How to Apply
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What We Look For
- a Bachelor's degree (or international equivalent) from an academic institution of recognized standing.
- adequate preparation for graduate study in astronomy, astrophysics, physics or planetary science as evident in an academic transcript of undergraduate courses
- fluent command of the English language. Foreign students for whom English is a second language should submit scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). The Graduate School has specific criteria that Graduate Students are expected to meet.
- evidence of promise in advanced study and research.
- three strong letters of recommendation, at least two from researchers/faculty in a position to write. about your fitness for graduate work in astronomy and space sciences.
- the General and Physics GRE exams are not required for admission, nor will scores be accepted as part of the admissions process. Please do not submit any GRE scores for consideration.
- students of any race, color, sex, religion, sexual orientation, nationality or ethnic origin.
A student who has begun graduate study at another university will only be admitted under unusual circumstances. Admission to the program at an advanced level is possible only if a research position is available in the appropriate research group. Before submitting a formal application, a student with advanced preparation should contact the professor or research group with which he or she would like to work and determine that a research position is likely to be available.
All application materials must be received by Cornell no later than December 15. All supporting documents, including academic transcripts, test scores, and letters of recommendation, must be received by this date. It is preferred that you submit all items online. Please do not submit a document more than once. If it has been submitted online, do not send another copy in the mail.
The following must be completed when applying:
Grad School Application
Complete the Cornell Graduate School Application on-line. In the section on “Academic Information” indicate that your proposed field is “Astronomy and Space Sciences.” You do not need to enter a potential major subject area/concentration at this point. As described in the Application Guidelines, the Graduate School also asks you to submit a Statement of Purpose, transcripts, and three letters of recommendation. Follow the instructions specific to the astronomy and space sciences program below for these application materials.
The application fee is $105, but students may apply for a waiver fee or may already be qualified for one through a pipeline program.
Financial Hardship: The Graduate Field of Astronomy is committed to creating opportunities for economically disadvantaged students. In addition to offering generous funding to all admitted PhD students, we encourage applicants who are experiencing financial hardships to seek an application fee waiver if the cost of the application fee will be a barrier.
Learn more about application fees here, https://gradschool.cornell.edu/admissions/apply/application-fees/
Letters of Recommendation
Select with care the three people you ask to write letters of recommendation in support of your application. Preferably two should be from faculty or academic researchers who are well acquainted with your preparation and fitness for graduate research in our program. These letters should be submitted online.
Statement of Purpose
Please use the Academic Statement of Purpose to describe (within 1000 words) the substantive research questions you are interested in pursuing during your graduate studies, and explain how our program would help you achieve your intellectual goals. Additionally, detail your academic background, intellectual interests, and any training or research experience you have received that you believe has prepared you for our program. Within your statement, please also identify specific faculty members whose research interests align with your own interests.
Required Personal Statement
For any student that indicates an interest in a diversity fellowship, they will have the opportunity to utilize an optional Personal Statement Addendum to submit personal information that they would like to have considered as part of the Diversity Fellowship nomination and selection process, but not as part of the admissions process. The Personal Statement Addendum prompt makes clear that providing any supplemental information is completely optional. It also makes clear that only the DGS and the Graduate School Office of Inclusion & Student Engagement will have access to any supplemental information submitted.
Please scan and upload one PDF file, including all of your transcripts, into the online application. Your transcript(s) should be the official one issued to you by your university and then scanned to make a PDF. It must be legible and provide a course title eg “Phys 4310 Advanced Mechanics“. Please do not send screen shots from an online database. If you accept an offer of admission, you will be required to submit an official paper transcript prior to matriculation.
Applicants should have a strong background in astronomy, astrophysics, electrical engineering, engineering physics, mathematics, or physics. The General and Physics GRE exams are not required for admission, nor will scores be accepted as part of the admissions process. Please do not submit any GRE scores for consideration.
English Language Proficiency Requirements
The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is required for applicants whose native language is not English. Scores must be officially reported by the Educational Testing Service to the Cornell Graduate School (Institution Code #2098, Department Code #76). Our program requires a TOEFL minimum score of 600 paper-based or 250 computer-based. Scores must arrive by the December 15 deadline. An applicant will automatically be granted a TOEFL exemption if he or she studied for two or more years (in the last five years) in a country where the primary language is English and the instruction was in English. The Cornell Graduate School site has further information on Cornell's English Language Proficiency Requirements.
In addition, international students offered admission as a teaching assistant will also be expected to meet the oral proficiency outlines from ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) at the “Intermediate High” level. This test will be administered at Cornell as part of the Center for Teaching Innovation's International Teaching Assistant (ITA) summer program prior to the first semester.
A writing sample is not required, though there is space for one in the application.
All admissions decisions for applications for fall will be made by March. The majority of decisions will be made in February. We regret that due to the number of files received and reviewed by the Admissions Committee each year, we are unable to provide feedback on individual applications. All decisions of the Cornell Astronomy and Space Sciences Admissions Committee are final.