Recommended Background & Program Admission Procedures

Expected Background

Most PhD students entering the field are assumed to have a background in mathematics, computer science, statistics or related fields. PhD students are expected to have had coursework in: mathematical analysis, algebra, advanced calculus, probability and applied statistics. Students should also have programming skills and experience in data analysis and research. Additionally, courses in measure theory, stochastic processes, functional analysis, numerical analysis and parallel computing all represent both useful background and evidence of your aptitude for research.

Students with significant gaps in their coursework background will be at a disadvantage when applying. However, exceptional students from outside of statistics may be admitted to the PhD program without this background, making up any important deficiencies during the first year. 

International students from countries in which English is not the first language must provide TOEFL scores. Cornell has minimum TOEFL requirements listed on the Graduate School's website. For applicants required to report TOEFL scores, exceptions to these minima are made only in exceptional circumstances.

Admission Procedures

Admission procedures are described on the Graduate School web page. Financial assistance is available on a competitive basis and may be applied for by completing the appropriate item in the online application. In general, the Field of Statistics only admits students for whom we expect to be able to provide financial support.

An application is not complete (and will not be evaluated by the Admissions Committee) until all supporting documents have been received. These documents are:

  • College transcripts (certified copies, or certified translation for transcripts not in English)
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • Statement of purpose; this should include a description of your background, your motivation for pursuing a PhD and any particular research focus that you have. You may also use it to highlight particular qualifications or experience that you have and you may include a CV in this document.
  • Official Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores must be sent from the Educational Testing Service (ETS) to the Graduate School prior to the field's application deadline.
  • Official Test of English as a Foreign Language Exam (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) scores. The English language proficiency requirement may be waived if the applicant meets at least one of these criteria:
    •  is a citizen or permanent resident of the United States, or a citizen of the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand or Canada (except Quebec). Applicants who are citizens of India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Singapore, etc. are not exempt from the requirement.
    • at the time you enroll at Cornell, you will have studied in full-time status for at least two academic years within the last five years in the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, or New Zealand, or with English language instruction in Canada or South Africa. Even if English was the language of instruction at your school, if you did not study in one of these countries you are not exempt from the requirement. You must submit a transcript that shows you attended college in one of the approved locations, and that your academic program was at least two years in length.

Note that the Field of Statistics does not require you to report a GRE subject test. However, strong performance in the Mathematics subject test will be noted.

Further information on the GRE and TOEFL exams is available from ETS: Educational Testing Service, Princeton, New Jersey 08540. For reference, the proper Graduate School code number is 2098; please refer to the GRE Information and Registration Bulletin for the 4 digit department code.