Application Process

The Columbia Neurobiology and Behavior Program is committed to training a diverse group of neuroscientists from a broad range of ethnic, cultural, educational, and socioeconomic backgrounds. US citizenship or permanent residency is not required.

There is no standard pathway for entry into or success in the Program. Due to the interdisciplinary nature of neurobiology, students come from a variety of backgrounds ranging from computation and engineering to psychology and biology. There is also no standard stage of life at entrance. While a majority of our students enter the program within a few years of finishing their undergraduate program, a number have joined after careers in another field. 

GRE scores are not required. 

While there is no minimum GPA, nor specific course requirements, we look for excellence in a student’s chosen undergraduate major.  We recognize that the first year of college can be especially challenging and also that personal circumstances can impact academic performance (especially during pandemics). Poor performance earlier in college is acceptable if it is followed by a rising trajectory in later years, particularly in relevant subjects. In addition, a number of circumstances could lead to poor performance during specific time periods.  All extenuating circumstances will be taken into consideration. You may include these circumstances in your personal statement if you are comfortable doing so or reach out to a program Co-Director.

Taking courses within your field of interest is encouraged even if you have not majored in the subject.

The PhD is an intensive research experience and students should enter with a mature view of the commitment involved. Prior research experience is thus considered particularly important. We recognize that opportunities for research can vary widely among undergraduate institutions. For this reason we consider evidence that the applicant has taken advantage of the opportunities available to them, and sought out additional experiences that would expose them to a substantial experience in basic or applied research. Reference letters from research advisors are especially helpful for the Admissions Committee. 

Applications for admission to the PhD program are through the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) at the Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons (VP&S), located at the Medical Center campus (Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC)). Applications for the fall 2024 term will be accepted on the GSAS website starting in September 2023. General information about application procedures, documents, test scores, and more, are also available on the same website. 

In order to maximize flexibility and choice, starting this year applicants have the option of applying for a PhD program such as Biological Sciences housed in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Columbia University's main campus, simultaneously with PhD programs such as Neurobiology and Behavior which are housed in the Medical Center Campus. Note, however, that it would need to be a separate application, through GSAS on the main campus. See FAQ page for more details.

Mid September: Application Portal Opens

December 1: Application Submission Deadline 

Late January/ Early February: Open House for selected Applicants

March: Acceptance decisions announced

April 15: Student decision deadline

August: Incoming student bootcamp

General application information along with instructions regarding transcripts, letters of recommendation, the personal statement, the application fee (including requests for a fee waiver), and requirements for applicants whose native language is not English are found on the GSAS website.

The guidelines focus on items relevant to the Neurobiology and Behavior Program. The items for particular consideration are:

  • Program of study including specialization
  • Personal statement of no more than 2 pages in length
  • Letters of recommendation

The completed application forms the basis for the first step of selecting interview candidates. The size of each entering class is approximately 15. Selection is based holistically on a variety of factors including academic achievements, and motivation and aptitude for research, as deduced from the application. It is important to start the application early and carefully review all information on this site and the GSAS website. You may also consult our page of Frequently Asked Questions for additional information.

See Application Materials page for more details about the application process.


Applicants selected for interviews will be invited to attend one of two scheduled Open House events. 

At the Open House, candidates will interview with 5 faculty members including faculty requested, and members of the admissions committees.  The goal of the Open House for interviewing faculty is to assess the “fit” of the NB&B Program to the applicant’s research interests.  The goal for selected applicants is also to assess the program‘s fit to their research interests as well as to gauge life in New York City.  To meet these goals, our Open House includes receptions and dinners for candidates to meet informally with current graduate students and training faculty, visits to student housing, and NYC events to provide information on the array of NYC social and cultural offerings. The Open House is a critical part of the application process, providing students with essential information and contacts that will allow successful transitions to graduate school at Columbia University and to life in the vibrant city of New York.


Applicants offered Admission receive an offer shortly after the Open House. However, offers of admission can be extended at any time before April 15.

Individuals not admitted in a given year may reapply in a future cycle.

US citizenship or permanent residency is not required to apply. 

Please see GSAS website for information regarding TOEFL requirements and COVID-19 TOEFL Test accommodations.