PhD Program Frequently Asked Questions

Is someone willing to give me feedback on my application?
Yes!  Our current PhD students have volunteered to give you feedback. Fill out this form to request assistance.

Do I have to have GRE scores?
No. Applicants are not required to submit GRE scores, and we will not use GRE scores in our admissions process.

Do I have to take the GRE subject test?
No. Applicants are not required to submit a GRE advanced subject exam score.

Do I have to take the TOEFL (or equivalent exam)?
The TOEFL (or equivalent, e.g., DuoLingo exam) is required for ALL students whose native language is not English. This is true even if you have or are completing a degree from a university in the United States. We are generally able to accept "expired" TOEFL scores, so long as you have retained a copy of the official scoresheet.

What is the recommended TOEFL score?
A successful applicant will normally have a total iBT score of at least 100 with no subscore less than 25. Applicants may be admitted with slightly lower scores in exceptional circumstances.

I’m only applying to the HCII at Carnegie Mellon. Is that a good idea?
No. If you are serious about doing PhD-level research in HCI you should apply to other good HCI programs. (See HCIBIB.org.) Our resources are limited and we are forced to turn away very good students each year.

What are my chances of getting in?
For the fall 2019 term, we admitted just over ten percent of applicants. Our historical admittance rates hover between five and 10 percent.

I don’t have a strong programming background. May I still apply? Will I have to take a lot of programming courses?
We expect and encourage applicants from a wide range of HCI-related backgrounds, including technical, social science and design fields. While it is important for HCI researchers to have some understanding of the technical aspects of their work, and at least one technical course will be needed in your program of study, we do not expect all  applicants to have strong programming or other technical skills.

Should I visit before I apply (and will that help my chances of being admitted)?
Typically, no. We normally do not encourage people to visit before they apply because it does not generally improve one’s chances of admission. We do, however, invite all admitted students to visit at our expense during our Open House in March. The Open House provides the opportunity to meet with faculty and current students, and to explore the university environment.

Can I apply for admission starting in the spring instead of the fall?
No. We only process admissions once a year. Applications are accepted in December for admission the following fall.

Can I work on my PhD in HCI part time?
No. We expect all our students to work full time on their PhD studies for the duration of their time with us.

Can I complete my PhD in HCI online?
No. Our program is an in-person program.

Is financial aid available?
Yes. All students who remain in good standing receive full tuition and a stipend. Exact details of our financial aid package will be provided at the time of admission.

Do I need to fill out an application for financial aid?
No. All students admitted to our program are funded without applying.

Should I apply for externally funded fellowships (such as the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship?)
Yes. All PhD students are required to apply for at least one fellowship before they graduate. Students interested in the learning sciences should consider applying to the Program for Interdisciplinary Education Research.

I just finished my undergraduate work. Should I apply for the Masters of HCI program first as preparation for my PhD work?
The MHCI program is not intended to serve as preparation for our PhD program (or generally to prepare you to be a researcher). It is intended to teach the skills necessary for professional practice in various HCI-related careers. The PhD program, on the other hand, is designed to prepare you to be an HCI researcher. Because of the different emphasis of each program, applying to the MHCI program with intention to later move to the PhD program is normally not a good idea.
 

If I am not accepted for the HCII PhD program, will I be automatically considered for admission to the Masters of HCI program instead?
No. Because each program has different educational goals, their admissions processes are separate and people are not moved from one to the other. As noted in the previous question, the two programs are designed to address different goals. Therefore, we normally don’t expect students to apply to both the MHCI and PhD programs.

If you believe that you could use additional exposure to research before trying out a PhD program, you might consider applying for research-oriented Masters programs in HCI at other universities (many staffed by our graduates!).

How many students are currently in the program?
Approximately 60.

Questions?
If you have questions that are not answered here or on the applyweb (online application) website, send inquiries to hciiphd [at] cs.cmu.edu.