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Application Details

Graduate student working in greenhouse
Graduate student working in greenhouse

The Graduate Field of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology seeks highly motivated applicants with excellent academic credentials and a well-founded sense of purpose. Previous research experience is not essential but is often beneficial.

Review the following sections for more information:

Criteria and requirements for admission

  • Interests, experience, and goals: The application requires an Academic Statement of Purpose describing (within 1000 words) the substantive research questions you are interested in pursuing during your graduate studies and why, and explaining how our program would help you achieve your intellectual and professional goals. Additionally, detail your academic background and any training, research, or work experience you have had that you believe has prepared you for our program (see below). Within your statement, please also identify specific faculty members whose research interests align with your own interests (applicants are encouraged to correspond with faculty of interest prior to applying).
  • Related work and/or research experience: Experience in a work or research environment can be valuable preparation for graduate studies but it is not required. 
  • Prior academic achievements: Applicants should have, or expect to receive soon, a bachelor's degree (or equivalent) with broad training in the biological and physical sciences.  Though some deficiencies can be made up through coursework during the program, applicants are best prepared when they have introductory-level knowledge of biochemistry, calculus, chemistry, genetics, microbiology, organic chemistry, physics, plant biology, microbiology, and statistics. Computer programming may also be beneficial. Course work or experience in plant pathology is desirable but is not required. Transcripts of undergraduate and graduate studies (if applicable) should be submitted with the application. If necessary, an unofficial  transcript may be submitted with the initial application, however, an official transcript will be required prior to matriculation.
  • Personal motivation and potential to contribute to the community: The application requires a separate, Personal Statement. In it, please describe how your personal background and experiences influenced your decision to pursue a graduate degree. Additionally, provide insight on your potential to contribute to a community of inclusion, belonging, and respect where scholars representing diverse backgrounds, perspectives, abilities, and experiences can learn and innovate productively and positively together.
  • Letters of recommendation: Three letters of recommendation from faculty members or employers who can assess the applicant's academic potential for a graduate program are required.
  • Interviews: Prior to acceptance, we will conduct videochat interviews with promising applicants to further assess their interests and qualifications.  Successful applicants will be invited to visit the Ithaca and Geneva campuses to meet in-person with faculty, staff, and students.  For applicants for whom visiting Cornell is impractical, we may conduct additional interviews by phone or videochat.
  • TOEFL/IELTS scores (for international applicants): High proficiency in the English language is essential for admission to our graduate program.  Applicants whose native language is not English are required to take the TOEFL  or IELTS exam. The Graduate School has strict minimum scores for admission. The TOEFL or IELTS exams must be taken no more than two years before the application is submitted.  Scores are sent directly to the Graduate School.  For TOEFL, the institutional code for Cornell University is 2098; the section code for Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology is 30. Students who have studied full-time for two or more years at a college or university in a country in which English is the native language and where English is the language of instruction are exempt.

NOTE: GRE scores are NOT required and will not be considered if submitted.

Fellowships in support of Diversity 

Applicants from a variety of backgrounds or identities historically underrepresented and/or marginalized within graduate education are eligible for consideration for a Fellowship in Support of Diversity. We encourage you to visit the Diversity Fellowship website to see if you are eligible and if so, to check the box on your application. The Personal Statement will be used in evaluating candidates for a fellowship. You may also use the Optional Personal Statement Addendum to submit (within 250-500 words) any additional personal information you would like to have considered as part of the Diversity Fellowship nomination and selection process, but NOT as part of the admissions process. Only the Director of Graduate Studies and the Graduate School Office of Inclusion & Student Engagement will have access to any information submitted through this addendum, and it is completely optional.

Review process

Holistic review of applicants is carried out by a committee of faculty and one or more current graduate students, using a rubric to score academic preparation, research potential, alignment of interests with research programs of one or more faculty, motivation or preference for long-term goals, and potential for contributing to the community. Highly ranked applications are shared with all program faculty. Then, those applicants are interviewed via videochat by small groups of faculty comprising, to the extent possible, faculty the applicant is most interested in speaking with. Interviews are not recorded, but each interview team prepares a report and recommendation. Based on these recommendations and faculty interest, select applicants are invited to the School of Integrative Plant Science's school-wide graduate recruitment event, two days of activities and meetings with faculty and students at both the Ithaca and Geneva campuses. (for applicants for whom visiting Cornell is impractical, we may conduct additional interviews by phone or videochat). Final admissions decisions are made thereafter. Importantly, these decisions are not based solely on qualifications; they also necessarily factor in recruiting objectives of individual faculty and availability of funding. 

Online application and fee

The Graduate School uses an online application system, through which the application form is completed and attachments such as the statement of purpose, transcripts, etc. are uploaded; complete instructions for the application are available on the site.  The system is secure and easy to use, and applications are received immediately. 

There is a fee to apply. Applicants for whom the fee is a financial hardship or who participated in certain pipeline programs may request a fee waiver

Application deadline and admissions timetable

  • The deadline for applications is December 1, for admission the following August. Some students arrange with their advisors to begin research prior to formal matriculation (for example in May or June for field studies over the summer).
  • Applications for Spring admission are considered only at the request of a faculty member on behalf of an applicant.
  • Below is an approximate timetable for the key steps in the application and admissions process:
Date Event
December 1 Applications must be received by this date
December-January Applications are reviewed by a committee of faculty and one or more current graduate students
Early February Highly ranked applicants are interviewed by videochat
Early to mid-February Select applicants visit for the School of Integrative Plant Science graduate recruitment event
Mid-March to early April Offers of admission are made
April 15 Admittees must accept or decline by this date


Adam Bogdanove
Professor and Director of Graduate Studies
Graduate Field of Plant Pathology & Plant-Microbe Biology
Phone: 607-255-7831

Josh Balles
Graduate Field Coordiniator
Graduate Field of Plant Pathology & Plant-Microbe Biology