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.

Admissions Prerequisites

The Computational Cognitive Science Track of the PhD program in Cognitive Science minimally requires students 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 requirements for the PhD program in Cognitive Science. 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 interest
  • International students – TOEFL scores above 600/paper or 250/computer or 100/IBT OR IELTS bandscore of 7 or better.

How to Apply

All application materials must be submitted online, on time, and in English to be reviewed for admission. Do not mail paper copies.

First, review the graduate application process webpage. You will find instructions that apply to all Krieger School graduate program applicants. Then, read the below information which is specific to the PhD in Cognitive Science program. Applicants are responsible for reading both sets of information and for for meeting the application requirements laid out therein. If you have questions, contact our academic program coordinator.

If you are applying for multiple programs at Johns Hopkins, a separate online application is required for each program. For example, the PhD in Psychology, PhD in Cognitive Science, and MA in Cognitive Science are distinct programs and require separate applications.

It is essential that to complete the Program Information part of the application accurately to ensure your application is mapped to the correct admissions officer. To apply to this program, submit an application to the Krieger School of Arts & Sciences to be a full-time graduate student in the PhD program in Cognitive Science. Choose the program track that most interests you (general track or computational cognitive science track). Carefully identify your faculty and areas of interest. Accurate information is essential for our application processing.

Faculty of interest: List the primary cognitive science faculty with whom you are most interested in working. Lecturers, joint, secondary, and ‘other’ faculty do not admit students to our program. However, you may include a couple secondary or joint faculty if you are interested in a potential cross-departmental collaboration.

Areas of Interest: Choose the two areas that best align with your interests.

  • architecture of the grammar
  • cognitive development
  • cognitive neuropsychology
  • cognitive neuroscience
  • cognitive psychology
  • computation in cognition
  • computational linguistics
  • deep learning
  • formal linguistics
  • 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
  • representation
  • scene perception
  • semantics/pragmatics
  • spatial cognition
  • special populations (Williams Syndrome)
  • speech perception
  • syntax
  • theoretical linguistics
  • visual cognition

Required Application Materials

Unofficial Transcripts

One unofficial transcript must be uploaded for each higher education institution you previously attended or are currently attending. If your transcripts are not issued in English you must submit documents in both the original language and English translation. International applicants are encouraged, but not required, to get a credential evaluation. More details here.

Only admitted students are required to submit official transcripts.

Statement of Purpose

This document should detail specific interests you wish to pursue in our program and your qualifying background. Interests should include primary and secondary research areas of interest (above), and particular primary cognitive science faculty you wish to study under. If you are interested in the Computational Cognitive Science Track, indicate that in this statement. Incorporate your 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. For candidates with no previous background in cognitive science, the statement should convey your formal background, your previous exposure to cognitive science issues, your particular interests in the field, and why our program is an appropriate choice for your study and research. Duo-degree candidates must explicitly mention the relevant dual disciplines they hope to study.

Personal Statement

Encouraged, but not required. One page. A personal statement differs from a Statement of Purpose in that it provides an opportunity for you to describe personal background, challenges, and opportunities that shaped you as a person. Create a more holistic picture of yourself. What is a personal statement?

Sample of Written Work

This document can be a research paper, writing sample, thesis, conference poster, etc. The purpose of the sample of written work is to demonstrate your analytical thinking. (Average: 10-20 pages)

Three Letters of Recommendation

Exactly three letters of recommendation are required. They should be detailed, 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. Recommenders should include contact information and submit their letters online. More details here.

GRE Scores

As of August 2020, GRE scores are optional, but not required. GRE subject tests are not required. Unofficial GRE score reports submitted by applicants will not be accepted. More details here.

TOEFL/IELTS Scores (International Applicants Only)

Non-native speakers of English must submit official TOEFL or IELTS scores. Unofficial copies sent directly by students will not be accepted. Some international applicants are eligible for an English proficiency waiver. More details here.

Application Fee

A non-refundable fee is required. Please see the graduate admissions website for fee details as well as qualifying waiver candidates. Applicants eligible for waivers submit their waiver request inside the application. If you believe you qualify for waiver, but do not fall into one of the categories defined on the graduate admissions website, contact our academic program coordinator. If you do not pay the application fee or obtain a waiver, your application will not be reviewed for admission.