Graduate admission FAQs

Note:  These FAQs apply to the traditional M.S. and Ph.D. programs.  For FAQs about the new Professional Master's Program (PMP), please visit the PMP FAQ page.

ADMISSIONS PROCESS

GRE and TOEFL

PERSONAL STATEMENT

RECOMMENDATIONS

GRADUATE PROGRAM INFORMATION

ELIGIBILITY TO APPLY

OTHER FAQS

**

ADMISSIONS PROCESS

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 stating your degree goal on the application is to provide the Graduate Admissions Committee with information on your initial plan for graduate school. This preference is not binding. If a student applies and is admitted for the M.S. program, but later decides to pursue a Ph.D. degree, the student does not need to reapply 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.

If I apply for the Ph.D. and am not recommended for admission, can I ask to be considered for M.S. admission?

No. All decisions are final.  All applicants are reviewed in a single pool. Admission decisions are made without regard to degree goal.

How are 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  a variety of research areas within the department. After careful review, the Graduate Admissions Committee recommends admission for the 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.  The department's admissions recommendations are reviewed and approved by the Graduate School.

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. All decisions are final.

What are my chances of being admitted to your department?

Admission is based on many factors. Those factors include your academic record, GRE test scores, letters of recommendation and statement of purpose. International students must meet or exceed the minimum TOEFL requirements to be qualified for admission.  We also consider your work experience, research experience, publications and any additional information submitted on your online application.  We cannot pre-evaluate your chances of admission before you apply.

The Department of Computer Sciences 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 University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Because we are a highly-ranked computer sciences 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 3.6 or higher (on a 4.0 scale). However, you may be admitted if you are below these guidelines 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.  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.

How can I add a second major in CS (master's program only)?

Find information on adding a second master's here.

I'm currently enrolled in a different graduate program at UW-Madison. Can I change my major to a Ph.D. in CS?

Find information on changing your major to the CS Ph.D. program here.

GRE and TOEFL

Am I required to take the Subject GRE test, also known as the Advanced GRE?

No.  We do not use it in evaluating applicants.

How late can I take GRE general test?

Please plan to take the GRE general test by December 1 to ensure that your test scores are received by the time applications are reviewed in January. Missing test scores will affect your chances of admission.

I am not sure my GRE score is high enough to be competitive.  Should I take the GRE again?

Based on our experience, there is seldom a major change to GRE scores when retaken unless a significant amount of time has elapsed and a significant amount of effort has been made to improve knowledge, skills and test-taking strategies.

Which GRE score will be considered if I take the test more than once?

The admissions committee will have access to all your GRE test scores.

How recent do my GRE or TOEFL scores need to be?

GRE scores should be within five years of the scheduled first day of classes in the term for which you are admitted.

TOEFL scores should be be within two years of the first day of classes in the term for which you are admitted.

Is the TOEFL required for international students?

Yes. UW-Madison requires that all international students take the TOEFL exam unless they are exempt.

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 at start of school year for which you are applying will not be accepted. Scores must be submitted directly by ETS to the Graduate School.  For those who qualify, the exemption is automatic.  

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.

PERSONAL STATEMENT

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 about your specific interest areas. 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.

RECOMMENDATIONS

How important are the recommendation letters, and what should they contain?

Recommendation letters, which are 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 log in 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.

I have been working in industry for a number of years. Can I use work references instead of academic references?

If you have been out of school for a few years and your work has been relevant to graduate study, you may  want to include a recommendation from a supervisor.  Because you are applying for graduate school, academic recommendations may be more helpful to us when evaluating your application.  Since three recommendations are required, we suggest you use no more than one work recommendation. The two additonal recommendations should be academic.

Can my recommenders mail their recommendations?

No.  We only accept recommendations through the Graduate School's secure, online recommendation system.  No paper recommendations are accepted.

Can my recommenders submit their recommendations after December 15?

Yes.  Please let your recommenders know that we need the recommendations by early January in order to review your application.

GRADUATE PROGRAM INFORMATION

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 UW-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.

ELIGIBILITY TO APPLY

My undergraduate degree is only a three-year degree; am I eligible to apply for your M.S. or Ph.D. Program?

A four-year bachelor's degree or equivalent is required.  Some institutions offer three-year degrees that are equivalent  to a U.S. four-year bachelor's degree.  For countries where a three-year bachelor's is not considered equivalent to U.S. bachelor's degree, the Graduate School will accept a three-year bachelor's degree plus a master's degree from your home country.

I already have an M.S. from another institution outside the United States. Am I eligible to apply for an M.S. in your program?

Yes.

My undergraduate degree was in a field other than computer sciences. Am I eligible to apply for your graduate M.S. or Ph.D. program?

Yes, as long as you have sufficient preparation to thrive in a rigorous graduate CS program. Courses in college-level math like calculus and computer programming are highly recommended.  Although an undergradaute degree in CS is not required, it is important to have documented course work or skills that indicate your capability to pursue a graduate degree in CS.

OTHER FAQS

Can I update my application?

Once your Graduate School application is submitted and your CS Supplementary Application is submitted, you are unable to make changes. Please check your application for accuracy and thoroughness before submitting it.