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The annual admissions cycle starts when students submit an application by the December 1st deadline. Offers of admission and funding decisions are made in February and March, with student acceptances of offers due by April 15. Most students enter the program in the following Fall semester, though under rare circumstances may arrange a deferred admission for the Spring or subsequent Fall semester.
Masters or Ph.D. degree: Virtually all students enter directly into the Ph.D. program. While we have a Masters degree on the books, we very rarely admit Masters students through external applications. If a Masters program is better for you, then we recommend looking into one of the other graduate fields at Cornell with long established Masters programs, such as the Field of Natural Resources & the Environment.
Students are initially admitted to work with one or two faculty advisors, though some later switch advisors as their interests or research themes change. Admission decisions are made by a faculty admissions committee, but it is important for prospective students to identify and establish a connection with potential advisors prior to applying. It is wise to contact faculty whose work interests you, explaining your interests and background and inquiring whether they are actively seeking new students and might have an interest in supervising you. Admission to our program is highly competitive, as we typically admit fewer than 10% of applicants.
Students are accepted from a range of undergraduate majors from the natural sciences, physical sciences, mathematics and humanities. Backgrounds of our students are correspondingly varied: some enter the program directly following their undergraduate degree, others with a Masters degree or other post-undergraduate experience in research, consulting, the Peace Corps, Teach for America, etc.
If you have questions about the application process, contact the Graduate Field Assistant, Patty Jordan. If you have questions about the graduate program as a whole, contact our faculty Director of Graduate Studies, Alex Flecker.
How to Apply
There is a single application deadline each year on December 1.
Identify a Faculty Sponsor
The vast majority of successful applicants to the Field of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology have identified a potential faculty advisor professor long before applications are due and enter the program with the intent of working in the professor’s lab. Several months before applications are due, identify one or more faculty members with whom you are interested in working and send them an email initiating a dialogue regarding your interests and background. Not all faculty will be accepting students in a given admissions cycle. For suggestions on how to reach out to potential advisors, please see our tips for contacting advisors as well as our lists of Graduate Field Faculty and Faculty Considering Grad Students.
Cornell Graduate School Application
Students who wish to apply for graduate study at Cornell must do so using the Cornell Graduate School online application. The deadline to submit the application and all supporting material, including letters of recommendation is December 1.
Application Fee Waiver
We encourage applicants for whom the application fee is a financial hardship or who participated in certain pipeline programs to request a fee waiver.
Statement of Purpose
Please submit a combined Academic and Personal Statement of Purpose 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. This Statement of Purpose should provide the admissions committee with a sense of you as a whole person, and provide insight into your potential to contribute positively to a diverse and inclusive community. General suggestions are available on the Cornell Graduate Student Admissions website.
We request that you use headings for the following four sections for the Statement of Purpose:
(1) Personal background, experience, and motivation (400-word limit): Introduce yourself, what are your personal motivations to come to graduate school, your short and long-term professional goals, and how did you get here? Please describe how your background and experiences influenced your decision to pursue a graduate degree.
(2) Academic background and preparation (400 words): Describe your academic training, skills, research experience, and accomplishments relevant to your future graduate work. You may also provide the context around any perceived gaps or weaknesses in your academic record.
(3) Future research (400 words): What research questions would you like to explore as a graduate student? This is in no way binding - it is only intended to give us an indication of where your research interests and approaches are headed. If you have written a proposal for future research (e.g., NSF predoctoral fellowship), those ideas should be included here.
4) Importance of community, diversity, and inclusion (400 words): We strive to build a diverse and inclusive community that strengthens our intellectual and collaborative department. 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.
Within sections 1 and 4 of the Statement of Purpose, you may also include relevant information on any of the following:
- How your personal, academic, and/or professional experiences demonstrate your ability to be both persistent and resilient especially when navigating challenging circumstances.
- 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.
If relevant, how your research interests focus on issues related to diversity, inclusion, access, inequality, and/or equity.
Please upload unofficial copies of your transcript(s) from each college or university previously attended. Please include an English translation of your transcript(s), if applicable. Unofficial copies are all that is required at this stage in the application process. For more information, go to the Graduate School Transcript Requirements page.
Letters of Recommendation
Three letters of recommendation must be submitted from people who can comment on your academic aptitude and research abilities. Appropriate letter writers include faculty advisors, professors from whom you have taken courses, professors or employment supervisors with whom you have conducted research. You will indicate who the letter writers are and their contact information when you complete the application. They will be contacted automatically and provided with instructions on how to submit their recommendation letter online. Letters of recommendation are due December 1. For more useful information, see the Graduate School website.
|August - October||Contact potential advisors|
|October - November||Line up application, request fee waiver|
|December 1||Application deadline|
|December - January||Application reviews|
|February - March||Admissions offers|
|April 15||Offer acceptance deadline|