Prospective Students

*Potential Primary CNAP Advisors

These faculty are Cognitive Neuroscience Admitting Program (CNAP) affiliates who are members of a department that trains graduate students and grants PhDs, and they can therefore serve as potential primary advisors to graduate students in the CNAP program. Please note that to actually take on a CNAP student as primary advisor, the faculty member must also have appropriate funding and lab space available to fully support the graduate student in years 3 through 5 of their PhD. Potential students must check directly with their intended primary advisor to determine whether these conditions are met.

Why apply to the Cognitive Neuroscience Admitting Program (CNAP) instead of to a participating department directly (or vice versa)?

Graduate students interested in neuroscience at Duke may work with faculty mentors by enrolling in one of many different graduate programs depending on their precise interests. More information about Duke neuroscience graduate programs is available through the Neuroscience Graduate Consortium at Duke. Students who enter the CNAP complete a program of coursework and laboratory rotations in their first year, before matching with a Ph.D. department and graduate mentor in during their second year. CNAP is expressly interdisciplinary: nearly all students work with two or more mentors from different disciplines. Current students report that the flexibility and interdisciplinary nature of CNAP were key reasons for applying. Alternatively, students interested in cognitive neuroscience research can apply directly to another department in which they would pursue the Ph.D.; if admitted, they would begin graduate training within that department immediately. Depending on that department’s course of study, this can allow a more immediate transition to coursework and research.

What is meant by “admitting program?”

Students who apply to this program directly are initially admitted to the Graduate School at Duke University via CNAP. They spend their first 2 years in CNAP and then, during their second year, they choose and join the department in which they will obtain their Ph.D. In their third year, they become full members of that department, complete its requirements, and participate in all of its activities, thereafter, while maintaining affiliation with CNAP. Note that some departments modify their requirements slightly for students who enter Duke through CNAP.

I want to pursue cognitive neuroscience research, but I am unsure about whether to apply to CNAP or to another department. Whom should I contact?

You should contact the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) for CNAP or the DGS for the other department. If you are interested in working with a particular faculty member, you are encouraged to contact them directly.

How can one be admitted to CNAP?

The only way to be admitted to CNAP is by applying to the program via the Duke University Graduate School. See our admissions page for details.

Is it possible to get a waiver from taking the GRE tests?

No. The GRE is a requirement from Duke University. All students applying to a Ph.D. program must take the GRE tests.

I’m an international student, but I have been to college in the USA. Can I get a waiver from the TOEFL exam?

The TOEFLG/IELTS is a Duke University Graduate School requirement. As listed in their website, “the Duke University Graduate School requires that any applicant whose native language is not English submit scores from either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the academic modules of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), regardless of whether or not you have attended another U.S. institution or participated in an ESL program."  However, you may be eligible for a waiver.

The Graduate School's website says, "To be eligible for a TOEFL/IELTS waiver, you must have studied full-time for two years or more at a college or university where the sole language of instruction is English and in a country where English is the primary spoken language. The two years of study must be completed prior to application submission.

If you believe you qualify for a TOEFL/IELTS waiver based on the above criteria, upload a written request for the waiver in the Additional Information section of your online application. In your request, be sure to state where you completed the two-year study requirement. Due to the volume of applications we receive, we will not examine, confirm the status of, or grant any waiver requests prior to extending an offer of admission."

What are the average GRE and GPA of those admitted to your program?

Statistics for the program for previous years are available on this Grad School page.

Are there any course requirements I should take during my undergraduate education to apply to CNAP?

We do not have a specific list of course requirements for admission to the CNAP program. We value research experience that is anywhere in the realm of cognitive neuroscience. If you do not have a psychology or neurobiology background then it would be advisable to look for a cognitive neuroscience, systems neuroscience or cognitive psychology course. However volunteering or working in a lab to gain research experience and to make a strong relationship with a mentor who could write you a letter could be just as important if not more.

I saw on your website that there will be a recruiting weekend for CNAP applicants. I am not applying to the program, but I would like to participate in this weekend to know more about the program. How could I join it?

This particular weekend is not open to the public. We will be inviting the top applicants to our program – i.e. those who applied to our Ph.D. program and are being considered as potential candidates for admission – to visit us. The note in the website is for those who had applied for our program to keep that weekend open in their agenda, in case they were to be invited. If you are interested in learning more about the program, check our website or contact us.

The college or program that I am currently enrolled in does not really afford a chance for me to work closely enough with three professors such that I can receive the required three letters of recommendation. How crucial is it that I secure recommendations from three professors? Would recommendations from doctoral students with whom I have worked be acceptable? How severely would it affect my chances of admission if I cannot secure the recommendations?

Recommendations are a large part of our admission process. An ideal letter is a rave review from a professor in a field related to cognitive neuroscience. However, we also search for diversity in our applicant pool and if you are applying from a small liberal arts school with very little opportunity in the realm of cognitive neuroscience we take this into consideration when reading recommendation letters. We do accept letters from graduate students and postdoctoral associates although these do not carry as much weight as letters from professors.

Does every student accepted into the program receive financial support, including coverage of all tuition fees? Would receiving any additional support from other sources improve my chances of acceptance? And if so, are there any databases/resources that can help me in finding and applying to the relevant organizations?

All students accepted into CNAP receive 5 years of support: the first 2 years of stipend, tuition, and benefits are provided through CNAP. After that, students are supported by a mentor in the department they affiliate with. Support is always contingent on adequate performance in the program. However, the program is very competitive and we can offer admission only to a small number of students given the resources availability. If we consider the student competitive but we cannot offer him funding, then if he or she has external funds it would increase his/her chances of being offered admission. We recommend that students apply for NSF graduate fellowships simultaneously with the admission process.

What is the difference between the Cognitive Neuroscience Admitting Program (CNAP) and the Certificate program in Cognitive Neuroscience?

Students who are admitted to Duke through another department can opt to participate in the certificate program in cognitive neuroscience offered by CNAP. By completing selected coursework and research training, these students receive a certificate in cognitive neuroscience on their transcript. Students who are admitted directly through CNAP also fulfill the requirements for the certificate program.

Learn more about DIBS

The Duke Institute for Brain Sciences is a scientific institute with a collaborative spirit and a commitment to education, service and knowledge across disciplines. We encourage creativity, taking risks, sharing ideas and working together.


Sign up to receive email updates about DIBS news, events and more.