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Ask Slashdot: Comp-Sci Graduate Schools

Cliff posted more than 15 years ago | from the where-to-go-after-undergrad-life dept.

Education 387

Colonel Kurtz sent in this question which I figured be of interest to some of you: "I'm considering entering graduate school in abouttwo years to pursue a Masters or Ph.D. in Computer Science. I am a good undergraduate student with a passion for CS and I am seeking the academic challenge of grad school. I'm looking for the (un)informed advice of the Slashdot community. Specifically, how should I select a graduate school? Is it worth aiming for the top-tier graduate schools? (like MIT, Stanford, etc.) or should I aim just a little below those (like Purdue or Syracuse?) At this point, I'd be happy to have any kind of discussion about graduate schools."

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DA CUSE!!!!!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719452)

syracuse sucks. i go there for ug cs. save your money and go somwhere else

Re:First post!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719453)

I believe it's the best in the US .. for CS

Re:CMU! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719454)

Yah CMU is the way to go for any CS majors.. But, it's tier one when taking CS into concideration and is extreemly competitive ..

CMU (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719455)

Go CMU! =) MIT Berkeley and Stanford are OK. Depends on what you have for a statement of purpose, and recs (and grades of course).

ZDU (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719456)

You'd never have to leave your room.

The University of Texas at Austin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719457)

I'd recommend The University of Texas at Austin. While I did not think too highly of the experiences I had with the undergraduate program, the graduate CS and Engineering schools are excellent, and ranked somewhat highly among the various national universities. Also, it's one of the most affordable of the major universities in the country. Finally, it is located in Austin, Texas, also known as 'Silicon Hills', which has quickly become one of the major technological hubs in the US, what with companies like Amd, Dell based here. My two cents. ^_^

Purdue Sux (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719458)

I used to be a CS major at Purdue (Now a happy electrical engineer) and I'd have to say the computer science here is really a dissapointment. Perhaps there's a reason why the program (both graduate and undergraduate) isn't highly rated. As far as I know, the way they rate schools (in US News and Gourman reports, etc) is the reputation of the professors (so what if we have Spaf) their retention rate (this really kills Purdue because they try to weed undergraduates out at every opportunity they get) and the quality of the incoming freshmen (or graduate students) determined by a combination of GRE scores, and undergraduate GPA's. It seems as though they're trying to improve the quality of students level through the acceptance of only very good students, where before they pretty much accepted anyone. And another thing, Purdue is too damn big.. You can't get the close-knit relationships with your colleagues and professors that you'd get at smaller schools. So I'd reccomend CMU because of their wide-spanning research, small size, and their strong influence in the computer science community. Besides, Purdue's campus is ugly.

reputation of school vs advisor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719459)

I recently finished my Ph.D. in the biosciences. If CS grad school is anything like bio, then what is much more important than the reputation of your school is the reputation of your advisor.

My advise for someone who wants to stay in academia (may be less important for someone planning to return to industry) is that you must work with a first tier advisor. There are 1st tier advisors at 2nd and even 3rd tier schools. The rub is, if you go to a 1st tier school, almost all of the faculty will be top notch. The further down the university chain you go, the lower the percentage of top notch faculty. Thus if you're going to go to a 2nd tier school, the important thing is to get a commitment from an advisor before you go.

Purdue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719460)

Purdue is a very nice place. But stay away from the CS department. You can be in Computer Engineering and still get your full dose of software, without having to deal with the administrative incompetence of the CS department.

There are some good professors in CS, but that's like about it. I suppose for grad school it wouldn't be as bad. But in the undergrad program, at least, you can slack off and not learn anything and still end up with good grades. This makes the people who work hard and get good grades somewhat less distinguishable.

Either way, the important thing is to find a professor that you want to work with--regardless of whether they are at Podunk State or MIT, you will be happiest that way.

Isn't that like giving Microsoft money? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719461)

The knowledge is all out there, why not just read the books and skip school?

Open source higher education, people!

Or do you think professors and universities actually add some value? And that they should be compensated for adding value? Come on, get real.

Re:Funny.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719462)

I suppose someone could suggest a school in another country...or the info may be useful for someone who would like to study in the US. Either way, its not like it is ruining your day to read the post so you have very little to complain about.

Why ask Slashdot? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719463)

Ask your professors instead! Especially professors working in the specializations that you're interested in. Ask them where the most interesting work in your field of interest is being done. Take some graduate paper reading courses and find out which universities are doing the most current and best work in the subject.

Re:Purdue Sux (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719464)

I challenge the assertion that because Purdue is large that you don't have close relationships with people. I think you can still fail to have close-knit relationships at small schools. Furthermore, at a really big school, it's much more likely that there is someone that you click with.

One advantage that you overlook is that Purdue has lots of resources that smaller schools don't have, since it's as large as it is. There are exceptions, namely the really top private schools (Stanford, MIT, CMU, etc.). But if you're resigned not to get in at that kind of place, you're probably going to find more interesting things at a big state school than at some other private school which happens to have a good reputation but isn't particularly focused on your area of study.

By the way: West Lafayette only sucks if you make it suck. It can be a fun place.

And Purdue isn't ugly. It's quite nice in the spring and the fall, actually, and if you get over the fact that you are in the middle of West Layflat Indiana and how bored you are as a result, you can find any number of things to do within driving distance.

Re:Funny.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719465)

You're right.. no Brit ever went to an American grad school. Those uneducated redcoats can't tell the difference between an institution of higher learning and a pair of shoes.

Ok, that was pretty stupid. Seriously though, from my experience as a grad student at one of the top four (Stanford, Cal, CMU, MIT) ee/cs schools, I'd say at least 75% of ee/cs grad school students at top universities in the U.S. come from countries other than the U.S.

