Admission FAQ

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Should I apply to the M.S. program or the Ph.D. program if...

If you have a weak background in computer science, you should apply to the M.S. program. If you mistakenly apply for the Ph.D. program, we will treat your application as though you had applied to the M.S. program. This is most commonly used with provisional admittance.

If you a strong background in computer science, then we will admit you to the Ph.D. program, even if your only intention is to obtain a terminal M.S. degree. In this way, if you should change your mind and decide to go on for a Ph.D., it saves you from having to reapply.

How does it affect my chances for admission if I apply to the Ph.D. program vs. the M.S. program?

At the current time, it has no effect whatsoever. See also the answer to the previous question.

What financial aid is available?

The department has both state-supported teaching assistantships and federally-supported research assistantships. However, it is unusual for an incoming student to be supported on a federal research grant. If you have a background that automatically qualifies you for particular kinds of aid (e.g., minority fellowships), the department will automatically apply for these on your behalf.

How much does an assistantship pay?

Currently $2,000 a month, plus tuition. Assistantships can be for either the nine-month academic year, or for twelve months. Living expenses and other fees (books, etc.) are your responsibility.

What duties does a teaching (state-supported) assistant perform?

All teaching assistants are expected to work about 20 hours per week. Duties fall into one or more of the following types:

   1. Helping maintain our Unix/Linux network. These students add new user accounts, install new workstations, install new software, etc. A strong background in C and Unix/Linux is expected.
   2. Teaching laboratory sections for both our introductory course for non-majors and the beginning programming course. In addition to a knowledge of the subject matter, good "people skills" are important.
   3. Grading various undergraduate courses.

None of these duties are assigned until the day before classes start and may vary from one semester to another. Also, some students, after they have been here at least a semester, may be hired onto a research grant.

What if I am hired onto a research grant and the funds go away?

The department will (in the worse case) move you back to a teaching assistantship (state-support). We also use department funds to cover any "gaps" that occur in research grants, e.g., a grant that ends in the middle of a semester. The department maintains a Graduate Student Funding policy that more completely explains funding options for graduate students.

Do I have to take the Graduate Record Examinations?

All applicants are required to submit official scores for the aptitude portion of the GREs (William and Mary code is 5115, CSCI department code is 0402). Foreign students whose native language is not English are required to submit official scores for the TOEFL exam (code 78).

What are the minimum GRE scores and GPA's one needs to obtain admission and/or financial aid?

We do not have any set minimums in mind. Historically, the average scores for incoming (fall) students over several years has been:

Year Verbal
Average GPA
(BS/MS on a 4.0 scale)
2014-15 153 162 3.1 3.20/3.38
2013-14 151 163 3.2 3.17/3.40
2012-13 533/156 763/161 3.8 3.19/3.36
2011-12 517/163 753/158 4.0 3.22/3.36
2010-11 500 737 3.8 3.40/3.12
2009-10 511 727 4.0 3.17/3.41

Clearly, if one has an aptitude score that is very low by these standards, one should submit additional information. For example, if one has a low verbal GRE score (indicating possibly a poor writing ability), one would be well advised to submit (for example) a writing sample, preferably a computer science research or term paper.

Also, having scores at or above these averages is no guarantee of admissions. We also look at transcripts, letters of recommendation, statement of purpose, etc.


Can I submit an unofficial transcript (or whatever) and get an unofficial evaluation of my chances for admission/financial aid?

Sorry, the answer is no. Both admissions and financial aid are a competitive process. And to do a good job, we need as much information as we can get. It does neither the College nor the student any good to admit students who would be (for whatever reason) better off somewhere else.

Do I have to have an undergraduate degree in Computer Science to be admitted to the graduate program?

No. If you read our admission requirements carefully, you will see that you need four courses in CS and three in Math. The four CS courses are: programming, data structures, algorithms, and computer organization. The three in Math are: one year of calculus and a course in linear algebra.