Graduate Program - FAQs

  • Am I eligible to apply to the graduate program in Computer Science at N.C. State, and what are my chances of being admitted?
  • The Computer Science graduate program does not pre-screen applicants.  Given the volume of applications, this is unfortunately not possible. The graduate program web pages, however, are intended to answer many related questions, such as average test scores of admitted applicants, expectations about prior course background, and how to make up deficiencies.
    eligible,pre-screen,prescreen,transcript,admit,admission chance,odds

  • Which term, fall or spring, is best for U.S. applicants to apply?
  • For U.S. applicants wishing to apply for the masters degree, there is not much difference.
    For U.S. applicants wishing to apply for the PhD, the opportunities for financial aid are probably better in the fall, but every effort will be made to find financial aid for outstanding applicants no matter when they apply.
    (Note that there is only fall admission for international applicants)
    admit-term,fall,spring,when,U.S.,domestic

  • How early may I apply for Fall admission?
  • October 16 is the opening date, managed by the Graduate School, for submitting an application for the following fall semester. However, you can open an account, begin preparing the application, uploading transcripts, and start sending recommendation requests any time before then.
    fall term,admission starts,begin

  • The Graduate School's application deadlines seem to differ from the department's. Which ones take precedence?
  • The Computer Science Department's graduate program deadlines take precedence over the Graduate School's deadlines, which are the default for departments that don't state otherwise.  Please follow the department deadlines.
    deadlines,graduate school

  • May I apply to the doctoral program if I don't have a master's degree?
  • Yes, a fair number of applicants without Masters degrees are admitted to the PhD program directly, if they show evidence of strong academic ability and research aptitude.

    If our admissions committee believes an applicant is prepared for graduate study, but isn't quite ready for the doctoral program, the department may recommend admission to the Masters program instead.  In this case, later admission to the PhD program is still an option, based on success in the Masters program.
    direct PhD,PhD,skip masters,no master\'s

  • How can I be sure the transcript I upload with my application is acceptable?
  • If it meets the Transcript Specifications & Upload Instructions, it's acceptable. It is critical for admissions processing that the Graduate Office have confidence in the accuracy, completeness, and validity of the academic credentials of applicants.

    transcript,academic record

  • Should I first contact faculty / prospective advisors if I'm applying to the doctoral program?
  • Many Computer Science faculty prefer to leave admissions and financial aid decisions up to the department's admissions committee.  In addition, financial aid decisions are usually made by the department.  Applicants however are welcome to contact faculty who might have an interest in their application, so they can lend their support to the applicant's case.
    contact faculty,contact professor, contact,advisor,support

  • How can I arrange to visit the Computer Science department?
  • The Department of Computer Science hosts several events for prospective students as a group in both the Fall and the Spring; contact us for details.  The university also offers frequent campus tours to visitors.

    If you have applied to our graduate program and wish to make an individual visit to campus, contact our office and we'll arrange for you to meet the Director of Graduate Programs.  If you are interested in a research degree, we'll also suggest suitable faculty members for you to contact, with whom you may wish to make an appointment.
    visit,CSC visit,tours,meet faculty students

  • What if my undergraduate degree is not in computer science?
  • This is not an immediate cause for rejection.  Please see the web page on Prerequisites / Non-CS Background, which addresses this topic in considerable detail.
    unrelated degree, different background,no CS,undergrad major

  • Is it possible for someone who has completed a 3-year undergraduate program in computer science at a non-U.S. university to be admitted?
  • Individuals who've graduated from three year programs may be at a disadvantage, although generally European signators to the Bologna Process are well regarded.  If the institution is not in Europe or a Bologna Process participant, the applicant will need to provide the Graduate School with a transcript evaluation by an accepted international credential evaluation service. (A third-party evaluation is in addition to the university transcript, not in place of it.)
    3 year degree,3-year,three-year program,Bologna Process

  • Are part-time doctoral students allowed in the Computer Science Graduate Program?
  • U.S. citizens and permanent residents may pursue PhD programs part-time in the Department of Computer Science. However, the outcomes for part-time students in the past have not been particularly encouraging (i.e., there has been a high attrition rate).  Doctoral study represents a major commitment of time, money, and creative energy for student and faculty advisers alike. The Department supports full-time PhD students at a generous level (including full remission of tuition), making full-time study practical even for students with families.
    part-time PhD, part-time doctoral, part time

  • My name is different now from how it appears on my transcripts. How do I note this on my application?
  • Name changes are a routine occurrence and present no real issue of concern. The Graduate School's online application form provides a field in which to enter previous names used. However, if the name used on a GRE or TOEFL test differs from your application, then it's likely to prevent automatic report matching, which usually occurs within five business days from the date of application submission.
    Concerns about test reporting should be directed either to Graduate School admissions (graduate_applications@ncsu.edu) if you suspect a name matching problem, or to the testing agency.
    name change, name different,test report,GRE,TOEFL,test match

  • May I apply to more than one of degree program simultaneously (like the PhD and MS)?
  • We request that you apply to only one degree program, which should be your primary objective.

