Resources for prospective graduate students

Thank you for your interest in the graduate program in Computer Science at Rensselaer.  We have one of the strongest computer science programs in the nation, and are actively looking for graduate students with a solid undergraduate record and a strong potential for research.  Below you will find answers to many of the questions frequently asked by applicants to our program.  If you have additional questions, feel free to contact us at grad-adm@cs.rpi.edu.

What is the application deadline?

In order to give you full consideration for financial aid, we need to receive all your materials by January 1 for fall admission or August 15 for spring admission. We will not look at your application until we have received all required documents. After the deadline, we will look at your application whenever we receive all required documents, but the later it is, the less likely it is that there will be aid available and that we can get the decision to you in time for you to make arrangements to enroll.

How do I apply for financial aid?

There is no separate application for financial aid. On the admission application, just indicate that you want to be considered for aid, and
you'll be considered for all types of RPI aid available. RPI aid includes fellowships, research assistantships, and teaching assistantships. For non-RPI aid, such as external fellowships and federal student loans, contact the institution offering the aid to apply. For example, to apply for federal student loans (available to US citizens and permanent residents), go to http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/. The Office of Graduate Education (http://gradoffice.rpi.edu/update.do?artcenterkey=267) maintains information on external fellowships.

I do not have a Master's degree. May I apply directly to the PhD program, or do I have to apply to the MS program, and then apply to the PhD after completing the MS?

You may apply directly to the PhD after receving a 4-year undergraduate degree. If you do not have a Master's already you may earn one while also working toward your PhD or you may earn the PhD without completing a Master's.  If you are interested in earning both the MS and the PhD degrees while in our program, you should apply for the PhD. 

I have a 3-year bachelor's degree. Am I eligible to apply for your graduate program?

No, you need a four year undergraduate degree before you can be admitted to our graduate program.
 

I am interested in a Master's degree. Should I apply to the Computer Science Department or the Information Technology Department?

The Master's in Computer Science is a research-oriented program. Students will join one of the research groups listed at https://science.rpi.edu/computer-science/research and will complete a Master's thesis or a project.
 
The Master's in Information Technology balances the study of management strategies and technology leadership with advanced course work in an IT concentration. Eleven concentrations are currently available, including Software Design and Engineering, Database and Intelligent Systems, Information Security, and Data Science and Analytics.

What are the chances I'll be admitted?

Our graduate program is research-oriented. We are seeking students with research experience in an area related to the research done by the department. When you apply, you should indicate on your application which research group you wish to apply to. A list of research groups is available at https://science.rpi.edu/computer-science/research.
 
If you are seeking an M.S. and are more oriented toward business applications than academic research, you may be a better fit for our Information Technology program.
 
For admission, we look at your past academic experience to assess your potential for success in our program. While past research experience is not necessary, it will greatly increase your chances of acceptance. Make sure that your references comment on your past research experience in detail. In addition, we will consider your academic background and your standardized test scores (GRE and TOEFL) for admission (see below).
 
Note that meeting the minimum requirements for GRE and TOEFL  (see below) does not guarantee admission. In fact, because we have hundreds of applicants with outstanding qualifications, we must even turn away many who have undergraduate degrees in the field as well as very high GRE scores and grades.  Often what distinguishes admitted applicants from other highly qualified applicants is research accomplishments or potential.

What type of academic background is required for admission?

Overall, we look for a strong academic record. An undergraduate major in Computer Science is not required for admissions, but some academic background in Computer Science is needed. At a minimum, applicants should have taken the equivalent of the Rensselaer course CSCI-2300 Introduction to Algorithms. You should also have some math background, including courses in calculus, discrete structures, and linear algebra.  An academic background in Computer Science is more important than professional experience in the field.
 

What are the GRE requirements for admission?