Re:Funny.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719466)

when has slashdot ever not been american centric? you haven't noticed all the american flags next to the us government related posts?

Re:Isn't that like giving Microsoft money? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719467)

It depends on who you are. Some folks are great self-studiers in which case they may not need grad school or any school for that matter. Some need the direction that a grad program gives. Plus, it gives them a chance to do deddicated (read: funded) research without the pressures of a corporate setting. Plus schools offer resources that most individuals can never get their hands on. e.g. can you get 64 boxes together to do your own beowulf? At a university, you can probably find 64 boxes in a lab all of which you have an account on... I personally learned a lot from my grad program that I would have never had learned from a corporate or even OSS setting. There are also a ton of subjects which you'll never hear about anywhere else besides a university setting. You'll be amongst a bunch of people who have diverse interests and can point you into all sorts of interesting areas of research.

Re:Isn't that like giving Microsoft money? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719468)


Re: NYU (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719469)

I couldn't get into the NYC undergraduate CS program.. just general studies.. so I decided to take CS at Northeastern instead. I am also interested in graduate school, and I would love to go to NYU, what stands out about their program in your opinion?

Re: Congo or Vietnam (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719470)

Well, judging from the guys name he's living in
Vietnam or Congo.

Re:Field of Interest (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719471)

sorry Im dumb.. whats SE?

Do you really wanna get into theories on learning? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719472)

??? I mean, sure SOME people could just read books. But where would they get resources to do research (stuff that isn't covered extensively in books). And education is not just about learning. It's about interaction as well. The experience of education is very important, it may be more important than the knowledge you're supposed to gain from going to school. And some people (like me) like the format of a class, and interacting w/ a prof, and don't like to read books as much. Bouncing ideas off others is also very helpful. A University can offer you much more than all the books in the world, you just have to know how to use it. I think it was Twain who said, "Don't let studying get in the way of your education." (anyone know if this is the correct quote?) Meaning, there is more to education than just the knowledge you're supposed to gather.

Do you really wanna get into theories on learning? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719473)


I mean, sure SOME people could just read books. But where would they get resources to do research (stuff that isn't covered extensively in books). And education is not just about learning. It's about interaction as well. The experience of education is very important, it may be more important than the knowledge you're supposed to gain from going to school. And some people (like me) like the format of a class, and interacting w/ a prof, and don't like to read books as much. Bouncing ideas off others is also very helpful. A University can offer you much more than all the books in the world, you just have to know how to use it.

I think it was Twain who said, "Don't let studying get in the way of your education." (anyone know if this is the correct quote?) Meaning, there is more to education than just the knowledge you're supposed to gather.

Re:DA CUSE!!!!!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719474)

SU hardly sucks. now the city of syracuse on the other hand is about as lively as 3 week old road kill.

Re:MIT for Math (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719475)

see subject

Wrong Idiot. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719476)

CMU has more international students in thier CS Depts

Rochester Institute of Technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719477)

I don't understand why schools like RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology) don't get the same about of publicity as MIT and Carnegie Melon. We are ranked as number 3 in the Northeastern Region of the US. I guess we will have to settle with the recognition that corporations give us, rather than general popularity. Not to mention our co-op program that is required to graduate is one of the best in the nation. Job placement in tech fields is almost 100%. The average Computer Science student has 3-4 jobs offers at graduation.

Study free in Finland (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719478)

You can study free of charge in any Finnish university even if you are a foreigner. You may have to pass the entrance exam, but you can begin your studies right away if you are already studying in (or have a degree from) a US college.

I did my postgraduate studies at Helsinki University of Technology [] , and I'm happy with it. You can study and do the exams in English. The catch is you are not allowed (by the Finnish law) to work while you study -- even on campus.

(My information is seven years old, so some details may have changed.)

Marko [mailto]

UNC guys im lost HELP! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719479)

well i dunno... stil getting there but i've heard some really good stuff aboutit (or i just made it up?) what about the research triangle? damn...

Re:Do you really wanna get into theories on learni (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719480)

True that. Social skills are gonne be a big thing
when there no longer is a shortege of CS-people.

(I'm dyslexic so don't whine about spelling)

Subfields (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719481)

[I am the original poster of Field of Interest]

I left out a bunch of more narrow subfields (e.g., computer networks, approximation, embedded systems, vision, wireless computing, numerical analysis, robotics, computational finance, HCI, VLSI, NLP, etc.) If possible, try to cordon off discussions of subfields into this thread...

Microsoft University (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719482)

Come check us out. We are going to eliminate all non-MS software development by 2005.

It's better to join us now and get on the rolls before the Unix Collapse, which will sends herds of the great unwashed our way. Getting in early at MS means being able to look down on the freshmen, just like a real University. And there will be plenty of Linux people to look down on!

MCSD, MCSE, we got it all baby! Woo Hoo! W2K all the way! ddns forever!

************************************************ **

But, if I was a open systems type, I'd have to say this decision is much too important to leave up to the chimpy wannabes who post on slashdot.

You have to research this. Look into the most current research in your favorites fields, and find out where the authors went to University.

I mean if you really like Linux, look at some place like UNC. Sun Microsystems? Maybe look on their research pages and see where the current crop of researchers went to school. Follow your interests.

Re:Best school for OO software construction? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719483)

That's better known as Software Engineering. Try CMU.

syracuse does suck if you're looking for an educat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719484)

almost all of the cs students here are just looking to get paid. there's only a handful that are actually interested in programming, etc. anyway, i'm bitter

Which CMU???? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719485)

CMU as in Carnegie Mellon University or CMU as in the second rate Central Michigan University?


Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719486)

With all the hot...super hot opportunities for programmers these days - FORGET GRAD SCHOOL.

