FAQs - Graduate
Graduate Program Frequently Asked Questions
How do I apply?
All applications are interactive and available on the Graduate School’s website.
Cornell's graduate field of Civil and Environmental Engineering will no longer require GRE scores from applicants, this includes M.Eng., M.S., and Ph.D. applicants.
Am I eligible to apply for graduated study?
Master of Engineering (M.Eng.); a coursework and project-oriented degree program usually completed in two semesters if started in the Fall. Admission to this program generally requires an undergraduate degree, or equivalent coursework, in an appropriate field of engineering.
Master of Science (M.S.); a research-oriented degree program usually completed within two years. Admission to this program generally requires an undergraduate degree , or equivalent coursework, in an appropriate field of engineering, although the environmentally-oriented concentrations may be able to accept students who have a strong physical sciences background.
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.); an in-depth research-oriented degree program that is usually completed within 3 to 5 years. Those applying for direct admission to the PhD program are expected to have a master's degree in an appropriate area first; otherwise, they should apply to the combined M.S./Ph.D. program.
What is the difference between M.Eng. and M.S. degree programs?
The M.Eng. degree is set up to be completed in two semesters. No thesis is required; a final written report on the design project replaces the thesis. The program requires a minimum of 30 credit hours of technical graduate-level course work and work on a real-world design project. The project may either be in a group setting or an individual project. The program is intended for those interested in professional practice and engineering.
The M.S. degree is a research-oriented program that usually takes 4 semesters to complete and requires an independently written thesis. There are no credit-hour or specific course requirements. Each student's program (course work and research) is individualized and decided upon in consultation with a Special Committee which the student selects and that is made up of faculty from the student’s major and minor subject areas. The program is intended for those interested in a research or academic career and, generally, continuation into a Ph.D. program. In fact, several of our concentrations will not accept terminal M.S. applications. Those interested in a terminal Master’s degree should apply to the Master of Engineering program; others may apply for the combined MS/PhD program. Competition for these assistantships and fellowships is very keen and in general only about 5% of new M.S. (/Ph.D.) applicants will receive an offer of financial aid. Please note that because there are no credit-hour requirements in the M.S. (or Ph.D.) program, credits earned at another university cannot be transferred to an M.S. (or Ph.D.) program at Cornell.
Both the M.Eng and M.S. degrees are excellent preparation for a Ph.D. program or for a career.
What materials should be included in my application?
In addition to the application form and Statement of Purpose, CEE requires a minimum of three letters of recommendation, transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate courses taken, and valid TOEFL or IELTS scores for any applicant whose native language is not English. No exceptions are granted. Although a resume is not required, it is helpful.
Do I have to take the TOEFL or IELTS?
All international applicants must demonstrate proficiency in the English language. International students demonstrate proficiency by submitting official test scores from TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language). All international applicants must demonstrate proficiency in the English language. International students demonstrate proficiency by submitting official test scores from TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language). As an alternative to the TOEFL, Cornell currently accepts IELTS scores with the minimum overall score being 7.0 score. For applicants in regions where the TOEFL iBT is not available, Cornell will continue to accept scores for the paper-based test (PBT). Although individual graduate fields may require higher scores, Cornell’s official minimum sub-scores for each element of the TOEFL are:
- Writing: 20
- Listening: 15
- Reading: 20
- Speaking: 22
Send scores to Cornell University Graduate School, Code # 2098.
The TOEFL score must be dated within two years of the time the application is reviewed by Cornell. Photocopies of TOEFL score reports will not be accepted.
Take the TOEFL early enough to have the results submitted at the time of your application. Please note that we cannot confirm receipt of test scores until the student has submitted an online application. Exam dates are posted on the TOEFL web site.
If you receive your test results and any sub-score does not meet the requirement, you should make arrangements to retake the test.
An application cannot be considered complete until Cornell receives official scores from ETS. An offer of admissions cannot be made nor can a visa document be issued if an application is incomplete. If your TOEFL score does not meet the requirement, we cannot issue the document, and you will not be able to enter the country.
Graduate field TOEFL requirements
Questions about your English language proficiency? Contact the graduate field to which you are applying. Administrators in your proposed field will guide you through the application process and will communicate with other offices at Cornell as needed to gather additional information.
If you still have questions after talking to your graduate field, email your graduate school student services representative:
The TOEFL requirement may be waived if the applicant meets at least one of these criteria:
- is a native citizen of the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand or Canada (except Quebec). Applicants who are citizens of India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Hong Kong, or Singapore, are not exempt from the TOEFL requirement.