    If a promising student applies for the masters degree initially, and is admitted, it is quite possible after some time in the masters program to apply for entry into the PhD.  Conversely, if a promising student applies to the PhD program but is felt to be not quite ready for admission to the PhD, the student may be admitted instead into the masters program.
    more than one application,multiple applications

  • How many international applicants will likely be admitted this year?
  • The Computer Science graduate program doesn't set targets specifically for international admission, and the university doesn't limit or "cap" the number that can be admitted. Our overall admission rate among all applicants, over all degree programs, for Fall 2013 was about 33 percent.
    international number, number of admits,admission rate

  • How can I learn the status of my application?
  • Your account in the online application system has indicators you may check to see if test reports have been matched, references have submitted their recommendations, and documents have been  uploaded.
    The Graduate School individually notifies (by email) applicants of the admission decision once it has been recorded by the department.  The timing of decisions for fall admission is roughly January-February for PhD applicants, and February-March for Masters applicants who applied by January 15.  Masters applicants who apply later than that should expect a decision within approximately one month of completing their application.
    application status,status,decision

  • I selected the MS in Computer Science degree when I submitted my application. Can I change it to the non-thesis master's degree?
  • Our non-thesis masters program (abbreviated either MR or MCS) is the default degree into which almost all admitted Masters applicants (other than Computer Network applicants) are initially placed.  Once enrolled in the program, if you wish to pursue a Masters degree with thesis degree, it is a simple matter to change to that degree program. 
    change non-thesis, non-thesis, change application,MR degree,MCS program

  • I already hold a master's degree in computer science from a non-U.S. school. Can I still apply to the masters program at N.C. State?
  • The Graduate School prohibits awarding a second masters degrees in the same field as an earlier degree. However, you may consider applying to the department's Master of Science in Computer Networking degree.  This is our only specialty degree.
    dual masters, second masters, double masters

  • I'm interested in enrolling in one of the distance education degree programs, but live outside the United States. May I apply?
  • The Department of Computer Science does not at the present time admit non-resident international applicants to our distance education degree programs. However, U.S. citizens who are temporarily residing in foreign countries, such as deployed military personnel, may pursue the MCS-DE or MSCN-DE degrees while stationed outside the country. Contact Engineering Online to learn about the technical details and limitations to DE study abroad.
    international distance ed, distance ed,online program,EOL

  • I applied for admission at N.C. State and was turned down. May I reapply reusing my previous application?
  • Applicants previously denied admission are discouraged from reapplying, due to the volume of applications we receive. We believe there are an abundance of good opportunities for graduate study, and recommend looking at some of those other opportunities.
    admissions,re-apply,reapply,denied admission

  • Do I need to convert my GPA if my school doesn't use a 4.0 grading scale? What if my GPA on a 4.0 scale is below 3.0?
  • That is not necessary.  When uploading your transcript, be sure to include the legend or page explaining that explains your school's grading scheme.
    US students with undergraduate GPAs below 3.0 may be admitted on occassion because of extenuating circumstances.  Those should be clearly documented in the personal statement portion of the application.
    GPA,minimum GPA,grade scale,Grade Point Average

  • Would I be automatically denied admission if my undergraduate GPA is below 3.0?
  • Any exception to the minimum GPA rule requested by a department must be justified to the Graduate School by citing concrete evidence from the applicant's record – major GPA of undergraduate and/or graduate coursework, references, GRE score, professional experience, etc. – as well as comments from the admissions committee. Please document any extenuating circumstances clearly in your personal statement, which is part of the application.
    automatically denied, GPA below 3, minimum GPA

  • I'm in a graduate program at another U.S. university but want to finish my degree at NC State. How do I transfer?
  • You will need to apply to our graduate program, and be admitted in the normal way.  If admitted and enrolled, it may be possible to transfer some of the graduate credits from your current school.  Consult the Graduate School Handbook to learn more about the rules governing transfer of credit.
    transfer degree,transfer credit,handbook,visa

