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Admissions FAQs

General Questions

What is the difference between the Ph.D. degree offered by the Cognitive Science department, and the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program in Cognitive Science?

UCSD is a very interdisciplinary campus. Faculty in the Cognitive Science department all maintain active relationships with other parts of campus, and often teach students from other departments. UCSD offers two distinct Ph.D. programs related to cognitive science, each with different admissions and graduation requirements.

First, the Department of Cognitive Science offers a Ph.D. in Cognitive Science. Students are admitted directly into the department, take many of their classes from and are advised by CogSci faculty, and fulfill degree requirements of the department. This program provides broad training in the various areas of cognitive science, and a faculty member from the Cognitive Science department typically acts as advisor for the dissertation.

Second, the Interdisciplinary Program in Cognitive Science (IDP) offers a joint Ph.D. program between Cognitive Science and an affiliated "home" department. UCSD academic departments offering this opportunity are:

  • Anthropology
  • Communication
  • Computer Science & Engineering
  • Linguistics
  • Neuroscience
  • Philosophy
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Education Studies

Students gain admittance to the IDP through the home department and must fulfill requirements of the home department. For admissions information on each of home departments, please see the Graduate Admissions website.

Admission to the IDP may be sought at any time after admission to the student's home department, usually in the second or third year. These students also work with CogSci faculty, who may serve as advisor or co-advisor of the dissertation. The primary advisor must have an appointment in the student's home department.

[Note: Most of these answers apply to the Cognitive Science Ph.D. (not necessarily the Interdiciplinary Ph.D.). Check out our IDP Page for more information.

What background/degree should I have to apply to Cognitive Science?

We accept students from all fields, but applicants must have completed a bachelor's degree; many have also completed a Masters degree. All degrees must be from accredited institutions of higher education. The range of prior disciplines of our students is very broad (even broader than the set of IDP cognate departments listed above!).

What research areas does Cognitive Science have and where can I find more information?

Our department specializes in a variety of research including language and cognitive development, visual processing, human computer interaction, neural networks, and the development of robots. To get a better idea of what we do, you can peruse our faculty's profiles.

I hear that San Diego is an expensive place to live. How much does it cost to rent a place?

San Diego can be expensive, however, sharing a place with others often makes the cost affordable. Additional information on university and off-campus housing resources is available.

Does Cognitive Science have a Master's program?

The focus of our graduate program is the Ph.D. degree. Students in good standing who leave before completing a Ph.D. can ask to receive a Masters, if they've completed the necessary course work and satisfactorily met the Second-Year project. However, note that duplication of advanced degrees is not permitted at UCSD.

How many applicants do you accept to the program each year?

Every year varies, but in recent years about 10-14 students have been admitted from an application pool of approximately 200-250 students.

Majors included such varied fields as: Computer Science, Cognitive Science, Electrical Engineering, Linguistics, Math, to name a few.

What kinds of jobs do students obtain after graduating?

Graduates of our program have gone off to both academic and industrial careers. It is also not unusual for our students to go into a post-doctoral program. 

Can I take Cogs graduate courses even though I haven't been admitted to a UCSD graduate program?

Students who want to take courses for personal enrichment or to prepare for applying to a Cogs graduate program can enroll in graduate classes (with permission of the instuctor) through the UCSD Extension Concurrent Enrollment Program.

The Admissions Process

How long are GRE and TOEFL scores valid?

GRE scores are valid for five years. Please note we do not require a subject test. The TOEFL score is valid for two years. The TOEFL is only required for international applicants whose native language is not English and who have not studied for one uninterrupted year at a university-level institution in a country in which English is the language of instruction and in a country in which English is the dominant language.  For more information, visit the Graduate Division's FAQ page on Tests and Scores.


What types of financial support are available to students in Cognitive Science?

Students admitted into the program are typically offered four years of support (provisional on adequate progress each year). Financial support comes in the form of fellowships, teaching assistantships and research assistantships. Students are encouraged to look into applying for extramural fellowships directly themselves! 

Fellowship information for incoming students is available on the Graduate Division website.  You can also check out the Cognitive Science Graduate Student Awards page to find examples of fellowships our grad students have received.

Can I apply to more than one graduate program at UCSD?

Yes, you can submit an application to 3 programs and only one application fee is required. Please see online application instructions for multiple applications. Note that you will need to include supporting documents for each department separately (e.g., statement of purpose, letters of recommendation, test scores, etc.)

I've already applied to the program and am waiting to hear back. When will I know if I'm accepted?

You will be notified as soon as possible (but via automatic email) which documents we've received and when your file is complete. In late January, invitations to visit our department will be sent to some applicants. We will notify all applicants of final decisions before the end of March.

Still have a question? Send an email to and we will try to answer it soon as possible.