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Cornell University Course/Program Name
Application closes on
National :01 Jan 
International :01 Jan 

PhD Statistics

 Course Level
Full Time

5 Years
 Start month

 Tuition fee

29500 USD
29500 USD

Application fee

International 95 USD
National 95 USD
Department of Biological Statistics and Computational Biology
Scores accepted
IELTS (min)7
TOEFL-IBT (min)100
TOEFL-PBT (min)600
GRE (avg)317
GMAT (avg)700

World University Ranking

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About this course

The Doctor of Philosophy program in the Field of Statistics is intended to prepare students for a career in research and teaching at the University level or in equivalent positions in industry or government. A PhD degree requires writing and defending a dissertation. Students graduate this program with a broad set of skills, from the ability to interact collaboratively with researchers in applied fields, through the formulation and computational implementation of novel statistical models and methods to demonstrating mathematically that these methods have desirable statistical properties. Cornell's PhD alumni have gone on to high profile positions in all of academia, industry and government. 

Cornell University does not offer a separate Masters of Science (MS) degree program in the Field of Statistics. Applicants interested in obtaining a masters-level degree in statistics should consider applying to Cornell's MPS Program in Applied Statistics.

Choosing a Field of Study
There are many graduate fields of study at Cornell University. The best choice of graduate field in which to pursue a degree depends on your major interests. Statistics is a subject that lies at the interface of theory, applications, and computing. Statisticians must therefore possess a broad spectrum of skills, including expertise in statistical theory, study design, data analysis, probability, computing, and mathematics. Statisticians must also be expert communicators, with the ability to formulate complex research questions in appropriate statistical terms, explain statistical concepts and methods to their collaborators, and assist them in properly communicating their results. If the study of statistics is your major interest then you should seriously consider applying to the Field of Statistics.

There are also several related fields that may fit even better with your interests and career goals. For example, if you are mainly interested in mathematics and computation as they relate to modeling genetics and other biological processes (e.g, protein structure and function, computational neuroscience, biomechanics, population genetics, high throughput genetic scanning), you might consider the Field of Computational Biology. You may wish to consider applying to the Field ofElectrical and Computer Engineering if you are interested in the applications of probability and statistics to signal processing, data compression, information theory, and image processing. Those with a background in the social sciences might wish to consider the Field of Industrial and Labor Relations with a major or minor in the subject of Economic and Social Statistics. Strong interest and training in mathematics or probability might lead you to choose the Field of Mathematics. Lastly, if you have a strong mathematics background and an interest in general problem-solving techniques (e.g., optimization and simulation) or applied stochastic processes (e.g., mathematical finance, queuing theory, traffic theory, and inventory theory) you should consider the Field of Operations Research.

Residency Requirements
Students admitted to PhD program must be "in residence" for at least four semesters, although it is generally expected that a PhD will require between 8 and 10 semesters to complete. The chair of your Special Committee awards one residence unit after the satisfactory completion of each semester of full-time study. Fractional units may be awarded for unsatisfactory progress.

Your Advisor and Special Committee
The Director of Graduate Studies is in charge of general issues pertaining to graduate students in the Field of Statistics. Upon arrival, a temporary Special Committee is also declared for you, consisting of the Director of Graduate Studies (chair) and two other faculty members in the Field of Statistics. This temporary committee shall remain in place until you form your own Special Committee for the purposes of writing your doctoral dissertation. The chair of your Special Committee serves as your primary academic advisor; however, you should always feel free to contact and/or chat with any of the graduate faculty in the Field of Statistics.

The formation of a Special Committee for your dissertation research should serve your objective of writing the best possible dissertation. The Graduate School requires that this committee contain at least three members that simultaneously represent a certain combination of subjects and concentrations. The chair of the committee is your principal dissertation advisor and always represents a specified concentration within the subject & field of Statistics. The Graduate School additionally requires PhD students to have at least two minor subjects represented on your special committee. For students in the Field of Statistics, these remaining two members must either represent (i) a second concentration within the subject of Statistics, and one external minor subject; or, (ii) two external minor subjects. Each minor advisor must agree to serve on your special committee; as a result, the identification of these minor members should occur at least 6 months prior to your A examination.

