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Frequently Asked Questions

MS/PhD or Master of Professional Studies (MPS)?
Deciding on an MS/PhD Graduate Field
Preparing your Application
Submitting your application
Review Process

MS/PhD or Master of Professional Studies (MPS) - which is right for you?

  • The Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Agriculture and Life Sciences degree is a one-year, course-based master's degree, ideal for individuals who are interested in in-depth study of the issues and advancements in plant and soil sciences. Learn more about the program description and MPS specializations.
  • MS/PhD degrees typically take 2-5 years and involve a combination of coursework and original research. A written thesis based on original research is an important element of MS/PhD degree programs.

Deciding on an MS/PhD Graduate Field

What is a graduate field?

At Cornell, graduate study leading to an Masters or Science (MS) or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is organized using a field structure.  Fields are composed of faculty members from a number of departments or sections (in the case of SIPS) who come together around a shared intellectual interest, and may draw from different campuses or colleges.  Graduate students are admitted to fields of study.  Within each field, they select major and minor subjects, which are research interests or concentrations.

Fields span departments and even disciplines.  It’s possible for a student in the field of economics to include faculty on his or special committee from industrial labor and economics, civil and environmental engineering, and sociology along with the more traditional economics and management.

What are the graduate fields in the School of Integrative Plant Science?

The five graduate fields in SIPS are listed below. Read more about the general distinctions among these fields

  • Horticulture
  • Plant Biology
  • Plant Breeding & Genetics
  • Plant Pathology & Plant Microbe Biology
  • Soil & Crop Sciences

I have a specific research interest within the plant sciences - to which Graduate Field should I apply?

For more detailed descriptions of the scope of research encompassed by each of the five fields go to the following links:

I am interested in working with a specific faculty member – to which field should I apply?

Go to the complete list of SIPS faculty and use the search box to find the person you are interested in. The short profiles list the Graduate Fields of which they are a member.  Note that many faculty are members of more than one field.

Should I contact individual faculty before applying?

Correspondence is welcomed from potential applicants who have a well-informed interest. Be sure to briefly describe your experience and your interests and how they relate to the research program of the faculty you contact. Inquire about the recruiting goals of those faculty for the coming year. Faculty input about individual applicants is extremely important to the decisions of our admissions committee.

Do I need a M.S. to apply to the Ph.D. program?

No. Also, admitted M.S. students can later petition to change to the Ph.D. program, and vice-versa

Preparing your application

How can I apply?

You can fill out your application online.

Can I pay someone to help?

Cornell University expects all applicants to complete their application materials without the use of paid agents, credentials services, or other paid professional assistance.  The use of such services violates University policy, and may lead to the rejection of application materials, the revocation of an admissions offer, cancellation of admission, or involuntary withdrawal from the University.

Do I need to send multiple copies of my transcript or any other document?

No, all necessary documents are submitted on-line and attached to the application as pdf documents (transcripts, CV, etc.).  Unofficial test scores or transcripts are accepted in order to ensure they arrive by the application deadline. Please contact the Graduate Field Assistant prior to sending unofficial documents. Students who are subsequently admitted and accept the offer of admission will be required to submit an official paper transcript before the acceptance offer can be finalized.

Is it sufficient for my recommenders to simply return the recommendation form without a letter?

No.  All recommenders must answer the questions on-line and submit their letter of recommendation on-line directly through the on-line application system. They will receive an automated email directly from Cornell.

Will you accept my CV or any other supporting documents you don't require but might help my application?

Yes, we will be glad to accept your CV. However, this and any other supporting documents must be submitted and attached to your on-line application, provided they are applicable.

Is the TOEFL score required?

TOEFL scores are a requirement by the Graduate School and the field for all international students. Please check the TOEFL Guidelines for clarification.

Do I need to take the GRE's?

Requirement varies with the graduate field - some require GRE's and others do not. Inquire with the Graduate Field Assistant (GFA) for your Field of interest to see if you need to take the GRE.

What are the institution codes?

TOEFL - Cornell University = 2098
GRE - Cornell University = 2098

Is my current degree equivalent to a Bachelor of Science degree?

If you are an international student, check here: Degree Equivalences

Submitting your application

When is the application deadline?

Your application needs to be completed online with supporting documentation on or before December 1 for Fall admission.  In some cases, Spring admission may be possible. Contact the Fields for more information

I don't think I can afford the application fee, what can be done?

Applicants with extreme financial need may request an application fee waiver. Applicants may request a fee waiver for the online application by contacting the Graduate school and providing documentation of financial need, such as an email from a financial aid counselor. You will be notified by the graduate school via email that your application waiver has been approved. If you go into the system and still can't complete your application without paying, wait another few days and try again before contacting the field. However, don't wait more than a couple of weeks to complete your application or the fee waiver will expire.

Application time line for Fall admissions:

The dates given here are approximate and will not be exactly the same each year.

December 1 The field assistant will wait for a week after the deadline to begin reviewing applications and if any supporting documents are missing, you will be notified via email to complete your application. If however the bulk of your application has not been received on or about the deadline, your application may be rejected
Mid-January to early February Applications reviewed. In some cases there may be phone interviews
Late February – early March Select applicants visit the Ithaca and Geneva campuses
Mid-March Notification of acceptance and offers of financial support
April 15 applicants accept or reject offers
Mid-August accepted students arrive on campus for orientation and start of the fall semester

Review process

What do faculty look for in my application?

Many criteria are considered when evaluating a student for acceptance. A strong background in life sciences is important; as evidenced by grades, coursework, and research projects undertaken. A high motivation for graduate study is essential. We look carefully at the student's statement of purpose and experiences related to their areas of interest for graduate study; the more in-depth the experiences, the better. Applications from non-traditional students are welcome as are applications from students coming directly from their undergraduate degrees. Letters of recommendation are also extremely important. We are interested in getting all the information we can about the students' motivation and aptitude for graduate research.

How important are my test scores?

The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is required but is just one of many criteria we use in ranking applications. For all non-native English speaking students, the TOEFL exam is also required and official scores must be submitted directly to the Graduate School by the Educational Testing Services (ETS). The Graduate School has strict minimum scores for admission

More questions?

If you find all your questions haven't been answered yet, please feel free to contact the graduate field assistants using the email addresses listed in the right side bar at the top of the page.