MA Admissions

There are two MA tracks: Research Track and Course Track. The tracks, while similar in structure, differ slightly in both admissions and degree requirements. Please note that fewer research track students are accepted than course track students due to space and time limitations in our departmental labs.

The instructions below are updated for the 2020 admissions terms. Please review carefully. 

How to Apply

Stage I: All required application materials must be submitted online, on time, and in English to be reviewed for admission. See section below on Required Application Materials.

Application Deadlines

  • Spring 2020 Admission: October 15, 2019
  • Summer/Fall 2020 Admission: December 1, 2019 (updated July 2019)

Stage II: Top applicants will be invited to design and submit a Program Proposal. Details on the required content of a proposal are provided below. Stage II applicants should expect approximately one month to work on the proposal. Faculty will review the proposal, then make final admissions decision.

We strongly encourage candidates from traditionally marginalized or underrepresented groups to apply.

Minimum Admissions Qualifications

Research Track Course Track
  • 3.0 GPA or better
  • Undergraduate degree in field relevant to cognitive science
  • 3 credits of undergraduate research or equivalent
  • 3.0 GPA or better
  • Undergraduate degree in field relevant to cognitive science

Required Application Materials

Visit the graduate application process web page in addition to reviewing the following information. The details below elaborate on general graduate admissions processes and requirements to explain department-specific expectations. Applicants should read through both sets of information and are responsible for meeting the application requirements laid out therein.

The following materials are required for the MA in Cognitive Science application. All required application materials must be submitted online, on time, and in English to be reviewed for admission. Do not send any paper copies via mail.

Note: Written materials composed by the applicant should preferably comply with standard academic formatting: 8.5″ x 11″ document, 1″ margins, 11-12pt font, double-spaced, and Times New Roman (or other standard style such as Arial). If citations are necessary, please use the style of your chosen field.

  1. Resume or CV
  2. GRE Scores
  3. TOEFL/IELTS Scores
  4. Statement of Purpose
  5. Transcripts
  6. Two Letters of Recommendation
  7. Application Fee

Resume or CV

Include relevant background and research experience in an up-to-date copy of your resume or CV.

GRE Scores

GRE scores need to reach us no later than two weeks after the application deadline and must be sent by ETS. Unofficial copies sent directly by students will not be accepted.


All non-native speakers of English must submit TOEFL or IELTS scores. Unofficial copies sent directly by students will not be accepted. Scores must be directed to Johns Hopkins by following instructions provided here. All international applicants should review the information on that webpage regarding credential evaluations, minimum score requirements, and waiver requests.

Statement of Purpose

About one-page long, this statement should include specific academic interests that the applicant wishes to pursue. Applicants should include primary and secondary research areas of interest (below), relevant background, previous experience, the proposed faculty mentor(s), and desired program track (course or research-track). For applicants with no previous background in cognitive science, the statement should describe their formal background, previous exposure to issues in cognitive science, particular interests in the field, and why this program is an appropriate program of study and research for them.

Faculty of Interest: Name the primary cognitive science faculty member(s) with whom you are interested working in both your Statement of Purpose and the in “Faculty of Interest” application field provided. You will find a list of our primary faculty at the top of our directory page. You may additionally list one or two secondary or joint faculty of interest.

Areas of Interest

  • cognitive psychology
  • cognitive neuropsychology
  • cognitive neuroscience
  • computational approaches
  • computational linguistics
  • formal linguistics
  • language processing
  • language acquisition
  • philosophy of mind


One unofficial transcript must be uploaded for each higher education institution you previously attended or are currently attending. All transcripts must be in English; if translation is required it must be from a professional third-party service, then both the translation and the original language transcript must be provided. If admitted, you will be required to submit final official transcripts to the graduate admissions office.

Letters of Recommendation

Exactly two letters of recommendation are required. The letters should be detailed, address the applicant’s suitability for study/research in cognitive science, and provide an evaluation of the candidate’s previous research experience (if relevant) and future promise, as well as contact information. Recommenders submit their letters online. Instructions are provided in the application.

Non-Refundable Application Fee

This fee must be paid before submitting your application. Reference the graduate admissions process web page for fee details as well as qualifying waiver candidates.

Program Proposals

This document is only required for applicants who progress to Stage II of our admissions process. Applicants will be given specific instructions on how to submit their proposal and by what deadline (approximately 1 month). When composing a proposal, you should reference the MA Requirements web page and the sample program page. During your drafting process, it is expected that you will need to consult with the faculty member who has expressed an interest in your application.

Research Proposal: For the Research-Track. Specific required content is detailed below.

  • Front Page: Title, abstract (200 words), applicant’s full name, faculty mentor, date of application submission
  • Scientific Aims: (1 page) Specify the research project’s purpose
  • Background and Significance: (~3 pages) Explain the current state of knowledge and how knowledge will be advanced by the project
  • Preliminary Data: (~2 pages) Describe any of your previous research that relates to the project or that reviews relevant findings from mentor’s prior research
  • Research Design and Methods: (~3 pages) Detail the theoretical framework, experiments or other data sources, and methods of analysis that will be used in the research; propose a timetable for conducting the research
  • Expected Outcome: (~1 page) Anticipate possible discoveries of the research and their theoretical significance
  • References: Format in the style relevant for the faculty mentor’s field

Course Proposal: For the Course-Track.

Include the planned areas of study and a list of courses to be taken during the time of study in the program. Reference the course track description and sample program on the MA Requirements web page. Also use our course catalog and published course offerings in SIS. Please note that courses are posted only one semester in advance. Include in your proposal those classes that you feel would best develop your breadth and depth of knowledge in your areas of interest. Most courses will be from within the Department of Cognitive Science, but it may be appropriate to take courses offered by affiliated departments, such as Neuroscience, Computer Science, Psychological and Brain Sciences, etc. You may use a MA Course-Track checklist on the MA Requirements page, or derive your own document format. You may ask your potential faculty mentor for feedback on your plan before submitting a final version.

For admitted MA students, it is understood that if the originally proposed courses are not offered while they are in the program, they will consult with their mentor to choose appropriate substitutions.