WPI Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Computer Science Department

Frequently Asked Questions
by Prospective Graduate Students


These questions are based on real questions from real people. Please let us know if they're helpful, or if you have other questions. Answers to many more detailed questions about the Computer Science Department (CS) can be found by looking at our web pages.

The Office of Graduate Admissions has a web site that can help you with graduate admissions information, and also with general questions that you might have. And of course there are also plenty of web pages about WPI to browse through.


Degrees Students/Professors Thesis Graduate Regulations Applying
GREs/TOEFL Application & deadlines Fee Funding Classes
TA/RA Office/computer Advisor Research Groups Living/housing

* What degrees do you offer?
The Masters (M.S.) and Doctorate (Ph.D.) degrees in Computer Science, as well as Certificate Programs.

* How many students are there in the department?
The department is of medium size, but it's growing.

* How many professors does the department have, and what are their areas of research?
There are about thirty-three faculty in the department, and a summary of their research areas is available. We continue to increase the size and diversity of our faculty.

* Do I have to do a Thesis?
There is a course work option for the M.S. degree, in addition to the thesis option. The Ph.D., of course, requires a written dissertation.

* What are the formal steps needed to obtain an M.S. or a Ph.D.?
The details of formal steps needed (e.g., courses, examinations, proposal, thesis/dissertation) are described in the Graduate Regulations and in WPI's Graduate Catalog.

* Where can I find information about applying to WPI for a Graduate degree?
The Office of Graduate Admissions handles applications for graduate degrees. They also have a list of answers to Common Questions About Applying To Graduate School At WPI.

* Do I have to take the GREs?
Yes. The GRE General Test is required, unless you have a degree from WPI, or are a current WPI undergraduate.

The Computer Science Department may decide to waive the GRE requirement if you have already taken at least two WPI graduate CS courses and have received an A or a B grade for those courses.

The WPI CS Department used to recommend the GRE CS Subject Test for all M.S. and Ph.D. applicants. However, the last offering of the GRE Computer Science Test was in April 2013. It was an excellent method to demonstrate sufficient CS background. If your record does not clearly show previous formal CS education then please describe any relevant additional education or experience.

Note that some Fellowships require a GRE General Test score. Consequently, if you are interested in applying for Fellowship funding we encourage you to determine what it is needed, otherwise you may automatically disqualify yourself.

* Do I have to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)?
What is the lowest acceptable score for the TOEFL?
TOEFL scores must be submitted by all applicants for whom English is not their first language. See TOEFL/IELTS Notes and Exceptions for details, and information about required TOEFL scores.

* What do I need to send before my application will be considered?
In order to proceed with the online application process WPI will require all of the required items before your application will be considered. All information is taken into account for admission. It is not possible to assess an applicant without a complete online application.

* What are the Deadlines for Application and Financial Aid?
You can apply online at any time; we admit students year-round. Applications for admission to the Spring semester should be submitted by October 1st to guarantee consideration, and applications for the Fall semester should be submitted by January 1st if you are seeking TA or RA funding

* Do I have to pay the application fee?
Yes. However, it is not required if you are a current WPI undergraduate or already have a degree from WPI.

* What is the lowest acceptable score for the GREs?
Apart from the TOEFL score, there are no other minimum scores for either admission or financial aid.

* Can I send a copy instead of an original of the scores?
You must send, or arrange to have sent, originals of all official documents.

* What is the expected background of applicants?
We expect a B.S. or M.S. degree in Computer Science or a closely related field. However, we currently have M.S. students with all kinds of backgrounds. If you have a weaker CS background you will be expected to study more introductory material, perhaps by taking undergraduate courses, although you may not be able to count those course credits towards your graduate degree.

* Can you review my qualifications before I send in my application?
No. We receive so many applications from qualified applicants that we do not have the time to review qualifications by e-mail. We need the completed online application before we can consider you.

* If I get accepted and I applied for funding, when can I expect to be notified of funding?
There is no fixed date but applications completed by February 1st generally receive notification in March about admission and funding.

* When do I have to tell WPI whether or not I am going to accept its offer?
You have to tell WPI by April 15th.

* What types of funding are typically available?
The Office of Graduate Studies provides general information about Assistantships and Fellowships.

The department gives financial assistance to selected applicants in the form of teaching and research assistantships to either current or newly admitted students. Assistantships cover tuition and a monthly stipend sufficient for living expenses. Teaching assistantships (TAs) are selected from among qualified students by the department. Research assistantships (RAs) are chosen by the principal investigator of the research. WPI also has a very limited number of Fellowships available.

All admitted full-time students will be considered for support. We do not have any targets for the number of supported students from any country, and we support students from all over the world. The department does not have tuition waivers or any other means for partial support for students.

* How difficult is it to get funding?
It is not possible to answer this question, as the funding available, the number of applicants, and the supported students who graduate, vary every year.

