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Thread: Prerequisite courses for switching to CS

  1. #1
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    Prerequisite courses for switching to CS

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    I am planning to apply for MS in Computer Science for Fall 2011. My undergraduate degree was in Civil Engineering from Delhi College of Engineering(69%). Writing GRE this october.

    I am currently working as a Java/ActionScript developer at Deloitte Consulting, India. I have also cleared SCJP certification.

    I understand since my undergraduate degree was not in Computer Science I will have to take some pre-requisite courses. I have been researching for universities for the number of prereqs required and how receptive they are for such a switch. Number of prereqs is important, since anything more than 5 is just not possible considering the additional financial burden and duration of the program.

    During my research on admission websites of universities, I found some schools having more than 10 pre-reqs(Brigham Young University), most around 7 pre-reqs and very few less than 5(IIT Chicago, 3 prereqs). Still most of universities don't mention the number(SUNY Buffalo/Albany/Binghamton, UT Arlington, and many others) of pre-reqs required.

    Also I read on some forums that a lot of times majority of these pre-reqs are waived after talking to the professors.

    It would be great if anybody on the forums here having first-hand experience of this or knowledge of this could help me out by pointing universities which have a reasonable amount of prereqs or universities which generally waive some of them off.

  2. #2
    TestMagic Guru CalmLogic's Avatar
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    Also I read on some forums that a lot of times majority of these pre-reqs are waived after talking to the professors.
    Certainly, the primary problem is getting admitted in the first place. These pre-reqs are not usually checked by the computerized registration system once you are in graduate school, partly because it is assumed that, upon admission, you will have already met them.

    Have you checked out UT Dallas? Technically, UT Dallas has zero computer science prereqs prior to admission:

    http://cs.utdallas.edu/graduate/admissions.html

    UT Dallas also ranks better than UT Arlington. The only CS departments in Texas that are better than UT Dallas are Austin and TAMU.

    But I don't know what UT Dallas actually does in practice once they admit someone without a CS background. So you may want to ask them to at least see if they give you some hints about what is actually done. I would think they would have a policy in place since they have so many students. Or you could start e-mailing their hundreds of MSCS students one-at-a-time

    Also, I don't know what the odds of admission are at UT Dallas without a CS background. As you probably know, UT Dallas is considered a safety school with a large number of international students. But the Admit Profiles at Edulix show that they do surprise people sometimes with a reject, partly because UT Dallas is more strict than other places about meeting the minimum GRE requirements.
    Last edited by CalmLogic; 08-16-2010 at 07:57 PM.

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    Thanks CalmLogic!

    Yeah, I have checked out UT Dallas and betting strongly on that, hoping to score atleast 1300 in GRE. But even they are pretty erratic with their pre-reqs, people switching branches have got anything between 4 to 7 pre-reqs.

    There are a lot of other schools(generally lower ranked on US News CS Rankings) which don't have any pre-reqs prior to admission. The problem is the number of these deficiency courses one has to take and what is probability of waiving few of them off by talking to profs or taking tests.

    Also, is there a chance of getting any aid, based on good GRE score with a non-cs background.

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    Within my grasp! Anand Iyer's Avatar
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    Most schools will ask you to satisfy background requirement by taking 3 or 4 core courses. You can pass this requirement either by (1) taking the course, and getting a B or higher grade; or (2) by appearing for the final exam and getting a grade of at least B.

    For many schools, the core courses comprise of one course in systems (OS/Networking/Architecture), one in theory (theory of computation/algorithms) and one in applications (Artificial intelligence/Machine learning etc).

    At some schools, the professors can waive these requirements if they feel you have enough background. Sometimes, they ask you to take an oral exam.

    Since your UG degree is in Civil Engineering, it might be difficult for you to convince them that you have enough background in systems part unlike ECE students - most ECE undergraduates would have taken a course in Computer Architecture.

    All the best!

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    TestMagic Guru CalmLogic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anand Iyer
    Most schools will ask you to satisfy background requirement by taking 3 or 4 core courses.
    Yes, and at most moderately-ranked CS departments, this is almost always before admission Even the University of Central Florida at #91 in USNews rejected some excellent applicants this year.

