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FAQs by prospective graduate students

Is it necessary to be accepted by a faculty member in his or her lab?

Students apply to the Field of Biological and Environmental Engineering and specify in the application the faculty member(s) they would like to work with.  Applicants are encouraged to contact the  faculty prior to submitting their application.

Is funding included in all offers?

No.  We prefer to have identified support for the full degree program.

Is there funding for international students?

Yes, international students accepted into our program may also be offered full funding. Some funding sources, however, may only be used for U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

Do I need to take the Graduate Record Exams (GREs)?

All PhD, MS and MPS applicants must take the GREs. This test is the only standard metric we have for comparing all applicants.  The required minimum GRE scores are: Analytical 3, Quantitative 154, and Verbal 140.  GRE subject tests are not required.  MEng applicants who received their undergraduate degree at Cornell do not have to take the GREs.  All other MEng applicant must take the GREs.

Do I need to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)?

All applicants whose native language is not English must take the TOEFL. Only 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 from the TOEFL. The Graduate School has set strict minimum scores for admission. Applicants must meet or exceed the minimum for each of the categories on the internet-based test (iBT):

Writing: 20
Listening: 15
Reading: 20
Speaking: 22

The Graduate School is now accepting IELTS scores. Applicants must receive an overall band score of 7.0 or higher.

Can I apply to be admitted for the Spring semester instead of in August?

Yes, but the majority of our admissions—and funding—follow an annual cycle, with applications due in early December for students to begin their studies in August. The availability of funding at other times of the year is more constrained. However, beginning studies in the spring or summer is possible and decided on a case by case basis.

Can I send unofficial test scores or transcripts to make the application deadline?

Yes, we will accept unofficial test scores or transcripts to ensure they arrive by the application deadline. Please contact the Graduate Field Assistant prior to sending unofficial documents. If admitted to the program, students must send official test score reports and transcripts before we finalize the acceptance offer.

The application fee for Cornell University is $105. What if I cannot afford this fee?

In cases of extreme financial need, the Graduate School will consider a request for a fee waiver. A letter of request for a waiver and documentation of need, such as a letter from a college financial aid office, must be sent to the Graduate School. E-mail must be sent to Janine Brace at