Rensselaer expects that applicants will score at least 156 on the verbal section, 146 on the quantitative section, and 4.0 on the analytical section. Applicants who do not meet the Rensselaer expectations are encouraged to strengthen their applications by having at least five evaluators complete the PPI Evaluation. Applicants to the Computer Science Department are expected to greatly surpass Institute recommendations on the quantitative section, and a quantitative score of at least 160 is recommended.  The average GRE scores of admitted applicants for Fall 2014 were Verbal 160, Quantitative 163, and Analytical 4.5.  Note that strong GRE scores alone do not guarantee admission.  Research experience and academic background are also important.
 
Note that the GRE is required and waivers are usually not granted. We do not waive the GRE based on an applicant having already received another graduate degree.  

What are the TOEFL requirements for admission?

The minimum required TOEFL score is 88. If you are required to take the TOEFL and you submit a score that is below 88, your application will be considered incomplete until you re-take the TOEFL and earn a score of at least 88.
 
The TOEFL is required for international applicants (those who are not US citizens or permanent residents) whose first language is not English.  
 
The TOEFL may be waived for applicants currently in the United States on Optional Practice Training (OPT) or Curricular Practical Training (CPT), or who are currently studying in the U.S. and have been students in the U.S. for at least two academic years immediately prior to beginning their graduate program.  It will not be waived for applicants in other situations, such as applicants attending a university in another English speaking country or applicants who received a degree in the U.S. but then returned to their home countries.
 
The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or the Pearson Test of English (PTE) may be substituted for the TOEFL. For the IELTS, the minimum required score is 6.5. Only the academic format is acceptable. For the PTE, the minimum score is 60.

What are the chances I'll be granted financial aid?

Financial aid is normally given to the applicants with the strongest potential to excel in research. Students who have already joined one of our research groups or have ample prior research experience may find it easier to get a research assistanship. This is more common for our PhD students. However, all students are equally considered for financial aid in the form of teaching assistanships.  Both teaching and research assistantship pay for tuition and provides a stipend for living expenses. A few fellowships are awarded to outstanding students applying for fall admission. These fellowships most often go to domestic applicants.

Do you offer financial aid in the spring semester? Do you offer financial aid to international applicants? Do you offer aid to MS students?

In the fall, there are more applicants and more funding available, but all applicants -- international and domestic, PhD and MS -- can be considered for aid in both the fall and spring semesters.
 

May I apply to start in summer?

Applicants normally start in either fall or spring.  We do not offer any graduate level courses in the summer.  Occasionally a student will start in summer if they have arranged with a faculty member to do research with them during the summer.

Can my recommenders submit hard copy letters?

Yes. Your recommenders can mail the letters to the Admissions Office.

Will you accept a photocopy of my test scores or transcripts?

The Admissions office will consider your application incomplete until official copies are received. However, the Computer Science Department will review your application with photocopies. If you are admitted and choose to enroll, official copies will be required.

Will you waive the application fee?

The application fee is not required for Rensselaer students, alumni, or staff. For others, it will not be waived.

My school does not compute rank/GPA. Is that okay?

Yes, just submit your transcript.

What address shall I mail my application materials to?

Graduate Admissions
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
110 8th Street
Troy, NY 12180-3590
USA 

Can I send my materials directly to the department?

No, your materials must be processed by Admissions before they can be reviewed by the department. If you send your materials to the department, we will then send them to Admissions, and then after Admissions processes them, they will send them to us. You can save a step and speed up the process by sending your materials directly to Admissions.

Can I transfer from another Rensselaer degree program to Computer Science?

Applicants to the Computer Science graduate degree programs from other graduate degree programs at Rensselaer must meet the same requirements as applicants from outside Rensselaer. Admission is extremely competitive and emphasizes research.  Whether you are applying from another department, from our MS program to our PhD program, or from our coterminal  program to our regular MS program, you must apply through the Admissions office. Admissions will have your previously submitted transcripts and test scores added to your new application. To supplement the documents already on file, you must submit two new recommendations and a new statement of background and goals which includes information on which research group you wish to join. You must also submit GRE General test scores if none are already on file. The only exception is that students switching from the coterminal program to the regular MS program may request a GRE waiver.