  • What code do I use to have ETS report my GRE and/or TOEFL test scores?
  • The institution code 5496 is the only one needed to report scores to NC State University. ETS then electronically transmits test results to a central data system accessible to all departments. Because of this, selecting a department code from the ETS department menu is unnecessary, and has no effect on score reporting. Test results remain in the university's database indefinitely.
    ETS, institution code,department code,GRE,TOEFL,test report

  • I don't meet your Graduate School's sectional or overall minimums on my most recent TOEFL or IELTS test. May I still apply?
  • It is unlikely an applicant will be admitted to graduate study if this is the case.  The Graduate School minimums are below the level normally expected by the Department of Computer Science.
    TOEFL,IELTS,minimum score,sectional minimum

  • When does a TOEFL exam expire?
  • Strictly speaking, the Graduate School specifies that a TOEFL or IELTS test must be no older than 24 months prior to the beginning of the requested entry term. The Computer Science department generally considers tests that would expire within 60 days of the entry term as valid. Past experience suggests the Graduate School would also accept this guideline, but it may be wise to check with them.
    TOEFL,IELTS,expire,expiration date

  • I've taken the GRE/TOEFL/IELTS exam more than once. Which scores are used for admissions?
  • Only the most recent GRE and TOEFL/IELTS test results are considered. 
    GRE, TOEFL, IELTS, multiple tests

  • How long does it take to complete the masters program?
  • The Master of Science (MS) is a research-oriented degree. The curriculum requires 31 graduate credits, including a maximum of six for thesis research. A student registered full time, nine (9) to twelve (12) credits per semester, typically completes the required credits and thesis within two years. 
    The non-thesis Masters degree, which requires only course work, is routinely completed within three semesters of full-time study.  Note that most Masters students also do a paid internship during the first summer of their degree program.
    duration,masters duration,time for masters,degree completion time

  • I was recently admitted to your program. How do I defer my admission?
  • Admitted applicants may defer enrollment for up to one year from their original entry term.  Fall applicants to CSC graduate programs have until June 15 of the year they are first admitted to accept admission and pay their enrollment deposit.  Once that's done, they have until September 1 to request deferral of their enrollment and deposit.  Because there are not a fixed number of "seats" in our program that a future student must claim immediately or lose, the deadlines allow ample time to thoughtfully consider accepting admission or subsequent deferral.  However, enrollment deposits are non-refundable and term-specific.  If a fall applicant accepts admission and then fails to request deferral before September 1, they forfeit both admission and their deposit, and must reapply for admission.

    To request deferral, send an email to the Computer Science graduate program at csc_gradadmissions@ncsu.edu, stating your full name, applicant ID#, and the term to which you want to defer your enrollment and deposit.  The advanced enrollment deposit must have already been paid in order to request a deferral.
    defer, defer admission,enrollment,deposit

  • If I'm admitted, will graduate classes I've taken at NC State through Non-Degree Studies count toward my degree?
  • Up to 12 credit hours of eligible graduate coursework taken through NDS with grades of B or better may count toward the degree. Keep in mind that the "clock" for completion time of your degree starts with the earliest semester from which courses are credited toward it.
    Non Degree Course,NDS credit

  • Do I have to take a TOEFL test if I'm a U.S. citizen but my undergraduate degree is from a foreign school?
  • The Graduate School policy on English proficiency doesn't directly address this question.  If both your secondary education and college/university degree were attained in a country where the official language is not English, you will need to take either the TOEFL or IELTS test.
    admission,domestic,U.S. citizen,English,TOEFL

  • Will my application still be considered if something's missing but I submit it by CSC's deadline?
  • Regrettably, no; an application should be officially submitted only when everything is ready.  The volume of applications we receive requires that all information, including the CSC supplemental information form, must be ready for review no later than the deadline date. Note that test reports, which are usually auto-matched to the application within five business days, should be ordered from ETS two or three weeks before you submit.  
    deadline

  • I am a foreign national who resides in the U.S. on a work visa. Do I qualify as a domestic applicant?
  • No, only U.S. citizens and permanent residents (Green card holders) are classified as domestic applicants. This is unfortunately true even if you've lived in the U.S. for several years. 
    international,domestic,U.S. permanent resident,visa,non-immigrant

