Doctoral Admissions - Frequently Asked Questions


Please note, we have made a big change for Fall 2016 Admissions! We no longer require mailed, hard versions of transcripts or test scores at the time of application. Do not mail anything to the admissions office. If you are accepted to a program, you will be given instructions to then mail your materials.

When is the application deadline for fall admission?

Early deadline, noon (12 p.m.) EST December 3: If you submit your application and pay the required fee by noon (12 p.m.) EST December 3, the application fee is $75 for one program and $50 for each additional program. At 12:01 p.m. EST on December 3, the application fee increases to $125 for one program and $75 for each additional program. The early deadline does not imply an early decision. You may continue to edit your application until the final deadline of December 15.

Final deadline, noon (12 p.m.) EST December 15: If you submit your application between 12:01 p.m. on December 3 and noon (12 p.m.) EST on December 15, the application fee increases to $125 for one program and $75 for each additional program. No applications will be accepted after the final deadline.

All letters of recommendation are due December 15.

All official GRE and TOEFL score reports are to be uploaded December 15. We no longer need hard, mailed copies of the GRE or TOEFL at time of application. It is strongly suggested that you plan to take all required tests before December. Scores from tests taken in December may not be uploaded in time for the review process. Scores from tests taken in January or later will not be considered.

We understand ETS may have already sent your score, this is fine.

Are there additional financial aid forms to complete?


I have my User ID and Password, but I cannot access the online application. What is the problem?

If your browser accepts cookies and you are not behind a firewall, then you should be able to login successfully. Also, please make sure you are using the same website to login that you used to register. If you continue to have problems, send email to applygrad [atsymbol]

What if all of my supporting documents do not arrive by the deadlines?

Any documents not uploaded by the deadline may not be considered in the review of your application. It is your responsibility to make certain that your application is complete and that the required materials are uploaded by the above stated deadlines. You may use your User ID and Password to check your submitted application to make certain that it is complete.

Can I make changes to my online application after it has been submitted?

You may return and make changes to your submitted application until the final deadline, December 15. No changes will be allowed after this date.

Can I apply to a Ph.D. program with only an undergraduate degree?

Yes. You do not need a master's degree to apply to a Ph.D. program.

Can I transfer into a Ph.D. program from another college/university?

You may not simply transfer to a program. You must submit an application and be accepted into the program.

If I applied last year and was not admitted, can I reapply this year?

Yes, as long as it is before December 15. However, all application materials must be re-uploaded online. This includes the resume, statement of purpose, test scores, transcripts, letters of recommendation, and the application fee.

Is there spring admission?


How long does it take to complete a Ph.D. program?

About 5-6 years.

Is it possible to work on a Ph.D. degree part time?

Most of our programs require that you be here full time.

Is it possible to visit the campus and the School of Computer Science?

We ask that you wait until you have been admitted to a program before you visit. If admitted, you will be notified in late January or early February and invited to attend our Open House. We then make all travel and hotel reservations, as well as schedule appointments with faculty members and graduate students. If you are going to be in the Pittsburgh area at any time, you are welcome to stop by the School of Computer Science. However, we will not be able to make any appointments for you at that time.

When are the open houses for admitted Ph.D. students in the School of Computer Science?

To be announced.

Should I contact faculty members directly?

You should feel free to contact professors with very specific questions about their research. However, we do request that you not ask to be accepted by a particular faculty member as a student, since under our admissions system individual faculty members do not make admissions decisions. Selection is by decision of the Admissions Committee, and students are not matched with an advisor until the beginning of the fall semester — after having an opportunity to attend project presentations by all faculty. You may obtain email addresses for anyone in the School of Computer Science (SCS) in our directory

Will I be considered for financial support if I am admitted?

Yes. PhD students will receive financial support (tuition, fees, monthly stipend) from a variety of sources, including CMU research assistantships, outside fellowships, and government grants (e.g. NSF or other government institutions). Students are encouraged to apply for outside funding and fellowships; research assistantships are available for students without their own funding.


Where do I look for more detailed information on each of the Ph.D. programs?

Please see Doctoral Programs page.

Is the PhD program in Computer Science a part of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering?

No. The Ph.D. program in Computer Science is in the Computer Science Department, not the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. They are two entirely separate programs with different application forms and procedures. If you wish to apply for a PhD program in Computer Science, please use the SCS Graduate Online Application.

How do I apply to either the doctoral track in Algorithms, Combinatorics and Optimization (ACO) or in Pure and Applied Logic (PAL)?

If you apply through SCS, you must submit an application to the Ph.D. program in Computer Science. You should state in the first paragraph of your Statement of Purpose that you are interested in either ACO or PAL. If admitted, you will be allowed to choose that program during your first year.

Once I begin a Ph.D. program in SCS, is it possible to change to another program?

The School allows you to transfer from one program to another after your first year of enrollment, subject to the transfer policy adopted by each program.

If I am admitted to a program, can I defer admission?

This policy may vary from program to program. After you are admitted, please contact your program coordinator.

Biographical Information

How do I obtain an I-20 form?

Please refer to the Office of International Education page. This page contains a wealth of information for foreign students accepted to CMU.

I do not currently have a visa, but will need to apply for one. What do I select under Residency Status?

Select the one that will most closely match your status when you arrive on campus.

What should I give as my current address?

Use the address where you will be available to receive mail through April. You may enter a permanent address if it differs from your current address. Do NOT enter a PO Box. The acceptance packets are sent by express mail (e.g. FedEx, UPS), and cannot be delivered to a PO Box address.

What do I do if my email address or current address changes before the end of the semester?

You may change your current address, email address and password in your submitted application until the final deadline. If there is any change after this date, please send email to applygrad [atsymbol], and the coordinator will make the necessary updates.

Test Scores

We no longer require a hard copy, mailed version of the GRE or TOEFL score, unless you are accepted.

What are the GRE and TOEFL institution and department codes?

Please note that you do not need to send these unless you are admitted.

GRE: Institution code, 2074; Department code, 0402
TOEFL: Institution code, 4256; Department code, 78

Am I required to submit a TOEFL score?

If your native language is not English, then you must upload a TOEFL. If you are currently working on or have received a bachelors degree and/or a masters degree in the US and your native language is not English, the TOEFL is still required, but you may upload a copy of a previous TOEFL report even if it is more than two years old.

What is the recommended TOEFL score?

A successful applicant will normally have a total iBT score of at least 100.

Do you accept IELTS?

We prefer that you take the TOEFL, but we will accept the IELTS. Your official score report should uploaded to your application.

A TOEFL score of 100 is equivalent to an IELTS score of 7.

My undergraduate degree is from a foreign institution. However, I have received a masters degree from an institution in the US. Do I still need to submit a TOEFL score?

Yes, the TOEFL is still required. You have the option to submit a copy of a previous TOEFL report, even if it is more than two years old.

I plan to take the GRE in either November or December. However, the score will not be reported until after the final deadline. What should I do?

We suggest that you plan to take all required tests before December. Since the score report for December tests will not arrive until January and our Admissions Committees usually start their review process in early January, it may cause a delay in the review of your application.

What scores should I enter if I have taken the GRE test more than once?

Please enter the scores from your most recent test. All scores will appear on the official score report for the committee to review.

What if I have taken the GMAT?

Only the Societal Computing program will accept the GMAT. If you are applying to Societal Computing, please enter the date that you took the GMAT in the box provided for the GRE test date. Upload your GMAT test scores in the GRE spot.


I am in a five year program and will be awarded a masters degree. Do I enter this in the Undergraduate or Graduate section of Colleges/Universities?

This information should be entered in both sections.

What format do I use to enter my GPA and College/University Point System?

Please enter your GPA exactly as given by your College/University, e.g. 3.5, 4.9, 9.6, etc. In the box to right indicate the Point System that your College/University uses, e.g. 4.0, 5.0, 10.0, etc.

How many transcripts should I send?

