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Application FAQ

Preparing your application

How can I apply?

You can fill out your application online.

Can I pay someone to help? 
Cornell University expects all applicants to complete their application materials without the use of paid agents, credentials services, or other paid professional assistance.  The use of such services violates University policy, and may lead to the rejection of application materials, the revocation of an admissions offer, cancellation of admission, or involuntary withdrawal from the University.

Do I need to send multiple copies of my transcript or any other document?
No, all necessary documents are submitted on-line and attached to the application as pdf documents (transcripts, CV, etc.).  Students who are subsequently admitted and accept the offer of admission will be required to submit an official paper transcript prior to matriculation to the Graduate School.

Is it sufficient for my recommenders to simply return the recommendation form without a letter?
No.  All recommenders must answer the questions on-line and submit their letter of recommendation on-line directly through the on-line application system. They will receive an automated email directly from Cornell.

Will you accept my CV or any other supporting documents you don't require but might help my application?
Yes, we will be glad to accept your CV. However, this and any other supporting documents must be submitted and attached to your on-line application, provided they are applicable.

Is the TOEFL score really required in my case?
TOEFL scores are a requirement by the Graduate School and the field for all international students. Please check the TOEFL Guidelines for clarification.

Do I really need to take the GRE's?
Yes, GRE scores are required. In exceptional circumstances - and if your proposed degree program is an MPS and is not going to have much of a research component - you may request to waive the GRE requirement by sending an email to the graduate field assistant.

What are the institution and department codes?
TOEFL - Cornell University = 2098, department code = 30 
GRE - Cornell University = 2098, department code = 0109

Should I call the Graduate School for anything directly?
No, please contact the field for all questions, preferably via email ( If the field assistant cannot resolve your questions, the field will contact the Graduate School on your behalf.

Is my current degree equivalent to a Bachelor of Science degree?
If you are an international student, check here: Degree Equivalences

When can I expect an answer?
See the timeline below.

I am not sure if I want to come to Cornell, would it help if I came to visit?
Yes, we encourage prospective applicants to come and visit if they are in a position to do so. Come see the campus and meet some faculty. To set up a visit, contact the graduate field assistant via email ( and give a possible date and time frame of your visit, and any faculty you particularly would like to meet with. Meetings are not scheduled over the weekend.

Submitting your application

What is the final application deadline?

  • Fall Admission for MS, PhD, and MS/PhD Applications (August):  December 1, including supporting documentation, letters of references and test scores
  • Fall Admission for The Master of Professional Studies (M.P.S.) in Agriculture and Life Sciences (August):  February 15
  • Spring Admission (January):  In some cases, Spring admission may be possible.  Contact the Field for more information: or 607-255-9573. We would encourage you to contact a faculty member in the Field of Horticulture for their advice about your program interests and spring admission options.) 

Go to to submit a formal application to the Field of  Horticulture.

I don't think I can afford the application fee, what can be done?
Applicants with extreme financial need may request an application fee waiver. Applicants may request a fee waiver for the online application by contacting the Graduate school and providing documentation of financial need, such as an email from a financial aid counselor. You will be notified by the graduate school via email that your application waiver has been approved. If you go into the system and still can't complete your application without paying, wait another few days and try again before contacting the field. However, don't wait more than a couple of weeks to complete your application or the fee waiver will expire.

Application time line for Fall admissions:
The dates given here are approximate and will not be exactly the same each year.

Dec 1 - The field assistant will wait for a week after the deadline to begin reviewing applications and if any supporting documents are missing, you will be notified via email to complete your application. If however the bulk of your application has not been received on or about the deadline, your application may be rejected.
Dec 11 - 15 - Once all applications have been processed, the graduate applications committee (5 faculty) will meet and review all applications and make general recommendations to the rest of the field, as well as rate the applicant pool. We receive over 80 applications annually, most are for the Fall semester.

Feb  15 - Is the application deadline for the MPS in Agriculture and Life Sciences and the Public Garden Leadership Fellows Program for Fall admission.  
Dec 20 - All applications are released for review by all faculty in the field and everyone has a chance to comment, rate, and review all components of your application.
Mar 1 - April 15 - Acceptances are based on a multitude of factors including all application components; matching faculty and applicant research interest; either internal or external funding; whether there is room in the program; relative ranking of applicants, availability of research funding, etc.

Review process

What do faculty look for in my application?
There are many criteria we consider in evaluating a student for acceptance in the Field of Horticulture. A strong background in life sciences is important; as evidenced by grades, coursework, and research projects undertaken. A high motivation for graduate study in horticulture is essential. We look carefully at the student's statement of purpose and experiences in horticulture or plant sciences. The more in-depth the experiences, the better. We welcome applications from non-traditional students with significant life experiences and a strong desire to study in the field of horticulture, as well as students coming directly from their undergraduate degrees. Letters of recommendation are also extremely important. We are interested in getting all the information we can about the students' motivation and aptitude for graduate research.

How important are my test scores?
The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is required but is just one of many criteria we use in ranking applications. We do not have a minimum composite GRE score for successful admission. For all non-native English speaking students, the TOEFL exam is also required and official scores must be submitted directly to the Graduate School by the Educational Testing Services (ETS). Applicant scores must meet the minimum set by the Graduate School of writing: 20, listening: 15, reading: 20, speaking: 22. A cumulative score is not a correct measure and is not sufficient for an offer of admission.

Is a B.S. degree in horticulture a requirement?
Students are not required to have an undergraduate degree in horticulture to apply; however, a strong background in life sciences is essential for success in our graduate program. Students considering graduate school as a means to change career paths but lacking extensive background in life sciences, are encouraged to consider our Master of Professional Studies (MPS) degree instead of the MS or Ph.D. degrees. Alternatively, change-of-career students may wish to complete the basic life science course sequence (i.e. physics, math, chemistry, botany, ecology and biology) elsewhere before applying for a graduate degree program in horticulture.

Acceptance rate and notification
How many students do you accept?
We typically receive 80 applications annually. Acceptance rate varies depending on funding, availability, etc. We have been able to accept as many as 15 per year although sometimes fewer. About half of those accepted are awarded a Graduate Research Assistantship through the field; some have secured a Fellowship or government funding from outside the university; while a small percentage are self-supporting.

How will I be notified whether or not I have been accepted?
Accepted applicants will receive an acceptance email that will include funding information, the name of the advisor assigned to them, and other pertinent information from the Graduate School.  

What if my application has been rejected?
Applicants will be notified by email anytime between March 1 - April 15. We treat each application on an individual basis and we make every effort to match as many students as possible with a faculty advisor, possible funding, and research project. Sometimes this is very time consuming and while we understand you would like to hear from us as soon as possible, your patience is appreciated.

If you find all your questions haven't been answered yet, please feel free to contact the graduate field assistant via email: or by phone 607-255-9573.