Graduate Program FAQ

The Department of Computer Science offers graduate programs leading to the degree of Master of Science, the professional degree of Computer Systems Engineer, the degree of Doctor of Engineering Science and the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Both the Aptitude Test and Advanced Tests of the Graduate Record Examination are required for admission to the department's graduate programs. Applicants for September admission should take the Graduate Record Examinations by October of the preceding year; if possible. Applicants for January admission should take them by September of the preceding year. Please check the Admissions page for information on the application deadlines.

The course requirements in all programs are flexible, and each student is urged to design his or her own program under the guidance of a faculty advisor. The student's program should focus on a particular field of computer science. Among the fields of graduate study in computer science are expert systems, natural language processing, computer vision, robotics, analysis of algorithms, computational complexity, information-based complexity, combinatorial optimization, computer networks, databases, parallel programming and architectures, computer graphics, image processing, software development environments, object-oriented languages.

Graduate students are encouraged actively to pursue research. Faculty members of the Department of Computer Science are engaged in experimental and theoretical research in most of the fields in which courses are offered. The degree of Doctor of Philosophy requires a dissertation based on the candidate's original research, which is supervised by a faculty member.

The professional degree program also provides the student with the opportunity to specialize beyond the level of the Master of Science Program. The degree of Computer Systems Engineer is particularly suited to those who wish to advance their professional development after a period of industrial employment.

What is the ALP and do I have to take the test?
Admitted M.S. and professional degree students who are required to submit official TOEFL results must attain level 8 on the English Placement Test (EPT) offered by Columbia’s American Language Program (ALP).  Admitted Ph.D. and Eng.Sc.D. students who are required to submit official TOEFL results must attain level 10 on the EPT. Students will not be cleared for graduation unless they satisfy this requirement. The EPT must be taken at Orientation (the fee for this administration of the exam will be covered by SEAS). A student who misses this administration of the EPT must take the exam at his or her own expense at the beginning of the first semester enrolled and submit the official score to the SEAS Graduate Student Services Office. CVN students are exempt from the EPT. A student who does not pass the EPT at the required level of proficiency must retake it at his or her own expense until the required level of proficiency is achieved. The ALP may regulate how often the examination is taken. It is strongly recommended that students enroll in an appropriate ALP course if they have not achieved the required proficiency after the first examination. For more information on the administration of the EPT, please contact the SEAS Graduate Student Services Office.

According to my grade record on Student Services Online, I am missing a grade or a grade is incorrect for one of my courses. How can I fix this?
Inform the instructor of the course of the problem and, if they approve the change, request that they fill out a Change of Grade form. Once this has been processed through the Registrar, your student record will be updated.

How can I find out about job postings and employer recruitment events?
CS-related job ads are posted on MICE and you can sign up for the email list to get each new posting. Also, visit the Columbia Center for Career Education to get info. regarding recruitment events, employers, and career counseling. Job and recruitment event postings are periodically forwarded via the departmental email lists.

How do I find out about departmental lectures, seminars, and presentations?
Announcements are posted on the M.S. students email list. If you think you are not on this list, please contact CS Student Services.

How do I apply to extend an I-20 Visa
The ISSO (International Students and Scholars Organization) is the resource for VISA questions. The Department of Computer Science refers international students to the ISSO for final answers on all related matters. It is possible to extend your F-1 STATUS by processing a new I-20 and updating your SEVIS record in the Spring term, AFTER you have registered for a fulltime courseload. See here for the procedure. This extends your F-1 status while you remain in the U.S. studying, but if you are outside the U.S. after your current VISA expires, you need to apply for a new entry visa to return. If you don't travel abroad, then it is fine to have an expired entry VISA in your passport.

What social events are available through the CS department?
The department holds a BBQ once in the Fall and once in the Spring semester. There is a departmental coffee hour in the CS lounge every Thursday at 4:00 PM during the semester. A graduate student committee organizes other social events throughout the academic year. Examples of activities include food & drink mixers, weekly movie nights, sporting events, dance lessons, and karaoke. CS students are also encouraged to participate in SEAS graduate school social events through the Engineering Graduate School Council (EGSC), the Association of Computer Machinery (ACM), and the Women in Computer Science (WICS) group.

I am a TA this semester. I would like a list of students enrolled in my course so that I can email them information. How can I get this information?
Contact CS Student Services, detailing the course name and number that you are TAing for, and a student list will be forwarded to you.

I am currently an M.S. student, but would like to apply for the CS PhD program at Columbia How can I do this?
You can apply for the Ph.D. program, via the online PhD application.