Frequently Asked Questions about Admission

  1. Can I get a Masters in Computer Science even if I didn't major in CS as an undergraduate?
  2. Do I need to send recommendations letters or take the GRE?
  3. Can I overcome a bad GPA as an undergraduate?
  4. Are your courses available in the evening? In online format?
  5. When will I know whether I have been admitted?
  6. Should I apply for the PhD or the MS?
  7. Can I change what degree I'm applying for?
  8. Can I ask for reconsideration if denied admission?
  9. Can I defer admission?

1. Can I get a Masters in Computer Science even if I didn't major in CS as an undergraduate?

Yes! If you're interested in doing a masters in CS, you need to first get a good foundation by taking the following courses, which are offered every regular semester and usually every summer as well. It's also fine to take equivalent courses at other schools. You need to get a grade and you need to get a B or higher. If you can't handle the basics, there's no point trying to get an advanced degree.

  • MATH 231 Calculus I
  • MATH 232 Calculus II
  • COMPSCI 201 Introductory Programming
  • COMPSCI 251 Intermediate Programming
  • COMPSCI 351 Data Structures and Algorithms (Programming III)
  • COMPSCI 315 Assembly Language Programming (requires CS 201 & Math 231)
  • COMPSCI 317 Discrete Information Structures (requires Math 231)

When taking the last of these courses, you are ready to apply to the program, but you may find it cheaper to stay enrolled as an undergraduate special status student while taking two more required courses:

  • COMPSCI 458 Computer Architecture
  • COMPSCI 535 Algorithm Analysis

2. Do I need to send recommendations letters or take the GRE?

Recommendation letters are not required, but they may be used to support an otherwise weaker application.

The GRE is recommended, but not required. GRE scores help our application committee compare you to students using the same measure. Like recommendation letters, GRE scores may be used to support an otherwise weaker application. GRE scores also help our application evaluators when we are not particularly familiar with the other universities at which you have studied. Our GRE institutional code is 1473.

3. Can I overcome a bad GPA as an undergraduate?

Yes! Sometimes, people were immature as undergraduates and squandered their time; others had heavy job-related responsibilities; yet others had personal troubles that interfered with their studies. But if you've grown up, and are more careful with your job-time and have resolved your family troubles, you can demonstrate this to us by taking post-bachelor courses here at UWM (or elsewhere) and succeeding!

If your GPA is above 2.50 (but below 3.0), you should take 6 credits of Computer Science U/G or G courses as a "Graduate Non-Degree Candidate" (GNDC), if lower, then 9 credits. You should also take the GRE. We like to see people achieve at least 80 %ile on the quantitative part of the exam.

Then once these credits are complete, you can apply to the program. It's better to withdraw from a class than to get lower than a B. Remember that graduate students are required to maintain a B or better average; while taking courses an a GNDC, you are having a "trial session" as a graduate student. Any G-level CompSci courses you take as GNDC with a B or better can be transferred into the program once you are admitted.

4. Are your courses available in the evening? In online format?

Yes, many graduate courses are taught in the evening (at 4pm, 5:30pm or at 7pm). We do not yet have any fully-online courses, but some courses are offered in "blended" format, meeting eight times a semester, but otherwise using online instruction format. Most undergraduate courses are not offered in the evening, but we would like to offer more of these in the evening if there is sufficient demand. Please send email to <ceas-cs@uwm.edu> if you need to take undergraduate courses in the evening to prepare for graduate study. Please explain your reasons.

5. When will I know whether I have been admitted?

After your application is complete, which includes paying the required fees, completing all required tests (such as TOEFL), and transcripts are delivered to the graduate school, it is evaluated by the graduate school. International transcripts can take a month or more to evaluate. We don't get your application until it has been "DDEF'ed" (deferred to our program for evaluation).

Our admission committee meets monthly through the school year, including January and August, but not usually June or July. A decision is made on applications that have been received a week before. Once the committee has met, it can take another week for the recommendation to be acted upon. Thus during the school year, you may need to wait as long as a month or two after the application is DDEF'ed before receiving an admission decision.

6. Should I apply for the PhD or the MS ?

We rarely admit people to the doctoral program in Computer Science without first getting a Masters in CS, and since most of your credits from your masters program can be transferred into the doctoral program, it makes sense to take things in stages.

For people with a masters in Electrical Engineering, or Computer Applications or Information Science or Information Technology, we recommend getting a second masters in CS before applying to the doctoral program. We find that these related fields are not close enough to core Computer Science to give a strong foundation for doctoral studies.

7. Can I change what degree I'm applying for?

If you originally applied (say) to the Master's in Engineering Program in EE and then change your mind, you can ask the department to forward the application to us, and ask the graduate school to change your application target. The same applies to people who applied to the doctoral program and wish to be considered instead for the masters program.

8. Can I ask for reconsideration if denied admission?

Yes! Within a year, you may ask for reconsideration of a negative decision. Asking for reconsideration only makes sense if you have changed the circumstances of your application, by succeeding in a graduate CS course or two (taken, perhaps, as a GNDC student).

9. Can I defer admission?

Yes! We are happy to defer admission for a semester or two to enable you to better prepare for studies (or to get a visa etc). However, you should request a deferral officially with the graduate school or else you simply are a "no-show."