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 suggestions are presented in no particular order.
- NOT Describe your motivations or experiences prior to college.
- NOT List your coursework – it is on your transcript (UNLESS you need to describe how a course encompassed CS concepts).
- NOT Ask work peers, current or former classmates, spouses, in-laws, siblings, parents, children, religious leaders, friends, etc. to write reference letters.
- NOT Describe or list hobbies, personal interests, or other areas of your life irrelevant to Computer Science.
- NOT List non-graded, non-academic-credit MOOC-type coursework.
- NOT List any background prior to your undergraduate work (e.g., secondary or high school) - it IS IRRELEVANT to Graduate School!
- SHOULD Include a transcript from EVERY college/university you have ever attended for academic credit! If you don't, processing your application will be delayed!
- SHOULD START your Personal Statement with your academic degrees!
- SHOULD put in your Personal Statement why you wish to enter the OMSCS program.
- SHOULD Summarize in your Personal Statement your work experience as it APPLIES to your Computer Science capabilities.
- SHOULD Explain a poor undergraduate GPA and why you would do better in rigorous graduate classes.
- SHOULD Explain succinctly in your Background Statement how the OMSCS degree will benefit YOU.
- SHOULD 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.
- SHOULD INCLUDE a resume – processing your application will be delayed if you do not submit a resume.
Guidelines on what makes a strong Personal Statement and Background Statement, plus suggestions on what to ask the writers of your Recommendation Letters to do.
Following these suggestions and guidelines does NOT guarantee admission into the OMSCS program!
Here is an example of a succinct yet complete Personal Statement (it happens to be a Computer Engineering major, but this example can be applied to any academic background):
I graduated with a 3.75/4.0 GPA from XYZ with a BS in Computer Engineering. I wish to study in the OMSCS program so that I can learn more in depth knowledge about Computer Science and apply those concepts to my job functions. While attending XYZ, I worked in the business intelligence office writing SQL reports to provide projections for the financial aid office. While at XYZ I was a member of the TUV lab where I was a student mentor for various projects and a soldering instructor. For my senior capstone project, I was the hardware design lead. As a student I interned at ABC for a summer working with the hardware department. As a student I attended numerous hackathons across the country, and my team became one of the top teams in the country. After graduation, I worked full time as an CE for ABC in the hardware department. I designed custom PCB's and wrote embedded software. I worked there for 3 years, but before I left ABC for another company, I was the DSP lead for a project as well as the embedded software lead for another project. I now work for a company named QRT as a software engineering manager. I am particularly interested in operating systems and networking and the roles those areas play in embedded software.
- The Personal Statement is SEPARATE from your Resume! You MUST write a Personal Statement - pointing us to your Resume is NOT acceptable!
- Keep it short!
- Lead off with your academic credentials – you are applying to an academic position – not a new job!
- We don’t want your life story – start with your undergraduate experience.
- Explain in ONE sentence your purpose in studying in the OMSCS program.
- List student experiences related (or closely related) to Computer Science.
- List CS-relevant coop/internship experiences.
- Summarize CS-relevant work experiences and projects.
- List in ONE sentence any special areas of CS research or interest that you have.
What to put in your Background Statement:
- The Background Statement is SEPARATE from your Resume! You MUST write a Background Statement - pointing us to your Resume is NOT acceptable!
- It does NOT need to be long or ramble! Just write up short answers to the following questions!
- Why are you interested in an MS in CS?
- What concentration or specialty are you interested in? Why?
- Succinctly list your CS-related background, skills, and capabilities. Explain how they make you able to perform ACADEMICALLY rigorous CS graduate level work.
- Upload into the Professional Development area of your application any supporting documents (except transcripts, which should be uploaded into the Academic History area).
- Try to limit your response to 250 words!
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 recommendation letters –those letters are ignored!
- Your personal characteristics (e.g., being punctual to work, “thirsting” for knowledge, great team player, leadership skills, etc.) are NOT important. What is? Your technical skills as related to CS!
- Since you are applying to an academic program, you should have at least one academic reference (and preferably two).
- For an academic letter writer, ask a professor/teacher who has had you in a CS-related class; if you have a non-CS or related background and took few or no CS 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 letter writer, it should be a supervisor who has DIRECT knowledge of your TECHNICAL CS-related skills. A high-level executive who doesn’t understand the technical details of your work cannot write a good recommendation. The letter writer should specifically comment on projects or tasks that you undertook: what was the problem, what was the result, and how were your CS skills utilized to achieve the result. Ask the letter writer to state their credentials as to how they relate to CS, i.e., why are they competent to comment on your CS skills?