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FAQs

Please contact us directly at systemseng@cornell.edu for additional questions.

M.Eng. On Campus FAQs

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Do I have to take the GRE and what are the minimum scores required?

Yes, the GRE is required but there are no specific minimum scores as your scores are considered in conjunction with the other criteria for admission.

Do I have to take the TOEFL, and what are the minimum scores required?

As an international applicant, you must demonstrate proficiency in the English language by taking a TOEFL or IELTS exam.

The Systems Engineering program requires an overall minimum score of 105. This is addition to the minimum sub-scores for each element of the TOEFL iBT as outlined by the Graduate School:

Writing: 20/30

Listening: 15/30

Reading: 20/30

Speaking: 22/30

Please visit the Graduate School website for more information.

What is the minimum IELTS score required for admission?

Applicants must receive an overall band score of 7.5 or higher.

What are the deadlines for completing the GRE or TOEFL?

Both have to be submitted with your application.

Can I start classes before I complete the GRE or TOEFL?

Only if the GRE and/or TOEFL have been waived. GRE can only be waived by the Director of Graduate Studies. See next question for how to waive TOEFL.

Do I have to take the TOEFL if I received an undergraduate degree from an U.S. institution?

Only students who have studied in full-time status for at least two academic years within the last five years in the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, or New Zealand, or with English language instruction in Canada or South Africa are exempt from the TOEFL. You must submit a transcript that shows you have attended college in one of these approved locations.

What is the typical length of the program?

One year (fall and spring semester)

When are your admission deadlines?

May 31 for the fall semester and November 15 for the spring semester.

What are the course requirements?

SYSEN 5100 | Model Based Systems Engineering | Fall | 4 credits

SYSEN 5200 | Systems Analysis Behavior and Optimization | Spring | 3 credits

SYSEN 5900 | Systems Engineering Project | Spring and fall | 6-8 credits

CEE 5900 | Project Management | Spring or fall | 4 credits

Are there any prerequisites for the program?

Yes, you must have had at least one course in probability and statistics. If you have not met this prerequisite, it will be stated in your letter of admission.

Can you substitute a GMAT score for the GRE?

No.

What is the difference between your on-campus degree and the online degree?

All students need 30 credits to graduate. Content is exactly the same for both groups (except for the two on campus modules), it’s just the delivery that is different. Online degree students can either watch lectures live, or watch them later through Blackboard or some other online streaming method.

How much is tuition?

Visit Office of the Bursar for current on-campus tuition rates (Professional Masters Tier 1).

Is financial aid available?

Yes, you must submit your application no later than February 1 in order to be considered for financial aid.

M.Eng. Distance Learning FAQs

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Do I have to take the GRE and what are the minimum scores required?

Yes, the GRE is required, however, the GRE can be waived if you are an undergrad in Cornell University or a part of the BAE and Lockheed Martin ELDP program.

There are no specific minimum scores as your scores are considered in conjunction with the other criteria for admission.

Do I have to take the TOEFL, and what are the minimum scores required?

As an international applicant, you must demonstrate proficiency in the English language by taking a TOEFL or IELTS exam.

The Systems Engineering program requires an overall minimum score of 105. This is addition to the minimum sub-scores for each element of the TOEFL iBT as outlined by the Graduate School:

Writing: 20/30

Listening: 15/30

Reading: 20/30

Speaking: 22/30

Please visit the Graduate School website for more information.

What is the minimum IELTS score required for admission?

Applicants must receive an overall band score of 7.5 or higher.

What are the deadlines for completing the GRE or TOEFL?

Both have to be submitted with your application.

Can I start classes before I complete the GRE or TOEFL?

Only if the GRE and/or TOEFL have been waived. GRE can only be waived by the Director of Graduate Studies. See next question for how to waive TOEFL.

Do I have to take the TOEFL if I received an undergraduate degree from an U.S. institution?

Only students who have studied in full-time status for at least two academic years within the last five years in the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, or New Zealand, or with English language instruction in Canada or South Africa are exempt from the TOEFL. You must submit a transcript that shows you have attended college in one of these approved locations.

