Frequently Asked Questions on Graduate Study
Many of the questions that prospective students have are answered in our
general description of graduate study
at the Program of Computer Graphics or via the individual graduate fields of
and Computer Science.
We have established this list of frequently asked questions as a more
efficient way to respond to individual requests for information beyond what
the above resources provide. I personally apologize for
this formal and impersonal response, but we are inundated with email requests with
Donald Greenberg, Director
Can you send me an application?
We're sorry, but application materials are available only through the
Cornell Graduate School
Do I apply directly to the Program of Computer Graphics?
No. Our general description of
explains the two fields of graduate study
listed above. In addition, we recommend you contact the graduate field representatives in
any field-specific instructions or information. Please be aware that
applications are typically not forwarded to the individual graduate
fields for evaluation until they are complete.
Can you provide preliminary evaluations on my application?
No preliminary evaluations can be provided until the application has been
completed and the folders are distributed by the Graduate School to the appropriate
fields making the decision. The Program is extremely competitive and we are only
able to admit a few students each year.
Is there funding available to support graduate study?
Cornell supports many of its graduate students with either teaching
assistantships or research assistantships unless the applicant
has previously been awarded a fellowship.
These assistantships cover tuition and fees as well as a living stipend.
These assistantships will also cover the cost of Cornell's student health insurance.
Full teaching and research assistantships carry an expectation of an average of
fifteen hours of work per week.
In addition, a stipend for summer research is frequently available from research grants.
More information on assistantships and fellowships is available through the
Cornell Graduate School.
What are my chances for getting funded?
The competition is high, but most students who enroll for a Master's degree or Ph.D.
in computer graphics have been fully funded throughout their graduate academic career.
Do I have to take the Graduate Record Examination?
Yes, unless you have a Cornell degree and a proven record from this University. All
applicants from outside Cornell must take the
by the Graduate Record Examinations
section of the
Educational Testing Service
addition, if you are applying for a Ph.D. in Computer Science, you must take the
It is also strongly to your advantage to take the
Computer Science exam even if you are applying for a Master of Science degree.
Do I have to have the TOEFL exam?
The following text is extracted from a
on the Cornell Graduate School
Applicants whose native language is not English must take the Test of English as a
Foreign Language (TOEFL) unless they have studied for two or more years in, or received
a degree from, a college or university in a country where English is both the language
of instruction and the native language.
See the TOEFL section of the Cornell Graduate School for more detailed requirements.
Information on registering for the exam may be obtained from
Do you accept candidates whose background is primarily in art or architecture?
Chances are you would not be a strong candidate for the computer science Ph.D. program, but we have
accepted students from art and architecture backgrounds into our Masters of Science program. Successful
applicants without a C.S. major have usually taken some computer science courses as part of their
undergraduate degree or supplemented their degree with work experience or additional coursework prior to entering our program.
We welcome the diversity of background and interest that candidates from art and architecture majors
represent, but want to be sure that our graduate students can fully participate in research
projects that involve significant mathematical and scientific content as well as extensive programming.
If your interest lies primarily with the artistic application of computer graphics techniques, for example in becoming
a skilled animator, we are probably not the appropriate graduate program.
How good does my GPA need to be?
The grade point average or GPA is only one of many criteria evaluated, including also your test scores and
letters of recommendation. Since the Program of Computer Graphics does not officially admit any candidates,
we refer you to the respective graduate fields of Architecture
for any statistics they may
keep on test scores or GPAs of successful applicants.
To the extent that our faculty are involved in admissions decisions, our primary concern is whether your
skills, academic background, and interests are a good match for the research activities here.
What research do you do?
For more information, please visit our research web pages
Do I have to have a research topic before I start?
No. In both degree programs, students take at least a year of intensive coursework prior to beginning
a research project. In addition, we encourage students to participate in one or more research groups
within our laboratory before selecting a thesis topic. While students are given considerable latitude
in selecting a project, there must be an appropriate advisor or advisors available. We recommend
that students pursue a topic closely related to one or more of the major research thrusts of the laboratory,
in large part for the practical reason that more advice, equipment, and assistance will be available to
Look over our list of recent
theses and dissertations
to see the range of graduate student thesis topics.
I've heard that Cornell doesn't accept its own undergraduates. Is that true?
No. We've had a number of Cornell undergrads in recent years,
and in many ways it is easier for us to evaluate students
without a strong computer science and computer graphics background
when they are from Cornell and more of a known quantity.
What careers will the Program prepare me for?
Over more than 25 years, the nearly 200 graduates of our program have pursued
a wide range of careers in academia, industry, and government. Employment has never been a
problem for our graduates, who are often selecting among competing job offers as they finish
their work here at Cornell.
We are especially gratified that many of our graduates have become teachers and mentors to
others in the field, either as professors in the ranks of our leading universities or as
senior research staff in industry. Our graduates work in fields such as
architecture, color science, hardware design, medical visualization, shared
collaborative workspaces, and (of course) global illumination rendering. Many of our graduates
are leaders with the major computer graphics and animation companies, while others have pursued
individual entrepreneurial goals or have applied their computer graphics skills in engineering, finance,
or public service.
The field of computer graphics touches new fields and contributes to new disciplines
every year, and the broad base of mathematical, scientific, engineering, and artistic skills we teach will
provide a lasting career foundation to our graduates.
If I start in the Master of Engineering in Computer Science (M.Eng) program, may I transfer to the
We refer you to the guidelines
C.S. M.Eng program, quoted below. The assumption is that you would complete the M.Eng program and
then apply separately to the Ph.D. program:
Question: May I apply to the PhD program after I'm done?
Answer: Of course you may always apply. The M.Eng. program
is a professional degree program, aimed at
enhancing your practical skills in computer science. The PhD program
(at Cornell and elsewhere) is an academic degree
program in which highly qualified students pursue research goals.
While the goals of these programs are certainly not disjoint,
the M.Eng. program is not usually considered a path to entry into
the PhD program. However, in the past many students have
used their M.Eng. education as a springboard to a PhD program both
at Cornell and at schools such as Stanford, MIT, and Harvard.