How to Apply

Apply Now for Fall 2016

The application date for priority admission and scholarship consideration is March 15. Applications are reviewed on a space-available basis after March 15.

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Application Instructions for All Graduate Programs

The Office of Graduate Programs is the graduate admission office for the College of Arts and Sciences.

They provide you with application information for each graduate program, process the applications, and prepare them for review by your program's admission committee. They can also provide you with information about important services at the university.

MS Computer Science Specific Instructions

  • Bachelor's Degree
    A Bachelor's degree is required, preferably in CS or similar fields. The program accepts three-year Bachelor's degrees from international applicants. If you have a Bachelor's degree in a non-CS field you may apply if you can demonstrate a background that matches the majority of these courses required for admission:

    • High-Level Programming (CS 110)
      e.g. C, Python
    • Object-Oriented Programming (CS 112)
      e.g. Java, C++, C#, Objective-C
    • Data Structures and Algorithms (CS 245)
    • Computer Architecture (CS 315)
      Operating Systems (CS 326)
    • Linear Algebra and Probability (MA 201)
    • Discrete Math (MA 202)

    The following courses are recommended but not required for admission:

    • Compilers (CS 414)
      Programming Languages (CS 345)
    • Calculus and Analytic Geometry (MA 109)
  • Research & Work Experience
    Demonstrating you are a strong student through extensive academic and research experience can make up for missing background. Make sure you include transcripts for all other degrees and courses completed in your application, and describe any research projects you worked on in your CS Background Essay.

    We will also consider work experience related to software development when evaluating your background. Please include this experience on your resume or curriculum vitae, and describe the programming projects you worked on (with the languages and tools you used) in your essay.

  • Statement of Purpose
    For the Statement of Purpose, please provide a CS Background Essay that describes your background in computer science and software development, including research and work experiences. This statement is used in conjunction with your other application items to evaluate your eligibility for admission and scholarship. Topics in your essay may include:

    • Any significant software development projects in which you have been involved. Please describe the project, its purpose (commercial, academic, or just for fun), and your role and contributions.
    • Any research projects in which you have been involved. Please describe the project, whether it resulted in any publications, and your role and contributions.
    • Any significant skills and interests you have beyond computer science, especially those that demonstrate creativity and problem solving.
    • Any experience in communicating technical material in English, such as teaching or making presentations.
    • Any management or team leadership roles you have held.
    • Any experience in public or community service projects.
    • If you have a non-CS background and are missing several required background courses, include an argument on how your background has prepared you for our program.
    • If you have low scores in the past, include an argument and alternative evidence that you will be able to maintain a 3.0 GPA or above in the program.

    The essay should be 1 to 3 pages single-spaced in 12 point font with 1 inch margins. Essays that do not conform to these specifications will not be read.

  • Tests and GPA Requirements
    The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) general exam is required. International applicants must also provide a TOEFL or IELTS score. The USF school code for the TOEFL and the GRE is 4850. See below for more details.

    The GRE (Graduate Record Exam) general exam is required for most applicants. We consider primarily the quantitative score. The average quantitative GRE score of our current cohort is 164. Applications with a quantitative score below 155 are not competitive.

    We highly encourage all applicants to take the GRE test. However, it is possible to waive the GRE requirement if you have exceptional professional or academic experience. To receive this waiver, please start an application in the system and send an email to the graduate advisor at with your resume and application number.

    An official TOEFL, IELTS or PTE score is required of international applicants. The average TOEFL score of our current cohort is 86. The minimum required TOEFL score is 79. Use this calculator to convert between TOEFL and IELTS scores.

    For details on the waiver policy for TOEFL or IELTS scores, please see our International Graduate Students page.

    There is no strict GPA (grade point average) requirement for admission to the graduate program. However, applicants with a GPA of 3.0 or higher (on a scale of 4.0) will have more competitive applications and a higher chance of receiving a scholarship.

    You may still apply if you have a low GPA. Please address your GPA in your essay and provide an argument that, if admitted, you will be able to maintain the minimum 3.0 GPA necessary for our graduate program.

  • Deposit
    If you are admitted, an admission deposit of $700.00 is required to reserve your space in the program. The deposit is applied towards your first-semester tuition.

    The program has limited space. If you do not deposit by the deposit deadline, your space in the program is offered to someone on the waiting list.

International Students

  • Scholarship Eligibility
    International students are eligible and automatically considered for all MSCS scholarships. See our Financing Your Education page for details.

    Receiving a scholarship from USF does not influence the ability to obtain a visa. We encourage you to apply for a visa as soon as you receive your I-20. Students may need to try several times before successfully obtaining a visa, so we encourage students to try multiple times if necessary.

  • Work Eligibility
    The majority of international students are able to work on-campus, and are eligible to work off-campus after via the Practicum Option after one academic year. Please contact International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) for details.

Review Process

  • Start
    Your application will not be reviewed until it is marked as completed. You must upload all required documents before submitting your application. Once you submit your application, it will be considered incomplete until we receive your letter of recommendations and your application materials are verified.

  • Review
    When an application is marked as complete, it will be sent to the MSCS Admission Review Committee. The review process takes approximately 3 to 6 weeks after the application is completed. For Fall admission, completed applications are reviewed starting in early January.

    Applications will be reviewed until the priority deadline on March 15th. Applications are accepted and reviewed after the deadline until the program is full, and we maintain a waitlist until mid-summer. Please note that international applicants should apply early so that there is ample time for the visa application process.

  • Notification
    Applicants are notified by email when an admission decision has been made and posted to the applicant's online account.

Admitted Students

  • Acceptance Letter
    If accepted into the program, applicants will receive an acceptance letter via email and an admission package in the mail. Your admission packet will include information on the required deposit, registration, and orientation. If you are awarded a scholarship, details will be included in the acceptance letter.

  • Registration
    Students register for courses online during orientation. Tuition payment is made immediately after registration. Visit our One Stop office for more information. You must pay for courses or sign up for a payment plan by the payment deadline. See the Payment Options page for more information.

  • Orientation
    All computer science graduate students must attend a one-day MSCS Program Orientation before classes begin. Details will be provided in your admission packet. All new students are also encouraged to go to the Graduate Student Welcome Reception for all graduate students. International students must attend the International Student Orientation as well.


Can I take prerequisites from USF as a visiting student?

It is feasible for students already in the United States to take some of our undergraduate CS courses as a visiting student. However, many of these courses have prerequisites and our undergraduate majors have registration priority. We cannot guarantee space in those courses, or admission into our program.

Do you consider online courses, MOOCs, or certificates taken at places like Coursera, Udacity, or EdX?

We prefer to see transcripts for required background courses from state-level universities or community colleges, but additional elective courses taken freely online at places like Coursera, Udacity, or EdX will help strengthen your application.

Do you consider experience with web languages such as HTML, CSS, Javascript, MySQL, or PHP?

Experience with web, script, and markup languages such as HTML, CSS, Javascript, MySQL, or PHP will help strengthen your application. However, they do not count as high-level or object-oriented programming languages for the required background.

Do you have conditional admission?

We do not have conditional admission at this time. Whether or not you have a formal CS background, you need to be prepared to take and pass the same set of core courses as everyone else if admitted.

Do you allow transfers from other programs?

No, applicants interested in switching programs must follow the same application procedure as everyone else. However, we will consider the courses you have already taken at another program in your application.

Can I transfer credit for courses taken at other programs?

No, as a general rule we do not offer transfer credits for graduate courses. This is a university-wide policy.

Contact Info

MS Computer Science

Harney Science Center, Room 545, 2130 Fulton Street, San Francisco, CA 94117-1080 (415) 422-6530