Computer Science Graduate Program: Frequently Asked Questions

What is the process of applying to the Computer Science graduate program?

Check out the following website: for information about graduate application.

Once you complete your graduate application, your application will be forwarded to the CS admission committee for review. The admission committee will want to see the following materials required by the Grad School:

  1. Completed application form (available through the above website)
  2. Official academic transcripts for all prior undergraduate and graduate work
  3. At least 3 letters of recommendation
  4. Standardized test scores (GRE, TOEFL/IELTS)
  5. Personal statement

Any other material required by the Grad School must also be submitted. Contact the Grad School to learn what they are. The department cannot and does not waive any requirement established by the Grad School. DO NOT SEND ANY MATERIAL DIRECTLY TO THE DEPARTMENT; they will be misplaced and/or lost.

What is the deadline for application to the Computer Science graduate program, and how hard is it?

The deadlines for application are as follows:
Fall semester: April 1st
Spring semester: October 1st
Summer semester: N/A
(applications not accepted for summer entry)

Your application must be complete by the above deadline. This means all required materials, i.e., completed application form, official academic transcripts, 3 letters of recommendation, test scores (GRE, TOEFL/IELTS), and personal statement, must be available to the Grad School by the posted deadline. Do not expect the department to make an exception to this requirement. Standardized test scores are sometimes delayed; it is your responsibility to take these tests well in advance of the deadline so that despite delays by ETS your scores may still reach us on time.

The deadlines are absolutely firm. If your application starts before a deadline, but is completed after the deadline (but before the next semester's deadline) then your application will be considered during the next review cycle, i.e., for the next semester. In case you are admitted, you will be advised to complete a Request for Deferral of Start Term form.

NOTE: There is no separate deadline for applications requesting assistantships.

Can I have any assurances about admission before I apply? Or what is the likelihood that my application will succeed?

The short answer is no, we can't predict. Even if you include your GPA and/or GRE scores in your query. Your application undergoes a process from the point of completion to the point of a decision. It involves multiple levels of (sometimes subjective) judgments of multiple faculty members. The decision depends not only on the totality of your application package, but also on the quality of applicants in that semester, which itself is unpredictable. Therefore the outcome cannot be predicted for an individual prematurely based on partial credentials, even to the degree of likelihood. The best thing to do is to complete your application on time, and wait for the result.

How to determine whether my background qualifies for your graduate programs? Particularly, what are the minimum requirements for admission, in terms of GRE scores, GPA etc.?

In order to determine whether your background qualifies you to pursue a graduate degree in the School of Computing, please check the "Admission Requirements" section on individual program webpages. You can find links to the program webpages under the "Graduate Programs" panel on the bottom left of the School's website:

Regarding minimum requirements, see the answer to the previous question. There are no minimum scores/performance markers. Whether your performance will be adequate for admission in any given semester depends on the performances of other applicants in that particular semester. It also depends on the subjective judgment of many people involved in application review. There is no fixed cutoff score that they use every semester independent of the quality of the applicant pool.

I have completed my application by the posted deadline. When can I expect a decision?

If your application was complete (i.e., all required materials were available to Grad School) by a posted deadline, you may expect a letter of admission, or conditional admission, or rejection in about 2-3 months from the posted deadline. Your application goes through multiple sequential steps of processing, reviewing, and decision making (followed by any visa paperwork for admitted international students) by many people at many levels, therefore this process takes time. The timeframe may also be affected by the number of applications received. If your application was incomplete on a posted deadline, then a decision will be further delayed because it will not be reviewed for the target semester.

My application was reviewed, but I was denied admission. Why?

We do not cite reasons for individual decisions. Admission/rejection decisions are made via multiple levels of reviewing by several people, and detailed reasons behind each recommendation is not always available. Furthermore, when we receive many high quality applications in one review cycle, it is quite possible that some applicants with otherwise excellent credentials may miss the cut in that cycle. So a rejection is perhaps more about the quality of our applicant pool, and less about your credentials.

My application was reviewed, and I was offered conditional admission. What does that mean, or, why not regular admission?

Conditional admission differs only slightly from regular admission. It is important to understand that conditional admission does not mean that a student can be denied admission later. Conditional admission is offered in cases where the application review committee was not fully confident about the applicant's level of proficiency in the core areas of computer science, but found the overall application compelling enough to justify admission in our program. The lack of confidence can be due to various factors. Perhaps the applicant's transcripts didn't show the core courses, or the applicant's performance in those courses was below the committee's expectation, or the applicant's performance in coursework was not consistent with the standardized test scores, etc. This applicant will be asked to take a placement test so that we can ensure that every student taking graduate classes has the necessary background.

