Application requirement questions:


Q:     Who in the department can I speak with regarding questions about the Graduate program? 

A:     Contact the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS), Jack Elliott, at or 607-255-9714.

Q:     When is the application due? 

A:     December 1st.

Q:     When does the online application system open? 

A:     August 15th.

Q:    Can I apply for the M.A. & M.S. program at the same time?

A:    No, you must make a choice at the time of application

Q:     If I apply to another Cornell department and do not get in, can I switch my application to DEA?

A:     Yes, the Graduate School can help with this, but you must still adhere to our requirements and deadlines. 

Q:     May I apply in the Fall to start in January? 

A:     No, we only have one admission cycle, applications are due in December for Master’s; students start in the Fall semester.

Q:     To whom do I send my materials to (Rec. Letters, etc.), and where do I send my payment? 

A:    All application materials are submitted online via the Graduate School’s application system (available on the web at: 

Q:     Is a portfolio required? 

A:     A portfolio is required for the MA in Design (both the Interior Design concentration and the Sustainable Design Studies concentration), but not for the MS degree.

Q:    Is funding provided for Master’s degrees in D+EA?

A:    Funding is not provided for the MS or MA degrees.

Q:    Does D+EA have any scholarships I can apply to?

A:    No, D+EA does not offer any scholarships. We encourage you to identify outside scholarships and apply for them.

Q:     On an average, how much of the tuition fee is waived for a student who has a scholarship?

A:    If you have an outside scholarships, the terms vary.  Often, the tuition waiver can be 50%.

Q:     How can I apply for assistantships?

A:    D+EA does not provide assistantships to Master’s students.

Q:     Do current or former D+EA graduate students need to resubmit transcripts, GRE’s and TOEFL/IELTS scores? 

A:     Yes. Note that GRE scores must be less than five years old and TOEFL/IELTS scores must be dated within two years of the application deadline.

Q:     Must recommendation letters come from faculty members?

A:     No. Academic letters of recommendation are valuable; however recommendations should be from people who can best assess the qualities, characteristics, and capabilities of the applicant. 

Q:     What are the Educational Testing Service (ETS) codes for Cornell and for DEA?

A:     Cornell’s institutional test code for ETS is 2098. DEA’s department code is 4499.

Q:     What is the minimum GRE score and what happens if my GRE score is lower?

A:     D+EA recommends a combined verbal/quantitative GRE score of 310 but this is not an absolute cutoff. Candidates with strong applications, but scores below 310, may be considered. You may submit scores to D+EA more than once if you re-take the test. Your scores may not be older than 5 years.  Please plan to take the GRE in time to submit your scores by the application due date. 

Q:     Can GRE’s be Waived? 

A:     No, the GRE’s can't be waived.

Q:     Can GRE’s be retaken? 

A:     Yes GRE’s can be retaken, but scores must be submitted by the application deadline. 

Q:     Can scores for GRE/TOEFL/IELTS tests be submitted AFTER the application deadline?

A:     We strongly encourage you to take the GRE and TOEFL/IELTS tests early enough that your scores will be received by our application due date. We may allow some latitude, however. If your official scores have not arrived by the due date, but your unofficial scores have, we may hold your application if approved by the DGS. Your scores are automatically reported to Cornell by the testing service (ETS) as soon as they are ready, and the Graduate Field Assistant will automatically add them to your application packet.

Q:    Am I required to take the TOEFL? 

A:    According to the Graduate School:

“Applicants whose native language is not English must take the TOEFL and have the official score reported to Cornell from the Educational Testing Service (ETS). Only students who have studied full-time for two or more years at a college or university where English is the language of instruction located in a country where English is the native language are exempt from the TOEFL.” The official link used by the Grad School to determine if a student needs to take the TOEFL is:

Note that if a student has completed a one and a half year graduate program in the U.S. (or other English-speaking country) prior to coming to Cornell, he or she must take the TOEFL. However, if at the time of application, a student has completed 1 ½ years of a 2 year program, but will have completed the two year program by the time of admission to Cornell, then he or she is not required to take the TOEFL.

Q:     What are the minimum required TOEFL scores?

A:     D+EA and the Cornell Graduate School have different minimum requirements. The overall D+EA minimum is 105 (combined score) for the internet-based test (ibT) TOEFL. The graduate school minimum is 77; as described here: The Graduate School has set the following minimums for individual section scores for admissions: Writing: 20, Listening: 15, Reading: 20, Speaking: 22.

Q:    Am I required submit both IELTS and TOEFL scores?

A:     As an international applicant, you must demonstrate proficiency in the English language by taking a TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS (International English Language Testing System) exam. Please see the requirements on the Graduate School website for more information:

Q:    Do you accept IELTS scores and what is the criteria?

A:     The Graduate School requires an overall band score of a 7.0 or higher on the IELTS.

  • When you register for the exam, you may select up to five institutions to which you would like to have your Test Report Form (TRF) mailed. You may also submit a request to your test center to have additional TRFs sent to institutions not originally listed on your registration form.
  • Have IELTS send your Test Report Form (either by postal mail, or electronically) to Cornell University -- Graduate Admissions. Please do not e-mail a scanned copy, or mail a photocopy of your TRF.
  • IELTS scores must be dated within two years of the application deadline.

Q:     Do current or former D+EA graduate students need to resubmit GRE and TOEFL scores? 

A:     Yes, and they need to be less than five years old.

