Yale Computer Science Admissions FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Admissions to the Computer Science Department

Department Registrar: Sabrina Whiteman

What is the deadline for applying?

Graduate students are admitted starting in the fall term. The deadline for admission in the fall term, 2021, is January 2, 2021.

There is no way to apply starting in the spring term, although once a student is admitted it is sometimes possible to delay admission for a year or possibly less, with permission from the Dean of the Graduate School.

What does the department do with GRE Scores? Can you tell me the range of scores for students admitted in recent years?

We attach importance to GRE scores, but only in the context of a student’s overall record. Publishing a minimum threshold would be pointless. Most students we admit are above the 90th percentile in quantitative, analytical and verbal scores.

The important thing to remember is that the admissions committee looks at the entire application packet: the transcripts, the test scores, letters of recommendation — whatever gives us insight into the applicant’s promise as a researcher.

What about grades?

Again, it is good to have high grades, but we actually look at transcripts. If a student has a low grade-point average, we check to see if perhaps he or she did badly early in college, possibly through lack of motivation, then did better as intellectual curiosity grew. Or perhaps someone’s grades are low because he or she focused entirely on computer science and received bad grades in everything else. (Is that good? It’s impossible to answer without looking at the students’ entire record.)

How important are TOEFL scores to foreign students?

Very important, but only because we have nothing better. Your goal before admission should be to learn English, not to pass the TOEFL.

Yale University attaches a great deal of importance to the process by which graduate students learn to become teachers. Every student is required to TA two terms, and may TA more terms if desired. Being an instructor or assisting one requires interactions with undergraduate students. Yale administers its own test (the “SPEAK Test”) to students after they get here to be sure they know English well enough to talk to undergraduates. Failure to pass this test causes administrative problems for faculty and graduate students. The test is waived for students with a 4-year degree from an institution where English is the primary language of instruction; and for students who score 26 or higher on the spoken portion of the iBT test.

I didn’t major in Computer Science as an undergraduate. Can I still get in?

Yes. It helps to have a serious, specific interest in some aspect of the science of computing, over and above experience in programming computers. If you are unacquainted with complexity and decidability, or have only cursory knowledge of data structures, or don’t know the difference between an algorithm and a program, then you should consider taking (and doing well in!) undergraduate courses that address these matters before you apply to a graduate program.

Can you tell me in advance what my chances are of being admitted?

No. Many students ask us to do this, and if we acceded to all such requests, we would in essence be rehearsing the admissions process on the group that asked for advance notice. Not only would this be a lot of work, but the results wouldn’t mean anything, since the outcome when we see all the candidates would likely be different.

Applicants need to be aware that this is a small department admitting about 8 new Ph.D. students, and from 5 to 15 new masters students each fall.

What financial support is available for me?

The Computer Science Department is committed to supporting Ph.D. students for five years, including summers, by combinations of grants, university fellowships, and teaching Assistantships. The support package for a student depends mainly on how much grant money his or her advisor has.

There is no financial support for Masters Students, although the opportunity to TA is available occasionally, depending on the number of Ph.D. students who are available.

Do a student’s research interests affect his or her chance of being admitted?

Yes, a little. We expect every student to be open to many facets of Computer Science when they arrive, and encourage them to feel free to change their area of concentration after they get here. Our main criterion for admission is the applicant’s intelligence, curiosity, and ability to explore without detailed supervision. That said, if a faculty member in a research area is looking for students, the admissions committee tries to accommodate him or her by focusing a bit more than usual on applicants in that area. Of course, the applicants don’t know which areas fall in that category, so they shouldn’t worry about it.

Individual faculty members get many inquiries asking if they will be accepting new students during the next admissions season. As you should be able to infer from the previous paragraph, these inquiries are misguided; students are admitted to the department, not to the research group of a particular faculty member.

Do applicants apply directly to the Ph.D. program, or are they expected to apply to the MS program, and from there be admitted to the Ph.D. program?

Apply directly to the Ph.D. program. The two programs are completely separate, and it is unusual for a Master’s student to go on to the Ph.D. program. If they choose to do so, they must reapply to the Graduate School.

Is it easier to get admitted to the Master’s program than the Ph.D. program?


Can I be a part-time student?

Yes for Master’s students who are not on a visa, no for Ph.D. students. By US law, all students studying on a visa must be full-time.

Where can I find out how to apply?

Remember that you must apply to the Graduate School of Arts & Science. You do not apply directly to the Department of Computer Science nor do you send any forms to this department. Information on applying for admission to the Yale University Graduate School can be found by going to the web page


Information regarding how and when to apply is available at that web site.

What if I have a question that is not on this list?

If your question is about the Yale admissions process, check the Graduate School FAQ.

You can also email the department registrar, Sabrina Whiteman.