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PhD Admissions | Frequently Asked Questions

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Program Related Questions

  1. Do you have to be a Computer Science undergraduate major to apply? No, it is not required that a student have majored in CS. However, it is important that you have strong quantitative and analytical skills.
  2. If I already have a PhD degree in Computer Science from another institution, may I apply to the PhD program at Stanford? No, if you have a PhD in CS from another institution, you cannot apply to the CS PhD program here at Stanford.
  3. Are my units transferable? Units may be transferable to the PhD program towards residency credit. This determination is made via petition to the Registrar’s Office after attending our PhD program for at least one quarter. 
  4. Do you accept visiting scholars, exchange students, and postdocs? No. The Computer Science Department does not have such a program. All visiting scholar, exchange student, and postdoc arrangements are made between individual professors of the Universities involved.
  5. Where can I find housing information? You can find housing information at R&DE Student Housing.
  6. When will I receive my I-20 form? Foreign students offered admission to a U.S. university are required to fill out an I-20 form. The central office of graduate admissions begins processing your I-20 form after you accept the offer of admission in Axess indicating your intention to enroll at Stanford and return the financial resources certification form, along with a copy of your passport, to the Graduate Admissions office. Once this response form is received from you, it typically takes several weeks for Stanford to mail an I-20 to you. For more information, visit the Graduate Admissions page.
    • At the Department level, we cannot do anything to speed up this process. Foreign students are encouraged to seek a visa promptly upon receiving their I-20 because it may take up to several weeks to be processed by the U.S. Consulate due to increased security considerations.
    • All new international students will be assessed a SEVIS fee in addition to other fees associated with processing visa applications. For details, visit the U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement website.
  7. Does the CS department offer a MS/PhD program? No, the MS program and PhD program are two separate programs. The MS degree also does not automatically lead to a PhD degree. Applicants planning to pursue a PhD degree should apply directly to that program.
  8. How can I find out more about course requirements for the PhD program? See the Stanford University Bulletin for program requirements.
  9. How am I assigned an advisor? Each PhD student spends the first few months becoming better acquainted with the various faculty and their research areas before aligning with a faculty member to pursue their doctoral research.