* What are the selection criteria for funding?
The primary factors in considering students for admission and for financial aid are: your academic record (i.e., degree and grades), GRE scores, TOEFL scores (for foreign students), recommendations and the applicant's statement of purpose.

Students who come to WPI without support will be considered for support when they're here, based mainly on their success at WPI.

* Who has research funds?
Faculty who need an RA will select from current students and admitted students. Often they make a public announcement of an RA position to the department's graduate students via email. Unless you have an explicit record of work or research in the subject area of a grant, it is extremely unlikely that unsolicited email sent to a faculty member will win you an assistantship!

* Can I attend without support?
Yes. Each year we have more well-qualified, newly admitted, students than we can support with assistantships. Some of these students enroll without support and pay all expenses themselves. Each year we award assistantships to a few current, but unsupported, students who have come to WPI and are doing well.

* What about jobs?
Many graduate students have lucrative and beneficial summer jobs at startups or well-established companies. International students need to check the requirements of their entry visa before taking any off-campus employment. Some part-time jobs are available on campus.

* How large are the classes? What subjects are available?
Graduate classes vary in size from about about 7 students to about 40 students. This depends on how advanced the class is, whether the course is required or not, and the semester. The Graduate Catalog lists all the descriptions of graduate CS courses.

* What exactly does a Teaching Assistant (TA) or Research Assistant (RA) do?
The CS department has Guidelines for Teaching and Research Assistants which describe the duties of TAs and RAs. It is expected that assistants will work an average of 20 hours per week. Teaching Assistants typically do a mix of tasks such as: grade (mark) student homework, programs, or exams; have office hours where they are available to answer questions from students who need extra help; organize in-lab problem-solving sessions. At WPI, TAs do not teach courses. Research Assistants help faculty members with their research. Usually RAs are also doing their Thesis work in the same area. RA duties may involve: programming; finding, collecting and analyzing technical publications; writing papers about the funded research project.

* How are TAs assigned to classes?
TAs are asked to provide a list of courses that they would prefer to assist with. Professors are asked to provide a list of TAs that they would prefer to have as assistants. The CS department's TA coordinator makes the assignment of TAs to courses based on both those lists.

* What should I do once I arrive at WPI?
You should certainly follow any instructions sent to you by WPI. You should also follow the steps described in Information for New CS Graduate Students. If you are an international student you should probably visit the International House. You should also note when the orientation sessions are for CS graduate students, and for TAs.

* Will I get an office, and will I be sharing it?
All funded students are assigned to an office, and all offices are shared. Often we try to put students who are doing similar research together. This is especially important for RAs.

* Will I get my own computer?
If you receive funding, yes. All TA and RA offices are equipped with a computer, X-terminal or workstation for each student in the office.

* What kind of facilities does the department provide?
The department and WPI have many resources that are available for your use (e.g., computers, printers, rooms, labs, library, mailboxes, lounge, etc). To find out more, start by looking at the Frequently Asked Questions About the Department web page. An orientation meeting for new CS graduate students, held just prior to the start of the Fall Semester, will also provide you with information.

* Will I get an Academic Advisor?
An initial academic advisor will be assigned to you when you first come to the Computer Science department. Your advisor will help you by answering your questions and providing advice about what courses to select. Later, when you start doing research it is possible to change your advisor to one who shares your research interests. If you are doing a thesis, once you get a thesis advisor, that professor also becomes your academic advisor.

* What are the Research Groups?
The Research Groups are a way for people with similar interests to meet regularly to discuss current research topics and results. We suggest that when you first come to WPI you attend at least one group in order to meet people and to find out what research is going on.

* If I attend a Research Group am I making a commitment to do research in that area?
No. Unless you are supported as an RA you have no commitments to a particular research area.

* Is there an organization for graduate students?
The CS department has the Computer Science Graduate Students Organization. It helps new graduate students in the department, and handles suggestions and complaints to the department. The WPI Graduate Student Government represents all graduate students at WPI.

* Will my assistantship salary be enough to cover my living expenses in Massachusetts?
Assistantships cover tuition and a monthly stipend sufficient for living expenses. You will have enough money to be able to rent a place to live, buy food, and take care of all normal living expenses.

* Can I get help with finding housing before I come here?
Most people find housing by themselves, perhaps with assistance from the WPI Residential Services Apartment Finder System. Worcester's newspaper also has online advertisments for apartments/flats. You may be able to get some additional assistance and suggestions from the Graduate Student Government, the CS Graduate Students Organization, the International Student Council, the Chinese Students & Scholars Association, or WPI information for international students.

* Can you provide any additional information for International Students?
In addition to the web pages of the organizations mentioned above, look at foreignborn.com, and in particular Study in the U.S.: A Guide for International Students.

Maintained by webmaster@cs.wpi.edu
Mon May 20 17:50:50 EDT 2013

Department of Computer Science - Worcester Polytechnic Institute
100 Institute Road, Worcester, MA 01609-2280 | Phone: +1-508-831-5357 | Fax: +1-508-831-5776 | cs@wpi.edu