FAQs for Perspective Students

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 from the second semester of the second year and beyond of their PhD. Potential students must check directly with their intended primary advisor to determine whether these conditions are met.

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 CNAP complete a program of coursework and laboratory rotations in their first year, before matching with a Ph.D. department and graduate mentor during their second year. CNAP is expressly interdisciplinary; 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.

Students who apply to this program directly are initially admitted to the Graduate School at Duke University via CNAP. They spend their first 18 months in CNAP and by January of 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.

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.

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.

For the admissions application year admitting for Fall 2023 only, submitting GRE scores will be optional.

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."

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

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 cognitive neuroscience, systems neuroscience or cognitive psychology courses. 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 equally or more valuable.

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.

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.

All students accepted into CNAP receive 5 years of support: the first 18 months 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 are unable to offer them funding, their existing external funds would increase their chances of being offered admission. We recommend that students apply for NSF graduate fellowships simultaneously with the admission process.

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.