Some examples of external minors include Computational Biology, Demography, Computer Science, Economics, Epidemiology, Mathematics, Applied Mathematics and Operations Research. The declaration of an external minor entails selecting (i) a field other than Statistics in which to minor; (ii) a subject & concentration within the specified field; and, (iii) a minor advisor representing this field/subject/concentration that will work with you in setting the minor requirements. Typically, external minors involve gaining knowledge in 3-5 graduate courses in the specified field/subject, though expectations can vary by field and even by the choice of advisor. While any choice of external minor subject is technically acceptable, the requirement that the minor representative serve on your Special Committee strongly suggests that the ideal choice(s) should share some natural connection with your choice of dissertation topic.

Completion of the PhD Degree
In addition to the specified residency requirements, students must meet all program requirements as outlined in Program Course Requirements and Timetables and Evaluations and Examinations, as well as complete a doctoral dissertation approved by your Special Committee. The target time to PhD completion is between 4 and 5 years; the actual time to completion varies by student.

Check further details on University website

Eligibility Criteria

Note to international students: for those whose native language is not English, Cornell policy requires a set minimum for TOEFL or IELTS Exams. Details can be found here. All TOEFL/IELTS scores are to be submitted by December 1st (no exceptions) in order for applications to be considered for review.

English Language Proficiency Requirement

What you need to know:

  • As an international applicant, you must demonstrate proficiency in the English language by taking a TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS (International English Language Testing System) exam. (See exceptions.)
  • Cornell must receive official TOEFL or IELTS scores before the university can process your application.
  • TOEFL and IELTS scores are valid only if dated within two years of your program's application deadline.
  • Check minimum TOEFL and IELTS score requirements with individual graduate fields. Some fields' minimum score requirements are higher than the Graduate School's

English Language Proficiency Requirement
All international applicants must demonstrate proficiency in the English language. International students demonstrate proficiency by submitting official test scores from TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS (International English Language Testing System). Cornell does not accept PTE Academic scores or any other alternatives. An application cannot be considered complete until Cornell receives official scores from ETS or IELTS.  An offer of admission will not be made, nor will a visa document be issued if an application is incomplete. If your TOEFL or IELTS scores do not meet the requirement, we cannot issue a visa document, and you will not be able to enter the country.

For applicants living in regions where the TOEFL iBT is not available, Cornell will accept scores for the paper-based test (PBT). Although individual graduate fields may require higher scores, The Graduate School's official minimum sub-scores for each element of the TOEFL iBT are:

Speaking: 22

Reading: 20

Listening: 15

Writing: 20

Send scores to Cornell University Graduate School, Code # 2098. 
The TOEFL score must be dated within two years of your program's application deadline. Photocopies of TOEFL score reports will not be accepted.

Take the TOEFL early enough to have the results submitted at the time of your application. Exam dates are posted on the TOEFL web site. Please note that we cannot confirm receipt of test scores until an applicant has submitted an online application. 
If you receive your test results and any sub-score does not meet the requirement, you should make arrangements to retake the test.

The Graduate School requires an overall band score of a 7.0 or higher on the IELTS.

  • When you register for the exam, you may select up to five institutions to which you would like to have your Test Report Form (TRF) mailed. You may also submit a request to your test center to have additional TRFs sent to institutions not originally listed on your registration form.
  • Have IELTS send your Test Report Form (either by postal mail, or electronically) to Cornell University -- Graduate Admissions. Please do not e-mail a scanned copy, or mail a photocopy of your TRF.

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.

Check further details on University website

Course Modules

Each student in the program arrives with a different level of preparation, and not all students will necessarily be required to take all courses as specified below. In particular, with approval of the DGS, coursework taken elsewhere may be used to satisfy certain requirements.

PhD: Courses and Study Timetable
In year 1, PhD students are required to take 3 courses for a letter grade per semester. In year 2, students are required to take 3 courses for a grade per semester. Of these 6 courses taken in the second year, at least 4 must be for a letter grade; the remaining courses can be taken S/U and can include an independent study or research course.