I was offered conditional admission, and asked to take the placement test. But I have the required background. Can this test be waived?

The placement test is not waived. It is meant to ensure that students taking graduate courses are truly prepared to take them, by identifying what (if any) undergrduate courses the student needs to take first. Even if you feel that you have the required background, you may still be required to take the test because the reviewers of your application did not feel the same way. In any case, if you feel that you have the required background, you should also be confident of passing the test.

I have already taken some graduate courses at another institution. Can I transfer those credits to USM?

You should send the following to the graduate coordinator by email (

  1. What is your desired degree from USM, Ph.D. or M.S.?
  2. Title and description of each course that you wish to transfer.
  3. A detailed list of topics covered in that course.
  4. Description of presentations, papers, class projects etc. that you did for that course.
  5. A link to the graduate program's website at the other institution(s) where these courses were taken.
  6. A copy of the institution's transcript (as a PDF file) showing these courses and your grades.
This question can be answered only after you provide the required information. Don't skip any item.

Keep in mind that the answer will only tell you which credits you may expect to be transferred. The actual process of transfer cannot be completed until you have been enrolled as a graduate student at USM. Furthermore, you are only allowed to transfer up to 6 credit hours from another institution.

I know of another student who was able to do something in the past, e.g., transfer credits for course X taken at institution Y to USM. Can I expect the same?

See the answer to the previous question. If your expectations are based on a precedent, you must also give details of the precedent: the other student's name, USM ID, transferred courses, year and semester, in addition to the other information sought under the previous question. This question can be answered only after you provide the required information.

What are the requirements for degree completion, and what courses does the School offer?

The School of Computing offers two M.S. degrees and one Ph.D. degree. The requirements for these degrees are linked under the "Graduate Programs" panel on the bottom left of the School's website:

You will also find a list of course descriptions at Select CSC or COS as prefix under "Course Filter", to see a list of courses that you could take for the CS graduate programs, and relate them to the requirements to figure out what courses you might want to take. Remember, level 500 and up are graduate courses.

How can I find a list of courses being offered this/next semester?

Go to You don't need a SOAR password. Click on "Class Search". When you get to "Search Options", select the Term/Semester of interest, select your subject ("Computational Science" or "Computer Science"), and your campus, then click "Search". The list of classes with their instructors, meeting times, and other details, will appear on the right.

Classes at level 500 and above are for graduate students. If you are an M.S. student, you may want to take "Computer Science" courses (prefixed CSC), while if you are a Ph.D. student then you may want to take "Computational Science" courses (prefixed COS). This is not a hard rule, and cross-overs are quite common. Which courses you need will have to be decided between you and your adviser, and established in your plan of study.

Does the School of Computing offer any online graduate courses?

Check out the answer to the previous question. In "Search Options", select "Online" for your campus, then click "Search". The list of online classes will appear on the right. You may also be able to arrange with the instructors of regular lecture courses to allow you to take a course as online. Contact the instructor.

How can I find the areas of expertise/research of your faculty?

Go to You can click on the name of each faculty member to learn about his/her research interests. Some of the individual pages contain links to the faculty members' website where you may find additional details about their research.

Does the School of Computing offer any financial assistance, and how do I avail these opportunities?

The School hires some students as graders, teaching assistants, or research assistants, based on their qualifications and the availability of funds. Offers are rarely made to students who have not arrived physically on campus, so you should be here seeking assistance before expecting any. Once you are on-campus, you may stop by the School of Computing office (TEC 214) and inquire about available jobs and eligibility requirements. Because of limited funds, the School is often unable to offer 20 hours/week employment to every graduate student.

Other Questions

Here is a list of miscellaneous questions you may have, that should be taken up with the Grad School and/or the International Services:

  1. How many courses do I need to (or can I) take each semester, including summer?
  2. My application materials should have reached you by now, but some materials show as "pending" in my account. Why?
  3. Any other question about application materials, or the application portal.
  4. Questions relating to Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or Optional Practical Training (OPT).
  5. Questions about tuition, fees, and other costs.
  6. Questions about tuition waivers.

Last updated: 12/11/2017