Additional Application Guidelines

It is VERY easy for the OMSCS Admissions Committee to ascertain whether an applicant has read and followed the guidelines given here. You will save yourself time and effort if you read this carefully and follow the advice provided.

Use these suggestions as guidelines for preparing a stronger application for the OMSCS program. Following them does NOT guarantee that you will be accepted. Focus on documenting and substantiating your computer science knowledge, and on explaining why you are capable of rigorous, graduate-level computer science coursework. These guidelines are presented in no particular order.


  • Include a transcript from EVERY college/university you have ever attended for academic credit! If you don't, processing your application will be delayed.
  • Answer all questions succinctly and to the point.
  • Upload into the Professional Development area of your application any supporting documents (except transcripts, which should be uploaded into the Academic History area).
  • Ask professors and/or work supervisors who have direct, specific knowledge of your Computer Science capabilities to write reference letters—AND ask them to comment specifically on your CS knowledge.
  • Include a résumé—your application will NOT be evaluated if you do not submit a résumé.
  • Make sure that you have truthfully answered the 9 "Yes/No" questions in the OMSCS Supplemental section as "Yes". If you answered "No" to any one of these 9 questions, you should NOT submit your application until you have corrected your application so that ALL nine of the questions can truthfully be answered "Yes."


  • DO NOT describe your motivations or experiences prior to college.
  • DO NOT list your coursework—it is on your transcript (unless you need to describe how a course encompassed Computer Science concepts).
  • DO NOT ask work peers, current or former classmates, spouses, in-laws, siblings, parents, children, religious leaders, friends, etc. to write letters of recommendation.
  • DO NOT describe or list hobbies, personal interests, or other areas of your life irrelevant to Computer Science.
  • DO NOT list non-graded, non-academic-credit MOOC-type coursework. 
  • DO NOT list any background prior to your undergraduate work (e.g., secondary or high school)—it is irrelevant to graduate school.

Common Application Problems

The most common problems we see are:

  • Transcripts for in-progress degrees that are out-of-date (meaning >30 days older than the application date).
  • Transcripts that are tens of pages long because they are web downloads. Applicants submitting transcripts longer than 10 pages will be notified to re-submit those transcripts, and their applications will be put on indefinite hold.
  • Transcripts for claimed, completed degrees which do not show the conferral date of the earned degree.
  • Failure to explain poor undergraduate and/or graduate GPA.
  • Inclusion of "experiences" prior to your undergraduate life (we do not care that you started using a computer at age 5, etc.).

Tips for Letters of Recommendation

What you should ask the writers of your Recommendation Letters to address in their letters:

  • Do NOT have work peers, spouses, in-laws, siblings, parents, children, religious leaders, friends, etc. write letters of recommendation.
  • Your personal characteristics (e.g., punctuality, a "thirst" for knowledge, being a great team player, leadership skills, etc.) are NOT important. Your technical Computer Science skills ARE important!
  • Since you are applying to an academic program, you should have at least 1 (preferably 2) academic reference.
  • For an academic reference, ask a professor/teacher who had you as a student in a Computer Science-related class. If you have a non-Computer Science or related background and took few or no Computer Science classes, ask a professor who taught you in a challenging, technical course. Regardless, ask them to comment specifically on your technical abilities—how did you meet the challenges of their course? How did you solve problems? What skills, knowledge, and tools did you bring to bear on the problem or project?
  • For a work reference, it should be a supervisor who has DIRECT knowledge of your TECHNICAL Computer Science-related skills. A high-level executive who doesn’t understand the technical details of your work cannot write a good letter of recommendation. The reference should specifically comment on projects or tasks that you undertook—What was the problem? What was the result? How were your Computer Science skills utilized to achieve the result? Ask the reference to state their credentials as they relate to Computer Science, i.e., why are they competent to comment on your Computer Science skills?