By the end of the first year, students admitted to the PhD program must have taken graduate-level courses in mathematical statistics, measure-theoretic probability, and either linear or generalized linear models. These courses comprise the core coursework of the PhD program and all must be taken for a letter grade. Students entering the program are assumed to have taken at least one course in undergraduate real analysis; students entering without such a course are expected to take real analysis in their first semester.

At the end of the first year, a First Year Evaluation is conducted; depending on the outcome, a student may have to take a written qualifying examination.

By the end of the second year, students in the PhD program must have taken all courses for year 1 (i.e., including both linear and generalized models), an approved course in stochastic processes, as well as courses covering the following topics (all courses must be taken for a letter grade unless otherwise specified):

  • a second course in mathematical statistics or asymptotic theory;
  • A graduate-level course in statistical or scientific computing;
  • A graduate-level course in advanced statistical modeling (examples include, but aren't limited to, Bayesian statistics, multivariate analysis, stochastic modeling, spatial statistics, and survival analysis);

Participation in statistical consulting. 
In particular, beginning with the second year of study, PhD students are required to register for BTRY 7950 (Statistical Consulting). One semester of BTRY 7950 must be completed within the second year; the other can be completed any time before a student's A examination. A student may register for and participate in BTRY 7950 for any number of semesters beyond the minimum of two, space permitting and frequent participation is encouraged.

At least 4 other graduate-level elective courses approved by the chair of your Special Committee, at least 2 of which must be for a letter grade. These elective courses are expected to contain an appropriately sophisticated level of content for a student pursuing a PhD in statistics.

Note: further information on all evaluations & examinations mentioned above may be found here.

A and B Exams
The Graduate School requires all PhD students to schedule their A examination within 7 semesters of entering the PhD program. In addition, PhD students must also pass their A examination at least two semesters in advance of their B examination. The Field of Statistics expects PhD students to schedule and pass their B examination within 5 years of entering the PhD program.

Progress Reports/Annual Progress
As a condition of receiving funding from the Field of Statistics, all students must report their progress to the DGS at the end of each academic year in the form of a "Progress Report." This information will be used by the DGS, your advisor and other faculty members (e.g., your Special Committee) to help keep track of where you are in satisfying program requirements, allowing each to provide you with informed advice regarding subsequent steps.

Check further details on University website

How to Apply

You must submit your application electronically using the Web-Based Application form. The Field of Statistics does not require additional information beyond that requested as part of the Web-Based Application form. All requested application materials should therefore be submitted as part of the Web-Based Application process.

Important: no other materials should be sent to the Field of Statistics by e-mail, FAX or surface mail unless you are contacted directly and asked to submit additional information. Neither the Field of Statistics nor Department of Statistical Science will accept, or otherwise assume liability for, unsolicited information submitted by PHD and MPS program applicants.

Please see here for further details on admission requirements, including information on degrees, subjects and concentrations for the PhD and MPS programs.

Application Deadlines
Applications for the PhD program are due by January 1st for admission in the following Fall term; Spring term admission is not permitted.

The PhD program in Statistics does not have minimum GRE or GPA requirements. However, the program is very competitive and these both heavily influence admissions decisions. Cornell does have minimum TOEFL requirements (available at the Graduate School) and we cannot make exceptions to these.

The Admissions Committee will only accept official scores sent directly to us by ETS. If ETS is unable to send us your test scores because these scores are out of date, then you must re-take the exam. Occasionally, official GRE scores take some time to match to applications; the Field will review applications prior to this matching, but may require official documentation as a condition of admission.

Regarding TOEFL: applicants whose native language is not English must take the TOEFL exam unless they are specifically exempted. Exemptions are granted by Cornell University to students that have studied for two or more years, provided such study takes place at an approved college or university that (i) employs English as the main language of instruction; and, (ii) is located in a country where English is the native language. The Field of Statistics requires that these two years of study be completed as of the January 1 application deadline. 

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 theGraduate 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. All students whose native language is not English must submit official TOEFL scores via ETS to the Graduate School. TOEFL is not required of applicants who have studied full-time for two or more years in a college or university (1) located in a country where English is the native language; and (2) where English is the language of instruction. 
  • 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.

Check further details on University website

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