The 20 Best Graduate Programs in Computer Science—And How to Apply to Them

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Online Graduate Degrees in Computer Science

Some of the programs on the list may offer fully or partially online Master’s in Computer Science programs or Doctorate in Computer Science online programs. These online degrees typically carry the same weight as their on-campus counterparts, and required internships or research projects can often be completed at an approved location near the student’s home.

Skip to the Top 20 Programs

Applying to Schools

After narrowing your choices based on research interests and other factors, you are still faced with the decision of how many and which schools to actually apply to. Although this process will be different for each student, a few general guidelines are useful.

An optimal number of programs to apply to is between five and eight. Admissions processes are notoriously arbitrary. With so many students applying for so few positions, getting admitted to a top program can, even for superlative students, be a crapshoot.

So don’t risk your academic career on a single school that may or may not accept you. Although applying to 100 schools may sound like a good way initially to improve your odds, the $70–$80 cost for each application should quickly dissuade you from such a strategy.

Even for those who can afford it, this strategy is a poor one, since you are either an ideal applicant or you are not. If you are, it will be a burden turning down the 80 schools that accept you, not to mention the cash you will waste in the process. You can only accept one offer in the end.

If you are not the type of student graduate programs are competing for, why would you apply to schools like MIT, Stanford, and Berkeley, when they are almost certain to reject you? The application process calls for a dose of realism, even in the midst of optimism. Your wallet will thank you later.

To be sure, apply to some top schools you would die to get into. But also apply to some mid-level schools you would be happy to attend, and one or two safety schools. A good, balanced strategy would be to apply to:

1. Two “reach” schools (such as Carnegie Mellon, MIT, Berkeley, or Stanford for top students; or UCLA or Texas for competitive students). If you can get into one of these, then there is no need to apply to all of them. However, applying to more than one may improve your chances of being admitted.

2. Two solid choices that you have a reasonable chance of being admitted to, if you are a good student (such as Georgia Tech or Ohio State). These are reputable schools with programs you would be proud to participate in. The exact choice of schools will depend on the caliber of student you are, but choose two that you have some likelihood of being admitted to based on your academic profile.

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