Grad School is a complete waste of time.

Some profs are great. Most are mediocore. If your advisor is mediocore, you're basically just losing money and not learning much.

I'm not just slanted towards CS, for most people, grad svhool in ANY subject is a waste of precious youth.

Most profs and "habitual" grad students are really that amazing, amusing, or productive.

Grad school is welfare with a weekly crossword puzzle, and it is CERTAINLY no longer the hallmark of the intellectual elite.

Anyone who wants to go to grad school can find a school that will take them.

Go out and get some cash while its still easy money in programming.


Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719487)


Re:CMU! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719488)

i was only a undergrad there, but having been at other schools since, i find CMU has the small school feel (although it wasn't really - the student body size was somewhere around 6000 including grad) where you have better access to the faculty (and i assume possibly your advisor) - and less competition with the professor's side consulting/business project. facility - the school must got load of doe - i have not yet seen a school better equipped with fancy computing resources. again, i was only undergrad there, but for what it's worth... boink

Canada? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719489)

By coming to Canada, you could potentially save a lot of money, as tuition fees are much lower.

For CS, Waterloo is known around here to be the best place to go. I was impressed by the CS department at UoT (Toronto). Carleton U is really good at the undergrad level, and might be of interest for a grad interrested in parallel systems. I've heard some good things about McGill and the University of Montreal also...

Why stay in the US? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719490)

Blah Blah Blah Which place to go? You could say sod to it all. Why not do a year abroad and go to Cambridge in England, UK? One of the best place's in the world. Or Manchester, England - Where the humble computer was first created Or perhaps Hull, England. Little known, could do worse, could do better but I'm happy doing what all undergrads in CS do. Drink Beer and and Read Slashdot.

Grad school a waste of time for anyone, unless... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719491) go to a top school overall or in your special field of interest.

Let's face it folks - there aren't enough brains to go around to populate each CS dept (or any other subject) with talented profs. The stars go to the best schools. Other schools end up with the leftovers.

If you plan on going to a "leftover" school (like I did, and yes, you know it when your school is a "leftover" school), then you're simply wasting your precious time.

I went to Queen's in Canada (which has a subpar if not crappy CS dept) and I can say that it was a total waste of time listening to all the sub-par profs rattle on about their completely and totally irrelevant research.

Looking at some of the research you wonder if these profs had been outside in the last ten years.

If you are going to grad school to enhance your job opportunities, then there's a lot to be said for starting work early after a BS and building some savings. You'll likely be far ahead of people who went to grad school thinking they might make more money.

Re:Funny.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719492)

Damn right! - I'd kill to leave this commie continent (Europe - that is) :-P

Re:Which CMU???? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719493)

Central Michigan University of course, where all those people go to get their degrees in becoming a nail salon specialist.

Re: Congo or Vietnam (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719494)

...hmm, or perhaps Sweden? ;-)

How are the top 4 better in undergrad? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719495)

How are the top 4 tech schools, MIT Stanford CMU and Berkeley better than others in the undergraduate course? How are they better in terms of their way of education? I go to a college outside US, and most of my learning are down to studying text books on my own, which imho is quite pathetic on the school's part. Does the same happen in the top 4? Are they more advanced in what they teach besides just their reputation? Are there any significant differences between their undergrad courses?

Agreed, and a warning: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719496)

My warning is this - its usually fairly obvious from recommendations, reputation, etc. which are the quality advisors and schools. If you go to a sub-par school or get a crappy advisor, you're simply pissing quality time down to crapper.

There are a vast number of profs out there who are simply milking academic life for all they can. If you work with them you're going to get dragged down into their world of mediocrity.

In north america where you go matters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719497)

unfortunately, north americans are obsessed with celebrity power and style over substance.

good web link (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719498)

CS grad schools (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719499)

Some posters have had really useful things to say about choosing graduate schools in CS. The most important component is what you want to specialize in--that's what grad school is about. Who has written the most relevant papers you've read, where are they? You need to know if you're pursuing a MS or PhD: MS is in some ways more senior-level courses, more advanced courses, and some kind of semi-serious thesis/project. A PhD involves a broad set of coursework, advanced coursework to specialize in a few areas, exams over this material, development of a specific research topic with an advisor, extremely focused pursuit of this research topic, writing a detailed dissertation to document results, and an oral presentation/defense of this document. A different thing indeed, MS via distance education is fine, PhD simply doesn't work. The advantage to going through the torture of a PhD with a good advisor is the acquisition of habits and techniques and patterns learned that are lifelong tools not easily learned in another way. Find the dept with a strong program in what you want to specialize in, and find a competent advisor in that department. Make the physical trips to visit the finalist depts, if you're good they might help pay the travel. There is a potentially catastrophic shortage of people trained in advanced subjects in CS. My own organization is starting a PhD fellowship in high- performance computing to support a few people who we hope to have a chance to hire four years later. If they go elsewhere, at least HPC in general benefits. One poster suggested just reading to acquire this knowledge, but without living with academic, industrial and gov-lab experts, having access to the best equipment, and working on the best projects, reading doesn't do it.

What are your interests? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719642)

You can certainly apply to a couple top school like CMU or MIT but apply to backups if you're serious about going to grad school. Just like you applied to schools when in highschool. If your top picks don't accept you, make sure you have backups. I think the most important thing though is to apply to schools that are doing things that you are interested in. Having a well known school is definitely relevant in the sense that wherever you go afterwards, you'll always be known as coming from the last school you attended. Despite this, there are many great graduate programs at lesser known universities. But grad school isn't like being an undergrad. The expectations of grad students go up dramatically. I like to think of grad-school as a full time job (except you are paid really, really pooly :). You are given time to learn but you also are expected to produce results, publish papers, etc. If you really think you're that good... I encourage you to take a shot at it. In a couple months, I'll have completed my M.S. in EE from one of the two universities listed at the top of this message and I think there is a real need to get more motivated, smart students into grad schools. Good luck.


Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719643)

Most companies now are specifically looking for people with bachelor degrees. More degrees are nice, but in a LOT of cases actually hurts your chances of getting a good job.

The reason for this is two-fold. Companies are forced to pay PhDs and persons with masters degrees more for starting salary. Also companies like to put their employees through their own training programs. Companies like Dell, Inprise, Oracle, and IBM have very extensive training programs.

With the market still going strong right now I would recommend you get a good job NOW, and work on your masters degree later. A good company will even re-imburse you for your tuition. You can get paid while you are doing work coding and going to school on weekends, or nights.

Keep your options open. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719644)

A lot of high school team captain quarterbacks go to Harvard but they only need 3 of 'em.
It's not necessarily the greatest advice to pick a sub-field at age 20 and think that you'll be doing it your whole life. You still need exposure to a broad background of subjects in Computer Science and other areas of interest (like English and Science and Girls). What you find interesting now, you may later find to be unprofitable or boring. Unless you've got your whole life figured out up to the old folks home, don't commit to a graduate school based on your current interest; pick a good school that provides lots of different opportunities.
Also when considering Grad Schools you've got to consider that advanced degrees aren't necessary in the high-tech field. Unlike other fields, most computer geeks are emminently employable *BEFORE* they graduate. Even if you want to go later, you might want to work for a couple of years in the real world first.
And don't think that your education ends at graduation, you'll learn more at work than you did in school.
BTW, It's sunny and warm and inexpensive and a young person's town in Austin. The University of Texas is the place!

Field of Interest (5)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1719646)

It all depends on what you are interested in. Moreover, if you are looking at PhD programs, choose school based on potential advisors rather than overall school reputation.

You didn't give enough information for me to say much about which tier of school you should be looking at. To have a strong chance at the top-tier schools, you should have a strong research record. Preferably published papers (or even techreports), but a recommendation from a Prof. saying that you worked for them is probably good enough.

Here are a few very top schools in the US in each field (from memory -- sorry for any omissions)
  • Theory
    • MIT LCS
    • Berkeley
    • Stanford
  • Fundamental Algorithms
    • Princeton
    • MIT LCS
    • Stanford (note -- Knuth no longer takes advisees)
  • SE
    • Go out into industry
    • CMU
    • Berkeley
  • AI
    • CMU
    • Stanford
  • Systems
    • Forget grad school and go out into industry unless you are into distributed systems
    • U Washington
    • U Wisconsin Madison
    • Berkeley
  • Graphics
    • Brown
    • Stanford
    • UNC
    • Gatech
  • Computational Science (as opposed to computer science)
    • NCSA (UIUC)

Visit the school first! (1)

sahai (102) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719647)

It is certainly worth your while to visit the schools you are interested in and to walk down the corridors and talk to the graduate students. Step inside the labs and ask them to show you what they are working on.

Students will generally tell you both the good and bad things about a place. Be sure to ask them (off the record) about the professors and their personalities. Graduate school isn't about reading books/papers and hacking solo. It is about participating in an academic community and getting to see how experienced people think about new and interesting problems.

Finally, don't worry about the money. $16K per year is more than enough to pay rent, eat good food, make yearly IRA contributions, take a couple of plane trips every year, and even go out every now and then. Just try to avoid the money sink known as an automobile and you'll be fine.

Where's your evidence (1)

Malc (1751) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719657)

Can you validate your figures? Or did you just make that up?

/. is an American based web-site, with a large amount of American content. Consequently I wouldn't be suprised if the majority of readers were American. But I'm not going to make any made-up claims.

I didn't go to an American university, I wasn't rich, but I work in America as a software engineer: my BSc Comp Sci seems to have been of higher quality than most of my co-workers.

NYU vs. Columbia (1)

dsfox (2694) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719662)

Given a choice between NYU and Columbia, I'd say go for NYU.

Doesn't matter as much as you'd think (1)

Oestergaard (3005) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719665)

It really doesn't matter that much where you go.

Ok, I didn't have much choice when I started, all I knew was that I wanted to do electronics and CS, and I wanted to become an engineer.
Well, that left me with two choices here in Denmark.

Anyway, after my first year, my interests had moved completely away from electronics, and it was CS all the way.

However, I became rather dissatisfied with the CS department (at least with some of it), and numerics and _real_ computing has been my interest for the last years.

My point is, even though I've known ``exactly'' what I wanted since primary school, even CS is such a wide area, and you don't know what your real interests are going to be, before you found some subjects that weren't it.

If it's CS, find a university that does CS. Any university that does CS. You will end up doing stuff you didn't dream about anyway.

You have to get disappointed before you can be really happy. You have to hate subjects, before you can find the ones you love.

(Shit I sound old. :)

go big (1)

nadador (3747) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719666)

In undergrad, you're expected to just learn to do something, but in grad school, you're likely to do some research, and you're expected to contribute something new to the sum total of human knowledge. I say go somewhere that the research interests you.

That, and CMU rules [] . Actually, the CS school [] . if top notch. Sorry for the shameless plug. You should really also consider the city, ie whether or not you're going to hate living there.

Andrew Gardner

A slightly different take on the question ... (1)

Bwah (3970) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719667)

You may want to look at the distance learning thing. I work full time, but attend grad school part time (6 credits a term) via the NTU ( satellite network. They get classes from MIT, U of I, U Mass, University of Arizona, Purdue, etc. Lots of schools. You get some of the best instructors from some of the best schools.