Deadlines and Application Process

  1. Where do I get an application? External applicants and current Stanford graduate students applying to the PhD program must apply online. Current Stanford undergraduate students applying for the PhD must also apply online.
  2. How do I submit an online application? Apply and submit the graduate admissions application online
    • The statement of purpose must be no more than 8,000 characters in length. This includes spaces in between words.
  3. What are the application requirements? Refer to the graduate application checklist.
  4. What is the application deadline? Check the graduate application deadlines page.
  5. If I previously applied, can my application be reactivated? No. We are not able to reactivate applications or supporting documents from previous applications. If you're reapplying, you must follow the same application requirements as new applicants by submitting a new online application and new supporting documents.
  6. What supporting documents should I send and where? No paper materials will be accepted except two sets of official transcripts (only after we contact you to submit them). Otherwise, official copies of transcripts or e-transcripts must be uploaded onto the online application. 
  7. Can I reapply to the PhD program? Yes, however, you cannot apply more than once for the same academic year.
  8. Can I get a waiver on the application fee? If you are unable to pay by credit card or if the application fee is considered to be a financial burden, see the review requirements section of the Stanford University graduate admissions website.
  9. Where can I list my publications and website? List all your publications and URL to your website on the supplementary form which is part of the online application. Also, list your publications and website on your resume.
  10. How long is the statement of purpose? The statement of purpose must be no more than two pages in length. This includes spaces in between words. Upload it to the online application.
  11. How do I find out about the status of my application? Due to the large volume of applications our office receives, we are unable to respond to inquiries regarding the status of any application. You can check the status of your application by logging in to your account here. Our office will contact you via email if your application is incomplete, so please be sure that our office has your current email address on file.
    • We recommend that you retain copies of the supporting documents that you send us and have your recommenders retain copies of what they send us. It is very important to make sure your first and last names remain consistent throughout the application process and in your correspondence with the department.
  12. How/when will I be notified of the admissions committee decision? The admissions office will send decision letters electronically for all applicants starting by mid-February for PhD applicants.
  13. What if I don't receive notification about an admissions decision by the posted decision date? If you have not received an email from our office by the posted decision date, you may email us at admissions@cs.stanford.edu and include your email address. Do not call our office with this particular inquiry, as we are unable to provide any applicant information over the phone.
    • The decisions are made in late February for PhD applicants.
  14. If I am admitted to a CS graduate program, can I defer admission? Deferrals are granted on a case by case basis and usually for only compelling reasons. Deferral petition requests are due by April 11 for PhD admits. Requests for deferrals should be sent to Jayanthi Subramanian (jayanthi@stanford.edu).
  15. What is the GPA requirement? Typically GPA's are at least 3.6 (on a 4.0 scale) for PhD applicants and 3.5 for MS applicants.
  16. How do I calculate my major GPA? You have to identify all the courses you are counting towards the major requirement and find the average GPA of all those courses. If you have a double major, you need to calculate two different GPAs based on the separate group of courses that are being used to meet the requirement.
  17. What do I put for my overall GPA and max GPA at your school on the online application form? Maximum GPA varies from school to school. Most U.S. universities follow a 4.0 scale. There are some exceptions where the scale extends to 15 points; case in point, Harvard University. Stanford follows a 4.3 scale which distinguishes the minus and plus grades for the top three letter grades. It is best to state the cumulative GPA (CGPA or the UG GPA) that appears at the end of the latest quarter/semester grades. This is an average of all your quarter/semester grades.
    • A weighted average calculation is necessary when courses have variable credits/units structure.
    • Note (International Students): If your institution does not follow a GPA system, please enter the required GPA in the "unconverted GPA" field on the application. If your institution follows an absolute grading system, please use the maximum absolute aggregate for your institution in the "unconverted GPA system" field and the aggregate score you have obtained in the "unconverted GPA" field. At most foreign universities, it is typically out of 10, 20 or 100 points. The maximum score per course is defined on the transcript in almost all cases. 
      • For example, if the maximum score is 100 points per course and you have six courses per semester, your unconverted scale value would be 4800 (8x6x100) for the eight quarters of the undergraduate program. If you obtained 3700 points out of the potential 4800 points, that will be your unconverted GPA.
      • Do not normalize your GPA to reflect a value relative to the highest achieved aggregate score in your class/batch/year. The only exceptions are physical education and military history; these two courses can be eliminated from the calculation.
      • Utilize the "additional information" section under the statement of purpose section to briefly highlight the grading system used by your institution and your relative placement in that grading scheme.
  18. Can I apply to start in the Winter or Spring quarter? No, we only offer admission to the Autumn quarter for PhD applicants.

GRE/TOEFL

  1. Do I need to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE)? GRE scores are not required from PhD applicants. 
  2. Do I need to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)? TOEFL is required from all applicants whose first language is not English regardless of citizenship. Tests must be taken prior to the program’s application deadline and application submission. Self-reported scores should be recorded on the application. We do not accept IELTS scores.
    • Exception: Individuals who have completed (not only attended) a Bachelor's degree or a two-year Master's degree (or the equivalent of either degree) at a recognized institution where all instruction is provided in English. This does not apply if the courses were completed in a country where English is spoken, though not all courses were provided in English.
    • Visit Stanford University's Office of Graduate Admissions website for additional information.
  3. How recent must my TOEFL scores be? TOEFL scores submitted to Stanford must be from a test taken within the last 24 months (two years). No scores are valid beyond the date ETS will send or resend them to schools. Tests must be taken prior to application submission and the program application deadline.
  4. When should I take the TOEFL? If you are taking the TOEFL tests, it is recommended that you take the tests at least six (6) weeks before the application deadline. 
  5. What is the TOEFL recommendation? We expect applicants to have "good" English skills.