What is the application submission deadline?

For Fall 2024, the Information Science PhD application deadline is December 1, 2023. We do not accept spring applications. All application materials are due by December 1, 2023, which include the items below: 

  • Online CollegeNET Application
  • All Transcripts from current and previous institutions.
  • Three letters of recommendation, which must be received by December 1, 2023.
  • Academic Statement of Purpose
  • Personal Statement
  • International applicants will need an official TOEFL or IELTS score.
  • There is a $105 non-refundable application fee that must be submitted electronically with your application. The fee may be waived in cases of financial hardship or for qualified participants of certain special programs. For information about methods of payment or requesting a fee waiver, visit the Graduate School's Website.

How should I submit my application?

In order to apply to the Information Science Department, you will be required to submit your application online. The Information Science Department does not mail out hard copy applications. Please do not mail any application materials; paper materials will not be accepted.

What name should I use on my application?

Please make every effort to use the same name that is on your passport for your TOEFL or IELTS exam, as well as your application. Names that do not match delay processing of your application as scores need to be manually found in the reports sent from ETS and matched to your application.

What is an academic statement of purpose, and how do you use it?

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 1,000 words.

A successful academic statement of purpose will address the following topics:

  • Questions and Issues you're interested in exploring as a PhD student and why they matter to you;
  • How your research interests relate to the work of Faculty at Cornell;
  • Your ultimate goal in pursuing a PhD. 

What is a personal statement and why is one required?

The personal statement should explain your reasons for seeking a PhD in Information Science. 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 or CIS Deans Excellence/Hopper Dean Fellowship.

For consideration for nomination for a Graduate School Diversity Fellowship or CIS Deans Excellence/Hopper Dean 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

Can I apply for Spring admission?  Could I defer?

We do not accept applications for admission in the spring semester. We only accept applications for consideration for fall admission. Some admitted students have requested a deferral to a later term due to personal issues or visa issues. This is not automatic, you must contact Barbara Woske to discuss your deferral options. If a deferral is approved, students will reeive an official deferal lettere. Do not assume your offer of admissions will be deferred. We consider these requests on a case-by-case basis.

What are the minimum language requirements for foreign students who are not native English speakers?

The Information Science Department looks for all applicants to be able to meet the following minimum language criteria:

For the IBT TOEFL, you must meet the following minimum required scores as determined by the Cornell Graduate School in each of the following sections in order to be considered for admission to our field:

  • 15 - Listening
  • 20 - Writing
  • 20 - Reading
  • 22 - Speaking

If you are not able to meet or exceed the minimum scores in each of the four sections of the IBT TOEFL, you will not be considered eligible for admission to Cornell University. No exceptions will be made.

IELTS: The Graduate School requires an overall band score of a 7.0 or higher on the IELTS. Please visit the Contact Graduate Admissions page for information about how to send your scores.

Please note the following regarding eligibility for a TOEFL or IELTS waiver:

The English language proficiency requirement may be waived if the applicant meets at least one of these criteria:

  • is a citizen or permanent resident of the United States, or a citizen of the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, or Canada (except Quebec). Applicants who are citizens of India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Singapore, etc. are not exempt from the requirement.
  • at the time you enroll at Cornell, you will have studied in full-time status for at least two academic years within the last five years in the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, or New Zealand, or with English language instruction in Canada or South Africa. Even if English was the language of instruction at your school, if you did not study in one of these countries you are not exempt from the requirement. You must submit a transcript that shows you attended college in one of the approved locations, and that your academic program was at least two years in length.

Where should I submit my TOEFL/IELTS scores?

Your scores will be submitted directly to Cornell University, not to the Information Science Department. The Institutional Code is 2098 for Cornell, there is no department code required.

I've taken the TOEFL/IELTS more than once. Which set of scores will be reviewed?

The Information Science Department will receive all of your scores, however we look at scores as a group, not individual scores from separate tests. 

If I've already taken the TOEFL/IELTS, how long are my test scores valid?

TOEFL/IELTS scores are valid for up to two (2) years from the original test date. In order to ensure your scores are both valid and up to date, contact ETS directly.

If I am an International Applicant who is required to submit an TOEFL or IELTS score, what is the deadline?

All applications, including all supplemental materials must be received by December 1, 2023.

GRE Test

The Information Science department does not require or accept the GRE Test. 

Which degree program should I select on the application form?

Information Science offers a Ph.D. degree and a Masters of Professional Studies (MPS) degree. Each degree program has different requirements and a different admissions process. You may apply for one or the other, you may not apply to both degree programs simultaneously. We will not consider rejected Ph.D. applications for our MPS degree nor will we consider rejected MPS applications for the Ph.D. degree. The MPS degree is a professional course based degree only. 

"Who I've been in contact with at Cornell"?

