Admissions FAQ

  • Am I am eligible for the program?
    Judgments about the suitability/eligibility of candidates for the program are made by the Admissions Committee. No assessment of candidate qualifications can be made prior to admissions decisions. Recommended courses are listed here.
  • Is a previous research background in a bioinformatics-related field necessary for successful enrollment?
    No. Previous research and associated publications are often considered favorably by the Admissions Committee. However, these are not requirements.
  • Am I eligible for the program if I do not have any professional computer skills?
    In addition to computer science, we admit students from physical sciences, biological sciences, mathematics, statistics and engineering, who may not have professional computer skills. If necessary we may recommend you to take extra coursework in Programming, Fundamental Data Structures, or Algorithms.
  • I am intending to take a course in one of the programming languages (Java, C++ etc.), but the course will not be completed at the time I wish to apply. Will the course still help to make my application strong?
    You can include a list of courses that you are currently taking or planning to take with your application for consideration by the Admissions Committee.
  • Will a prior MS in bioinformatics or computational biology have a great impact on my admission to the joint PhD program?
    No. We consider each application separately on the basis of many criteria, including research statement, undergraduate (and if applicable graduate) coursework performance, GRE scores, letters of recommendations, etc. The fraction of our current students who have an MS degree in bioinformatics or computational biology is only 16%. Although about 35% of our current students had a prior MS when they entered our program, such students were admitted because they had good research experience.
  • Will the program continue to consider applications after the deadline? If so, when are the last dates?
    Under special circumstances, applications submitted after the deadline may be considered. If you would like to request special permission to submit a late application, please contact one of the program directors.
  • What Institutional/Department codes should I use for score reporting?
    For the GRE, use Institution code 2074, Department code 0402. For TOEFL, use Institution code 4256, Department code 78.
  • What GRE and GPA scores are expected for acceptance into this program?
    GRE and GPA scores are only one factor considered by the Admissions Committee. Average scores and GPA for students offered admission to our program last year are: GRE Verbal: 162; GRE Quantitative: 167; GPA: 3.71/4.0.
  • Which GRE subject test is required for application? Can I choose any subject test?
    Submission of a GRE subject score is recommended but not required. You can choose any subject test. Our applicants in the past years took one of these four: (Typical scores are shown in parentheses.) Computer Science (870); Biology (750); Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology (660); Math (710).
  • Is the GRE a compulsory criterion for admission? Can GRE waivers be obtained?
    GRE scores are required; waivers for special circumstances, such as prior M.D. or Ph.D. degree, may be requested from the directors.
  • Should I take the standard tests again if my scores are not high enough for admission?
    If you take the standard tests multiple times, we consider only your best set of scores.
  • What are the TOEFL requirements for international students?
    If your native language is not English, then you must submit the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). All students need to submit a TOEFL. No exceptions.A minimum score of 250 (600 paper, 100 iBT) on the computer TOEFL or a minimum of 7.0 on the IELTS is required for admission to the program. Scores must be less than two years old.
  • I am an international student, and will receive my Master’s degree at a university within an English-speaking country. Do I need to submit a TOEFL score?

    If you are currently working on or have received a bachelor’s and/or a master’s degree in the U.S. and your native language is not English, the TOEFL is still required. However, you may submit an expired test score up to five years old.

  • Do you accept IELTS score instead of TOEFL?
    Yes. A minimum of 7.0 on the IELTS is required for admission to the program.  We prefer that you take the TOEFL, but we will accept the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). The same restrictions of expiration dates apply with an IELTS.

  • What financial aid is available should I be admitted in the program?
    All enrolled students receive full financial support, consisting of full tuition and stipend. The stipend is $28,500-$31,200 per year.
  • Is it necessary for me to apply for financial aid?
    No, your application to the program is considered to be an application for financial aid as well.
  • What is the approximate overall cost of graduate study per academic year?
    The overall cost includes tuition and fees plus living expenses. Tuition and most fees are covered by the program, and a stipend is provided to cover your living expenses. The stipend has been set to provide a competitive level of support for our students. Pittsburgh’s cost of living is lower than similar metro areas and is 30 percent below the national average. This CNN Cost of Living Calculator can help you compare.
  • What are the specific areas in which projects will be available?
    The best way to see what research projects are available is to look at the websites of our training faculty. Upon admission you will participate in our annual off-site retreat, at the end of orientation week, during which you will have the opportunity to interact with faculty members and learn about their research projects.
  • The program website says to “read about the research interests of the training faculty and identify at least three faculty with whom you would be interested in doing thesis research.” Do I need to/may I approach and contact individual professors?
    You are welcome to approach and contact individual professors, if you’d like more information about their research interests. However, you are not required to contact them. Since admissions decisions are made by the Admissions Committee, faculty cannot make prior commitments to accept particular students.
  • I have not taken any undergraduate or graduate course on computational biology. Will it be viewed as a weakness in my application package?
    No. Students are evaluated based on many criteria, especially their academic excellence and potential. Computer science, physical science, mathematics or statistics courses are recommended. However, complementary/remedial courses will be made available to enrolled students who lack sufficient background in an area.
  • Can I get credit for core courses or electives based on past graduate courses taken at other universities?
    Decisions on courses to be taken by each student are made by the Advising Committee after enrollment. That committee reviews prior coursework and can waive specific core requirements. Elective requirements are not waived.
  • What is the duration of the program?
    Students are expected to complete their degree in 4 to 5 years. This time depends primarily on the research accomplishments of the student.
  • When entering the program, who can help me with the immigration process?
    For students accepted through Carnegie Mellon University, program coordinators will contact you to help assist you with your application. For students accepted through the University of Pittsburgh, contact the Office of International Services. Just under 40% of our students are international.
  • My current advisor will be leaving academia and asked me to contact other faculty to see if they will be my future Ph.D. advisor. Can I transfer to your Ph.D. program?
    Requests for transfers are only considered along with applications for regular admission, according to the normal application cycle.