  • My school doesn't use a 4-point grading scale. Should I convert my average to 4.0 GPA for CSC's supplemental information form?
  • We prefer that you do not do so.  We are accustomed to the variety of grading scales used by different institutions.  Please enter your overall grade average on the department's supplemental form using your school's normal grading scheme, to three significant figures. (The form also accepts text, if your school grades using only qualitative descriptors like "Excellent," "Above average," etc.) Then in the next field, enter the grade scale on which your average is based, also to three significant figures.
    convert GPA,GPA conversion,grade average,supplemental information,grading scheme

  • Where do I find the supplemental information form required by the Department of Computer Science?
  • Instructions and a link that allows you to access the online supplemental form are included in an email message (with subject line: The Application Process) that is sent to every applicant when they submit their application. It takes about three business days before you can log into the system to complete it; this delay is due to Graduate School processing.  Please also see our Application Procedure page.
    supplemental form,application forms

  • I'm a new student and don't know how to register. Help!
  • If you have only very recently become "enrollment eligible," then sometime within the next few business days, the Computer Science Graduate office will email you with general introductory information, advising contacts, and guidance concerning registration. We may already have mailed this information previously, using the email address listed on your application.

    The university also provides general instructions on registration, using the MyPack portal.
    advising hold,new student,enroll, new admittee

  • Would you please release my advising hold? I'm a new student trying to register.
  • If you have only recently become "enrollment eligible" (which we monitor), your advising hold will be released by us very shortly; no action is needed on your part. 

    However, it is possibly you may have a "cashier's hold" that prevents you from registering.  To have that removed, you will need to contact the Cashier's Office for explanation/assistance.
    release advising hold,new student,register,cashier\'s hold

  • Must the recommendation letters my references upload be on letterhead?
  • It is helpful to us to receive reference letters on letterhead, from reference contacts who also use organizational email addresses (i.e., .edu addresses for educators, .com addresses for professionals).  However, neither is required, and we will accept letters on plain paper, mailed from personal email addresses.
    recommendation,letterhead

  • What do I do if one of my references can't use the online recommendation system?
  • We regret that at the present time we are unable to accept reference letters in hardcopy form.  The use of online reference systems for Graduate School applications has been widely adopted by universities in the United States.
    recommendation.paper recommendation,references

  • Where do I mail my application materials?
  • Applications to graduate study at N.C. State are only accepted electronically.  Please read our web page about the application procedure for more information.  Do not mail hardcopy documents; they will not be used for evaluating applicants.
    mail,paper,application,hard copy

  • May I apply for spring admission?
  • US citizens and permanent residents may apply for either fall or spring admission.  International students are only permitted to apply for fall admission at the present time.
    spring,fall,international

  • Are the requirements and coursework for the distance education courses and degrees different from the on-campus versions?
  • The curricula for our distance track degrees (MCS-DE and MSCN-DE) are almost identical to their on-campus counterparts. The exception is that the orientation class is different for DE students. See the MCS-DE and MSCN-DE web pages for more detail.
    distance ed,curricula requirements

  • What if I don't have any academic references among my three recommendations?
  • Our preference is that at least one of your references be academic.  However, we recognize that professionals considering graduate study may have long since graduated from their undergraduate institution, and therefore have difficulty getting academic references.  In such cases it is acceptable to have only work references.
    recommendations,professional references

  • How do I know if a class I've taken at another school is comparable to the prerequisites for graduate admission and study?
  • Please compare the content or description of your undergraduate courses against the course descriptions for our admission prerequisites. If you're still uncertain, you may wish to consult NCSU's undergraduate course equivalency calculator. Finally, you may try providing the NC State course description to the instructor at your institution for an opinion concerning content equivalence.
    prerequisite,course equivalent

  • How do I change something after submitting my application?
  • We regret that due to the volume of applications, it is not possible to change them once they are submitted.  If you wish to change one of your references, however, you can do that yourself via your application account.
    change application

  • Do you provide financial support, like teaching/research assistantships or fellowships, to masters students?
  • Please see our web pages on Cost/Financial Aid Opportunities and Employment of Graduate Students for a thorough discussion of financial support.  In general, all PhD students are fully supported throughout their degree program.  There is limited support from the department for Masters students, but abundant part-time and summer employment with local high tech companies, paying very respectable average hourly wages.
    financial aid,assistantship,TA/RA,support,fellowship,scholarship

