Applying to our PhD Program

We’re thrilled that you are interested in our PhD program in computer science! This page provides an overview of the application process, some guidelines, and answers to specific questions. Please check our FAQ before emailing with any questions not answered here.

Our program accepts a large number of applicants each year from a diverse range of backgrounds. Our applicants come directly from undergraduate or master’s programs, as well as industry positions, and from within United States and numerous countries around the world.

Visit the interactive PhD program statistics page to view historical program data pertaining to admissions, enrollment, retention/attrition/completion, and time to degree conferral. (Select “Computer Science” from the “Choose Program” drop-down menu.)

Ready to start your PhD application?

We’re ready for you. Click on the link below to start your application to become a PhD student at Johns Hopkins University

The Application: General Advice

The most important question we ask when reviewing applications is "Will this individual excel at research?" Every part of your application is helpful insofar as it answers this question. The three major components of an application are the statement, letters of recommendation, and grades.

This is one of the most important parts of your application; it lets us get to know you and creates a narrative of your academic career and future plans. Before you write your statement, start by thinking about what you want us to learn about you. Make a list of important achievements, perspectives, and goals. Build your statement around this list. We are looking for students who have made the most of the opportunities they have been presented with and who are smart, creative, and motivated. Keep in mind that we also have your CV and letters of recommendation, so we don’t necessarily need a list of all your accomplishments. However, your statement can fill in the narrative around what you did and, more specifically, why you did it. What motivates you? What are your research interests and why? These details aren’t found elsewhere in your application, so focus on them in your statement.

There are a few things we suggest not including in your statement. While it’s tempting to give a rationale for why you are applying to our program, don’t include it if it’s uninformed. Consider: “I want to apply to Johns Hopkins because it’s one of the premiere academic programs.” We know that already! If you do have specific reasons to be interested in our program (e.g. location, a specific project, a faculty member, etc.), be sure to mention them.

In terms of your motivation, be specific! Don’t write: “I’ve wanted to do a PhD in CS since I was six years old.” We don’t trust that six-year-olds make good career decisions. If you write “I have always found AREA X fascinating,” explain why.

The two most important factors of a recommendation letter are: 1) select someone who knows you well, and 2) select someone who knows how to write a letter.

First, it’s tempting to ask Professor X. to write a letter for you because they are a well-known person in the field. While we can better contextualize letters from people we know, it’s only helpful if the letter contains meaningful information. If Professor X. writes, “I’ve met the applicant a few times and they seem sharp,” that’s not useful information. It’s more important to select someone who knows you well and can discuss your achievements in detail.

Second, your letter writer should know how to write a letter. Academic research programs look for different things than a company. We often read letters from work supervisors that say nice things, but don’t speak to the qualities we find most important.

Of course, it’s a balance. You want someone who knows you well, but they still need to know how to write a good letter of recommendation.

We understand that three letters are a lot, especially for an undergraduate applying directly to a PhD program. We don’t expect each candidate to have three amazing letters. Your choices should be about balance: you want people who know you well, can write good academic letters, and know the research field. Use your choice of your three letter-writers to create this balance.

There isn’t much you can do about your grades—you have the grades you have. However, we do not use any grade cutoffs or thresholds in admissions. We want to see that you did well and excelled in whatever program you were in. Did you push yourself to take upper-level classes? Did you do well in the classes most directly related to your research area? If you have special circumstances that explain some of your grades, please include a description of them in your statement.

The Whiting School of Engineering does not require GRE General Test scores for applications to our PhD programs.

Non-native English speakers must take the TOEFL or IELTS exams. Details on accepted exams, scores, and exceptions to this requirement can be found here.

Application Deadline:

The deadline for fall is December 15th. (No recruiting for spring admissions.)

The application will be available for submission on or around August 15.

Vivien Thomas Scholars

The Vivien Thomas Scholars Initiative (VTSI) is an endowed fellowship program at Johns Hopkins for PhD students in STEM fields. It provides full tuition, stipend, and benefits while also providing targeted mentoring, networking, community, and professional development opportunities. Students who have attended a historically black college and university or other minority serving institution for undergraduate study are eligible to apply. To be considered for the VTSI, all application and supplementary materials must be received by December 1, 2021.