How to Apply

The 2020 applications are now open

The deadline to apply is December 1, 2019.

Apply Now!

Approximately 10 students join the Watson School Ph.D. program each year. Watson School students come from all over the world, with more than 20 US states and 25 countries represented. The Watson School encourages applicants with backgrounds in any area of biology as well as those with non-bioscience backgrounds, such as computer science, engineering, math, chemistry, and physics. Students must have received a bachelor’s degree or equivalent by the time they enroll in the program. The application consists of official transcripts, a personal statement, and three letters of recommendation. Students from non-English language universities must submit TOEFL or IELTS test scores. The GRE general test and subject test(s) are not required. Applications must be submitted online by December 1st. There is no application fee. For more information about the application process, read our Frequently Asked Questions.

The Watson School recruits a diverse student group, including individuals from a range of academic, geographic, social, racial, and ethnic backgrounds. The program especially encourages students from groups not traditionally represented in the biological sciences. The Watson School faculty and administration and the CSHL community work together to provide mentoring and guidance to ensure all students achieve their goals in the program.

The Watson School is funded largely by an endowment provided by generous private donors. The Ph.D. program stipend is currently $34,000 per year. Students who are awarded an external fellowship—NSF, NIH, or other government or private organization—receive a stipend of $37,400, or the amount of their fellowships stipend (whichever is higher). The Watson School pays all tuition costs and associated study fees for its students.  Students receive a new laptop and all necessary software and textbooks, roughly $3,500 of materials.  Once students join a research lab, they receive an $8,000 per year research cost allowance, intended to help support their thesis work, paid to their lab.  Students are eligible for full health and dental benefits and have access to affordable campus child care. Students are also eligible for a sports and fitness refund. CSHL offers relocation costs and housing subsidies.  Dining services at the Laboratory are also subsidized.

Watson School students are supported by fellowships made possible by generous support from the following individuals, foundations, and institutions.

George A. & Marjorie H. Anderson Fellowships
Anonymous Fellowship
A*STAR Graduate Scholarship
Bristol-Myers Squibb Fellowship
Cashin Foundation Fellowship
Crick-Clay Fellowship
Charles A. Dana Foundation Fellowship
Samuel Freeman Foundation Fellowship
Genentech Foundation Fellowship
Edward & Martha Gerry Fellowships
Goldberg-Lindsay Fellowship
Florence Gould Fellowship
William Randolph Hearst Scholarship
Boehringer Ingelheim Fonds Fellowship
The Israeli Graduate Fellowship
Annette Kade Fellowship

David Koch Fellowship
La Caixa Fellowship
Robert & Teresa Lindsay Fellowships
Elisabeth Sloan Livingston Fellowships
David & Fanny Luke Fellowship
William R. Miller Fellowship
National Institutes of Health Graduate Training Grant
National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Postgraduate Scholarships
Phelan Family Studentship
Leslie C. Quick, Jr. Fellowship
Gonzalo Río Arronte Fellowship
Starr Centennial Scholarships
Beckman Scholarship

What are the admissions criteria?

Applicants must have received a Bachelor of Arts or Sciences or equivalent degree from an accredited university or college prior to matriculation.  Selection for admission will be based on the perceived ability of the student to excel in this doctoral program.  Suitable applicants will be assessed on the basis of their academic record, recommendations from their mentors, and an in-person, on-site interview.

What do I do with my transcripts?

The online application system will upload a scanned copy of your original transcripts, including an indication of the grading system as specified by your home institution’s registrar’s office.

I have attended and received credit at more than one institution. Does the Watson School need a transcript from each institution?

Yes, unofficial transcripts from all undergraduate and/or graduate institutions you have attended must be uploaded online. Please scan each individual transcript and merge the files into one document before uploading the information to the online application.

How do I list my grade point average (GPA) if my university does not use a 4.0 system?

If your grades are not based on a 4.0 scale, in the Academic History section of the application, please note the actual class mark you received. For instance, if your grades are calculated as a percentage, list your percentage, or if your grades are on a scale of 10 or 5 (or any other number), list the average mark you received. In addition, please convert your grade to a 4.0 scale by dividing your average mark by the maximum possible mark and multiplying by 4.0 (or if the scale used is inverted, ie. 1 is the highest mark, calculate the difference of your grade average from the highest mark, divide by the lowest possible mark, multiply by 4, and then subtract that from 4.0 – or use any other scaling operation you can come up with).

