Graduate Program FAQ

Computer Science Graduate Program FAQ

Where can I learn more about the CS department, faculty, students, and courses?

Please see the main CS web site.

Who is responsible for admitting and advising graduate students?

Professor Terence Parr, gradadvisor at Phone: 415 422-5707.

How do I check my application status?

Check the application status page. Note that applications sit in the general grad office until all materials have been submitted at which time they arrive at the CS department. There is often a delay of weeks while we process the application then a letter is sent to you indicating the final application acceptance or denial.

What are the admission requirements for MSCS?

Applicants are usually admitted either as Regular Graduate Students or as Conditional Graduate Students. Those admitted as Regular Graduate Students ordinarily complete their M.S. degree work in two years. Those admitted as Conditional Graduate Students must satisfy all the admission requirements and prerequisites for becoming Regular Graduate Students before they can enroll in CS 690 (Master's Project). Other categories of graduate students are also possible; for information, see the section on Graduate Regulations in the USF Catalog.

All applicants must write a Computer Science Experience and Background Essay so we can learn more about you.

Admission Requirements for Regular Graduate Students:
  • Must either have a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science from an accredited institution, or have some other Bachelor's degree or equivalent and have passed CS courses (or can prove experience) equivalent to the following undergraduate courses at USF:
    • Data Structures and Algorithms (CS 245)
    • Computer Architecture (CS 315)
    • Operating Systems (CS 326)
    • Compilers (CS 414) or both Programming Language Paradigms (CS 345) and Automata Theory (CS 411).
  • Must meet all other requirements listed below for Conditional Graduate Students.

You do not need the GRE Subject test in CS.

Admission Requirements for Conditional Graduate Students:
  • Must have a Bachelor's degree in any subject from an accredited U.S. institution or equivalent.
  • Undergraduate GPA must have been at least B- (2.7 on a scale of 0.0 to 4.0) in all upper division courses and at least B (3.0) in upper-division courses in the applicant's major field. Must also meet the TOEFL requirements.
  • Must have a GRE General Test quantitative score of at least 680, though applicants should be advised that the average math GRE score is 750 for accepted applications.
  • Must have passed CS and Math courses (or can prove experience) equivalent to the following undergraduate courses at USF:
    • Intro to CS I (CS 110)
    • Intro to CS II (CS 112)
    • Assembly Language and Systems Programming (CS 210)
    • Calculus I (Math 109, differential and integral calculus)
    • Linear Algebra (Math 130)
    • Discrete Math (Math 322)
Here is more information on the application process.

What are the admission requirements for MS Web Science (formerly Internet Engineering)?

Application items include official transcripts from all university-level institutions attended, GRE general exam scores, and two letters of recommendation.

The following foundation requirements are not required for admission to the graduate program, but must be completed while at USF to achieve regular status as a graduate student. The foundation requirements can be waived if met by previous studies or work experience equivalent to the requirements:

  • Introductory programming (two courses)
  • Upper-division programming (one course)
  • Discrete math (one course)
  • Data structures (one course)

If an applicant believes that they may have fulfilled these requirements by previous study or experience, please attach a statement to the application form with a descriptive explanation.

What is the typical course sequence for Web Science (formerly Internet Engineering)?

Students normally following this structure:

Year 1 Fall Spring
OO Software Development
Artifical Intelligence
Internet Systems Research
Distributed Software Development

Summer Residency

Year 2 Human Computer Interaction
Masters Project
Digital Society

What is the typical course sequence for "4+1" Honors Web Science (formerly Internet Engineering) Students?

Students may acquire their MSIE in 5 years by altering the last 2 years of their undergraduate work and then taking an extra year of course work as follows:

Year 3 Fall Spring
OO Software Development
Operating Systems
Computer Architecture

Year 4 Fall Spring
undergrad elective
Artifical Intelligence
Internet Systems Research
Distributed Software Development

Summer Residency

Year 5 Human Computer Interaction
Grad elective
Masters Project
Digital Society

Do I need to fill out the general "Statement of Purpose" essay mentioned in some USF graduate application material?