- 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. You must submit a transcript that shows you have attended college in one of these approved locations.
What are the institutional and departmental codes for the TOEFL scores?
- Institutional code: 2098
- Departmental code for TOEFL: 65
When is the application due?
For FALL admission completed applications, including all supporting materials, must be received by February 1 at the latest (applications will not be accepted after February 1), although it is very much to the applicant's advantage (especially international applicants) to apply earlier. For SPRING admission, the deadline for completed applications, including all supporting materials, is October 15. Financial aid is rarely available in the Spring. No separate application form is required to apply for financial aid; simply check the box on the application form that asks if you wish to be considered for merit-based aid.
How much is the application fee?
The current application fee is $105.
Financial Hardship: In cases where the application fee presents a financial hardship for an applicant, the Graduate School will consider a request for a fee waiver. Please include documentation of need such as a letter from a college financial aid office. If you are not a current student or are unable to obtain a financial aid letter, include a brief description of your financial need and any documentation that supports your request (W2, tax return form, etc.). Please go to the Fee Waiver instruction page OR to the grad school's link Contact Us! Be sure to include the degree program to which you plan to apply. Please note: fee waiver requests will be processed Monday through Friday, during normal business hours, with the exception of holidays and breaks when the university is closed. Allow up to three business days for your request to be processed.
Please also visit the Graduate School website for more detailed information regarding application fee waivers (https://gradschool.cornell.edu/admissions/apply/application-fees/)
My transcripts are not in English. Will you accept them?
No, transcripts must be in English.
How do I pay my application fee?
The application fee is paid on-line within the application form.
Can I update my online application after it is submitted?
Unfortunately, once you submit your application you cannot make any changes to it. Please contact us with any changes you have.
Can I apply and delay my enrollment, if I decide to begin my studies later?
Unfortunately, deferrals are not accepted at this time.
Is there an interviewing process for admission?
Applicants will be asked to respond to a few questions within the admissions system. Specific instructions will be provided while applying. Having a camera accessible on your computer will be required.
How much is tuition?
The 2020-21 academic year tuition rates are as follows:
Research Degree (M.S., M.S./Ph.D.): $29,500
Professional Degree (M.Eng): $60,286
Is financial aid available?
Admission and financial aid decisions will not be made without benefit of a complete and formal application. Decisions are based on the applicant’s Statement of Purpose, letters of recommendation (3 required), transcripts of all universities attended, TOEFL scores for applicants whose native language is not English, and any other supporting documentation the applicant feels will benefit his/her application (please do not send us copies of research theses, reports, etc.). All admission and financial aid decisions are made as a group, not by an individual faculty member, therefore resumes to individual faculty members requesting teaching/research positions or assessments of the applicants chances of receiving admission/aid cannot be considered.
Because our financial aid resources never cover all worthy applicants, we strongly encourage all applicants to aggressively seek other sources of support, including fellowships offered by both private and government organizations, or support from current or potential employers.
Is there an additional form to fill out for financial aid?
There are no additional forms to fill out to be considered for financial aid. All applicants are considered for financial aid.
Are international students considered for financial aid?
Yes, all international students are considered for financial aid.
What is a fellowship?
All fellowships are awarded in the Fall and must be awarded to new incoming in a Ph.D. track program (M.S./Ph.D. or Ph.D.). All fellowships are for one year only with the additional years covered by TA and/or GRA appointments. Fellowships cover full tuition, full health insurance, and a 9-month stipend.
What is an assistantship?
Includes teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and M.Eng. assistantships. All awards are based on merit, not need, and we never have enough funding ourselves to offer to all worthy applicants. Full-time (15-20 hour per week work commitment) assistantships are offered to M.S. and/or Ph.D. students only. They pay full tuition, full health insurance, and a 9 month stipend. MEng assistantships are part-time only (7 ½ hours per week work commitment). They usually include a ½ tuition fellowship and a stipend equal to ½ the amount of a full TA or GRA.
Is tuition covered by a fellowship or assistantship?
(Please see Fellowship & Assistantship definitions above)
Is there housing available for graduate students?
Many off-campus options are available. Visit the Graduate & Professional Student Communities website for more information.
How do I schedule a visit?
Visit the How to Visit.
How long does it usually take to finish an MS degree?
It takes an average of 2 years to complete a M.S. degree.
How long does it usually take to complete a PhD degree?
The Ph.D. program is usually completed within 3 to 5 years (3 years is the minimum; 4.9 is average).