How to Apply
The BCS Doctoral Program is highly selective. We receive over 700 applications each year, and we typically enroll 15-20 new graduate students.
GRE scores are not required.
The final degree objective for all students in the program is the PhD (Doctor of Philosophy). Regardless of undergraduate major, applicants must have an outstanding academic record, particularly in mathematics and the sciences. Relevant research experience is also highly desirable. Students who were unable to obtain research experience at their undergraduate institution often work in research during summers or after graduation. An applicant's likelihood of admission cannot be estimated based on one or two criteria: the graduate admissions committee carefully reviews the entire application package (statement of objectives, recommendation letters, transcripts, etc.) to make admissions decisions. The tabs below will guide candidates through the admissions process.
Steps in the admissions process
Applications to the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences Graduate Program must be completed online. Paper applications are not accepted. The application, unofficial transcripts, and letters of recommendation must be submitted by December 1 for admission the following September. Items received after the deadline will be added to your file. The Graduate Admissions Committee begins reviewing applications shortly after the deadline, so materials received late may not be reviewed.
The Office of Graduate Education (OGE) is offering graduate application fee waivers for US citizens and US permanent residents who demonstrate financial hardship, are current or former members of the United States Armed Forces, or who have participated in special fellowship programs, including MIT-sponsored diversity programs (e.g., MIT Summer Research Program, CONVERGE). Fee waivers are also available for prospective students the OGE has met during diversity recruitment events. International students attending US colleges and universities who have participated in MIT sponsored programs, such as CONVERGE or MSRP, are also eligible to apply for a fee waiver. More information and the fee waiver request form can be found here.
The MIT Graduate Admissions page has information about all graduate programs at MIT (master's and doctoral), information for international students, and a grad student blog.
We require one copy of transcript(s) from each university attended. Original, official transcripts are not required until after a student has been admitted. Official transcripts for admitted students should be sent to:
Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Academic Office (Room 46-2005)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
Transcripts are verified upon receipt. Any discrepancy between uploaded and official transcript(s) will result in withdrawal of our admission offer.
Does the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences offer clinical, counseling, or social psychology?
No, we do not offer studies in these areas.
Will I be notified about the status of my application?
You will receive notification of application status within two weeks of the deadline. The only information you may view in our online system is confirmation of receipt of letters of recommendation.
Do I have to complete the area of the application that asks about subjects taken?
Yes, but only include relevant subjects. This section is designed to gather information not included on transcripts, such as textbooks used for particular courses.
What if I completed a course that did not use a textbook or the textbook is unknown?
In these cases, leave that area of the application blank.
Are GRE scores required?
What are the requirements to demonstrate English language proficiency?
Applicants who have received instruction in English in their primary and secondary schools and applicants who have been in the United States for four years or longer and have received a degree from an American institution are eligible for a waiver of the English proficiency exam requirement by sending a written request to firstname.lastname@example.org. Applicants who do not meet those requirements must take either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), or the Duolingo English Test (DET).
In addition to the TOEFL/IELTS/DET, all students whose first language is not English are required to take the English Evaluation Test (EET) at MIT during the week prior to Registration Day. This examination is a diagnostic test whose purpose is to help students identify their strengths and weaknesses in written and oral English. English classes may be recommended as a result of the applicant’s EET score.
Do you accept old TOEFL/IELTS/DET scores?
We follow the guidelines set by Educational Testing Service, IELTS, and DET, all of which state that scores are valid for two years.
Why can’t I choose cognitive neuroscience as a research area on my application?
If you enroll in our program, you will have opportunities for interdisciplinary studies in many areas, including cognitive neuroscience. On your application, please select either cognitive science or systems neuroscience, whichever category is more applicable to your area of interest.
Is it possible to send more than three letters of recommendation?
Yes, you can have up to 5 letters of recommendation sent.
When will I hear if I’m accepted?
Emails regarding final admissions decisions are typically sent in April.
We recognize that the academic community prospers when talents from diverse backgrounds come together to solve scientific problems. Therefore, we hope to recruit researchers from historically underrepresented groups in higher education. Since 2019, the BCS Application Assistance Program (AAP) has been striving to share social capital and narrow the information gap among applicants during the graduate school application process.
The AAP is a volunteer-based, student-run initiative to help applicants get on to their PhD career by providing feedback on their application materials and answering questions related to the BCS program. We would particularly encourage groups that have been underrepresented in STEM to use this resource. They include, but are not limited to, ethnic minorities (e.g. African Americans, American Indians, Hispanics, Native Alaskans and Pacific Islanders), applicants of non-traditional academic backgrounds, and graduates from institutions that sent few students to MIT in the past.
Participants may receive assistance through one-on-one mentorship or office hours hosted by current BCS graduate students. Additionally, three panel discussions on the BCS application process and graduate student life will be held during the application period, and are open to all AAP participants.
Due to the high volume of participants every year, opportunities for one-on-one mentorship will be sorted on a rolling basis depending on the needs of each participant and the capacity of our mentors. We recommend interested individuals to sign up for the AAP using this form as early as possible starting Sept 1, 2021. Enrollment to the AAP closes on Nov 15, 2021 (i.e. 2 weeks ahead of the graduate program’s application deadline).
For additional resources and FAQ, please refer to the AAP website.