Carnegie Mellon University

Welcome Ph.D. in Biological Sciences Graduate Students 2017

Congratulations on being accepted to the Ph.D. in Biological Sciences program at Carnegie Mellon University! We are very pleased that you are joining us this fall, and are looking forward to assisting you as you train to become leading scientists. Use this monthly step-by-step instruction guide in order to prepare for your arrival.

Important Dates and Academic Calendar

The University-Wide Graduate Student Orientation
August 14-16
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for all students

The International Graduate Student Orientation
Multiple opportunities available
MANDATORY for international students

The Department of Biological Sciences Orientation
August 21-25
MANDATORY for all students

The First Day of Classes
August 28

The Elizabeth Jones Annual Retreat at Hidden Valley Four Seasons Resort
September 30 - October 1
MANDATORY for all students

Academic calendar (2017-2018):

Step 1: May Checklist

Various forms need to be completed as soon as possible and returned to the Director of Graduate Operations.

  • Transcript
    • If you graduated in fall 2016 or spring 2017, send your final transcript to the Director of Graduate Operations.
  • Andrew Account
    • Your Andrew Account will give you access to the university’s computing environment, including email, network registration, Computing Services public computer clusters and other resources. To familiarize yourself with these services and to find your Andrew ID, please visit  To set your initial Andrew account password, you will need your Andrew ID, which can be found by entering your name into the search field of the Carnegie Mellon Directory Search, and also your Admission ID number, which can be obtained by contacting the Director of Graduate Operations.
  • Health History and Immunization Information Forms
    • By June 30, students must complete the online Health History Forms and Immunization Requests from Health Services. You will need your Andrew ID (and password) and Admission ID to access the site. Select the HealthConnect button from their main page, which will take you to a secure site where you can enter your health and immunization information.
  • International Students Information Form (ISIF) and Affidavit of Support Form (international students only) 
    • In order for the Office of International Education (OIE) to generate an I-20, you must complete the International Student Information and Affidavit of Support forms. OIE will process these forms and email you when the Certificate of Eligibility (I-20) has been prepared and instruct you to login to the eShipGlobal website at to submit all your address data and payment for the FedEX or DHL shipment. This process allows you to provide an accurate mailing address and the ability to track the package. The cost of this service is your responsibility. You may also use eShipGlobal to send packages to CMU. You should expect to wait at least 3 weeks from receipt of all necessary documents plus verification of your admission from your academic department until you receive an email from OIE. After receipt of the Certificate, you will be able to pay the SEVIS fee and contact your embassy for an appointment.

Step 2: June Checklist

  • Health Insurance
    • Full-time, matriculating students must meet medical insurance requirements. Waivers, enrollment forms and deadlines may be found at the Student Insurance webpage. Any questions about health insurance should be directed to

    • The 2017-2018 student insurance premium for an individual is $2,039 per year. The premium rates for two-person, family and the vision and dental plans may be found at the About the Plans webpage. The department’s health insurance allowance is $663, which is paid in installments August through May. You are responsible for paying the difference and setting up payment with the insurance carrier; it is not paid directly by the department on your behalf. Please note that both dental and vision insurances are optional and not paid for by the department. 

  • Housing
    • Housing Services is offering on-campus housing to a limited number of graduate students for the 2017-2018 academic year. If you are interested please visit the Housing Services website at
    • Community Housing services provides the Housing Registry, which is a listing of available rental properties, information about the city of Pittsburgh, and resources for individuals who may be new to renting off-campus housing.
    • Your best resource about housing is our current graduate students. The Housing section from the Words of Wisdom from Current Students webpage is a great reference tool. The webpage may be found at Words of Wisdom.

      Disclaimer: This list of advice and information was put together by current graduate students of the Biological Sciences department, and does not express the views of the department. Most of the information below has been verified, but some may have changed including URLs, dates, and email addresses, so self-verification of information is advisable.

Step 3: July Checklist

  • Course Registration
    • During the departmental orientation, you will meet both as a group and individually with the Graduate Advising Committee to discuss coursework. Changes in the curriculum are ongoing. You may want to familiarize yourself with available courses at Biological Science Courses.
    • Biology courses taught in the fall may be found at the HUB website under the Schedule of Classes.
    • The HUB website and Student Information Online (SIO) are valuable tools that assist student in the course registration process.

Step 4: August Checklist

  • Payroll
    • On or around August 1st, you will receive electronic instructions from the CMUWorks Service Center on how to setup for payroll.  They call this process “onboarding”.  Have as much of this process completed as possible and have the necessary documentation with you when you arrive in Pittsburgh.  We will go over this process during orientation and answer any questions you may have.
  • Finances
    • You should arrive with $2,500 to $3,500 in traveler’s checks to cover your initial costs and a small amount ($100- $300) of U.S. currency in small bills ($5 and $10). These funds will be used for your arrival expenses such as taxis, meals, books, supplies, and other personal needs.
  • Emergency Loans
    • All students regardless of their program are eligible for the Emergency Student Loan, which is an interest-free and emergency base loan repayable within 30 days. It is available through the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs; students may apply for the loan by stopping in the Student Affairs Office or by calling 268.2075 for an appointment.
    • First semester graduate students who receive a stipend are eligible for the Graduate Student Transition Loan. The loan is available to assist with transition costs and may not exceed 75% of the student’s monthly gross stipend (exclusive of tuition). The loan must be requested prior to September 15 of the academic year, and it will be repaid through payroll deductions in the months of September, October, November and December. To apply, visit the HUB website at Graduate Student Transition Loan.
  • Student ID Card
    • The Carnegie Mellon ID Card identifies a campus community member and it is used to access campus facilities and services. The Card Accessible Services webpage includes a list of the services and resources that the card provides. New graduate students beginning classes for the fall semester may be issued an ID card after August 1 at the Card Office.
    • The Card Office’s address is A15 Warner Hall.
    • They may be reached at 412.268.8186 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday - 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Tuesday and Thursday - 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. or by email:
  • Social Security Form (international students only)
    • International students who will be employed in the U.S. are required to have a Social Security Number (SSN), which is a type of national identification number. A SSN is not required for living in the U.S but is used by the U.S. government to withhold taxes from pay. Prior to the week of the University-Wide Graduate Student Orientation, please make an appointment with the Director of Graduate Operations to pick up the Social Security form. You will then have the OIE Advisor sign this form at your Immigration Check-in. Students then take the form, in person, to the local Social Security Administration office to begin the application process. Take your passport, I-20/DS-2019, I-94 card (found in your passport) to apply.