Ph.D. Admissions

Admission to the PAM Ph.D. program is based on academic merit, research potential, and fit with the topical strengths of the PAM graduate field. The PAM Admissions Committee, comprised of a rotating set of three faculty members that span different disciplines and subfields, takes a holistic approach to graduate admissions - one that considers academic records and test scores as only one part of a broader application that includes letters of recommendation, writing samples, personal accomplishments, and prior research and professional experiences. It helps if you have a background in public policy or related social science disciplines such as economics, political science, and sociology as well as research methods. Students are only admitted to start in the Fall term. and applications are due by January 15th each year. We typically matriculate 5-6 students per cohort, allowing for a personalized and close-knit graduate experience. 

To apply, please visit the Graduate School’s application portal

Application Requirements

Applicants to all Ph.D. programs at Cornell apply online through the Graduate School, which provides detailed information regarding the online application applicable to all graduate fields. For Fall admission, the application file must be completed by January 15th. We cannot review incomplete files. 

Documents required for the completion of your application file are: 

  1. Completed online application form. Use 'Policy Analysis and Management' as the proposed field of study. You may also list a 2nd choice field, to which your application will be forwarded if you are not accepted into the PAM Ph.D. program.

  2. Statement of Purpose. Use your statement of purpose to describe why you are interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in PAM. Effective statements typically include information about prior academic preparation, research experiences and skills, and personal and professional accomplishments. They also typically discuss one’s areas of research interest and fit with areas of expertise in PAM. Please see here for a more detailed list of tips for preparing your Statement of Purpose.

  3. Transcripts. Scan all transcripts and save as a single pdf file, then upload into the online application. If there are any aspects of your transcripts that you wish to address, please feel free to do so in your personal statements or letters of recommendation.

  4. Letters of Recommendation. Two letters of recommendation are required. Recommenders need to upload their letters into the online application. 

  5. Writing Sample. A writing sample illustrative of your independent research. If the writing sample is co-authored, your specific contributions should be clarified.  

  6. GRE scores. There are no minimum GRE scores required for consideration in PAM. The admissions committee considers GRE scores as only one part of a holistic consideration of an applicant’s complete record that includes all of the elements above. 

  7. $105 Application Fee. Cornell offers fee waivers in cases of financial hardship and for those involved in academic pipeline programs for underrepresented scholars.

  8. If you are a foreign applicant, Cornell also requires proof of English proficiency, defined as:  
    • TOEFL scores - minimum of 105 total required (Speaking 22; Reading 20; Listening 15; Writing 20)

    • IELTS - overall band score of a 7.0 or higher on the IELTS

    • A degree from a college or university in a country where English is both the language of instruction and the native     language, or

    • Two or more years of full-time study where English is both the language of instruction and the native language.

These requirements are set by the Graduate School, not PAM. Please see here for more information about language proficiency requirements. 

Please note: 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.

Admissions Timeline 

The application file must be completed by January 15th for Fall admission. We cannot review incomplete files. After the January 15th deadline, a committee of three PAM faculty members reviews all applications, with input from additional field members. In PAM, all students are admitted to the program collectively and fully funded - meaning individual faculty members are not required to support a specific student for them to be admitted. 

Offers of admission are typically made in mid-February each year, followed by an on-campus “Visit Day” in late March that is funded by the program. During the Visit Day, students participate in an orientation to the program, individual meetings with faculty, campus and community tours, and informal opportunities to connect with current students and learn about the program, Cornell, and Ithaca. 

Admissions decisions are due on April 15th. Cornell University, like most prominent American graduate schools, is a member of the Council of Graduate Schools in the United States. As a member of this group, Cornell may not consider an acceptance (of admission and/or support) from a student to be binding until after April 15th. 

Funding Packages

Students admitted to the PAM Ph.D. program are guaranteed funding for 5 years, which includes a stipend, tuition, and health insurance. The form of that funding can include a combination of fellowships, research assistantships, and teaching assistantships. Assistantships require a work commitment of 15 hours per week. These details are spelled out in each student’s offer of admission. Although not guaranteed, funding is also typically available each summer and beyond the 5th year. Some students are also admitted with funding that they secure from foundation and government sources.  We have a robust set of opportunities for internal and external fellowships, described in more detail here, based on academic merit and in support of diversity. All financial support is conditional on maintaining good academic standing.

Connections to Economics and Sociology

The PAM Graduate Field maintains close connections with the graduate fields of Economics and Sociology. Students admitted to the PAM Ph.D. program often take core coursework in the 1st year course sequences of those disciplines (or other disciplines, by petition) and many seminars, courses, and other events are cosponsored between PAM and these fields. 

Additionally, it can be possible for students admitted to the Economics or Sociology Ph.D. programs to be funded by PAM, if their interests are in the discipline with a policy focus. This arrangement makes it possible for the student to work with PAM faculty as teaching assistants or research assistants, while completing the academic requirements of their degree granting program. 


For further information please contact:

PAM Graduate Field Office
2301 MVR Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, New York 14853