I was pretty skeptical at first, but tried it (cause lockmart is paying for it :-) ... and found that I acually like it. You can get the classes taped and watch when you want, or go live on some of them. The don't do phd, only masters, but it's something else to think about. Lets you work full time and make some decent money while going to school.


TUCS - a CS Grad-school in Finland (1)

jole (4348) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719672)

If you are interested to do your graduate studies in Europe, you should check out Turku centre for computer science [] in Finland. Everything is in English (of course as 50% of the students come frm outside Finland). You can get full financial support for the studies and living costs. I have been doing research in wavelet image compression there for one year and can fully recommend the school. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me [] .

Re:UIUC (1)

Scola (4708) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719673)

I've been very happy with my years at UIUC. However, there is of course the downside, the UC part. I don't know if I'd want to stay hear for as long as some grad students I know have. Personally, I'd favor Stanford, if you have the means and ability. They have the most top notch faculty around, although after the retirement of some big names (Knuth, McCarthey), that's somewhat less the case. That said, I have no intention of going to grad school anytime soon, but that's me.

Funny.... (1)

Psiren (6145) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719680)

Here was me thinking that /. was news for nerds on an international scale. This very american centric and totally unrelavent article seems to be totally out of place. Not that its ever stopped anyone before...


KlomDark (6370) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719681)

I totally agree with this point of view.

Right now is the best time for talented people to get into the real job market. Starting salaries and bonuses are the best they will probably ever be. It is not currently worth your time and effort to pursue an advanced degree. In a few years, consider it. However, right now - experience beats education hands down.

I've seen many people with advanced degrees (people who may or may not actually be able to deal with a real job and real expectactions) turned down in favor of those with less education, but a resume that proves Real World Experience.

Re:northwestern (1)

Jerrith (6472) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719683)

Well, I liked Northwestern as an Undergraduate. Just left this past June. None of the graduate students I knew ever complained so strongly about things...

Anyone know of anything in particular that's bad?

AR Schleicher ( is still active)

Austin inexpensive? (1)

Anonymous Coed (8203) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719686)

Umm, nope. Maybe compared to the Santa Clara, CA area, or downtown Manhattan, but compared to Anywhere Else, Austin is a very expensive town in which to live.

That said, UT Austin is a decent, and very inexpensive (in terms of tuition) university, with an above-average CS department.

And yes, Austin as a town is a lot of fun.

Quote (1)

whydna (9312) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719687)

I believe that it is, "I never let my schooling interfere with my education."

U. of Rochester (1)

xyzzy (10685) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719692)

There have really been some excellent suggestions among the slashdotters on this topic -- obviously, quite a few grad students read the postings. Let me second the opinion that you should really choose your grad school based on the topics you wish to study -- every grad school will have its specialty, and if you wind up missing on that target, you will have a hard time advancing. Of course, the big (n) schools will make this easier on you (e.g. Stanford and MIT do research in everything), but they are also harder to get into and larger, so it may not be what you are looking for.

Let me suggest my undergraduate alma mater: The University of Rochester. They have done seminal work on parallel computation, vision, robotics, AI (mostly NL understanding), cognitive science, and theory. They are a PhD-centric department, and very small (about 50 grad students, and 25 faculty. They are very well endowed, and I think highly of the faculty there. I think this would be ideal for the prospective student that wanted a small, intimate department. For more info:

Re:Funny.... (1)

EmilEifrem (11066) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719693)

Well. Considering the fact that, what, 70-80% of the Slashdot readers are American (?), I don't think it's a bad or biased or unfair topic. Besides which, I believe quite a few of the international slashdotters are interested in studying CS at an American college. Say what you want about America but their CS education is the best in the world. Well, hrm, at least for the rich it is. :P

Best school for OO software construction? (1)

EmilEifrem (11066) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719694)

A lot of the comments so far suggest figuring out what specific CS field one is interested in and then look for a school that's good within that field. Well, I've figured out mine: Architecturing, designing and constructing object-oriented software. Anyone have any suggestions as to what schools are good at that?

lets see where are the big companys puting MONEY (1)

johnjones (14274) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719704)

hmm lets see where is the money ?

lets face it people talk of MIT, Stanford etc

but pray tell where is the most recogised Uni or gets more research money CAMBRIDGE !

no not the fake one

just trying to make a point if you go do research somewhere else in the world people think you are better. You experance more being in a differant place. You might as well because if you live any distance from home you have to get on a plane !

so why not cross some water ?

do the reserach that you want to not just go to the place you want to ! it makes a big differance if your prof is into the same things as you.
Japan is cool UK is good so are the germans hell travel and get sponsered (if you can get a sponsor they help out with food, traveling improves your chances of geting one)

but LIVE

john jones
a poor student @ bournemouth uni in the UK (a deltic so please dont moan about spelling but the content)

Re:Field of Interest (1)

johnjones (14274) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719705)

I think he means Software Engineering

and yes go into industry for a while then go back to studying
a poor student @ bournemouth uni in the UK (a deltic so please dont moan about spelling but the content)

RE: CS Grad School (1)

dr_strangelove (16081) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719710)

Cal Tech! Cal Tech! Rah, Rah, Rah!

Pasadena shore is purdy, too...

Re:UIUC (1)

Osty (16825) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719712)

I agree here. MIT or Stanford will just burn you out. Besides, we have such notable things as NCSA, and the birthplace of graphical web browsing. And as was noted before, the grad school (and the CS department, in particular) are top-notch.

Re:Grad School Selection (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719720)

Good advice. Also:

Send at least one application each to a school of the first rank, a school of the second rank, and a school of the third rank. Send additional applications to schools of the rank that you think you can get in.

The above scheme is intended to ensure that you do get into something, but don't have to settle for less than the best that you can get in to.

