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:     I am interested in applying to the PhD program. What should I do to prepare an application?

A:    First, you should read papers written by faculty with whom you might like to work to see if your interests align. Carefully review the websites and online materials provided by the program. In your application, describe your experience related to research, statistics, design, etc. Demonstrate your research experience. Describe you interests – possible dissertation research directions. Indicate your goals following the PhD. Request letters of recommendation from people who can speak to your research aptitude, commitment, preparedness, work ethic.

Q:     When is the application due? 

A:     November 1st.

Q:     When does the online application system open? 

A:     August 15th.

Q:     Can I apply for both a Ph.D. and a Masters at the same time? 

A:     No.

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 November for PhD; students start in the Fall semester of the following year.

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:     No, a portfolio is not required for the Ph.D. degree.

Q:     Is there a minimum or maximum length desired for the writing sample? 

A:     No, but scholarly writing sample submissions are preferred (ex: Master’s Thesis; Peer Review Journal Article; Senior Honors Project).

Q:     Should only one sample be submitted or do I need to submit a “portfolio” of research, teaching, and/or professional work relevant to advanced graduate research? 

A:     One writing sample is sufficient

Q:     Is funding provided for the Ph.D. in Human Behavior and Design (HBD)?

A:     D+EA provides four years of funding to Ph.D. students in HBD, as long as students’ progress and performance is satisfactory. This funding could take the form of teaching assistantships, research assistantships, fellowships, or some combination and is typically for the nine-month academic year.

Q:     Is it necessary to have a Master’s degree before applying to the PhD program?

A:    No, it is not necessary to have an MS or MA before beginning the PhD.  The strongest applicants are those who have a foundation in research (e.g., have completed a research thesis (undergrad or graduate), have participated in a lab as a research assistant, have perhaps taken a social science research methods class).

Q:    Must I have a prior design degree to apply to the Ph.D. program in D+EA?

A:    For the PhD in Human Behavior and Design, a background in both design and research is preferred, but students may come from a variety of disciplines.

Q:    Can current D+EA graduate students apply to the Ph.D. program before completing their Master’s degree? 

A:     Yes, HOWEVER, if substantial progress has not been made on their Master’s, then it’s a long shot. Applicants should be told the following two things: 1. Their Ph.D. work will take 4 years to complete, and 2. Lack of substantial progress on their Master’s Thesis will be viewed as a liability.

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 and somewhat preferable; 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 (new scoring system effective November 2011) or a combined score of 1200 (old scoring) but this is not an absolute cutoff. Candidates with strong applications, but scores below this level, 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 GREs be Waived? 

A:     No, the GR’s can't be waived.

Q:     Can GREs be retaken? 

A:     Yes, GREs 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 in advance 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 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:     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. D+EA’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 D+EA’s Graduate Field Assistant at or 607-255-2168.

Ph.D. Program Questions:


Q:    What are the most common careers that Ph.D. students obtain post-graduation?

A:    Our Ph.D. students often find jobs in academia but some choose to pursue jobs in industry (e.g. Apple, Google) or as design researchers/environmental psychologists within large architecture firms.

Q:    IS There any statistical data available on the PhD Program (E.G. Years to completion, Career outcomes, ETC.)? 

A:     Yes, The Graduate School regularly collects and shares information on graduate student experiences and outcomes to support prospective applicants in their decision-making process. For more information please visit:

Q:    Does D+EA offer online classes for the Ph.D. program? 

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

Q:    Is the Ph.D. program STEM certified?

A:     Yes, the Ph.D. program is STEM certified.

Q:     What are the program requirements (courses, exams, dissertation sequence etc.)? 

A:     The first two years are dedicated primarily to course work (in your major field and two minor fields).  At the end of year 2, PhD students complete qualifying exams (“A Exam”).  Arrangements for you’re A-Exam are made with your dissertation committee. A dissertation is required.  Years 3 and 4 focus primarily on research and the completion of the dissertation.  The “B Exam” is the dissertation defense. 

Q:     How long should the Ph.D. program take to complete? 

A:     Four years.

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

A:    Yes, PhD students are expected to be on campus for the 4-year PhD degree. For more information please see: 

Q:     Will Ph.D. students be required to or have the opportunity to teach? 

A:     This depends on what sort of funding is awarded to the doctoral student. In most cases, Ph.D. students will be asked to function as a teaching assistant for at least part of their time in D+EA.

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.

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 transfer credits into Cornell? 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 will make decisions as to what is 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: