Department of Astronomy Center for Radiophysics & Space Research

How To Apply

Interested in joining our graduate program?

Outlined below is information specific to applications to the Astronomy and Space Sciences graduate program.

Further information about how to apply Cornell's Graduate School can be found at the Graduate School webpage.


What We Look For

  • a Bachelor's degree (or international equivalent) from an academic institution of recognized standing.
  • adequate preparation for graduate study in astronomy, astrophysics, physics or planetary science as evident in an academic transcript of undergraduate courses
  • fluent command of the English language. Foreign students for whom English is a second language should submit scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). The Graduate School has specific criteria that Graduate Students are expected to meet.
  • evidence of promise in advanced study and research.
  • three strong letters of recommendation, at least two from researchers/faculty in a position to write. about your fitness for graduate work in astronomy and space sciences.
  • both the Graduate Record Exam and the GRE Physics Subject Test results are required for all applicants.
  • students of any race, color, sex, religion, sexual orientation, nationality or ethnic origin.

Transfer Students 

A student who has begun graduate study at another university will only be admitted under unusual circumstances. Admission to the program at an advanced level is possible only if a research position is available in the appropriate research group. Before submitting a formal application, a student with advanced preparation should contact the professor or research group with which he or she would like to work and determine that a research position is likely to be available.

Application Process

All application materials must be received by Cornell no later than December 15. All supporting documents, including academic transcripts, test scores, and letters of recommendation, must be received by this date. It is preferred that you submit all items online. Please do not submit a document more than once. If it has been submitted online, do not send another copy in the mail.

The following must be completed when applying:

Grad School Application

Complete the Cornell Graduate School Application on-line. In the section on “Academic Information” indicate that your proposed field is “Astronomy and Space Sciences.” You do not need to enter a potential major subject area/concentration at this point. As described in the Application Guidelines, the Graduate School also asks you to submit a Statement of Purpose, transcripts, and three letters of recommendation. Follow the instructions specific to the astronomy and space sciences program below for these application materials. The application fee is $80.

Letters of Recommendation

Select with care the three people you ask to write letters of recommendation in support of your application. Preferably two should be from faculty or academic researchers who are well acquainted with your preparation and fitness for graduate research in our program. These letters should be submitted online.  

Statement of Purpose

Write a Statement of Purpose. Your statement should include a description of any previous research or teaching experience, indicating the nature of the work, the institution where the work was performed, and the name and title of the person directing it. Also indicate any interest you have in particular areas of astronomy and space sciences, and your professional aims after you receive your Ph.D.


Please scan and upload one PDF file, including all of  your transcripts, into the online application. Your transcript(s) should be the official one issued to you by your university and then scanned to make a PDF. It must be legible and provide a course title eg “Phys 4310 Advanced Mechanics“. Please do not send screen shots from an online database.  If you accept an offer of admission, you will be required to submit an official paper transcript prior to matriculation.


Take the Graduate Record Exam AND the GRE Physics Subject test. While we do not have specific minimum GRE scores we look for, performance in the general and subject GRE exams is used as an indicator of suitability for our program.

 Ensure that your scores are officially reported by the Educational Testing Service to the Cornell Graduate School (Institution Code #2098). Scores are due by the December 15 application deadline. For applicants that have taken tests in November, please also email a copy of your unofficial score report to as soon as you receive it. All official scores must be received by the first of January. Please do not wait until December to take these exams.

English Language Proficiency Requirements

The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is required for applicants whose native language is not English. Scores must be officially reported by the Educational Testing Service to the Cornell Graduate School (Institution Code #2098, Department Code #76). Our program requires a TOEFL minimum score of 600 paper-based or 250 computer-based. Scores must arrive by the December 15 deadline. An applicant will automatically be granted a TOEFL exemption if he or she studied for two or more years (in the last five years) in a country where the primary language is English and the instruction was in English.  The Cornell Graduate School site has further information on Cornell's English Language Proficiency Requirements.

In addition, international students offered admission as a teaching assistant will also be expected to meet the oral proficiency outlines from ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) at the “Intermediate High” level. This test will be administered at Cornell as part of the Center for Teaching Excellence's International Teaching Assistant (ITA) summer program prior to the first semester.

A writing sample is not required, though there is space for one in the application.

Admissions Decisions

All admissions decisions for applications for fall will be made by March. The majority of decisions will be made in February. We regret that due to the number of files received and reviewed by the Admissions Committee each year, we are unable to provide feedback on individual applications. All decisions of the Cornell Astronomy and Space Sciences Admissions Committee are final.