Carnegie Mellon University

Frequently Asked Questions

Please carefully read these Frequently Asked Questions for important information regarding our application instructions and procedures.

How do I get an application?

The application is available online

What should be in my application?

You must submit a completed application, which requires an unofficial copy of transcripts from all college or university work to date, three letters of recommendation, a 2-page essay, GRE scores, TOEFL cores scores if English is not your native language, your resume/vita, and a sample of your writing (optional).

GRE and TOEFL Scores: Please have ETS send your official GRE and TOEFL scores electronically.

Transcripts: Applicants are required to provide unofficial transcript copies from any undergraduate or graduate institution attended. These documents are required for submission of the application. If the department recommends that you be admitted, you will then be asked to submit official transcripts. Only upon receipt of official transcripts will your admission be official. Please do not send official transcripts until you have been offered admission.

Please note that transcripts and test scores may not be marked as received until you have entered all of the information in those particular sections of your application and completed your biographical information. Please submit your application as soon as possible so we can process your documents.

What information should I include in my 2-page essay?

Please address the following questions:  Why do you wish to do graduate work in the Department of Social and Decision Sciences?  What attracts you to our doctoral program in particular?  Describe your academic interests, including the type of research that you are interested in pursuing.  What are your major career goals after completing your study at Carnegie Mellon University?

Should I discuss my identity?

If you are a member of an underrepresented or minoritized group you are welcome to indicate this directly in your application, if you are comfortable doing so. This can be sensitive and you may be apprehensive. Please know that our department is committed to diversifying science across gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability and socioeconomic dimensions. We are cognizant that individuals from many groups have been excluded from science and, being driven by empirical data that back up this point, we understand that a lack of diversity hurts our science as well as our commitment to a diverse, inclusive, and equitable society. Sharing identity information with us can help us to explore creative solutions to funding, fellowships, etc. and to point you toward resources. You might wonder when you should share this information. You might weave this into the Research Application, note it in the application materials, or have a direct conversation with your prospective faculty mentor in an email or video chat.

Where should I send my official supporting documents?

Please send them to

What are you looking for in the application materials?

We consider your academic training, research experiences, letters of recommendation, GRE scores, and other available information in our admission decisions.  We accept the candidates with the best background and fit to the department.  We don't have cut-off scores for GRE, GPA or TOEFL, but top scores are expected as our program is highly competitive.

Am I qualified to apply to your Ph.D. program?

Our office will not pre-screen or examine any materials (CV, GRE scores, transcripts, experience, etc.) prior to the official submission of your application.  If you are interested in our Ph.D. program, you are encouraged to apply.

I used my User ID and password, but I cannot access the online application. What is the problem?

If your browser accepts cookies, and your computer is not behind a firewall, then you should be able to log in successfully. Also, please make sure you are using the same website to log into that you used to register. If you continue to have problems accessing your application, please contact:

I do not see my college/university listed in the drop-down box in the Education section of the application.  What should I do?

You can still enter the university information in your application and click the save button.  The application system will save this information to your application. 

However, please email us at to let us know your college/university is not in the drop-down box.  We will need to know the full name and address of the school.  Please also include the country if it is an international school.  We will add the name of your school to the drop-down box so it is there in the future.

I have a question concerning the application process. Where do I go for help?

If you are unable to find an answer to your question in the FAQ, then send email to

Can I make changes to my online application after it has been submitted?

Once your application has been submitted, you may only make changes to specific materials: CV, Statement of Purpose, and Publications. You can make these changes in the Update Document section of the Status Portal. You may also monitor and track your Letters of Recommendation via the Status Portal as well.

I have already uploaded my Resume/Statement of Purpose, but now I have made revisions and would like to submit the new version. What should I do?

Once your application has been submitted, you may only make changes to specific materials: CV, Statement of Purpose, and Publications. You can make these changes in the Update Document section of the Status Portal. However, you may not make any changes to your application after the December 15 deadline.

I have requested my transcripts and test scores be sent, but my application has not been updated? 

You must first submit your application and pay the application fee before receipt of test scores or transcripts will be updated.  They must be matched and updated manually, and this may take several days to reflect receipt of these documents.

What do I do if my email address or current address changes before the end of the semester?

You may change your current address, email address and password in your submitted application until the December 15 deadline.  If there is any change after this date, please send email to, and the coordinator will make the necessary updates.  It is very important that you maintain a valid email address in your submitted application.

If I applied last year and was not admitted, can I reapply this year?

Yes. However, all application materials must be resubmitted.  It is possible to request that official test score reports and transcripts from the previous year be used if no changes have been made to them by contacting

How can I pay my application fee?

We accept only credit card payments for the $55 application fee.  Instructions will be given when you submit your application. 

Can the application fee be waived?

Our application fee of $55 covers administrative costs of our application system and recruiting.  However, we do not want the application fee to be an impediment to applying.  If paying the application fee will be a burden to you, you may request a waiver by clicking the “waiver” checkbox in the application process. 

When is the application deadline?

