Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Answers to common questions asked by prospective students applying to the CS graduate program.

Current Student

At What Time During My PhD Should I Have Completed My MAE/Proposal?


Recommended Timeline

  • By the end of second year of study.

Required Timeline

  • By the end of the third year of study to remain in good standing in the department.


Recommended Timeline

  • By the end of the fourth year of study.
  • A minimum of one year before the dissertation defense.

How Do I Apply to Be a TA?

The TA application is located on the Computer Science department website and is available about a month prior to the start of each quarter.

How Far In Advance Do I Need to Schedule My MAE/Proposal/Defense?

As soon as you have decided on a date and time for your MAE/Proposal/Defense, you need to email the Graduate Advisor and schedule a room. It is best to have this done a few weeks to a month in advance.

If I Am a PhD Student and Want to Get My MS Degree as Well, Can I?

Yes, when you do your Proposal, you can also get an MS degree. You need to complete and submit an MS study plan. On the study plan, you will choose the project track. You will also need to complete a Change of Degree Status Petition in order to add the MS.

If I Am Completing the Project Track for My MS, What Do I Need to Submit?

  • Complete a project under faculty direction.
  • Publicly defend your project.
  • Submit a PDF write-up of the project to the Graduate Advisor.
  • Submit a completed MS study plan to the Graduate Advisor.

If I Took Graduate Courses at Another University, Can I Transfer Courses Towards My Degree at UCSB?

Subject to the following stipulations, you can petition to have up to three masters level courses count towards your graduate degree at UCSB.

  1. Petitioned course cannot have been used for a bachelor’s degree.
  2. Must have received a ‘B’ or better in the course to petition it.
  3. Must be approved by the Graduate Advising & Affairs Committee Chair.

What Is the Average Time to Complete the MS and the PhD?


5 quarters


5.5 years

What Is the BS/MS Program?

The BS/MS Program is an academic program that allows participants to obtain both a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science in 5 years. When admitted, a student may take graduate courses in computer science during his or her senior year, which can be used toward satisfying his or her M.S. degree requirements.

When Is the Comprehensive Exam Offered for the Exam Track of the MS?

The comprehensive exam is offered during the 8th week of both fall and spring quarters.

When Should I Apply for the BS / MS? What Is the Deadline?

Students should apply to the BS/MS program during their Junior year, when they still have a full year of BS left. 

March 15th

Prospective Student

Can I Apply Even If I Was Not a Computer Science Major As An Undergrad?

The Department of Computer Science requires a bachelor's degree in some discipline of science, engineering, or mathematics. In order to be a competitive applicant, s/he is expected to have a good understanding of computer science and have some research interests that match the interests of our faculty. Also, the applicant needs to provide documentation that s/he can take and succeed in graduate level computer science courses.

Can I Apply for Admission to the Graduate Program in Spring Quarter?

No, unfortunately we only have the resources to admit students for fall quarter.

Can I Apply for Both the MS and the PhD Programs? If I Am Not Accepted to the PhD Program, Am I Considered for the MS?

No. Only one application may be submitted per application quarter. Simultaneous applications are not accepted. You must choose which program (MS or PhD) is more compatible with your career goals.

If you are not accepted to the PhD program, you are not automatically considered for the MS.

Can I Apply to the MS or PhD If I Already Have a Masters Degree?

Yes. UCSB does accept students who have already received a MS degree. You may apply for either a second MS or the PhD program. An MS is not required to apply to the PhD.

Can I Transfer to a Masters Program in Computer Science?

No, we do not accept transfer students. You will need to apply as a new student.

Do I Need to Take the TOEFL Exam?

Applicants whose native language is not English are required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Exceptions to TOEFL testing may only be considered for those students who have completed an undergraduate or graduate degree at an institution in a country where the official language is English.

How Can I Pay for My Graduate Degree?

Admitted PhD students are typically guaranteed funding to fully support them throughout their studies, based on meeting our program requirements. PhD students may be funded by a combination of Fellowships, Research Assistantships and/or Teaching Assistantships.

We do not offer financial assistance for admitted MS students and many students take out student loans. It is possible to obtain a Teaching Assistantship or Research Assistantship, but priority is first given to PhD students and they are heavily competitive.

What Do I Need to Submit in Order to Apply to the Graduate Program?

  • Online Application
  • Statement of Purpose
  • Personal Achievements/Contributions statement
  • Resume or Curriculum Vitae (CV)
  • Three Letters of Recommendation
  • Unofficial transcripts
  • Official GRE and TOEFL scores (sent directly through ETS to the Graduate Division, institution code 4835)

What GPA and Test Scores Do I Need to Have to be Admitted?

Our departmental minimum for the TOEFL is 100. However, if you receive a score anywhere between an 80 and 100 on the TOEFL, your application will still be considered.

The minimum GPA in order to be accepted is 3.0. However, most of our admitted students have GPAs above 3.3.

What If My GRE / TOEFL Scores or Other Supplemental Materials Arrive After the Application Deadline?

Your online application needs to be submitted and paid by the December 15 deadline, but we will accept other materials after that. All supplemental materials must be submitted by the time the Grad Admissions Committee starts reviewing applications, which takes place in early January for the PhD and early February for the MS. There are no exceptions to this rule; if your application is not complete, it will not be reviewed.

What Is the Difference Between the Statement of Purpose and the Personal Achievements / Contributions Statement?

Statement of Purpose

Brief statement outlining your reasons for undertaking a graduate program, your particular area of specialization within the major field, your past academic work, and your plans for future occupation or profession.

Personal Achievements / Contributions Statement

Describes any aspects of your personal background, accomplishments, or achievements that you feel are important in evaluating your application for graduate study. This may include any economic challenges you may have experienced in achieving higher education or any unusual or varied life experiences.

When Is the Graduate Application Deadline?

December 15 at 11:59 PM Pacific Standard Time

When Will I Know if I Have Been Accepted to UCSB?

For the PhD, the first round of acceptance letters are generally sent out mid-March. All final decisions (admit and deny) are sent out by the end of April.

For the MS, all final decisions (admit and deny) are sent out by the end of April.