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Admissions Requirements

Admission to the Ph.D. program in the Graduate Field of Communication at Cornell University is highly competitive. The Graduate Admissions Committee considers several factors for admission to the graduate program, and all applicants must meet the general admission requirements of the Cornell University Graduate School. Once admitted, all students are fully funded by the Department for five years through assistantships and/or fellowships, provided suitable progress is being made toward completing the degree.

Please review the left sidebar for important information, including the Admissions FAQ, current Ph.D. Program Manual, and our recent Ph.D. placements. The Graduate School also maintains an Admissions and Admitted Student FAQ.

Application to the program is via the Graduate School's online application.
The application for Fall 2021 will be live in August 2020.

Please note Communication applications are accepted only for the Fall term. The application deadline is December 1, 2020, by which all application materials must be submitted (including GRE and TOEFL/IELTS scores). Letters of recommendation are due by December 15, 2020. Incomplete applications will not be reviewed. Please visit the Graduate School's website for information about the application fee and waiver process.

If you are currently employed at Cornell University and would like to complete the degree through the Employee Degree Program (EDP), please see the EDP admissions instructions here.

Application Requirements

(Please upload all requested materials into the application; hard copies of your materials will not be accepted)

  • Academic statement of purpose
    The academic statement of purpose is your chance to articulate research you’d like to do and to explain how you see our program helping you achieve your intellectual goals. This statement should describe the substantive questions you are interested in. It should also indicate your intellectual interests and any training you have received that you believe has prepared you for our program. We encourage you to familiarize yourself with the research interests of our faculty. Mentioning specific faculty members that match your research interests will strengthen your statement. If any of your research interests relate to important social issues including (but not limited to) diversity, inclusion, access, and equity, you should mention them in this statement. Academic statements of purpose should be no more than 1000 words.
  • Personal statement
    The personal statement should explain your reasons for seeking a PhD in communication. What motivates you? What are your long-term goals? What important experiences have shaped your perspective to this point?  As relevant, your essay should include information on your ability to be both persistent and resilient, especially when navigating challenging circumstances. 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.  This is not an academic statement of purpose, but a discussion of the personal journey that has led to your decision to seek a graduate degree. Personal statements should be no more than 1000 words.

We also request the following additional information only from those applicants wishing to be considered for Graduate School diversity fellowships:

For consideration for nomination for a Graduate School Diversity Fellowship, your personal statement should also indicate how one or more of the following identities and/or experiences apply to you:

  • First-generation college student (neither parent/guardian having completed a baccalaureate degree)
  • Member of an ethnic or racial group historically underrepresented in graduate education (Black/African American, American Indian/Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiian or other Native Pacific Islander, Hispanic/Latinx)
  • McNair or Mellon Mays Undergraduate Scholar (the Graduate School will verify an applicant’s status as a McNair Scholar or Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow while pursuing a baccalaureate degree at a U.S. institution)
  • Other identities and/or experiences historically underrepresented and/or marginalized within graduate education including by not limited to the following:
    • Those who manage a disability
    • Being of a gender and/or sexual orientation identity historically underrepresented in your field of study
    • Those who identify as a military veteran
    • Holding DACA status
    • Those who identify as refugees
    • Those who have experienced housing and/or food insecurity
    • Single parents
  • Letters of recommendation
    Three strong letters of recommendation incorporating details of the applicant's educational and research background are preferred over generalizations about the applicant. Letters should be from people who are likely to comment on your academic aptitude and research abilities. Recommenders have until December 15 to upload their letter to your application. If the letter writer has any issues uploading their letter to the application, please have them contact Joanna directly.
  • Writing sample
    Applicants are required to submit a form of scholarly writing such as a sample essay, article, or book chapter that you have written (solo or first-author only). The maximum length is 30 pages (including bibliography). Complete theses or longer works are not acceptable forms of writing for this application.
  • Transcripts
    Applicants are required to upload unofficial transcripts from all colleges and universities attended. If transcripts are in a foreign language, please submit only English translated version. Please do not send this directly to the University; hardcopy official transcripts are required only upon matriculation.
  • Résumé or curriculum vitae
  • TOEFL and/or IELTS scores (international students only)
    International students are required to take the TOEFL exam, and must score a minimum of 100 (Internet-based), or 250 (computer-based). The test date must be within two years of the application submission date for consideration. The Graduate School requires an overall band score of a 7.0 or higher on the IELTS. Please see the Graduate School’s page for further specifications, including information on exemptions.

A note about the GRE

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, Cornell's Graduate 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.

COVID-19 notice (spring 2020)

Recognizing the serious challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic for student learning, faculty teaching, & academic performance assessment, the Graduate Field of Communication will adopt these principles for admissions review that consider COVID-19 disruptions as described by the Graduate School at Cornell University.


Check your application status here. Joanna will update the checklist as she reviews applications in December.