertaken on the assumption that the either the department or Cornell University will somehow furnish the necessary funds after the student arrives.

Although admission to graduate school can be in either the fall or spring semester, most students begin in the fall, and more financial aid is available then.

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.

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.