Information for Applicants

(858) 534-7141 
FAX: (858) 534-1128

Graduate Applicants:

Thank you for your interest in the Cognitive Science graduate programs at UCSD. Please read the information below regarding our programs and policies. Both the Cognitive Science and Interdisciplinary Program in Cognitive Science are Ph.D. programs. We do not offer admissions to a master's program. Applications are currently available at  The application fee must be paid by credit card. The fee is $105 for U.S. Citizens and Permanent Residents, and $125 for International Applicants.

Program Information:

The Department of Cognitive Science emphasizes four main areas of study: the brain-the understanding of neurobiological processes and phenomena; behavior-the experimental methods and findings from the study of psychology, language, and the sociocultural environment; computation-the powers and limits of various representational formats, coupled with studies of computational mechanisms; and Interaction--the cognitive potential and consequences of technology and design. This approach involves a multidisciplinary study of cognition with emphasis on computer science, linguistics, neuroscience, psychology, and related aspects of anthropology, biology, mathematics, philosophy, and sociology.

Summary of Graduate Program Requirements

  1. Foundations courses (3)
  2. Approved study plan, includes issues courses (6), methods courses (3), and laboratory rotations (3)
  3. Second-year project (6 courses, paper and presentation)
  4. Language requirement
  5. Advancement to candidacy
  6. Teaching (1 quarter each academic year in residence)
  7. Cognitive science 200 seminar series
  8. Participation in departmental events and committees
  9. PhD dissertation and defense

* Some program requirements may change.

Admissions Information and Policies

The application deadline for admissions for the 2017–2018 academic year is December 1, 2016.

Admissions Requirements:

  • Bachelors degree or equivalent on or before the beginning of the admission quarter.
  • Minimum of 3.0 GPA
  • Your GRE scores must be no more than 5 years old.
  • Minimum of 550 TOEFL paper score or 213 computer score (International Applicants only); TOEFL scores must be no older than 2 years.

Materials Required

  • On-line application and $105 application fee ($125 for International Students)
  • Copies of academic records from all post-secondary institutions attended (submitted on-line only)
  • Statement of Purpose (2500 word limit)
  • Letters of Recommendation Forms and Waiver (submitted on-line only) 
    Important: Recommenders will receive requests for letters through the on-line application as soon as the recommender page is completed and saved, regardless of whether your application has been submitted. We strongly encourage you to complete this page and request letters early.
  • Official Graduate Record Exam Test(s) scores and TOEFL scores (international applicants only)
  • San Diego Fellowship form, if applicable (submit through on-line application)

Paper documents should be sent directly to: 
Graduate Admissions Coordinator 
Department of Cognitive Science 
University of California, San Diego 
9500 Gilman Drive - 0515 
La Jolla, CA 92093-0515

The institution code for GRE and TOEFL results is 4836.  Department codes are no longer necessary.

In reviewing each applicant's file, we consider the GPA, GRE scores, letters of recommendation, and the Statement of Purpose. A minimum requirement of a 3.0 GPA (on a 4.0 scale), is required for admission. For foreign students, TOEFL scores are also considered. The university-wide minimum TOEFL score required for consideration for graduate admission is 550 for the paper based test (PBT), and 80 for the internet based test (iBT). For those taking the IELTS,  university-wide minimum exam score required for consideration for graduate admission is Band Score 7.  The better letters of recommendation come from faculty who have known the applicant for some time in both research and instructional situations. Under these conditions, the recommender can make a more informed evaluation of the applicant's promise. The Statement of Purpose is especially valuable to us in understanding a student's interests and motivations. Also, it is used to assess whether our program and our faculty can supply applicants with help toward their goals.

Specialization in Anthropogeny

This is a transdisciplinary graduate specialization in Anthropogeny with the aim of providing graduate students the opportunity to specialize in research and education on explaining the origins of the human phenomenon.  The aim is to rectify the absence of existing training programs that provide such a broad and explicitly transdisciplinary approach - spanning the social and natural sciences - and focusing on one of the oldest questions known to humankind, namely, the origins of humans and humanity.  This specialization is not a stand-alone program, but aims at providing graduate students who have just embarked on their graduate careers with the opportunity to interact and communicate with peers in radically different disciplines throughout the duration of their PhD projects.  Such communication across disciplines from the outset is key to fostering a capacity for interdisciplinary "language" skills and conceptual flexibility.

Admission to the Specialization

The Cognitive Science graduate program will advertise the specialization to those students in our programs who have an interest in human origins.  Qualifying applicants will have the opportunity to enroll for the Specialization.

Specialization Requirements

Students pursuing this Specialization will be required to take a series of courses in addition to research rounds over 4 years of study.  It is advised that students begin their coursework in their third year.

1.  Coursework: Introduction to Anthropogeny (BIOM 225) and Advanced Anthropogeny (BIOM 229) are each taken once, in the Winter and Spring of the students 3rd year.  Current Topics in Anthropogeny (BIOM 218) is to be taken every quarter for 4 years.

2.  Research Rounds: Monthly seminars during which all participating students talk about their respective research.

Qualifying Examination

Cognitive Science students in the Anthropogeny Specialization must meet the department requirement for advancement to candidacy.  In addition, students must meet internal deadlines, mentoring provisions, and proposal standards of the Anthropogeny Specialization track.


PhD students must complete a dissertation, which meets all requirements of the home program.  In addition, it is expected that the PhD dissertation is broadly related to human origins and will be interdisciplinary in nature.

Time Limits

It is expected that students will retain the same time to degree as students not pursuing this Specialization.  Additional course load consists only of two regular course (two quarters, 20 lectures each).  The third proposed course takes place only three times a year from Friday noon to Saturday evening.

Interdisciplinary Program in Cognitive Science

The Interdisciplinary Program in Cognitive Science offers a joint PhD in cognitive science and a traditional home department (anthropology, communication, computer science and engineering, linguistics, neurosciences, philosophy, psychology, or sociology). Students are admitted to UCSD through the home department and fulfill requirements of both the interdisciplinary program and the home department.

Questions about admissions policies and deadlines for home departments should be directed to each individual department. Upon admission to a participating home department, you may apply to the Interdisciplinary Program in Cognitive Science. If an applicant is admitted by the home department, the total application packet (submitted to the home department and later to the program) are reviewed by the Interdisciplinary Program. The main concern is the research interest of the candidate, whether it falls within the realm of the cognitive science program.

More information on the Interdisciplinary Program can be found here.

Home Department Contacts


Department Phone Number Mail Code
Anthropology (858) 534-0107 0101
Communication (858) 534-2379 0503
Computer Science and Engineering (858) 534-3622 0443
Linguistics (858) 534-1145 0108
Neurosciences (858) 534-3377 0662
Philosophy (858) 534-3076 0302
Psychology (858) 534-3002 0109
Sociology (858) 534-4626 0533


To reach the home department by mail, address your correspondence to: 
Graduate Coordinator 
Department of (insert department name) 
9500 Gilman Drive - (insert mail code from list above) 
La Jolla, CA 92093 - (insert mail code again)


Start the application process early. Send in your required documents as soon as possible to avoid an incomplete application file. Secure your letters of recommendation early. If your letters of recommendation are not received by the department, your file cannot be processed.

Seek outside funding to help pay for graduate school. Regardless of what institution you are applying to, having your own funding can only work in your favor.

For additional information on the Cognitive Science Ph.D. program or the Interdisciplinary Program in Cognitive Science, we encourage you to read our Graduate Admissions FAQs and email or call at (858) 534-7141.