Celebration of thesis defense

Application Requirements

Application to the Field is made through the Cornell University Graduate School.  General information about Grad School admissions requirements and insights on the process of applying can be found on the Graduate School Admissions website.  They also provide a useful list of FAQs for common questions. Information on application requirements for the Field of Biochemistry, Molecular & Cell Biology (BMCB) are detailed below. Please take care in filling out this important document and review it before submitting it; we cannot make changes to it after it is submitted.

Our faculty and research interests can be explored in the Faculty & Research. You can learn more about our program and current student life using the Current Students section of our website. You are encouraged to explore these pages for information as you move through the application process. If your research interests are more genetics/genomics based, we encourage you to investigate our sister program, Genetics, Genomics & Development.

The deadline for admission is December 1 for Fall admission (we do not admit students in Spring). Applicants to our program must submit their application on-line through Apply-Now, including supporting documents by the December 1 deadline.  Applications can be submitted prior to receipt of all required letters of recommendation, but recommenders should be encouraged (and reminded) to submit their letters by this deadline or within 48 hours after.  The Admissions Committee begins reviewing completed applications shortly after the deadline.

Application Requirements:

Academic & Personal Statement of Purpose (within the application):  The intent of this statement is to provide the Admissions Committee with a sense of you as a whole person and your potential to contribute positively to a diverse and inclusive community.  The Grad School provides general suggestions about the application process on their admissions website.

Academic Statement of Purpose (up to 1,200 words): Please submit an Academic Statement of Purpose (ASOP) that outlines your reasons for pursuing graduate research and explains your academic interests and your broader background, experiences, and skills that can lead to a successful graduate school experience. General suggestions as to how to approach the Academic Statement of Purpose are available by following this link to the Cornell Graduate School admissions website.

Please describe (in up to 1,200 words) your motivation to apply to a PhD program, the experiences that informed this choice, and how these experiences have prepared you for graduate school. You may include whatever information you think speaks to these points, but please be sure to specifically address the two areas outlined below.

  1. Past and ongoing research experiences: We would like to hear about your research experiences, including your research goals, outcomes (positive or negative!), and what you have learned relating back to your initial research goal (your research conclusions). Please also provide the specifics of your research experience(s), including where and when they took place, and the average weekly hours of commitment.
  2. Program and future research interests: Please describe your future research interests, and why you chose to apply to the BMCB program. If there are faculty members that you find resonate with your interests, please include that information. We appreciate that your research interests will evolve throughout graduate school, and we would like to hear what research areas and questions interest you most now, as you apply to start graduate school.

Personal Statement (in up to 1,000 words): We strive to build a diverse and inclusive community that strengthens our intellectual and collaborative program. The Personal Statement helps to provide a more holistic sense of who you are, including how your background and experiences influenced your decision and ability to pursue graduate studies. Within this statement, please provide insight into your potential to contribute to a community of inclusion, belonging, and respect where scholars representing diverse backgrounds, perspectives, abilities, and experiences can learn and work productively and positively together.

Additional information to consider including within the Academic and Personal Statement of Purpose are:

  • How your personal, academic, and/or professional experiences demonstrate your ability to be both persistent and resilient especially when navigating challenging circumstances. Consider including examples where you overcame obstacles, showed creativity, or demonstrated initiative.
  • How you engage with others and have facilitated and/or participated in productive teams.
  • How you have experienced or come to understand the barriers faced by others whose experiences and backgrounds may differ from your own.
  • Your service and/or leadership in efforts to advance diversity, inclusion, access, and equity especially by those from backgrounds historically underrepresented and/or marginalized.
  • Additional context around any perceived gaps or weaknesses in your academic record.

Current transcripts for all colleges you have attended must be uploaded into the application. (Note: Official transcripts are not required at time of application). Our Admissions Committee wants to see your full academic background; upload transcripts from all colleges attended even if you did not get a degree unless the courses you took transferred to a subsequent school and are included on that transcript along with the grades. For more information and specific instructions for international applicants, see the Graduate School website.