No paper copies are necessary at the time you apply. You only need to upload a pdf transcript from each college or university attended, whether or not you received a degree. If you upload a transcript from a foreign country, you must include an English translation. Do NOT upload copies of awards and certificates with the transcript. Please note, this must be a copy of an official transcript from the university. (Uploading a personally made pdf of your courses and grades will NOT be accepted.) The Upload button for the transcript will appear once you have saved the College/University information.

What if my fall semester grades are not on my transcript by the final deadline?

We do not require that you upload a copy of your fall semester grades. If you are admitted, you will be asked to mail us official updated transcripts.

Where do I mail my transcripts?

You do not mail any paper transcripts. If you are accepted, you will be asked to mail your transcripts. Directions will be given at that time.

Resume and Statement

If I am applying to two programs, can I submit a different Statement of Purpose for each program?

Yes. However, if you are submitting different statements, please submit them as one file.

I have already uploaded my Resume/Statement of Purpose, but now I have made revisions and would like to submit the new version. What should I do?

You can simply upload the new Resume/Statement of Purpose, even if your application has been submitted. It will override the original one. However, you may not make any changes to your application after the December 15 deadline.


If I submit an online application, can my recommenders use the paper recommendation form?

No. Recommenders must submit their letters online. We no longer accept any paper recommendation forms.

What should I do if the deadline is approaching or has passed and one or more of my recommenders has not submitted their recommendation?

You may send reminder email to a recommender from your submitted application. It is your responsibility to make certain that the letters are submitted by the deadline of December 15. Any letters not received by the deadline may not be considered.

What if I want to submit more than three letters of recommendation?

Three letters of recommendation are required. However, space is provided for you to submit up to five. At least two should be from faculty or recent employers. Recommenders should know you relatively well and be able to evaluate the quality of your previous work.

Who should I ask to write letters of recommendation for me?

The admissions committee wants to know about your ability to do independent research. You should select letter writers who can best speak to that point. Professors who interacted with you extensively in smaller classes are also a good choice. Employers are sometimes appropriate, but letters that are simply character references will not provide good support for your application.

Supplemental Information

I have a paper that has not been submitted for publication or was not accepted for publication, but I would still like for the committee to consider it in my application. Should I list it here?

Yes. However, published papers are viewed more favorably in the admissions process.

I have just received notice that a paper listed on my application has been accepted for publication. How can I add this information?

Please update this information yourself. The supplemental section will still be available after the deadline.

Application Fee

How much is the application fee?

The application fee is $75 for one program and $50 for each additional program, if you submit your application by noon (12 p.m.) EST December 3. Between 12:01 p.m. EST on December 3 and noon (12 p.m.) EST on December 15 the application fee increases to $125 for one program and $75 for each additional program.

What if I cannot afford to pay the application fee?

We expect all applicants to submit the application fee. However, if you are living in the US and feel that you are financially unable to pay, then you should obtain a letter from your Financial Aid Office explaining your inability to pay and their support of a waiver. Upon receipt of this letter, your fee will be waived.

Can I pay the application fee by credit card?

You may pay the fee by credit card or by check. Instructions will be given when you submit your online application. If you do not want to pay by credit card with the online application, you may pay by check or money order drawn on a U.S. bank and made payable to Carnegie Mellon University. If you are paying by check, please contact applyweb [atsymbol] for instructions on where to send. CASH is not acceptable.

Check Application

How and when will I be notified if I am admitted?

Our programs make their decisions at various times during January and February. You will be notified directly by each program that you applied to, as to whether or not you have been admitted.  We realize that waiting is very difficult. However, we request that you do not call our offices to inquire about the status of your application. If you have been admitted, you will be notified and asked to submit your hard copy, official transcripts and test scores via mail.

How do I track the status of my application?

Please do NOT send email to ask the status of your application. Use your User ID and password to access the submitted online application form. Receipt of the required uploaded documents (score reports, transcripts, and letters of recommendation) will be indicated in the corresponding section. Please allow two to three weeks past the deadline for all documents to be recorded, it does take time to process each application. Our offices are closed during the Winter Holiday Break (Dec. 20 - Jan. 6) which may further delay processing.