PhD Admissions

Our PhD program provides full-time, in-person training and close mentorship in various areas of cognitive science and in the formal methods that pertain to them. We apply a holistic approach to the review of applications and give careful consideration to all the credentials presented by applicants, including academic qualifications obtained in a wide variety of institutions, skills, and experiences that facilitate degree completion and a successful postgraduate career. This results in a diverse group of graduate students, with a sample of different profiles exemplified below:

  1. Candidates holding baccalaureate or master’s degrees in cognitive science or one of the traditional sub-disciplines (psychology, computer science, linguistics, neuroscience, and philosophy). Such candidates have typically engaged in previous research in one of those sub-disciplines. They are strongly theoretically oriented and their interests in cognitive science are broad. In addition to perfecting their training in one of the sub-disciplines under a close mentorship, they also wish to be trained in methodologies of other sub-disciplines and to produce an integrated body of interdisciplinary research.
  2. Candidates with no degree in cognitive science or one of the traditional sub-disciplines but one in a formal discipline, such as mathematics, physics, applied mathematics, etc. Such candidates have some knowledge of what cognitive science is about and wish to apply their formal training to an interdisciplinary study of the mind. Upon admission, they are encouraged to do some background readings before the fall of their admission year. Such students typically take a relatively heavy range of courses across the cognitive sciences during their first year in the PhD program to fill in their background.
  3. Candidates with no degree in cognitive science or one of the traditional sub-disciplines but one in a related or applied field (e.g., education, foreign languages).  Such candidates have some knowledge of what cognitive science is about and may, for example, have done a summer internship in a psychology-related lab or have taken a few linguistics courses at a summer institute. Upon admission, they are encouraged to do some background readings before the fall of their admission year. Such students typically take a relatively heavy range of courses across the cognitive sciences during their first year in the PhD program to fill in their background.

We strongly encourage candidates from traditionally marginalized or underrepresented groups to apply. Our department is committed to supporting diversity. Johns Hopkins offers professional development, fellowships and resources to support graduate students from diverse backgrounds and experiences. Diversity graduate fellowships include the prestigious Kelly Miller Fellowship (nomination-based) and Vivian Thomas Scholarship (application due December 1st).

Prerequisites

Applicants interested in the Computational Cognitive Science Track are required to have programming and math skills that would allow them to take the basic computation courses (e.g. experience with Python or MATLAB, linear algebra, calculus, etc.).

Otherwise, there are no set minimum admissions prerequisites. Competitive candidates tend to present the following credentials among their application materials:

  • Previous research experience or significant work experience demonstrating skills that facilitate degree completion.
  • Letters of recommendation from people familiar with the candidate’s potential in graduate school, providing detailed evidence of research potential in the sub-disciplines of cognitive science and/or mathematical sciences.
  • A focused and detailed statement of purpose.
  • International students – TOEFL scores above 600/paper or 250/computer or 100/IBT OR IELTS bandscore of 7 or better.

Application Deadline

Applications are due December 1, 2021 to apply for admission in Fall 2022. Read the instructions below, then apply here.

How to Apply

Review both the Krieger School graduate application instructions and the program-specific instructions in this section. Applicants are responsible for reading and for meeting the requirements in both. Questions may be directed to our admissions coordinator.

A separate application is required for each program at Johns Hopkins. For example, the PhD in Psychology, PhD in Cognitive Science, MA in Cognitive Science and Neuroscience Graduate Training Program are distinct programs and require separate applications.

Faculty and Areas of Interest

On the Program Information page, applicants should list which core cognitive science faculty with whom they are most interested in working. Other faculty, including joint/secondary faculty, do not admit students to our program; although applicants may express interest in collaborations.

Applicants should also identify their top two areas of interest in this section. Additional areas of interest may be detailed in the Statement of Purpose.

Areas of Interest
  • architecture of the grammar
  • cognitive development
  • cognitive neuropsychology
  • cognitive neuroscience
  • cognitive psychology
  • computation in cognition
  • computational linguistics
  • computational neuroscience
  • deep learning
  • functional neuroimaging
  • language acquisition
  • language and thought
  • language learning in aging, stroke, and neurodegenerative disease
  • language processing
  • machine learning
  • morphology
  • neurocognitive mechanisms of language recovery
  • neurocognitive mechanisms of word learning
  • optimality theory
  • orthographic processing
  • philosophy of mind
  • phonetics
  • phonology
  • psycholinguistics
  • reading and writing
  • representation
  • scene perception
  • semantics/pragmatics
  • spatial cognition
  • special populations (Williams Syndrome)
  • speech perception
  • syntax
  • theoretical linguistics
  • vision
  • visual cognition

Required Application Materials

All required application materials must be submitted online, on time, and in English to be reviewed for admission.

  1. Unofficial Transcripts
  2. Statement of Purpose. (~1 page) A focused and detailed statement that includes the applicant’s specific primary and secondary research areas of interest, faculty of interest, relevant background, previous experience, and mentors’ names.
    • For example, candidates wishing to pursue computational approaches to cognition are encouraged to discuss their math background; cognitive psychology, neuropsychology, and language processing candidates their laboratory experience; and linguistics candidates their background in generative linguistics.
    • Candidates with no previous background in cognitive science should convey their formal background, previous exposure to cognitive science issues, particular interests in the field, and why our program is an appropriate choice for their study and research.
    • 8.5″ x 11″ document, 1″ margins, 11-12 pt font, double-spaced, and standard font style such as Times New Roman or Arial. If citations are necessary, use the style of your chosen field.
    • Duo-degree candidates must explicitly mention the relevant dual disciplines they hope to study.
  3. Sample of Written Work. A research paper, writing sample, thesis, conference poster, etc. that demonstrates the applicant’s analytical thinking. (Average: 10-20 pages)
  4. Three Letters of Recommendation. Detailed letters that address the applicant’s suitability for research in cognitive science, and—if relevant—provide an evaluation of the candidate’s previous research experience and future promise.
  5. TOEFL/IELTS Scores (international applicants)
  6. Application Fee or a Fee Waiver. If an applicant believes they may qualify for waiver, but does not fit the fee-waiver criteria on that website, contact our admissions coordinator.

Optional Materials: Personal Statement and GRE Scores