Graduate Admissions FAQ
Updated June 2016
Please also see the Graduate Division's Frequently Asked Questions.
If you are an international applicant, please view information that can be found on the International Center web site.
Questions Before Applying to the CSE Graduate Program
General application questions:
- How do I apply?
- When is the graduate application deadline?
- How do I choose whether to apply to the MS or the PhD program?
- Can I apply for both the MS and the PhD program?
- Can I complete my degree part time?
- What criteria do you use for acceptance into your programs?
- What are my chances for being admitted?
- My GPA is not on a 4.0 scale, so how will it be evaluated?
- My bachelors degree isn't in CS. What kind of background should I have before applying to the program?
- Application Status:
- International Student questions:
Transfer questions and options for non-matriculated students:
- Can I take CSE graduate courses without being a matriculated student?
- Can I apply course credit from UCSD Extension or from another institution toward my degree requirements if I am admitted?
- I am currently enrolled in a graduate program at another institution. How do I transfer to UCSD?
- I have an MS degree in CS. If I get accepted to your PhD program, do I have to take all those classes over again?
- Application Fee:
- Additional Program questions:
Questions Before Applying to the CSE Graduate Program
General Application Questions:
For directions on how to apply, please visit the web page for Graduate Admission's Application Procedures.
The application deadline for Fall 2016 admission is December 15, 2015. (NOTICE: If you and/or your application materials are affected by the recent natural disaster in the Chennai region, you may submit application materials up until 11:59PM, December 21, 2015 California time).
Completed applications submitted by this deadline will be reviewed. However, applicants are discouraged from waiting until the last moment to apply as the application review process begins almost immediately after the deadline.
This is a hard deadline and exceptions will not be made for late applications. Applicants are strongly encouraged to take the GRE or TOEFL no later than October so that their score reports can be received by the application deadline.
The answer to this question depends upon your individual career goals. Our PhD program is designed for students interested in research in computer science and computer engineering. The program prepares individuals for a career in academia as a professor at a research university or liberal arts college, or as a researcher in an industry or government research laboratory. The program typically takes 4-6 years to complete.
The MS program is designed for individuals who are interested in further developing their knowledge and skill base in a rigorous academic program in preparation for either a PhD program or a professional position. With the diverse interests and goals of our students in mind, the program offers a flexible curriculum with either a research (thesis) track or a comprehensive exam. Our average MS student completes the program within 2 years.
You must choose to apply to one degree program or another within the Computer Science and Engineering department.
The Ph.D. program is full-time only.
Many of our MS students complete their degrees part-time, but working on the degree part-time can double or triple the time required to complete it. Students do not petition for half-time attendance (6 units or fewer per quarter) until they have been accepted into the CSE program.
The evaluation process for applications is extremely complex, taking into account all the materials submitted with the application. Grade point average (GPA), GRE scores, GRE subject test (optional, but recommended), TOEFL (for international students), letters of recommendation, and statement of purpose all play a role. First, the UCSD Graduate Admissions Office evaluates each application to determine whether or not their minimum standards for admission have been met. Then the CSE Department does a more thorough evaluation in a committee consisting of several faculty members. Sometimes the committee must draw on the experience of the faculty at-large to make an informed decision.
It is not possible to evaluate an individual's chances of admission without reviewing his or her file within the context of the peer applicant pool. Over the last several years, slightly less than 10% of the applicant pool has been admitted.
Many institutions, particularly those outside of the US educational system, do not grade students on a 4.0 GPA scale. Our faculty is familiar with the higher educational systems of countries all over the world and evaluates an applicant's academic performance within that individual's local context.
When applying, you do not have to convert your grades to a 4.0 scale. Instead, please indicate your overall standing and the grading scale used in the fields provided in the online application.
My bachelors degree isn't in CS. What kind of background should I have before applying to the program?
To be considered for admission to any of our graduate programs, students usually have a bachelors degree in computer science, computer engineering, or a related discipline like electrical engineering. Occasionally applicants with degrees in fields such as mathematics or physics are considered for admission to the program, especially if they have some computer science background, such as a CS minor. In special circumstances, alternative undergraduate preparation will be considered (e.g., a biology major may be appropriate for a student interested in the application of information and computer science to biological problems, such as bioinformatics).
Below are some general guidelines that can be gleaned from our undergraduate program. Before applying to our program, you should definitely have mastered the equivalent of the following courses:
- Basic programming: CSE 8A-B or 11; CSE 12 and preferably CSE 30
- Discrete math: CSE 20 and probably CSE 21
- Data structures and algorithms: CSE 100 and preferably 101
Background in some or all of the following is also recommended:
- Hardware and architecture: 140 and 141, preferably with labs
- Systems and Software: CSE 120, 130, 131A-B
- Theory: CSE 105
Descriptions of these classes and their prerequisites can be found in CSE Undergraduate Course Descriptions. Normally, these courses could be taken through the UCSD Concurrent Enrollment Program, which permits enrollment in CSE courses to non-matriculated students (with permission of the instructor).
I have already applied to the program and am waiting to hear back. When will I know if I have been admitted?
Applicants are accepted and rejected on a rolling basis until mid-April. Every applicant will receive notice of acceptance or rejection to our program by the end of this period.
