How To Apply
What We Look For
We look for the following in applicants:
• a baccalaureate degree or its equivalent from a college or university of recognized standing
• adequate preparation for graduate study of physics as witnessed by 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)
• evidence of promise in advanced study and research
• three strong letters of recommendation, at least two from professors in a position to write about your fitness for graduate work in physics
• the Graduate Record Exam and the GRE Physics Subject Test is required for all applicants
• students of any race, color, sex, religion, sexual orientation, nationality or ethnic origin
A student who has begun graduate study at another university or who has been awarded a master’s degree in physics will only be admitted under unusual circumstances. Graduate students and professors need to know one another well before starting a thesis project together, and the early period of a graduate student’s time at Cornell provides an opportunity for this acquaintance. A student who arrives later in his/her career misses this. 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 “Physics.” For your major subject area/concentration, indicate either theory or experiment. Your choice is by no means binding. It merely gives some indication of the interests of prospective class members. As described in the Application Guidelines, the Graduate School also asks you to submit a Statement of Purpose, transcripts, and letters of recommendation. Follow the physics-specific instructions below for these application materials. The application fee is $80.
Letters of Recommendation
Select with care the three persons you ask to write letters of recommendation in support of your application. At least two must be professors of physics who are well acquainted with your preparation and fitness for graduate work. It is preferred that these letters are submitted online.
Statement of Purpose
Write a Statement of Purpose. Your statement should include a description of any previous research or teaching experience, indicating the nature of the work, the institution where the work was performed, and the name and title of the person directing it. Also indicate any interest you have in particular areas of physics, and your professional aims after you receive your Ph.D.
Please scan and upload one PDF file, including all of your transcripts, into the online application. Your transcript(s) should be an 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.
Take the Graduate Record Exam AND the GRE Physics Subject test. Ensure that your scores are officially reported by the Educational Testing Service to the Cornell Graduate School (Institution Code #2098, Department Code #0899). Scores are due by the December 15 application deadline. If you are not able to self-report your unofficial scores on the application before the deadline, please email a copy of your unofficial score report to firstname.lastname@example.org , as soon as you receive it. All official scores must be received by the first of January. Please do not wait until December to take these exams. Note: If your name on the exam does not match your name on the application, please notify us of the discrepancy.
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). Scores must arrive by the December 15 deadline. Note: If your name on the exam does not match your name on the application, please notify us of the discrepancy. Please note that the minimum IBT TOEFL scores required for consideration are:
An applicant will automatically be granted a TOEFL exemption if he or she studied for two or more years in a country where the primary language is English and the instruction was in English. 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 upon matriculation.
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 Physics Admissions Committee are final.