No, but you must write a Computer Science Experience and Background Essay so we can learn more about you.

What do my GRE scores need to be?

The average math GRE score for accepted applications is 750. We will, however, review applications whose math GRE score is 680 or above. The verbal score is not considered, but the analytical writing scores often a useful indicator. These scores are strictly enforced unless you have significant work experience.

For MS Web Science (formerly Internet Engineering), we expect good performance on the GRE general exam, but we examine all aspects of a person's record including work experience to make an acceptance determination. In some cases, the GRE requirement can be waived for accomplished applicants.

The reporting codes to give to the GRE people are:
USF: 4850 or 6966
CS Dept: 0402

Verify with testing service in case of changes.

What do my TOEFL scores need to be?

Please click here for the MSCS and MSWS policies on English Proficiency skills (including TOEFL, IELTS, and PTE guidelines and scores) for international students.

Is there an orientation for new students?

Yes. Before classes begin, all computer science graduate students must attend a one-day orientation. This is usually one or two days before classes begin. During this orientation you will be advised about courses and register for the semester. Student should watch the homepage of the computer science website for details as the semester approaches. The orientation is always in our main classroom: Harney 235. The building code is HR on this map. This is the CS orientation. Also you must attend the international student orientation and are encouraged to go to the welcome reception:
Sponsored by International Student Services


I am from a foreign country. Can I contact other students from my country to help me get oriented in the US?

Sure, we have a very diverse student population. Odds are we can have students from your region contact you to help out. The two largest groups are probably Chinese and Indian. Please see the list of student representatives at the bottom of our prospective students page

What is the fee structure and how/when do I pay for tuition?

Graduate program tuition is US$1075.00 per credit for 2009/2010 school year. Because you will probably take 8 credits (2 classes) each semester, tuition is US$8040.00 per semester. The total will be $36180. See the complete fee structure.
As for payment, people either write checks to the Bursar or they pay online, but that requires a USFConnect account which you will receive when you arrive. The bursar's site has much more information about what forms of payment they accept. The US Mail address for payments is
University of San Francisco 
P.O. Box 742427 
Los Angeles, CA 90074-2427
There is a 2.75% service charge on credit card payments, but there is no service charge for an e-check payment, which can also be done online. You have to pay before the registrar will let you register for classes.

Do I have to give a deposit before arriving at USF?

Yes, each admitted student must deposit $300 within 30 days to hold their position; even students not receiving a fellowship must make the deposit by sending a check, money order, or international money order (for international students) made out to University of San Francisco to:

USF Computer Science Dept.
2130 Fulton St. HR545
San Francisco, CA 94117-1080
Also, you can pay online by clicking on "guest pay" and putting in your student ID and paying $300.  Make sure to still sending in your space reservation form to the department address.  You can scan and email it to Rosa Maria Garay, the CS program assistant, at garayr at

Is there a relationship between institutional support and visa application?

Do not be misled by claims that more institutional support makes getting a visa easier. We have not seen that and many have observed a low correlation between institutional support and visa success. If you can complete a certificate of finance and get an I-20, we encourage you to try for a visa right away. You can always try again. Many students must try several times. Of those who do get visas and come to USF, some have no support and some have the most we ever give. Some get a visa the first try, some try five times before success.

Can I have a job to help pay for school?

Yes, both American and international students may decide to take the practicum option, which allows exceptional International students to work after the second semester.

Also there is a webpage at USF that lists other on-campus jobs and it may prove helpful to contact these employers. The computer science department also has a number of TA and are a positions, though they do not come with a tuition waiver.

You can also check with Residence Life (orl at; they offer a few Graduate Assistantships that are the only full-support graduate positions on campus. Experience with managing undergraduate dorm life is required, but they do interview over the phone, so the support can appear on an I-20.

All graduate students who desire employment usually find campus jobs--all such jobs pay hourly wages only, no tuition waiver or other benefits. Currently teachers assistants and research assistants make $12/hour, except for service courses. Internships for working graduate students range from $20 to $20 per hour. Students are allowed to work a maximum of 20 hours per week.