Re:Grad School Selection (1)

gregbaker (22648) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719730)

When you're selecting a grad school don't just put a bunch of school names on a dartboard and throw a dart to choose. Figure out what interests you in CS. Which subfield makes you cream your jeans? AI? Parallel Processing? Computer Graphics? You need to have a semi-narrow choice.

Once you've figured that part out, then start looking at grad schools. Don't go pick a school and then figure out what you want to study. That's a recipe for unhappiness.

I agree, but would suggest a further step--find a good supervisor. I'm a CS grad student now and can assure you that your supervisor makes or breaks your experience.

Go to the school and talk to some of the people in your area and find someone you can work well with.

Don't be sucked in by a big name researcher either. You're going to be working with this person closely and the shine of having a well known supervisor will wear off quickly.

UIUC (1)

Colin Winters (24529) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719733)

Why not try U of Illinois? It's one of the top grad schools in engineering, and it's damned cheap compared to places like MIT and Stanford.

Colin Winters

But what do you want to do with a gradute degree? (1)

ccweigle (25237) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719735)

It all depends on what you want to do ...

Are you looking to get a more focused education in some area of CS?
If so, which area?
If not, then you're in it for the money?
If you want money in CS then (short term) get the job, screw grad school, or (long term) get a masters from just about anywhere (ok, ok, upper tier schools can open upper tier jobs, but it's not the only way) while getting job experience (intern/co-op).

Figure out why you want the degree (for "the challenge" is not that good a reason, you might be happier with a challenging job instead). Check US News Online [] and see where the good schools are. Ask your professors where they went, what they think, what they'd do different.

Good luck.

(for the record, I'm a PhD student studying graphics at UNC Chapel Hill)

My 2 cents. (3)

EvilKevin (26404) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719737)

Being a graduate student in computer science is an ascetic experience. In order to succeed, you will be called upon by the elders of your order (professors) to forsake the temptations of big IT salaries and stock options, to labor and toil as a peon with virtually no status whatsoever. In the end, you are supposed to emerge as an enwizened practitioner. That's the theory at least.

Seriously though, if you decide to go to graduate school, you will help yourself greatly by doing the following:

1) Talk to graduate students from any of the schools that you are considering attending. They will be able to tell you the real deal about their school. You might also be able to judge how bright a department's grads are when you talk to them. A lot of smart grads is usually a good sign.

2) Find out something about the school's location. Even though you will be involved with classes and research most of the time, you want to make sure that when you actually have free time, that there's something to do.

3) Make sure that the school's aid package is enough to pay the rent and eat. That is, unless you are your parents are rich. Make sure that you know exactly what your expenses are, e.g., tuition, fees and health insurance. Any good Ph.D. program will pay most of these for you. Don't be shy asking about the size of stipends or fellowships. And make sure that you'll be funded throughout your tenure as a student.

4) Know exactly why you're going to graduate school. You will get depressed and start doubting your decision to go to graduate school. Especially when your friend's make $10,000,000 when their stock vests. It's good to be able to reassure yourself that you made the right choice when this happens.

5) Visit Ron Azuma's guide to being a PhD student. []

Hope this helps.


It's a quality-of-life thing (1)

freakho (28342) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719739)

Finding somebody willing to pay you for the amount of education you have is only the first problem. Asssuming that you do, you're going to be expected to work even more hellish hours than people with BS's in CS.

And if you don't care about that, and salary is paramount, then you could very easily train yourself up to that pay grade in non-traditional ways, without having to pay back any more student loans.

My $.02

Go to another _country_ (1)

GauteL (29207) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719744)

I've always thought of the american schoolsystem
as incredibly unfair (medicalsystem too)
It makes no sense that you have to have rich
parents or work your ass off to be able to
get a good education.
In Norway you can get a great education
for _free_. And everyone has the option of
cheap financing, for living expences.

Field Report: The University of Arizona (1)

BaronCarlos (34713) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719752)

Though I'm not too thrilled with the University Networks (way too much downtime for anyone's liking). The University of Arizona [] does have a full graduate program in the Computer Science Department [] . This Website should tell you more then I would be able to do.


P.S. Plus with the advances of Optical Sciences [] and Optical Engineering in the Computing Industry, Tucson, Arizona looks to be the next home to data storage, due to the fact of the monopoly it has in Optical Engieering. (Some free food for thought.)

*Carlos: Exit Stage Right*

"Geeks, Where would you be without them?"

You probably don't care about cost (1)

jannotti (37522) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719757)

In case you are not aware of it, you will most likely be funded as a Teaching Assistant or Research Assistant at any decent school (often a few terms of TA but mostly RA). Some of the posts talk about whether a school is "worth the money", generally that's irrelevant.

Re:Funny.... (2)

Hobbex (41473) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719759)

I don't agree at all. I'm not exactly planning to do my graduate studies in America, but it is an option, so I am interested in hearing what goes and what doesn't.

Obviously it isn't a too interesting topic if you are not interested in graduate studies, but I think you can show at least a little tolerance. And hey, American students can come here (Europe) to study, so pitch our schools at him them.

Anyone have some opinions for those of us more into Math than CS?

/. is like a steer's horns, a point here, a point there and a lot of bull in between.

northwestern also sucks (1)

j1mmy (43634) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719769)

don't waste your time there for grad work

Re:Grad School Selection (2)

Sam Jooky (54205) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719776)

Colonel Kurtz -- yes, I am responding to my own message :) -- I have some more information and suggestions for you as well (and actually, for anyone interested in postgraduate studies).

Grad Schools are really competitive, so right now while you have plenty of time left as an undergrad, start improving your chances of getting in. You can do this in lots of ways.

