Notes to Prospective Graduate Students

These notes are meant to provide you with additional information on the graduate programs at the Computer Science Department at the University of Iowa, and on the admission process.

Admissions. All applications to a graduate program in our department are evaluated by an admissions committee, independently from the faculty member(s) the applicants have expressed an interest in working with. Students are admitted based on a global ranking of all applicants, which means in particular that no one can assess beforehand an applicant's chances of being admitted. Admission is competitive and no individual faculty member can decide, promise or guarantee admission or financial aid. More information about the admission process is available on our department's website.

PhD program. Incoming PhD students spend their first semester largely doing course work, and are strongly encouraged to select an advisor within the first year, based on a match of mutual interests. If at application time you are already interested in particular research areas or, more specifically, in the work of some of our faculty, it is helpful to express that interest in your application, so that the admissions committee can consult with the interested faculty to better evaluate the application.

Master's program. Our MCS program confers a professional degree. Except for rare cases, students in the program do not get involved in research activities. If you have not applied yet and are interested in doing research, you should consider applying for the PhD program. Note that students already in the MCS program can apply to the PhD program, subject to the same criteria as external applicants. If admitted, they can transfer their earned course credit from the MCS to the PhD.

Contacting me directly. I receive every year a fair number of email messages from prospective students expressing an interest in working with me. Regrettably, I cannot reply to each of them individually. I am, however, happy to respond to inquiries from students who have made an effort to learn about my research — as opposed to cookie-cutter messages containing generic expressions of interest. If you can show genuine interest in what I work on (for instance, for having worked on similar topics yourself or having read in some depth at least one of my papers), I will definitely respond.

Financial aid. Students admitted to our PhD program are also offered financial support for the first year, in the form of a research or teaching assistantship and, occasionally, a fellowship. They typically manage to obtain one of these forms of support for the rest of their PhD as long as they are in good academic standing. Assistantships from the department include paid tuitions and a salary that historically has been more than adequate for living in Iowa City.
MCS students are eligible for assistantships but are provided with no guarantees that they will be offered one. When they do get one, it is almost invariably a teaching assistantship. Because of the large demand for TA's in our department and, in general, for people with IT skills across campus, many MCS students do end up finding assistanships or other forms or employment at the university.

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