The GRE Exam is required of all applicants for the MS and PhD application. For information about the GRE, please visit the official web site: http://www.ets.org
Our department does not have a minimum GRE score required for admission to our program.
If you do not have a degree in computer science, doing well on the CS GRE Subject Exam can be a way to demonstrate independent mastery of the subject matter. Regardless of one's background, it is not counted against you if you do not take the exam, while scoring highly on the subject test can be an additional positive mark in your favor on your application.
We recommend that applicants take the GRE exam no later than October, as it sometimes takes at least six weeks for us to receive score reports.
International Student questions:
I am an international student and my English skills are not yet up to your institution's minimum standards. May I be admitted into your program on a provisional basis, provided that I complete English courses before taking classes in the graduate program?
Our department does not admit students who fail to meet the university's minimum requirements for competency in English. International students should have already mastered competency in English by the time of application.
Transfer questions and options for non-matriculated students:
Students who want to take courses for personal enrichment or to prepare for applying to a CSE graduate program can enroll in graduate classes (with permission of the instructor) through the UCSD Concurrent Enrollment Program . Up to six of these courses may be transferred to your M.S. or Ph.D. degree if you are later accepted to the CSE graduate program.
Can I apply course credit from UCSD Extension or from another institution toward my degree requirements if I am admitted?
A limited number of units may be transferred if the courses in question are approved by the Graduate Committee. As a general guideline, a maximum of 6 courses can be transferred from an institution in the University of California (UC) system, and up to 2 courses may be transferred from a non-UC institution.
Here is the official text from the UCSD General Catalogue:
Transferring credits from another UC campus or Extension:
With the approval of the department and Dean of the Graduate Division, a maximum of 24 quarter units (6 courses) of upper-division and graduate course work completed with a grade of B- or better while in graduate standing at another UC campus may be transferred towards the Master's degree at UCSD. The same rule also applies to courses completed through UCSD Extension's Concurrent Enrollment program.
Transferring credits from other Institutions (Non-UC):
On the recommendation of the Department and with approval from the Dean of the Graduate Division, a maximum of 8 quarter units (2 courses) of course work completed with a grade of B- or better while in graduate standing at an institution other than a UC campus may be applied toward a Master's degree at UCSD.
In any case, no more than a total of one-half (24 quarter units) of the units required for a Master's degree may be transferred in from any UC or other institutions. Courses used for a previous degree may not be transferred. A letter from the institution from which the courses are being transferred will be required stating the courses were not used toward another degree. Course work approved for transfer credit will NOT be included in calculating a student's GPA, regardless of the source.
Students who wish to transfer from another graduate program into the CSE department at UCSD follow the same procedures as all other applicants.
I have an MS degree in CS. If I get accepted to your PhD program, do I have to take all those classes over again?
If accepted to our program, you can petition to have class requirements waived, although you will still be required to complete the required number of credits and to pass any examinations. In some rare instances we have partially waived exam requirements in lieu of a similar exam completed at a peer institution.
U.S. citizens and permanent residents with demonstrated financial need may request a waiver of the application fee. Please refer to the Eligibility Guidelines as set by the Graduate Division to see if you qualify for a waiver.
The University of California, San Diego does NOT waive or defer the required application fees (U.S.) graduate admissions application fee for any foreign applicants. If a foreign applicant attempts to submit an application without the required fee it will not be processed or considered until the fee is paid. There is no appeal mechanism.
All graduate students. Students are encouraged to apply for extramural fellowships (see our fellowship pages). These fellowships confer their own benefits and prestige, as well as giving their recipients more flexibility in choosing their thesis advisors. Many of our students work in local industry during the academic year (mainly MS students) and the summer months (MS and PhD). San Diego is one of the fastest growing high technology areas in the country, and has been named the "Wireless Capital of the World," and the "#1 place to do business in America," by Forbes magazine. Domestic students may apply for financial aid, which is administered through the University and is considered separately from department funding. Please visit the Financial Aid Office web site for more information. Students are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the financial aid application timeline at the time of program application.
Doctoral students. All incoming doctoral students are offered a first-year support package that includes a monthly stipend plus full fees and out-of-state tuition. The funding source is normally a combination of fellowship and research assistantship (RA). In future years, the majority of students are supported on research assistantships with their thesis adviser or on fellowships. Teaching is an important part of doctoral studies, and students will be appointed in a teaching assistantship (TA) for one quarter to fulfill the doctoral program teaching requirement, and sometimes for additional quarters as a source of support. TA, RA, and fellowships all come with payment of fees and tuition. Graduate student health insurance premiums are paid as part of fees.
Masters students. MS students may apply for teaching assistantships after accepting admission to the program. Teaching assistantships (TA) normally include a monthly salary plus a significant subsidy to offset nearly the full cost of fees; students are responsible for paying the balance of fees plus any out-of-state tuition. International students must pass an English Language Proficiency Exam before being hired as a TA. MS students are encouraged to pursue their research interests, and should ask faculty and other researchers about the possibility of a research assistantship, which may pay salary, fees, and tuition.
Other program questions
Our department does not offer any courses online and has no plans to do so in the near future.