Frequently Asked Questions About Master's Admissions

Q: What are the admission criteria for the Brown CS Master's program?

A: We consider numerous criteria, including academic performance, letters of recommendation, and industrial experience. We also consider GRE scores, TOEFL scores (if relevant), motivation, work experience, awards, honors, prizes, and other accomplishments. Because Master's applicants are so diverse, no single set of criteria adequately covers all the cases. In more detail, we're looking for:

  • Academic performance: The GPA isn't the only criterion. Grades in computer science and related disciplines (for example, math) count more than grades in other areas. Also, we take into account the fact that at some very competitive schools it's very difficult to achieve a high GPA.
  • Letters of recommendation: Letters must give a detailed, factual, and candid evaluation of your capabilities. Rankings and comparisons with other students are very useful. Ask your recommenders to follow these guidelines. Remind your recommenders of deadlines to ensure they meet them. We routinely find ourselves unable to admit potentially qualified students because their letters of recommendation haven't arrived in time.
  • Work experience: Please describe any work experience you might have. Obviously, not all applicants have work experience, but for those who do, some description of it helps us better evaluate your application.
  • General GRE scores: These scores let us compare the basic skills of applicants from diverse backgrounds. We're aware that test performance can improve considerably with practice, some people don't perform well on tests, and the verbal GRE is harder for some foreign applicants. While we don't require general test scores, the test provides an additional objective form of evaluation that's often helpful in determining your abilities.
  • Subject GRE scores: The subject test scores are most useful when they're from the computer science exam. While we don't require subject test scores, the test provides an additional objective form of evaluation that's often helpful in determining your abilities.
  • TOEFL and IELTS scores: If your native language isn't English and you haven't received a college degree from an institution in an English-speaking country, you must take the TOEFL exam. Additional evidence (for example, a certificate of completion of an English course) may also be submitted. We generally don't consider applicants who have scored below 620 (PBT) or 260 (CBT) or IBT (105), and prefer scores higher than that. The corresponding minimum IELTS score is 7.5. If you feel you're exempt from taking the TOEFL, please email the Graduate School directly to get a waiver.
  • Statement: The statement that accompanies your application helps us learn more about you.
  • Awards, honors, and prizes: Unless they're well known (for example, an NSF fellowship or graduation with honors), please give details about them (how many candidates? how many awards? what were the selection criteria?). This is especially important for foreign applicants. If these awards are really important, we'd expect your recommenders to mention them.
  • Research experience: Research experience isn't required for Master's applicants and many of our applicants don't have any, but you can use experience you've had to demonstrate your ability to handle graduate-level computer science material.

Q: When is the deadline to apply?

A: We have two distinct admissions seasons: Spring, with a deadline of December 11, and Fall, with a deadline of March 15. Note that we generally have far fewer slots available for Spring admission that we do for Fall admission.   

Q: Can I still apply if I don't have all the material ready by the deadline?

A: Unfortunately not. We have two distinct admissions seasons: Spring, with a deadline of December 11, and Fall, with a deadline of March 15. We review applications on a rolling basis and don't accept applications after the deadline. Note that we need a complete application, including letters of recommendation AND OFFICIAL SCORE REPORTS before we can make admission decisions. Therefore, please give your letter writers enough time to write and mail your letters of support. 

Q: When can I begin study?

A: You can begin study in the Spring semester (which begins in late January) if you wish. Note that we generally have far fewer slots available for January admission that we do for September admission.

Q: I can't afford the application fee. Can you waive it?

A: To request a fee waiver, complete the Application Fee Waiver Request on the Graduate School online application form. In addition, you must submit documentation that substantiates your financial hardship. Acceptable forms of documentation are FAFSA, a letter from a college/university financial aid office, receipt of GRE fee waiver, unemployment verification, or other forms that provide significant documentation of financial hardship. Don't send copies of your tax returns. All supporting documentation should be sent to the Graduate School using the email subject line "Fee Waiver Materials".