Three (3) letters of recommendation: The Cornell Graduate School has a website with some great tips regarding letters of recommendation. We encourage you to read them. Note that you are able to request more than three letters. However, we would discourage asking for more than three letters with the goal of obtaining three completed letters; you should be confident that your recommenders will upload a letter, since lack of a requested letter will be noticeable in your application. Please request that your recommenders submit their letters through the on-line system unless there are extenuating circumstances that prevent them from doing so.

Proof of English language competency: All applicants must provide proof of English language proficiency. This is a Graduate School/University requirement; complete information can be found on the Cornell Graduate School website. Applicants who are not exempt from this requirement by virtue of a standing exemption should self-report their scores in the application; these scores can be used for evaluation prior to the official scores being received.  No offer of admission can be made without official scores where they are required.

  • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS tests are required for applicants whose native language is not English. This is a university requirement, and the Graduate School has set minimum scores for each section of the test: Reading – 20; Writing – 20; Listening – 15; Speaking – 22. To be considered for admission, an applicant must receive at least the minimum score on each individual section of the test. Official scores should be sent from ETS to Cornell University, university code #2098 (department code is not required).
  • Those taking the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test must score 7.0 or higher. Scores must be sent electronically (e-delivery) to the Cornell University Graduate Admissions, Caldwell Hall e-download account. E-delivery may also be referred to as an e-TRF by your test center.

Research Area/Faculty of Interest: You are not required to contact faculty as a requirement of admission; students in our program are not admitted directly into faculty labs, but spend the initial part of their first year rotating through faculty labs in order to identify a mentor.  However, applicants are encouraged to indicate a faculty person and/or a specific area of research that they are interested in pursuing. We recognize that your research interests will evolve throughout graduate school, and this is not a commitment to that research area or faculty person. It is intended to give the Admissions Committee more information about what research areas and questions interest you most now, and also what faculty you consider potential mentors and/or faculty you may like to engage with during the admissions process.

Application Review: Your your application will be reviewed by a select group of faculty and graduate students that form the Admissions Committee.  All members of the Admissions Committee are instructed to respect your privacy rights with regard to information disclosed in your application.

Application Fee Waivers:  The Cornell Graduate School will consider requests for fee-waivers for applicants who are experiencing financial hardship and also applicants who have participated in specific pipeline programs.  More information on application fee waivers can be found on the application fee portion of the Graduate School web site.  Please note: the Field of BMCB is not able to issue fee waivers.

Recruitment Events:  Top-ranked applicants being considered for an admissions offer are typically invited to campus to interview. Interviews are an important part of our admissions process, allowing us to interact with you and learn more about you beyond your written application.  Should an invited applicant be unable to attend one of our in-person Recruitment Weekends, they will be invited to interview with faculty via Zoom or Skype.

Diversity and Inclusion

Cornell University and the Graduate School are committed to providing a supportive and inclusive environment for all Cornell students.  The Field of BMCB strongly supports this mission and, as a result, our graduate student community is a vibrant and diverse one. BMCB students come from all areas of the globe and all walks of life. We are committed to the equality of educational opportunity and success for all students. The Field encourages individuals from groups who have been historically underrepresented in STEM to apply and participate in many programs on campus to recruit and retain these students and other diversity students (including first-generation college students).

Students with disabilities are strongly encouraged to apply. The Field of BMCB has established a partnership with the Cornell University Student Disability Services Office. Any student who is invited to our recruitment events and requires special accommodations to participate should contact the GFAs to request necessary arrangements.

Admission Decision Timeline

The BMCB Admissions Committee will meet weekly starting in late November to evaluate completed applications. A select number of applicants will be invited to interview at our on-campus Recruitment events in February. Invitations are extended in December. Those who are unable to attend our Recruitment events (i.e. some international applicants residing outside the U.S.) are offered Zoom or Skype interviews.  Admissions decisions are made by mid-to-late March, once all interviews have taken place.