Remember, though, that grad schools really pay attention to letters of references from past professors that show how well you can do work (and possibly research). Meet a professor in your department who is doing research on something you find interesting and offer them your services. Learn a little bit about CS research.

When you get up to senior-status, talk to some professors about taking on a class as a non-teaching TA. Profs and GTAs always appreciate all the help you can offer. TA one of the introductory CS classes with 100 people.

Both of these things will help you get better letters of recommendation, and at the same time, you will get a much better idea of whether or not the grad student life is for you.

Also, when you start to get into the higher-level courses, take some graduate-level courses. Most schools won't let you take the higher-level grad courses, but the introductory ones should be accessible. This will help prepare for the amount of reading and work that your classes will involve in grad school.

If I think of other helpful tips, I'll respond to my message again. :)

Sam Jooky [mailto]

Grad School Selection (4)

Sam Jooky (54205) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719777)

Well, I'm not going to follow suit with the other folks who have posted by the time I wrote this and just throw out a school name...let's see if we can get you some advice.

When you're selecting a grad school don't just put a bunch of school names on a dartboard and throw a dart to choose. Figure out what interests you in CS. Which subfield makes you cream your jeans? AI? Parallel Processing? Computer Graphics? You need to have a semi-narrow choice.

Once you've figured that part out, then start looking at grad schools. Don't go pick a school and then figure out what you want to study. That's a recipe for unhappiness.

Most CS departments list on their webpages which fields they specialize in. Find the profs at the school who teach your interest and email them about the sort of program of study they offer.

And don't forget to use the profs at your current school. They're in the field and can probably point you in a good direction for a good school, and if not, they're in a better position than you to find out where the best [insert your interest here] school is located.

Talk to the grad students at your school, too. They've been through this process before and can probably offer you good advice.

In short, don't just jump into a CS grad program because you like the school -- make sure they'll teach you what you want to learn.

And if you're interested in AI, Software Engineering or Parallel and Distributed Computation, come out to Colorado State University [] ! :)

Hope this was semi-helpful and not totally redundant.

Sam Jooky

Read the Rabbit Story (1)

gupg (58086) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719781)

Read the rabbit story - it tells all about grad school - I know - I am in CS grad school right now.

Re:Field of Interest - Embedded Systems Design (2)

gupg (58086) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719782)

I'd like to add
  • Embedded Systems
    • UC Irvine
    • Stanford
    • Berkeley

CMU! (1)

J. Pierpont (58099) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719783)

CMU all the way.


Graduate School (1)

EEE (64293) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719795)

I'm actually in the same boat as you. I am going back to school in the Spring to pursue a graduate degree in Computer Science. I just recently got my EE degree but my computer alterego seems to be more than I can handle.
In regards to your inquiry, everyone wants to go to MIT or Caltech but what you really should be asking is will this help me in the job market; a subject I get mixed replies about. I've read that companies want young, brilliant miracle workers they can mold into commercial drones who will preach the Microsoft pragma. Others say the more education the better which will allow you to start out in a Technical Lead position. If being practical is not in the cards for you disregard this comment.

University of Pittsburgh (1)

BistroMath (69628) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719799)

The University of Pittsburgh has one of the oldest computer science departments in the US, and has both excellent grad and undergrad programs. Plus, Pitt students can take classes from CMU, and vice versa.

Hail to Pitt!


Er, which area? (1)

Stonehand (71085) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719800)

Disclaimer: I'm arguably biased, being at CMU...

Seriously. While the oft-quoted top four (MIT, Stanford, CMU, Berkeley) are all good, it depends upon your intended focus. In certain areas, other schools are also superb choices. Graphics? From what I hear, GA Tech ain't bad at that... And so forth...

It also depends on peculiarities, like: Do you mind having to TA? Do you want to be right inside a major city? And so forth.

Oh, not sure about a MS or Ph.D.? (1)

Stonehand (71085) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719801)


At some schools, you apply as a graduate student and only after admissions do you attempt Ph.D. candidacy status; essentially, you have the option of going for either when you arrive.

At others, you're admitted directly to a specific M.S. or Ph.D. program, and switching may be problematic (although Ph.D. -> M.S. can perhaps be done if you meet requirements and specifically petition for it...).

M.S. programs are far less likely to guarantee funding for you, while some Ph.D. programs will (for everybody). OTOH, you might be there for 6-7 years in the latter case...

The job doors opened up by the degrees may vary.
Keep that all in mind if you're not sure. You may not want to burn your bridges...

Field of Interest Counts (1)

Kazuo (71510) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719802)

Choose the school that is strong in your field of
interest. A first tier school may definitely be
nice, but it is not necessary.
-------------------------------------- ----------------------

Re:CMU! (1)

Inoshiro (71693) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719804)

Ahhh, that would rock!

Carnegie Mellon is the best university for cool AI projects. MIT is just a school for engineering weenies who like making things with their hands, CMU is where people go to make new versions of Eliza :-)

And Cyrus IMAPD, hehee.. IT RULES!!!

Generic top schools (1)

My Third Account (78496) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719809)

I agree -- it is probably best to decide based on what SPECIFICALLY you want to do. I know that in general, as a starting point the top schools are MIT, Stanford, UC Berkeley, and UIUC (no particular order).

I go to UCB, undergrad, and I haven't spoken to too many EECS grad students, but those I have talked to are very excited about the resources the school has. The faculty at UCB (and in collaboration with some other good schools) are responsible for things like RISC, RAID, and distributed web servers. Kinda neat. =)


Re:Purdue Sux (link to CS department inside) (1)

SaDan (81097) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719810)

Before I start my rant, here's the link for the CS department at Purdue University:

Sounds like you were one of the people who couldn't cut the mustard in CS at Purdue, eh? Don't take too much offense, I got dropped from CS, as well as a few of my friends.

