MS Frequently Asked Questions
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions. Consider this just to be friendly advice. Nothing here should be construed as official policy of the Computer Science department, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, or the George Washington University.
Do I need to fill out Form 1 before beginning my first semester?
No. For some reason, students sometimes leave orientation thinking that there's an urgent need to fill out Form 1. In fact, you have plenty of time.
So when do I need to fill out Form 1?
Different advisors have different policies on this. Some prefer to have you fill out Form 1 during your first semester of studies; others prefer for you to wait until you're just a few courses away from graduating. In either case, understand that Form 1 is a plan, not a contract.
Where can I get a blank Form 1?
Please contact [email protected].
What courses should I enroll in? What should my plan of study be?
Graduate students should have a level of maturity that enables them to make this choice themselves. It is generally your responsibility to choose your courses; it is not your advisor's responsibility. As a guideline, in your first semester or two, you should probably take required courses. Here are links to program requirements:
- The MS in Computer Science program requirements are quite simple: take three pre-specified core courses and seven other courses of your own choice.
- The MS in Cybersecurity in Computer Science program requirements are a little more complicated, but still allow you to choose six courses yourself.
- The CSIA program requirements stipulate two required courses and two electives.
It is definitely your responsibility to study the requirements for your program carefully before you contact your advisor with questions.
Do I need to take the core courses before any others?
Most Master's courses list one or more of the three core courses as pre-requisites. So it makes sense to take the core courses as early as possible. But you don't have to do all of them right away—taking the core courses early is just a guiding principle. Students often find the core courses to be more difficult, so it is wise to not take them all in one semester.
I'm not sure what electives to take. How should I choose?
You should probably try (i) taking courses across the spectrum, aiming for breadth, and (ii) taking a couple courses in one area of your choice to get some depth in that area. If, after taking your required courses, you still aren't sure about electives, you can talk to your advisor.
Can I take courses outside the department?
Yes, at most two (6 credits total) and with prior written permission from your advisor. You need to make the case that these courses are relevant to your program of study. Typically courses taken outside the department that have a high degree of overlap with undergraduate Computer Science courses will not be supported.
I'm working full-time and taking courses part-time. How many courses should I take per semester?
Most full-time working people take just one course a semester and find that challenging enough. However, two courses a semester, if carefully selected, might still be a manageable load. If you do this a couple times, you might be able to finish in three years.
My undergraduate degree is not in CS. Will I find programming courses too difficult?
If you've studied no programming at all, you are likely to find any course with programming difficult. Avoid programming intensive courses until you've finished your deficiency courses. On the other hand, some theory courses require little programming. You might manage to take these at the same time as your deficiency courses.
Can I take courses only on the Main campus?
You can take courses on any GW campus (Main/Foggy Bottom, Mount Vernon, or Virginia). There is a free shuttle between campuses. Make sure to build sufficient travel time into your schedule.
Can I transfer undergraduate courses to count for a graduate course at GW?
Registering for Courses
How should I resolve a problem with registering for a course?
Contact [email protected], SEAS graduate admissions coordinates graduate programs for the CS department.
How can I get into a course that's full, or for which I haven't (formally or informally) taken the prerequisites?
All decisions like these are made by the course instructor. If you talk to the course instructor, he or she might let you in. Your advisor can't really do anything about this.
Do I have to take the (undergrad level) deficiency courses stipulated in my admissions letter?
In general, yes, but see the next few questions below for some exceptions.
Can my undergraduate course work count for my deficiency courses?
Yes, if those courses have sufficient overlap with your prerequisites. The best way to make this case is to provide your advisor with the syllabi for the undergraduate courses in question.
I already have a Bachelor's degree in CS. Do I still need to take deficiency courses?
Almost certainly not. You should be in good shape to enter the MS program. See above about having your undergrad course work count for your deficiency courses.
Do I have to take the deficiency courses before taking any Master's level courses?
In general, yes, you must take them before beginning your degree/certificate coursework. For example, students who have done some website programming but have not taken courses in data structures or architecture need to complete those courses before entering the MS program. (But note that these undergrad courses do not count towards fulfilling the MS degree requirements.) However, there are a few courses with very minimal prerequisites, such as Information Policy, that you could manage to take at the same time as your deficiency courses.
Do I have to take those deficiency courses at GW?
No. Students often find it more convenient to take them elsewhere. If you want to take them at another institution, you should obtain a course syllabus from that institution and check with your advisor first to make sure it will satisfy GW's requirements. In the past, students have had good luck with NOVA CC, GMU, UMD, and CUA.
English for Academic Purposes (EAP)
I've been told I have to take the EAP exam, because I didn't score high enough on the TOEFL. But my English is good. Can I get an exemption?
No. GW requires you to take the EAP placement exam. You cannot get an exemption. If you score high enough on the exam, you might not be required to take further EAP courses.
How can I find out the results of my EAP exam? The document says to contact my advisor.
To find out your EAP results and learn if you must register for an additional course, you should contact [email protected], SEAS graduate admissions coordinates graduate programs for the CS department. Your advisor actually does not know your results.
A hold has been placed on my registration due to EAP. How can I register for classes?
Contact [email protected], SEAS graduate admissions coordinates graduate programs for the CS department. You must still take the EAP placement exam, and any EAP courses you're placed into.
MS in Cybersecurity in CS (MS CyCS)
What is the difference between doing a MS in CS plus the CSIA, versus doing the new MS CyCS?
There is no essential difference between the two, other than the name of the Master's degree. The four CSIA courses can be used to fulfill the requirements of either MS. So you could even fulfill the CSIA requirements first, then decide which of the two MS degrees to pursue. There are some small curriculum differences between these two paths.
What is the thesis option and why should I consider it?
You can take six credits of thesis research in place of six credits of course work. However, the thesis is a formal, written document that requires review by a thesis committee. Both the formal document and the committee create quite a burden for both student and professor. A lighter-weight approach is to take six credits of independent study (CSCI 6908) with a professor.
How can I get a professor interested in doing research with me, either as a thesis or as an independent study?
The best way is to take a class with the professor and impress him or her by how well you do in the course and how interested you are in the topic. Then talk to the professor about what research opportunities are available. Sometimes, a strong letter of reference from another faculty member will also suffice.
Does the department have TA funding available for MS/CSIA students?
As a rule, no; however, there are sometimes openings for instructional or teaching assistants. Contact [email protected], SEAS graduate admissions coordinates graduate programs for the CS department, to submit an application to be an instructional or teaching assistant.
Does the department have RA funding available for MS/CSIA students?
Research funding is the prerogative of individual professors. Professors get grants for research, which often include funds for students. You'll have to talk to individual faculty to find out what they have available.
How can I get RA funding from a professor?
The best way is to take a class with that professor, followed by working on a research project with the professor, and contributing something substantial. After that, the professor is likely to be excited about funding you. Here's a way that is highly unlikely to work: simply emailing your CV to the professor.
Can I get an on-campus job to support my education?
Yes, many grad students do so. The department has no formal program for this. GW maintains a job site that you could check.