Q: Do you have financial aid available for Master's students?

A: Sorry, we don't offer funding to Master's students. Neither teaching nor research assistantships are available for Master's students. It's also highly unlikely that you can find any sort of employment at the university while you're a student here, so you'll need to apply to external sources for support. You might consult the Graduate School's web page for general information on this topic.

Also note that there are very few, if any, funding sources available for international students. While we do assist all Brown CS Master's students in finding paid internships for the summers they're here, international students must "provide certified proof of financial support (including travel to and from America) adequate to meet annual expenses". Please see here for details.

Q: Are scans of any of the application materials acceptable?

A: We encourage scanned copies as part of the initial application; original documents are required if you're admitted and decide to enroll here. Please send all documents to the Graduate School:

Brown Graduate School
47 George Street, Box 1867
Providence, RI 02912

Q: Do you admit students only from certain elite universities and reject ones not from there?

A: We admit only outstanding students to our program. The institution you attended is just one of many indicators we consider. In particular, we recognize that excellent students graduate from all kinds of institutions; it's what they do there and after graduation that makes their applications stand out. Thus we do sometimes reject students from leading American and international institutions and accept students who did not attend such universities.

Q: I don't have a standard CS background. What kinds of courses should I take before I apply to strengthen my application?

A: What we're looking for is readiness to take our Master's-level courses. While we sometimes discount weaknesses in some areas if there are strengths in others, we'd like to see most of the following courses:

  • An introductory Programming course
  • An introductory Algorithms and Data Structures course
  • A Computer Systems or a Software Engineering course (preferably both)
  • A course on Discrete Mathematics and basic Probability
  • A Linear Algebra course

In addition, a student should have taken a more advanced course (normally offered to juniors and seniors) in at least one area of CS.

Q: I've earned my Bachelor's degree from a three-year degree program. Can I still apply for a Master's degree?

A: The three-year programs we know about, specifically those in India, are acceptable, and students from those programs can apply. If you're coming from a program with which we are not familiar, we may need information from you before acting on your application.

Q: Do I have to take the GRE General exam?

A: Brown CS doesn't require the General exam for Master's applicants. General test scores give us an additional objective form of evaluation, but on the other hand, some students have extremely strong records, and this strength is evident from their application. For such students, the General test score doesn't provide much additional information. In the end, it's your call.

Q: Do I have to take the GRE Subject exam?

A: Brown CS doesn't require the Subject exam. If you do take it, the scores most useful to us would naturally be those from computer science. Your Subject test scores give us an additional objective form of evaluation, but on the other hand, some students have extremely strong records, and this strength is evident from their application. For such students, the Subject test score doesn't provide much additional information. In the end, it's your call.

Q: How do I contact the Graduate School?

A: The Graduate School's contact information is on their web site.

Q: Where do I send my transcripts, score reports, and other materials?

A: If you're admitted and prompted to do so, please send supplemental materials to:

Brown Graduate School
47 George Street, Box 1867
Providence, RI 02912

Please don't send hard copies of any application materials unless requested by the Graduate School.

Q: Should I use the institution code, the department code, or both for the GRE and TOEFL?

A: The GRE institution code is 3094 and the GRE department code is 0402. For the TOEFL, you should use the school code, which is 3094, and the department code, 78. Note that the answers to these questions and many like them may be found at the Graduate School web site.

Q: Have you received all my application materials?

A: To find out, please start by checking the Graduate School's online application system. Don't contact the Graduate School for assistance unless you're unable to find them in the system.

Q: Who will be the primary readers of my application?

A: Your application (in particular, your statement) will be read primarily by Brown CS faculty.

Q: Who decides whom to admit?

A: Officially, admissions are generated by the Graduate School of Brown University. In practice, Brown CS (specifically, a group of faculty members) evaluates your application and makes recommendations to the Graduate School, which typically follows our recommendations.

Q: What if I have other questions?

A: Please email us.