Purdue isn't THAT big, either. Geographically speaking, it's a fairly compact campus! There are quite a few students, but from my personal experience it isn't too difficult to get ahold of your profs during their office hours. They will remember you if you make the attempt to talk to them.

Lastly, thank you for your opinion on how Purdue's campus looks! I've been to a few other universities, and I have to say that although Purdue's brick buildings do start to look the same after a while, the campus is well laid out and the grounds crew does a decent job of keeping it clean.

I am no longer a student at Purdue, but I still live in Lafayette and work in West Lafayette, for Purdue University.

Re:Funny.... (1)

chrismaeda (83208) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719813)

Whatever. The top 4 CS departments (MIT,
CMU, Stanford, Berkeley) are the best in
the world. They just happen to all be in the US.
Explanations? US computer science research is
better funded and far more competitive than
anywhere else in the world. We have Cold War
government funding to thank for that.

Re:CMU! (2)

chrismaeda (83208) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719814)

The short answer: CMU, MIT, Stanford, and Berkeley
are generally regarded as tied for #1. Also very
good are Washington, Wisconsin, Harvard, Princeton. (Disclaimer: I got my CS PhD from CMU
in operating systems in 1997. I also spent 18
months at U Washington so my view of who is good
is influenced by who was publishing good OS
papers in the early 1990s.)

If you know what area you want to work in
(ie architecture, databases, operating systems,
AI, etc), figure out who the top people in the
field are and apply to those schools. For example
UNC is world class in computer graphics. 90%
of CS grad school is who your advisor is. A
good advisor teaches you the right stuff and
hooks you up with the right people. A bad advisor wastes 5 years of your life.

The nice thing about CMU CS is that they take better care of their students than most places:
Everyone gets a fellowship and the cost of living
in Pittsburgh is much lower than Boston or Bay
Area. This is a key concern when you are
trying to live on $16k per year. On the other
hand, CMU has the worst industry interaction of
the top schools since Pittsburgh is so far from
where the real action is.

Don't get burned (1)

Cannondale (83226) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719819)

I went to a graduate school to avoid getting a real job and ended up putting myself in a big hole carreer-wise. Make up your mind what kind of job you want and what field you like. Talk to engineers in that field in that position and ask them what path you should take. Knowledge is power here: talk to as many people as you can. For instance: if you are interested in DSP applications, UT Austin has a big pipeline to TI. Whether or not that school has a good "reputation" may not be important for you. Find out what schools have good recruitment connections with what companies. Good luck!

thoughts from going through this twice... (5)

neal_cardwell (83235) | more than 15 years ago | (#1719821)

[ truth-in-advertising: I'm a graduate student in CS at the University
of Washington (in Seattle, WA). I've been here two years, and i was in
grad school at UC-Berkeley for a year before that. The following is
random, biased opinion based only on going through the
grad-school-picking exercise twice. BTW, i love both the University of Washington and UC-Berkeley. ]

o First, read this page on "Choosing Graduate School in Computer Science":
This page was put together by Rachel Pottinger, also at the University of

o Next, find a list of CS grad programs. is one place to
start. Another is: tml

o Surf the web to find out about the programs that seem most
interesting to you, based at first on their location and ranking. Look
at what kind of research is going on, how big the department is, and
for faculty whose interests match your own. Be aware that research
project web sites are often a year or two out of date; they tend to be
made at the beginning of research projects and fall out of date as the
research progresses. The list of publications on the project home page
or grad student home pages tends to be far more indicative of what
(and how much) is going on than the rhetoric at the top of project
home pages.

o You don't need to necessarily shoot for the very top programs, but
from the schools that seem interesting to you, pick a dozen or so and
write for applications in September of your senior year.

o Pick a set of at least 5-6 of the best schools that you think you
have a shot at. Rankings aren't everything, but for better or worse,
departmental reputations are real, and you do want smart, fun
officemates with whom to collaborate and hang out, a good advisor that
knows something about how to do research, and a department with lots
of interesting things going on.

o In December, apply to at least 5-6 schools. You never know how many
you'll get into, or which ones they'll be, so apply to a few you
aren't sure if you'll get into; you may be pleasantly surprised. When
possible, you may want to wait until fall semester/quarter is over
before applying, since doing the applications can be time
consuming. But remember to get transcripts and recommendations done in

o In February, March, and April you should get several admission
offers, and hopefully a rejection letter or two, if you picked schools
well! :-) Visit as many schools as you can. The grad schools are
picking up the tab, so you may as well take advantage of it! Even for
schools where you think there's only a small chance you'd end up
there, you'll learn a lot about grad school and hot research topics by
talking with grad students and professors. These are going to be
colleagues that you'll be seeing at conferences and whose papers
you'll be reading; visiting grad schools is a great way to meet them
and get 30 minutes of great one-on-one time with them.

o Pick the school where you feel most at home; the school where you
hit it off with at least a few professors doing research you think is
interesting, you get along with the grad students, you like the
campus, and you like the city where the campus is located. Remember,
you may be there for 5-7 years if you go for a PhD, so you want to
know that you'll enjoy the whole environment for a long period of

o When picking schools, don't sweat the money stuff. Nearly all decent
grad students at nearly all decent CS departments have no problems
finding funding, be it with TA-ships or research assistantships. You
may have to TA your first year or longer, but that's a good experience
in and of itself.

o Remember that in the end, the school only matters so much. One thing
i learned from transferring between grad schools is that what you do
and how you spend your time has far more to do with your grad school
experience than where you go. You'll want to pick a grad program with
good people and good tools, but in the end, it's up to you!

Hope that helps,
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