Frequently Asked Questions
- How do you decide who to admit? How much do GRE scores count? I had poor grades because (fill in reason). How much will that hurt me?
- Why are applications rejected?
- What about financial aid?
- Is a master's degree required to get into the Ph.D. program?
- Can I get a list of Communication Graduate Courses?
- Can I apply for spring admission?
- Is there a minimum TOEFL score? How about IELTS?
- If I studied at a school where the language of instruction was English, do I have to take the TOEFL?
- Can non-U.S. students get teaching assistantships?
- Should I reach out to a faculty member before applying?
1. How do you decide who to admit? How much do GRE scores count? I had poor grades because (fill in reason). How much will that hurt me?
Grades and GRE scores are most informative about the first criterion. Most members of the faculty weigh grades more heavily than GRE scores. However, many also think that exceptional students should also be able to get good GRE scores. We often have to make judgments about the potential of students whose records are somehow a problem. Some students become motivated about study and research later than others. Others had to work their way through school. Some graduated from college many years ago. We try to be as fair as possible. The more evidence you give us of your potential to be an excellent student, the more likely we are to admit you. We admit students with a fairly wide range of GRE scores. However, the average GRE score for admitted students is very competitive. Most students admitted to graduate studies in the Field of Communication had combined verbal and quantitative scores above 300, with an average writing score above 4.0. A low GRE score doesn't make it impossible to get in, but you'll have to convince us. Letters of recommendation and your statement of purpose help us to judge your motivation. Your statement of purpose is extremely important. Do not neglect it. Be very specific about how your goals fit in with our specific program.
2. Why are applications rejected?
Our program is very competitive. Good grades and test scores do count. But even many excellent students are rejected. The most common reason is poor fit with our program. We are not like every other Communication program. We want to make sure that the students we admit can achieve their goals within our particular program. Before you apply, read our materials very carefully and make sure that Cornell's program is really the one you want. In your statement of purpose, you need to be very specific about your goals and how you would achieve them in our program. Please don't just repeat what we say in our materials. We are looking for evidence that you really understand our program and have given some sincere thought to how your goals could be achieved here.
3. What about financial aid?
Graduate students in the Field of Communication are supported for the most part on Teaching Assistantships and Research Assistantships (additional information about assistantships). Some students do seek out external funding and we absolutely encourage it, though it’s not a requirement to enter our program with outside funding. If you’re interested in seeking external funding, please see the Graduate School's website for additional fellowship information.
4. Is a Master's degree required to get into the Ph.D. program?
A Master’s degree is not required. Typically, those who enter the program without a Master’s degree take five years to go finish as they spend an extra year taking courses and preparing for their A exams.
5. Can I get a list of Communication Graduate Courses?
Please see the Courses of Study for a list of courses offered at Cornell, both in and outside of the Department of Communication.
7. Is there a minimum TOEFL score? How about IELTS?
Yes. If you are required to take the TOEFL, you must have a TOEFL minimum score of 100 (Graduate School minimum scores are: Reading – 20, Writing – 20, Listening – 15, Speaking – 22) on the Internet-based test, before we will consider your application. Our experience indicates that students with scores below 100 have great difficulty completing a degree here. The Graduate School requires an overall band score of a 7.0 or higher on the IELTS. Please see the Graduate School’s page on the language proficiency requirement.
8. If I studied at a school where the language of instruction was English, do I have to take the TOEFL?
Possibly. Please see the Graduate School’s for further specifications concerning the language proficiency requirement and exceptions.
9. Can non-U.S. students get teaching assistantships?
All Ph.D. students admitted to our program are considered for research and teaching assistantships. Many of these assistantships require very high levels of skill in written and spoken English; particularly in public speaking and writing classes. Additionally, anyone receiving a graduate assistantship must be eligible to work in the United States. Please see the Office of Global Learning's website for additional information about working in the United States.
10. Should I reach out to a faculty member before applying?
A good fit between faculty member and student in terms of research interests and goals is important. Prospective students are encouraged to investigate faculty members’ research areas before applying, and identify those faculty members with whom they might be interested in working. In addition, before applying students may wish to email these faculty members to see if the student's interests and goals align with the current interests of the faculty member, but this is not required.