If your undergraduate institution uses a British grading system, please use the following conversions for the 4.0 scale:

First class honors      =   4.0
2:1 (Upper second)   =   3.5
2:2 (Lower second)    =   3.0
Third class honors     =   2.3
Pass        =   2.0

When can I apply?

Applications will be accepted online during the Fall term (September through December 1). Without exception, the application deadline is December 1.  There is only one admission cycle per year.  The Watson School’s academic year begins in August; other start dates are not possible.

What exactly is the “application deadline”?

The deadline for all application materials, including recommendation letters and any test scores you wish to send, is December 1.  “Deadline”, as defined by the New Oxford American Dictionary, is “the latest time or date by which something should be submitted.”  We do not accept any materials after December 1.

Is there an application fee?

No, there is no application fee.

What are the Watson School’s GRE and TOEFL codes?

The GRE institutional code is 2856.
The TOEFL code is 9066.

How do I send IELTS score information?

We do not accept IELTS scores electronically. The information may be mailed to the Watson School at:

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Watson School of Biological Sciences
One Bungtown Road
Cold Spring Harbor, NY 11724

What should I do about GRE and TOEFL scores if I’m also applying to Stony Brook programs?

Applicants are encouraged to report their GRE and TOEFL or IELTS scores to Stony Brook electronically.  The institution code is 2548. No department code is required. Stony Brook’s Graduate School strictly enforces an English proficiency requirement.

What if I don’t find my country in the application menu?

Some countries are listed under alternative names.  Try checking “Republic of…” or other variations of your country’s name.  If you are from Guernsey, unfortunately we ask you to select “United Kingdom” until the online application is updated.

When are the interview weekends?

If you are invited for an in-person, on-campus interview, the Watson School Admissions Office will notify you by email by the end of January.  Interview weeks generally take place in the end of January through mid-February.  The Watson School covers travel costs and provides accommodations and meals for all students invited to interview.  An in-person, on-site interview is required for admission to the Watson School.

Does the Watson School require official transcripts sent directly from my institution?

It is not necessary to send official transcripts with your application. When submitting your application, please scan and upload the most up-to-date unofficial transcript.

How can I confirm if the Watson School has received my test scores?

Due to the high volume of applications, the Watson School Admissions Office can not confirm if your score has been received. To ensure that your application information is complete by December 1, please self-report your GRE and/or TOEFL/IELTS information in the “Academic History” section of the online application.

Can I submit my application before the letters of recommendation have been uploaded online?

Yes, applications may be submitted before the letters of recommendation are completed.

How do my referees submit the letters of recommendation?

Letters of recommendation are uploaded online to the online application system manager. When completing the application, you supply the email addresses of each of your referees.  Your referees will receive an email directly from the online application system with instructions on how to upload the letter of recommendation online. Please notify your referees that they will receive an email from the online application system, Embark, so it is not deleted or overlooked.  If your referee has not received the email, it is suggested to check the spam folder.

Can I submit additional letters of recommendation with my application?

No.  Three letters of recommendation may be uploaded to the application system manager. Faxed, mailed or emailed recommendation letters will not be accepted.

My referee missed the December 1 application deadline. How can he/she submit the letter of recommendation?

Letters of recommendation are not accepted after the application deadline. Faxed, mailed, or emailed letters of recommendation will not be accepted. Please remind referees of the December 1 deadline and encourage them to submit the letter in a timely manner. You should allow at least one month for your referees to write their recommendation letters.

Can I change my application after it has been submitted?

No. Once an application has been submitted, adjustments, additions, or revisions cannot be made.  Please review your application carefully before submitting the information.

Should I contact CSHL professors about working in their laboratory before applying to the School?  Can I apply directly to a lab I am interested in?

Watson School students must be admitted through the Program; an individual professor can not offer a student admission to the Watson School.  It is not necessary to contact professors prior to admission to the School.

Some CSHL professors also have appointments with nearby Stony Brook University. You can consider applying to one of Stony Brook’s graduate programs as part of the Watson School application process.

If you have additional questions, contact