Tell me about your fellowships

Fellowships pay some or all of your tuition up to $15,000 and are given to students based upon a general competition every year. All applicants are considered for fellowships automatically. There is no main determining factor, but the Computer Science Experience and Background Essay tells us a great deal about you. Fellowship competition occurs until March 1 each year and money is applied starting in the Fall term usually. If fellowship money remains, then it will be offered to students for the Spring term.

Note: you get a 20% discount for 3 or students more from same company!

What visa do I need to study at USF?

As an international Student you will need to enter the United States on an F-1 student visa, or transfer your present visa to USF. As soon as we verify your Certification of Finances, you will receive your I-20. If you are an international F-1 student currently living in the U.S., please contact the Computer Science Office (415-422-6530) to get a SEVIS I-20 form. Note that some students get the visa on the 5th attempt; keep trying if you get rejected.

How do I get a Certificate of Finance?
The certificate of finance is required of International Students by all U.S. schools in order to show evidence that the student has enough money to pay for tuition, fees, and living expenses. The student or sponsor must sign the certificate of finance and also provide an official bank letter or official account balance showing at least the required amount depending on the program. If you are receiving a fellowship, an official fellowship award letter is required and will also count toward fulfilling the certificate of finance requirement.

The estimated total amount of 2006-2007 funding for the Masters in Arts & Science is at least $28,936. That is based upon the minimum 6+6=12 units at $11,580 tuition.

For more info about tuition and fees, go to the bursar. To download a Certificate of Finance for your program, go to this application.

It can be faxed or mailed to:

Office of Graduate Admission
University of San Francisco
2130 Fulton Street
San Francisco, CA 94117 USA

Fax: 415-422-2066

If you get a fellowship, you only need to show the total tuition and fees minus the fellowship amount for first year.

Do I need health insurance? What does the university provide?
Domestic students must that have health insurance must be prepared to show proof of coverage when registering for classes. If you do not have coverage, you must either enroll in the USF insurance plan or purchase a plan of your choosing.

All international students are automatically enrolled in USF's health insurance plan, and a fee of $291.00 will be charged to their Bursar's account for the Fall 2004 semester.

If you have private health insurance, you may be able to waive the requirement by contacting the Office of Student Affairs, located in UC 405. For further information on this matter, you may contact that office directly at (415) 422-6251. Please note that your request for waiver of the health insurance must be received by that office not later than 5 days after the beginning of classes.

What will my housing/living expenses be?
[The following information was compiled by graduate student Vineet Agarwal (June 2004).]

Preferable housing: Off campus

Average rent for 2 room hall apt: $1500 (3 of them can stay, so around $500 per head). Deposit for house: first months rent.

Average monthly expense including food and light, gas, and all utilities: $500-$600

You should start looking for roommates as soon as possible. Here is a housing link.

If one wants to stay alone, a studio (one room + kitchen + small hall) will be around $1000 - $1200 per month.

Things that could be brought from home country:

  • Clothes try to bring 4-5 sweaters and may be a jacket, as it is usually cold throughout the year.
  • Learn some cooking basics, to survive, until you get used to food here.
  • Medications: basic medications.
  • Along with the admission letter the university sends a detail list of things to be brought.
These are some of basic needs, rest all can be figured out after coming here.

Are the classes for the Master of Science in CS also available on other satellite branches outside of San Francisco, such as San Jose?


What do I need to do about the graduation ceremony?

  1. Fill out an application for graduation and commencement and fax or mail the completed form to:
    USF Graduation Center
    2130 Fulton St.
    San Francisco, CA 94117

    Fax: (415) 422-6329, or
  2. File the form on line:
    Go to USF web site, under Current Students click on Registrars, click on forms, select "Graduating Student survey and ..." submit the form.

Application dead line is: Fall - September 1st. Spring and Summer - February 1st. You'll find hard copies of the form in Rosa Maria's (CS dept) office, HR 545.

Diplomas are not issued until all outstanding accounts with the University are paid.