It is not necessary to discuss your application with our faculty members before you apply, although it is not harmful to do so. Our admissions committee is made up of a number of Information Science faculty members and our current Ph.D. students. It is extremely helpful when reviewing applications to know if you have been in contact with one or more of our faculty member(s) and have like research interests. You will find a complete listing of our faculty here. Please be sure to include these faculty names in your online application.

What types of funding are available for applicants?

There are three types of funding available that are awarded to our accepted applicants.

  • Teaching Assistantships (TA)
  • Graduate Research Assistantships (GRA)
  • Fellowships

Each of the above funding types include full tuition, an academic year stipend, and the Student Health Insurance package provided through the University. We are actively recruiting students from Under-Represented Minority groups, and some generous donors have provided special funding to assist us in this effort.

Teaching Assistantships (TA):

A teaching assistant is an academic appointment in support of the teaching of a course. Teaching assistants may assist in teaching a section of a course, lead discussions, and/or lead laboratory sections. Teaching assistants average no more than 15 hours per week for the base stipend as established by the Board of Trustees.   

Graduate Research Assistantships (GRA)

A GRA is an academic appointment focused on thesis or other degree-related research of a type that is required from all candidates for the degree. The research project for a GRA directly supports the student’s thesis or dissertation. Because a student devotes considerable time to thesis or dissertation research, the time spent is connected with the project.  


A fellowship provides financial support to graduate students to pursue graduate studies without associated teaching or research responsibilities. Fellowships are generally merit-based internal or external awards to support a student in a full-time course of study. The Graduate School offers fellowship workshops, boot camps, consultation, and review sessions to help you in your pursuit of a fellowship.

Recruitment fellowship offers will be made to our very best applicants and for the most part last only one (1) year. Stipends for fellowships tend to be slightly higher for the first year only. Applicants who are awarded fellowships enter the program without any formal obligations such as teaching or research for a specific group.

Diversity Fellowships

Information Science offers a college specific Diversity Fellowship, CIS Deans Excellence/Hopper Dean Fellowship, and encourages any applicant to apply for it. You will be required to indicate you're interest in being considered for this fellowship in the online application. 

The university has other diversity fellowship oppurtunities which include:

Colman Fellowship, a Sage Fellowship, and simply a Diversity Fellowship. Each of these funding opportunities is geared towards providing aid for applicants that meet the following criteria:

  • A history of overcoming disadvantage
  • First-generation college student
  • Raised in a single-parent household
  • Member of an underrepresented minority group (American Indian or Alaskan Native, Black/African American, Mexican American, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, Puerto Rican, Other Hispanic)

Please be sure to include at least a sentence or two within your Personal Statement explaining you're eligibility for a diversity fellowship. 

How do Ph.D. admissions really work behind the scenes?

Admissions decisions in the Department of Information Science are made by a committee. The committee admits students to a first year advisor and to the department. The advisor guarantees funding along with the department for five (5) years contingent on satisfactory progress being made throughout your Ph.D. career. Because our program spans the Ithaca and NYC Tech Campus, students may start their career in either place depending on where their advisor is located. Students are expected to reside on the same campus as their advisor. 

  • Applications received on or before Dcember 1, 2023
  • Applications are checked for completeness between December 2, 2023 through December 8, 2023.
  • Committee begins their first round review
  • End of December, committee begins second round of reviews.
  • Mid to late January, possible online interviews
  • First week of February, final committee and field review
  • Mid February, admission decisions are sent out via email.
  • First part of March, visitation days for those offered admission.
  • April 15, 2024 deadline to accept offer from Cornell Information Science

NOTE: The dates above are approximate and may not reflect the actual application timeline.

What does the admissions committee look for in a candidate?

The committee evaluates the entire application holistically. Every item that is required is examined carefully. A weakness in one area (say, GPA) can be compensated by demonstrated strength in another (say, real implementation experience, or research publications, or recommendation letters). 

Can you tell me my chances of being admitted to Cornell if I send you my CV?

No one can tell any prospective student's chances of admission from just a resume, however we do offer Cornell IS Student Reading Program. This program aims to assist under represented students in computing fields as they apply to Cornell's IS Ph.D. program. A graduate student volunteer may supply one round of meaning feedback on their resume, statement of purpose, and personal statement. Please see more details about this service here

Why is a particular applicant being accepted or rejected?

Admission to the Information Science Ph.D. program is highly competitive, and we rarely have a bad or unqualified applicant. Instead, our department will only admit students if there is a faculty member available and willing to advise a particular applicant. Some highly qualified applicants may be rejected because they do not match the research interests or domain expertise needs of faculty that happen to be seeking students this application cycle.

Whom should I contact if I have further questions about the Cornell Ph.D. program that are not answered here?

The Director of Graduate Studies, Sue Fussell can be contacted at sfussell@cornell.edu.