Master's in Computer Science Requirements: An Application Timeline & Checklist

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Most people realize that going to graduate school isn't easy. What they might not realize is that applying to graduate school can be tough, too. Once you research the ROI of the Master of Science in Computer Science (MSCS), decide that getting a master's in computer science is the right move for you, and choose one or more target schools, there's still more to do. Universities have different master's in computer science requirements for applicants. Your next step will be to learn as much as you can about how to apply, what materials you'll need to submit, when submission deadlines are, and what to do if you don't get accepted right away.

This article outlines everything you need to know about SMU's Lyle School of Engineering master's in computer science application requirements and deadlines along with tips you can use to make your SMU application as strong as possible.

SMU Lyle's MSCS Application Requirements

SMU Lyle's application requirements are relatively simple. Applicants fill out the online application and submit five additional items: transcripts, a resume or CV, GRE scores, professional references, and a personal statement.

Transcripts

You'll submit unofficial transcripts from all post-secondary schools attended—whether or not you earned a degree—in the Academic History quadrant of the online application. The ideal MSCS candidate has a bachelor's degree in computer science, one of the quantitative sciences, mathematics, or engineering and a minimum GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. You can apply to the computer science graduate program with an undergraduate degree in a discipline other than computer science, but you may need to take a departmental exam to satisfy the competency requirement or complete articulation coursework before you can enroll. You should be familiar with programming languages, operating systems, software engineering and software development, algorithms, information systems, and computer systems.

Professional References

You don't have to submit letters of recommendation to apply to the SMU Lyle Online MSCS. You will, however, submit contact information for two professional references the university can contact as part of your application review. One of your references can be a colleague, but the other must be a current or former supervisor who can speak to your work experience, achievements, and character. Make sure you let your chosen references know ahead of time that the university will be reaching out.

Personal Statement

Your personal statement should be about 300 to 500 words long (no more than one page). This is first and foremost your chance to explain what attracted you to SMU Lyle's Online M.S. in Computer Science program and how the curriculum's focus on artificial intelligence will help you achieve your career goals. It's also a place for you to share any pertinent information not found elsewhere in your application materials.

Professional Resume/CV

Your resume should show a minimum of two years of computer science or tech industry experience. If your relevant career history is shorter than two years, you can include internships, research participation, and other experiences that showcase your aptitudes and interests.

GRE Scores

You can request a GRE waiver if you have the required two years of professional experience by contacting the Department of Computer Science to submit a waiver request, but you don't have to. A quantitative score in the 80th percentile or above can strengthen your application.

Be aware that the guidelines above are for domestic students and graduate students with H1 or H4 visas. Students with F-1 or J-1 student visas apply using the international student application. International students whose first language isn't English must either satisfy an English Proficiency requirement by taking the TOEFL, IELTS, or Duolingo proficiency exams or show proof of two years or four consecutive semesters of study at an institution in the US, Australia, New Zealand, or the UK.

You need to submit all the above application materials by one of the application deadlines outlined in more detail below.

SMU Lyle Online's MSCS Application Deadlines

Understanding the differences between MSCS application submission deadlines is the key to choosing the right one for you. SMU Lyle Online has four app-submit deadlines—Early Review, Priority Submit 1, Priority Submit 2, and Final Submit—and there's about one month between each deadline. For example, the admissions committee reviews applications for the fall semester near the end of April, May and June, and then once more in mid-July. Submitting application materials by the Early Review deadline may mean there's more funding available if you do get into SMU's Online MSCS program but won't increase your chances of acceptance.

You must know when materials are due regardless of which deadline you choose. Keeping your deadline in mind not only ensures you submit your application on time but also gives you a framework in which to create an application timeline that works for you. The sample timeline below is only a guide. You may need more or less time to gather and submit your materials.

A Sample Application Timeline

This three-month timeline assumes you're applying for fall entry and plan to submit your materials by the July Final Submit deadline. It also assumes you've already taken the GRE and are satisfied with your score.

In May...

  • Connect with an enrollment advisor
  • Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
  • Research private scholarships and create a list of possibilities
  • Brainstorm ideas for your personal statement
  • Choose and reach out to your references
  • Update your resume and ask colleagues to review it
  • Write the first draft of your personal statement
  • Ask two or three people you trust to review your statement

In June...

