Frequently Asked Questions & Answers
What are the differences in the admission processes for the M.S. degree program and the Ph.D. degree program?
None. All applications, whether the application indicates the M.S. degree program or the Ph.D. degree program, are considered in a single pool for determining admissions. There are not different criteria used to determine admission for M.S. versus Ph.D. applicants. Furthermore, applicants do not compete with existing graduate students in the department for admission to the Ph.D. program.
The purpose of the information on an applicant's degree goal is to provide the Graduate Admissions Committee with information on the initial plan of the applicant. This preference is not binding. If a student initially applies for the M.S. program, but later decides to pursue a Ph.D. degree, the student does not need to re-apply to the department. If a student has made satisfactory progress,continuing for a Ph.D. is contingent upon successfully completing the Department's Ph.D. Qualifying Process, This process consists of finishing course breadth requirements and passing a written examination in one depth area.
How are the admissions decisions made?
Beginning in January, all applications are reviewed by the Computer Sciences Graduate Admissions Committee. The committee is composed of faculty members representing all research areas within the department, and a group of current domestic and international graduate students from our program. After careful review, the Graduate Admissions Committee offers admissions to a pool of applicants they feel are most qualified for our program. The selection is made without regard to the degree goal (M.S or Ph.D.), area of interest, or financial need.
When are admissions decisions made? How are applicants notified?
Admissions decisions are made by early March. All applicants, regardless of whether they are recommended for admission, are notified of the admission decision by email. Students who have been recommended for admission will also be sent paper copies of admission documents via post and will have until April 15 to decide whether to accept our offer.
Do you have a waiting list?
No. All offers are made at the same time to the applicants we feel are the most qualified for our program.
What are my chances of being admitted to your department?
Admission is based on many factors including your academic record, GRE test scores, letters of recommendation, and written and spoken English abilities. We also consider your work experience, research experience, publications, your Personal Statement and all other information you submit on your online application. We do not accept paper copies of anything but official transcripts.
The Computer Sciences Department does not use a "formula" to rank applicants for acceptance, and thus there are no fixed minimum requirements for admission to our program. However, The Graduate School sets minimum standards for applicants to any graduate program at the UW-Madison.
Because we are a top-10 computer science department we receive many applications. Competition is stiff for admission into our graduate program. As a rough guideline, most of the students we admit are in the 85th percentile or higher on each of the sections of the GRE General Test (Analytical Writing, Quantitative, and Verbal), and have a GPA of 3.5 or higher (on a 4.0 scale). However, you may be admitted if you are below these guidelines in some respects if your application is especially strong in other respects. Conversely, there is no assurance that you will be admitted if you exceed all of these guidelines due to all of the factors we evaluate, including other aspects of your academic record, and the strength of the applicant pool in any given year.
What are my chances of receiving financial support?
We offer financial support to a large number of our admitted students. Most admitted students are offered a teaching assistantship. A small number are offered University-sponsored fellowships and/or research assistantships. Note also that 90-95% of all current graduate students in the Department receive support in the form of teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and/or competitive fellowships.
Am I required to take the Subject GRE test, also known as the Advanced GRE?
Will GRE test scores taken in December be considered on time, even though they will not be reported until after the deadline of December 15?
We do receive December test scores on time to consider them during the evaluation process. Their relatively late arrival, however, will affect your chances for some financial support opportunities like University Fellowships. You will still receive consideration for departmental teaching assistantships and other forms of aid. We recommend that you take the test earlier than December if possible, but December test scores are acceptable.
Is the TOEFL required for International Students
Yes. The University requires that all international students take the TOEFL exam unless they are exempted. You are exempt if you meet one of these conditions: 1) your official language of instruction at the undergraduate level was English, 2) you have completed a minimum of two full-time semesters of graded course work, exclusive of ESL courses, in a U.S. college or university, or at an institution outside the U.S. where English is the exclusive language of instruction or 3) you have earned a degree from a regionally accredited U.S college or university not more than five years prior to the anticipated semester of enrollment. TOEFL scores that are more than two years old will not be accepted. Scores must be submitted directly by ETS to the Graduate School.
What is acceptable evidence of instruction in English at a non U.S. institution?
Your school transcripts, if they mention the language of instruction, or a letter from a school official, is needed.
Is the TSE (Test of Spoken English) required for International Students?
The TSE is not required. However,please note that an offer of a teaching assistantship is contingent on your passing a test administered by the University of Wisconsin that assesses your spoken English abilities. If you fail this test, your financial support, teaching assistantship, will be withdrawn.
What is the role of the Personal Statement in evaluating my application? Do you have any suggestions for what I should write in this section?
The statement is your opportunity to tell us about your goals in pursuing graduate studies, and any specific areas of research interest. It helps us to understand the mix of interests in our pool of applicants and to learn more about your preparation for graduate work. Avoid overly enthusiastic, very general statements that give us little insight into your accomplishments or motivation. A concise statement about your experience and future goals that is backed by other elements of the application is most effective.
How important are the recommendation letters and what should they contain?
Recommendation letters, which are only accepted online as part of the application process, play a significant role in the selection of applicants. Choose your recommenders carefully. Select people with excellent academic and/or professional credentials who can attest to your academic abilities and who are able to articulate ways in which you stand out. Take responsibility to ensure that they submit their recommendations online and on time according to the guidelines provided in the online application. After you have completed your application you can login to check your application status and determine if we have received the online submissions of each of your recommenders. No paper recommendations will be accepted.
Can I update my application?
No. Once your Graduate School Application is submitted we are unable to change it.
Where can I get information about the course requirements for the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees?
Consult the Computer Sciences Graduate Guidebook.
Where can I get information about the University of Wisconsin-Madison Graduate School, which oversees all graduate programs at the University?
You can get information on the Graduate School website, which contains useful information for prospective graduate students as well as current graduate students in all departments at the UW-Madison.