  • What transcript evaluation services are accepted?
  • The Computer Science Graduate Office requests that applications be accompanied by English language translations of transcripts, rather than transcript evaluations. If your school doesn't issue English language translations, and you make use of professional translation services, then please upload copies of both the original language transcript, and the certified translation.
    evaluation,translation,transcript

  • I did poorly on one section of the GRE. Should I retake the test?
  • Only the most recent GRE scores are used for evaluation.  If you believe you can raise your scores significantly by retaking, then go ahead, but there is of course the risk that your scores may go down as well.
    GRE test,retake

  • My test scores are below the averages listed on the Computer Science web pages for admitted applicants. Does that mean I'll be denied admission?
  • No; those scores are only averages.  All components in an application are considered before making a decision.  Because of that, we are unable to answer the related question as to whether it is worthwhile to apply, until the full application is received.
    test scores,GRE,TOEFL,counseling

  • I completed a dual degree program (3+2 years) for a bachelor's and master's degree. Am I still eligible to apply for a masters degree at N.C. State?
  • Integrated programs of three undergraduate years, plus one to two graduate, do not result in a master's degree by NC State's definition. Therefore, the university's policy concerning second master's degrees is not pertinent, and you are welcome to apply.
    integrated program,dual degree,second masters

  • What sorts of accreditation of US Schools does N.C. State recognize?
  • You should direct this question to the Graduate School for a definitive answer.  Generally speaking, in the absence of regional and/or ABET accreditation, it's unlikely the university would recognize a degree from a school.
    accreditation,ABET

  • Do you offer provisional or conditional admissions?
  • No, the Computer Science graduate program does not admit applicants on a conditional or provisional basis.  We request that applicants be in the process of completing prerequisites at the time of application.  The prerequisites do not need to be completed at the time of application, just by the time the requested admission semester would start.
    conditional,provisional

  • I was admitted to NCSU by another department. May I transfer to the Computer Science graduate program instead?
  • Transfers from other departments are only considered after the student has completed at least two semesters  in that department's programs.  Therefore, if you have only been admitted, but not enrolled, you will not be permitted to transfer to Computer Science.
    transfer,change program

  • Whom do I contact with questions about my health insurance under the Graduate Student Support Plan?
  • For answers to questions about the student health insurance plan, please contact the insurance agency that is identified in the current edition of the Graduate Student Support Plan Handbook.
    health insurance;GSSP;Graduate Student Support Plan

  • Is there a printed brochure or catalog describing NC State and your program?
  • A brochure with information on our graduate program is available here

    The Graduate School of the university has a general, printable PDF brochure you may find helpful.  Page 23 of this brochure lists many websites with frequently requested information.
    brochure;printed information;catalog

  • I'm defending my thesis this summer. Do I need to register?
  • All students who take their final oral examination or submit their thesis/dissertation to the Graduate School during either summer session must be registered for either the first or second summer session. Those who wish to submit their thesis/dissertation or have their final oral examination after the last day of a semester or summer session, but before the next semester or summer session, must have been registered in the semester or summer session that immediately preceded the date of submission or the date when the exam was held.
    registration,continuous enrollment,thesis,dissertation

  • Is the 500 word limit on the Statement of Purpose strict?
  • It is generally advisable to stick that limit, but there is no automatic rejection based on statement length.  

    Rather than submitting a long statement, it may be more effective to provide additional information in the form of a resume or CV, which can also be uploaded along with your application.
    statement of purpose;SOP; word limit;resume

  • I haven't finished my final year of undergraduate schooling. May I still apply?
  • Yes. Many of our applicants are in the process of completing their final undergraduate year when they apply. However, before you apply, be certain the transcript you upload complies with our Transcript Specifications & Upload Instructions.
    final year undergrad, undergrad,senior year

  • I can't make up my mind about applying to the degree in Computer Networking or Computer Science. May I apply to both? May I switch from one to another?
  • Applicants are only allowed to apply to a single degree at a time.

    Admitted students, once enrolled, are allowed to change degree programs after one semester, as long as they meet certain academic requirements.

  • Can an MCS student take courses in the Data Science Track?
  • Yes, and in fact, the DS track is only available to MCS students, although as a general rule, CSC 500/700-level courses are not restricted to CSC graduate students in any specific degree curriculum.

    It is important to understand that the Data Science Track is not a distinct degree program or a specialty Masters. As explained on the Data Science Track description page, the DS track offers the MCS student -- distance or on-campus -- who successfully completes their curriculum a letter of certification.

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