  • Request your unofficial transcripts
  • Write the second draft of your personal statement
  • Ask reviewers to read through your edited personal statement
  • Begin working on the online application
  • Revise your resume and ask your colleagues to take another look
  • Make sure your references are ready to speak on your behalf
  • Submit applications for private scholarships

In July...

  • Write the final draft of your personal statement
  • Check over each section of the online application for errors and typos
  • Make copies of all your materials for your records
  • Submit your online application

MSCS Application Tips and Best Practices

Research the M.S. program before applying. Knowing the application deadlines is important, but it's even more important that you are familiar with the program's focus on AI and machine learning and understand how the curriculum will empower you in your career.

Start preparing your application as soon as possible. SMU's master's in computer science requirements for applying are straightforward, but you still need to prepare your materials with care.

File the FAFSA right away to take advantage of federal student aid programs with limited funds that agencies award on a first-come, first-serve basis. SMU's code is 003613.

Give yourself at least a week to update your personal statement and resume based on the feedback you receive. Your materials will be strongest after two or more rounds of edits.

Schedule a quick catch-up before you ask your references to speak on your behalf if you haven't spoken to them in a while.

Connect with current or former students of SMU's Online MSCS program to find out what they felt were the strongest elements of their applications. You can also ask what they would do differently if they had to reapply.

Review your application holistically to make sure it represents you fully. Identify your weaknesses and make sure each part of your application addresses them in a way that highlights your strengths.

Your Next Steps

SMU's Lyle School of Engineering typically processes MSCS applications within two to three weeks. At the peak of review season, processing may take longer, but you'll likely still receive a decision within a month at most. You'll receive an email when your application status changes. If you've been accepted, the email will direct you to log into the application portal to accept your offer of admission. You may also receive a congratulatory email or call from your enrollment advisor.

At that point, you can accept your offer (which will include information about financial aid) in the application portal. If you're still not entirely sure enrolling in SMU Lyle's Online MSCS program is the right next step, you can take some time to think it over. There's no deadline to accept and you don't need to put down an immediate deposit to secure your place in the program. When you do accept, you can choose whether you'll start in fall or spring. It's a good idea to give yourself plenty of runway to research the MSCS degree requirements and prepare for graduate school. Every class has different material requirements at SMU, but in general, all you'll need to get started in the Online M.S. in Computer Science program is a laptop and a stable internet connection. You should also familiarize yourself with the core courses and electives you'll take, the students in your cohort and the faculty members you'll study with as soon as you can.

You aren't obligated to tell your employer that you've been accepted into a part-time online computer science master's program, but it can make balancing work and school easier. If you're earning an MSCS to advance in your current career, there's no reason you shouldn't share the good news with your manager as soon as you accept your offer. Highlight how this M.S. degree will boost your skills and make you a more valuable employee, and ask about opportunities to apply what you're learning in your graduate courses on the job. On the other hand, proceed with caution if you're pursuing a master's degree in computer science to switch careers. You know your manager and workplace culture best, and how your employer will respond to the news that you're preparing to make a career transition.

What if You Don't Get In?

If you receive a rejection, try not to get discouraged. You can—and should—reapply. Formal rejections don't come with explanations, but you can reach out to the contact in your letter to find out why your application was denied and how you can make your application as strong as possible when you reapply. Remember, degree programs like SMU's Online Master of Science in Computer Science are highly selective. Applicants can meet all the basic master's in computer science requirements for admission but not look like a great fit for the program on paper. Reapplying is an opportunity to recalibrate your application to showcase how your background, aptitudes, and goals align with the Lyle School of Engineering's mission.

What if You Still Have Questions?

It's common to have questions because the master's in computer science requirements for admission are broad by design. SMU Lyle's Online MSCS program welcomes not only experienced software developers and professionals with backgrounds in information technology, computer engineering, data science, or network engineering but also applicants from industries like finance, healthcare, and business who satisfy the competency requirements. Consequently, it may not be immediately clear whether your experience, interests, and aspirations make you a good fit—or if there are steps you should take before applying to make yourself a stronger candidate.

The best way to get your questions answered is to connect with an enrollment advisor via phone or video conference. They can explain the Online MSCS program prerequisites in more detail and speak to your specific concerns related to the application process. You can also join SMU for one of our upcoming online events for prospective graduate students, which include program overview webinars and application workshops. Enrollment representatives are always available during these virtual events to answer your questions and share even more tips for putting together a competitive application.

When you're ready, you can start your application on SMU's website.