The application deadline is December 15.  All application materials must be received in our office by the deadline.

What if all of my supporting documents do not arrive by the deadline?

If your supporting documents do not arrive by the deadline, they may not be considered in the review of your application.  It is the applicant's responsibility to make sure all required application materials reach us by the deadline.  You may use your User ID and Password to check your submitted application to make certain that it is complete.

What are the institution and department codes for the GRE?

Our GRE institution code is 2074.

Our GRE department code is 2299.

What are the institution and department codes for the TOEFL?

Our TOEFL institution code is 2074.

Our TOEFL department code is 80 for INTERNET-BASED tests or 92 for PAPER tests.

Please Note:  It is very important that you use ONLY these codes when requesting ETS to send us your GRE scores and TOEFL scores.  If you use any other codes, we may not receive your scores.

Your GRE department code of 2299 is not showing in ETS’ system when I am making arrangements to have my GRE scores sent.  What should I do?

You cannot search in ETS’ system by using the department code.  You need to search by keywords.  If you search using the keywords “behavioral sciences” (minus the quotation marks), this will bring up a list of department codes.  Scroll down the list until you see our department code of 2299. 

Do you have cut-off scores for the GRE?


Can I send a photocopy of my GRE or TOEFL scores?

No.  Although you need to upload copies of your score reports into the application system, these are not official.  You still need to have ETS send us an official score report.

Do you accept other language proficiency tests besides TOEFL?


If I took the GRE or TOEFL more than once, which scores will count?

We count the latest scores.

Do you waive the GRE or TOEFL requirements?

We do not waive the GRE requirement.  We do not waive the TOEFL requirement.  Immigration requires proof of English proficiency.  If English is not your native language, even if you have lived or studied in the United States, you still need to submit official TOEFL scores.

When do GRE and TOEFL scores expire?

ETS keeps GRE scores for 5 years and TOEFL scores for 2 years.  We require that ETS send us your scores.  If ETS no longer has your scores, you will need to retake the test(s).

What are the minimum TOEFL scores accepted for application to your program?

For the paper TOEFL test, the minimum score is 600.

For the iBT TOEFL test, the minimum total score is 84.

The minimum sub-score in each category is as follows:

Reading= 22; Listening =22; Speaking = 18; Writing = 22

My recommenders have not received the email requests or the reminder emails that were sent.  What should I do?

First, make sure that you typed the correct email address, and then ask them to check their spam filters. If the email request or reminders cannot be found, please ask them to send their letters in pdf format to They must put: Upload recommendation letter for (your name) in the subject line.  This should only be used as a last resort.  Uploads will not be completed here until after the deadline and our offices are closed between the Christmas and New Year holidays.

What should I do if the deadline is approaching or has passed and one or more of my recommenders has not submitted their recommendation?

You may send a reminder email to a recommender from your submitted application. It is your responsibility to make certain that the letters are submitted by the deadline of December 15.

My recommenders have not submitted their letters.  Can I submit my application before they submit?

Yes.  Do not wait for the letters before submitting your application.  Recommenders' letters can be added to your application after you have submitted it.

How will I know that you received my supplemental application materials?

You can log onto the application system with your User ID and password to see if we have received your supplemental materials.  It is the applicant's responsibility to make sure we have received all required application documents.

Due to the high volume of documents we receive, it can take up to 2 weeks to process your documents after we receive them These documents must be updated manually.

When will I find out whether or not I got into the program?

Admission decisions will be made no later than April 15.

While we know that waiting to hear about your admission decision can be very difficult, we are unable to provide information about admission decisions or application status until the application review process is finished and all admission decisions have been made.  We will notify you of your admission decision via email once the admission decisions have been completed.

How many people apply to your Ph.D. program?

We usually receive 80-100 applications each year.

How many students do you usually admit to your Ph.D. program?

We usually admit 3 to 5 graduate students each year.

Do you offer a stipend and tuition coverage?


  • stipend: $30,000/year, paid over 12 months
  • tuition: $48,560/year
  • health insurance: $2812/year
  • fees: $228/year
  • conference travel allowance: $800/year
  • TOTAL package:  $82,400/year

How do I apply to the Joint Program between BDR and Psychology?

Students interested in the Joint Psychology/BDR Program are invited to apply at the end of their first year of SDS Ph.D. studies.  The application involves a short proposal for a second-year paper and dissertation that is truly joint between the two departments, as indicated by co-chairs.  The application will have to be approved by both departments.  Students who graduate from this program will receive a joint degree from BDR and Psychology. 

If I don't have a background in one of your main disciplines, can I still get in?


Can I study in the program as a part-time student?

No, we do not have a part-time Ph.D. program. Our Ph.D. program is full-time.

Do you have any Master’s programs in your department?

No, we do not have any Master’s programs.

Do you have any online or distance courses in your program?

No, we do not have online or distance courses. All Ph.D. students must study on campus.

Who should I contact if I have a question that was not addressed in this FAQ?

Please contact the Department of Social and Decision Sciences at