Ph.D. Application Process

To apply for admission, read the following instructions carefully, make certain that you have met all requirements, and then complete the online application.

The HCII strives toward fairness and equity in its admissions process. To this end, we review all applications with a sensitive awareness to the applicant’s personal experiences, background, and potential to add to the rich and dynamic culture of the department. We recognize the value of individual circumstances and consider the unique educational contexts and life experiences of all students.  In reviewing materials, we consider diverse forms of evidence that applicants are likely to be successful at research based on their preparatory experiences, as described in the applicant’s statement of purpose, CV, and letters of recommendation from research mentors. This evidence might come in the form of publications or research presentations to which the applicant contributed, portfolios of work, open-source contributions, installations, etc. 

Prepare a Statement of Purpose providing a concise one- or two-page statement in the following format:

Part I. Describe your primary interest of study within HCI. Be as specific as possible in discussing your research interests, and any relevant experiences you have had that have informed and inspired those interests. Include a discussion of the potential societal impact of the work you envision doing as an HCI researcher. Existing research areas and projects in the HCI Institute are listed on the HCII research summary page. Other HCI research interests are also welcome.

Part II. State your objective in pursuing a PhD and why you are applying to Carnegie Mellon.

Part III. Describe your background in fields related to your objective. List here any relevant industrial or commercial experience. Please note that we welcome students from diverse educational, cultural, and geographic backgrounds with a variety of strengths — strong technical skills, strong social science skills, strong design skills, and combinations of the above.

Part IV.  The HCII values students who exhibit persistence and resilience in the face of challenge and adversity, demonstrate a commitment to ethics, and show concern for others and for their community. Describe how your background and your experiences attest to these personal attributes.   

Attach your current resume, including a summary of research experience and a list of publications, presentations, and conferences/meetings attended. Attach copies of up to three (3) publications (preferably in English) that you may have. Please note that having prior publications is not a prerequisite for application. 

If appropriate to your background, you may include a link to your portfolio.

Submit transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate institutions attended, even if no degree was granted. You must upload your transcript in either PDF, JPG, or PNG format. Any other format will not be accepted.

Submit three letters of recommendation online. Recommenders should know you relatively well and be able to evaluate the quality of previous work. At least two should be from faculty or recent employers.  Recommenders should include information about how long and in what capacity they have known you, give specific and concrete examples of your work, and provide an assessment of relevant traits or accomplishments, such as your persistence and resilience in the face of a challenge, intellectual independence and originality, and commitment to ethics and social impact in your work.   Letters are submitted electronically, using the online application.

Take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and upload your scores directly to your online application. All students whose native language is not English must take this exam. This is true even if the student has an undergraduate or masters degree from an English-speaking college.

A non-refundable application fee is required. You may pay the fee by credit card. The credit card payment system is part of the online application, and instructions are given when you submit your application. If you do not want to pay by credit card with the online application, you may pay by check or money order drawn on a US bank, made payable to Carnegie Mellon University.

It is your responsibility to make certain that your application is complete by the stated deadlines.


Application Fee

Application to the HCII Ph.D. program must be accompanied by a non-refundable application fee. We do not want this fee to discourage your applications -- if you have financial need, please ask for the application fee to be waived.

Tuition and Financial Aid

It is anticipated that students accepted into the HCII Ph.D. program will be awarded a graduate fellowship for the academic year covering full tuition and a living allowance. These fellowships renew for the duration of the program as the student maintains good standing. There is no separate financial aid form to be completed. Students are encouraged to apply for support from outside Carnegie Mellon (fellowships, foreign government grants, etc.). As an incentive to seek funding from other sources, a supplement is often provided to the stipend of any student who obtains outside support.

Final Checklist

Remember that the application early deadline is November 19th, 2020 (final deadline is December 10th). Remember that all items must be uploaded directly to your online application. Have you included the following?

  • Application Fee: If submitted by noon EST on November 19th (early deadline, reduced fee), $75 US (add $50 US for each application to each additional SCS program). If submitted between November 20th and December 10th, $125 US. (Add $75 for each application to each additional SCS program.)
  • Publications
  • Portfolio (optional)
  • Resume
  • Transcripts from all schools attended
  • TOEFL scores, if required


Application for Fall 2021 start

Applications Closed

The application for a fall 2021 start in our HCI Ph.D. program is now closed.

Admissions for a fall 2022 start will open in fall 2021.

If you have any questions, please email hciiphd [at]

Ph.D. Program Information

Ph.D. in Human-Computer Interaction
Carnegie Mellon University
5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3891