Do I have to attend the two residential sessions?

All students in the distance learning degree must attend both sessions.

Are there any prerequisites for the program?

Yes, you must have had at least one course in probability and statistics. If you have not met this prerequisite, it will be stated in your letter of admission.

Can you substitute a GMAT score for the GRE?

No.

What is the difference between your on-campus degree and the online degree?

All students need 30 credits to graduate. Content is exactly the same for both groups (except for the two on campus modules), it’s just the delivery that is different. Online degree students can either watch lectures live, or watch them later through Blackboard or some other online streaming method.

What is the fastest that I could complete the degree online?

1 year = Full time, 2 years (or more) = Part time.

When are your admission deadlines?

May 31 for the fall semester and November 15 for the spring semester.

What are the course requirements?

SYSEN 5100 | Model Based Systems Engineering | Fall | 4 credits

SYSEN 5200 | Systems Analysis Behavior and Optimization | Spring | 3 credits

SYSEN 5900 | Systems Engineering Project | Spring and fall | 6-8 credits

CEE 6910 | Principles of Project Leadership | Spring or fall | 3 credits

SYSEN 5920 | Systems Engineering Management for Virtual Teams | Fall | 1 credit

SYSEN 5940 | Creativity and Innovation within Systems Engineering | Summer | 1 credit

How much is tuition?

Tuition is charged on a per-credit basis for distance learning students and is $2,275 per credit for the 2018-19 academic year.

Is financial aid available?

The Knight Scholarship Program is available for M.Eng. students, for more detail please go to: https://www.engineering.cornell.edu/admissions/graduate-admissions/admissions-meng-students/knight-scholarship-program

How are exams and proctoring handled for distance learning students?

In many cases, there is a site coordinator, paid by the student's employer, who acts as proctor. In cases where there is no site coordinator, we require the student to designate a proctor. For these students, we begin the process of identifying a proctor many weeks in advance of the first exam. The proctor completes and signs the form entitled "DISTANCE LEARNING PROCTORED TEST FORM" and returns the signed form to the Systems Engineering Program. The designation of someone as a proctor is subject to close scrutiny to ensure the independence and impartiality of the role.

Exams for off-campus students are scheduled to occur within 24 hours of the on-campus exam, typically during local business hours on the same day as the on-campus exam. An electronic copy of the exam is e-mailed to the proctor together with specific instructions for conduct and return of the exams. Both the student and the proctor are required to sign the form entitled "EXAM PROCTOR VERIFICATION FORM" attesting to the proper conduct of the exam.

The completed exams are sent by express courier to the Program office. The forms are filed and the exams turned over to the teaching assistants in the relevant courses for grading. Our experience is that there is a one-week delay in grading off-campus exams versus on-campus exams. The grading criteria are identical for off-campus students as for on-campus students.

Ph.D. FAQs

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What is a Systems Ph.D.?

Engineering, business and societal problems often require individuals to produce solutions for different pieces of an operational problem, but they also need a systems engineer who can use a multidisciplinary approach to coordinate those efforts and ensure the different pieces fit together.

The program pursues methodologies and modeling techniques that are relevant for planning and executing multi-disciplinary solution efforts for design and operational problems in engineering, business, and the social sciences and combinations of these. The goal is first to generate tools and techniques that start with understanding the needs of the end consumer of the solution and to convert these needs into quantifiable requirements.  And then to investigate how these requirements can be satisfied by devising possible solutions, to evaluate solutions that are under consideration, and implementing a solution that effectively serves the needs of the end consumer.

Examples of Systems areas where the development of new techniques and processes are need.

Understanding the market for natural disaster insurance requires integrating models of natural hazards, building-specific structural vulnerability, consumer choice, insurance company competition, and governmental action. Designing coordinated networks of earth-observing sensors on satellites, UAVs and atmospheric balloons and predicting the transmission of disease-causing agents through the food supply chain are two other examples of challenges faced by systems engineers.

Why join a relatively new Ph.D. program?

Although the Ph.D. offering is relatively new, systems and systems engineering at Cornell has a prestigious, 19 year history that includes a master’s degree, a minor, a distance learning program and several certificate programs. Also, Ph.D. degrees focusing on systems have been offered at Cornell for many more years, but through individual engineering departments. The new broader systems Ph.D. program takes advantage of the previous Master’s degree foundation, existing faculty, courses, laboratory space and other resources to offer a tested curriculum proven to be successful in educating students and preparing them for their chosen careers. In addition, new courses covering advanced systems topics have been created specifically for the Ph.D. program to add the increased breadth and depth needed to carry out advanced research.

Students enrolling in these early years of Cornell’s Systems PhD program have the advantage of helping to shape the program and cater it to their specific interests and needs.

How is the Ph.D. different from the M.Eng program?

The doctoral level is designed for students and professionals who have adequate technical background, but are now looking to take a leadership role within a research group, company division, or a university. Students at this level will grow from learning existing systems techniques to creating new, state-of-the-art techniques. Also, new courses covering advanced topics have been created specifically for the Ph.D. program to add the increased breadth and depth needed to carry out advanced research

What can I study? What is the specific curriculum?

Each student must show competency within the context of the following seven courses: (1) Foundations of Complex Systems, (2) Human-Centered Modeling, (3) Systems Architecture, (4) Risk-Based Systems Engineering, (5) Systems Behavior and Optimization, (6) Model-Based Systems Engineering, (7) Case Study Doctoral Colloquium.

In addition to these courses, each student will be required to complete two minors chosen from engineering, business, and the sciences (including social sciences, agriculture, etc.).

Students are required to pass a field-administered Qualifying Exam and an Admission to Candidacy Exam, or A Exam, which has an oral portion and is administered by the special committee of the student. Students are also required to pass a Final Exam, or B Exam, in which the student presents and defends the Ph.D. thesis.

What other schools offer this program and why choose Cornell?

U.S. News & World Report lists 30 U.S. institutions with doctoral programs in systems engineering, only one of which is in New York State. As an Ivy League university with strong academics across a very diverse campus, Cornell is uniquely positioned to offer the degree because of its interdisciplinary nature. Whereas most other universities house their systems programs in one department, Cornell’s Systems Program takes a multi-department approach that takes advantage of not only its 13 other engineering departments and schools, but also of Cornell's strong social science, economics and business programs, including Cornell Tech in New York City. This allows Cornell to focus on areas often overlooked by other systems program, such as the human-centered aspect of designing complex systems. The research being done by Cornell faculty reflects this approach as described in the Research section.  More information can be found online or provided by request.

For whom is this degree intended?

Cornell’s Systems Ph.D. program is for students and professionals who have adequate technical background, but are now looking to take a leadership role within a research group, company division, or a university. The employment prospects for the graduates of this program, both in academia and industry, are remarkably high. We expect the graduates of the program to find employment in a variety of fields, including energy, healthcare, defense, aerospace, information technology, and policy making.

Driven by the strong industry interest in systems experts, numerous universities are in the process of starting or growing their systems programs, which, in turn, drives the academic demand for individuals with Ph.D. in systems.

When can I enroll? When did the program begin?

You can apply now. The deadline for the applications each year is January 1 for the following September. The Ph.D. program began in the fall of 2016 and is now in its second year of full operation with about 16 full-time PhD students in residence in the fall 2018 semester.

How much is tuition?

The cost of enrolling in the program will vary based on the individual applying, but a number of financial aid options are available in the form of teaching assistantships, program fellowships, and research assistantships. Most enrolled students are supported fully by financial aid, unless they are supported, at some level, by their employer.

Is the Ph.D. offered via distance?

We are presently introducing a hybrid version of our Ph.D. program. However, this program will still require the first two years (four semesters) to be in residence. (Under certain circumstances such as a previous relevant master’s degree, it may be possible to only spend one year (two semesters) in residence. 
The remaining years would be able to be completed via distance if it is worked out with your thesis advisor and your graduate study committee.  The hybrid version is primarily for students who are being sponsored financially, at some level, by their company. Requests for enrolling in the hybrid version of the PhD are being reviewed on a case by case basis.