    Regarding the placement exams, I guess what Anand Iyer is alluding to is another reason USC, like UT Dallas, is considered a safety school. One guy who was interviewing USC MSCS graduates even alluded to USC as a "visa factory," which leads credence to the idea of USC accepting a good number of people without CS backgrounds:

    http://www.urch.com/forums/computer-...tml#post785709

    (I do think USC is great for natural language processing, and, as with any MS degree, some individuals learn a lot more than others.)

    In any case, thanks Anand Iyer for mentioning USC in another thread. I see USC's CS department redid their website in the last year or so, and they now have some info about the placement exams you mention:

    http://www.cs.usc.edu/current-students/masters.html
    Last edited by CalmLogic; 08-22-2010 at 06:03 AM.

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    Within my grasp! oldprogrammer's Avatar
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    UT-Arlington officially only requires that you have completed the math requirements prior to admission. In an email conversation, the graduate advisor felt that the odds of admission without having taken at least a couple CS courses (and done well in them) were very slim. They list the prerequisites in a PDF titled something like "MS Guide".

    The graduate advisor at UT-Dallas didn't give me a list of courses I would need prior to applying (though they, too, require the math to be taken already). But I would have to take 3 or 4 leveling courses at some point. They did tell me that professional experience with, say, assembler, would take care of the assembler requirement, for example.

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    TestMagic Guru CalmLogic's Avatar
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    Thanks for the info.

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    Thank you oldprogrammer, CalmLogic and Anand for the info.

    I did some more research on this and found that:

    1: Most higher/moderately ranked schools require these pre-reqs to be completed before admission.

    2: UT-dallas has 7 pre-reqs not required to be completed before admission. 2 courses(CS-1 and CS-2) could be waived off based on work-ex.

    3: UT-Arlington has 6 CS pre-reqs again not required to be completed before admission. The "MS-guide" says they may offer waiver exams for 3 out of these 6 courses.

    4: Some lower ranked cs departments (on us-news rankings) have fewer pre-reqs(2 to 4).

    I still have following doubts:

    1. Even if one is admitted to UTD or UTA, wouldn't 5+ pre-reqs be extremely difficult in terms of finances and duration of the MS?

    2. USC is one good university which seems to relaxed regarding the non-cs background. Their admission page doesn't clearly state the pre-reqs requirement. I also didn't get any reply to the mail I sent them regarding this last week. I would really appreciate if somebody with knowledge on this could apprise us.

    3. I have a strong inclination and aptitude to study CS and am sure I would do well once I join, therefore I am not going for courses such as Information Systems(IS) where I could get into a much better university as their is no CS requirement there and my work-ex profile matches with the program.

    I have a few apprehensions studying at a lower ranked university:

    1. Poor peer group, faculty, and course content.
    2. Post-ms jobs are difficult coming from a lower ranked university.
    3. Its hard to get into a good university for Phd after ms.

    It would be a great help if the seniors here could comment on the validity of the above apprehensions and does it make sense to go for a lower ranked school for CS instead of going for higher ranked university for IS?

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    TestMagic Guru CalmLogic's Avatar
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    What I still don't understand is why more people in such circumstances just don't take the prereqs in their home country first, like through distance learning if they are busy working full-time (taking the grad course equivalent if that is all that is offered).

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by CalmLogic View Post
    What I still don't understand is why more people in such circumstances just don't take the prereqs in their home country first, like through distance learning if they are busy working full-time (taking the grad course equivalent if that is all that is offered).
    @CalmLogic
    I took your suggestion, and started taking courses at a local university(IIIT Hyderabad). With a full time job, I could only take one course(Artificial Intelligence) last semester, and am currently taking Machine Learning this semester.

    I have also written a research paper in the domain of Complex network theory and Natural Language Processing(NLP). It is under review in an international conference(not tier-1,2 conference), but me and my mentor are pretty confident that we would get published. Moreover, I should get a recommendation from my mentor who works in MS-Research.

    I am applying for Fall 2012 for MS in CS-AI/ML. This is my initial shortlist of the universities.

    1. NUS, Singapore
    2. NTU, Singapore
    3. UT-Dallas
    4. University of Southern California (USC)
    5. Arizona State University (ASU)
    6. Simon Fraser University, Canada
    7. University College Dublin
    8. Northeastern University

    The shortlist is based on factors on the following factors:

    1. How good the universities AI/ML research lab/faculty is.
    2. How flexible is the university in accepting non-CS undergrads.
    3. Plan to go for PhD post MS, so looking to join university with strong CS research culture.

    Can you please take a look and advise.

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