Q:    Must I have a prior design degree to apply to the Master’s program in D+EA?

A:    The answer to this question depends upon the degree and concentration to which you apply. 

  • For the MA in Design, a prior undergraduate studio based degree in design (e.g. interior design, architecture, product design, etc.). For the MA in Design, Sustainable Design Studies concentration, a prior degree in a design-related field is preferred, but not required. 
  • For the MS in Human-Environment Relations, no specific prior degree is required for any of the concentrations. Students often have undergraduate degrees in Psychology, Architecture, or Interior Design; but sometimes in English, Economics, Anthropology or other fields.

Q:     What is the minimum undergraduate GPA that you will accept?

A:     D+EA recommends a GPA of 3.0 (minimum), but this is not an absolute cutoff. 

Q:    How are transcripts submitted?  Are they copies or “official” transcripts?

A:    The online application requires you to upload an unofficial copy of each official transcript from each college or university previously attended. To prepare your transcripts, follow the steps below:

  1. Do not upload transcripts that include a U.S. Social Security Number (SSN). Redact, cross out, or cover your SSN, if applicable, prior to scanning the document.
  2. The online application will not accept or properly display encrypted or password-protected documents. Official electronic transcripts (e-transcripts) must be printed first, then scanned and uploaded.
  3. Scan or save each transcript (and the English translation, if applicable) as a PDF, TIFF, JPEG, or GIF file. Combine multiple pages from the same transcript into one file; the file size for each upload cannot exceed 10MB. 
  4. Ensure each scanned or saved image is clear and easy to read before submitting your application.

Admitted students who accept the admission offer are required to submit an official paper transcript prior to matriculation. This requirement will appear on the “response to offer of admission” form. For more information visit:

Q:    How do I check the status of my application?

A:     It is advised that you periodically check your application on line to see if your application is complete, especially if you are waiting for letters of recommendation to be uploaded. DEA’s Graduate Field Assistant may, as a courtesy, send you a reminder if you have missing information when the committee begins to review applications. If you have questions, please contact DEA’s Graduate Field Assistant at or 607-255-2168.

Master’s Program Questions:

Q:    What are the most common careers that Master students obtain post-graduation?

A:    The career trajectories of our graduates are quite diverse.  Some work as designers or design researchers, as design educators, as ergonomists or environmental psychologists.  Some go on to pursue PhD’s in psychology, architecture, gerontology.

Q:     Does D+EA offer online classes for the Master’s program? 

A:     No, D+EA does not offer online classes for the Master’s program.

Q:    Is the Master’s program STEM certified?

A:    Yes.  Both the MA in Design and the MS in Human Environment Relations are STEM certified.

Q:     What are the program requirements (courses, exams, thesis sequence etc.)? Do I have to have a specific background in order to be considered? 

A:     For information regarding program requirements, please see: 
Q:     How long should the Master’s program take to complete? 

A:     2 years

Q:     Do Master students have to reside on campus during the entire program (residency requirements)? 

A:    Yes, M.A. and M.S. students are expected to be on campus for the duration of the 2-year degree. For more information please see:

Q:    Can I apply for a Master’s and a PhD program at the same time?

A:     No, you must make a choice at the time of application. 

Q:     Will Master students be required to or have the opportunity to teach? 

A:     Unfortunately, we are unable to provide Teaching Assistantships (TA’s) to our M.A. and M.S. students. Occasionally, our students are able to find TA positions in other departments.

Q:     Which professors are associated with each of the concentration areas?  Does this matter when I’m choosing my thesis committee chair?

A:     Note that for the MA in Design, there are 4 concentrations:

  1. Design for Interaction
  2. Emerging Technology for Design
  3. Design + Health
  4. Sustainable Design Studies

For the MS in Human-Environment Relations, there are 5 concentrations:

  1. Environmental Psychology and Human Factors
  2. Facility Planning and Management
  3. Sustainable Design Studies
  4. Emerging Technology for Design
  5. Design + Health

To be your “chair” (advisor) the faculty member must be a member of the DEA graduate field AND be among the faculty specified for your concentration.  For this information, please see:

Q:     Can professors in design, architecture, or other related fields without a Ph.D. co-chair or serve as a minor committee member? 

A:     Yes.  As long as the faculty member is a member of the graduate field you would like to minor in.

Q:    If I am admitted, but find that I need to defer my admission, do you allow deferments, and if so, for how long?

A:     Yes, we allow deferments up to one year, but this must be decided when responding to the department’s offer.  To request a deferral, by the "reply by" date (typically April 15) an applicant must first accept the offer of admission and then request (and provide a reason for) the deferral.  Applicants cannot defer admission after declining our offer; instead the applicant must re-apply.

Q:     Can I waive a class required for the DEA MS or MA at Cornell if I have already taken a very similar class elsewhere? If so, what are the stipulations for doing so?

A:     Yes, but this is on a case-by-case basis, and the D+EA Graduate Faculty (and the faculty member who teaches the required course) will make decisions as to what waivers are allowed or not allowed. Typically, you will need to provide a syllabus for your prior course(s).

Q:    Should I schedule a campus visit, and if so, how do I go about it?

A:     If you would like to schedule a visit, you should first make an appointment with D+EA’s DGS. If you would like to meet with other D+EA Faculty, you could also schedule meetings with them while you are on campus. Many students also enjoy taking a walking tour of campus while they are here:    Other useful links include the campus map and the Visit Ithaca web site: