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Thinking about applying to the CS master’s program here at Stanford? You might find this e-mail to be useful. It was sent to all master’s students a few years ago by the then-head of the admissions comittee. Since then things have changed somewhat; standards have gone up substantially at least for students outside the university.
From daemon@CS.Stanford.EDU Mon Nov  6 21:44:34 2000
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Date: Mon, 6 Nov 2000 21:37:08 -0800 (PST)
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From: David Dill 
Reply-To: David Dill 
To: mscs@CS.Stanford.EDU
Subject: Fall folders
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In the interests of efficiency, I have elected to send out an email
about reading folders rather than getting us all together to discuss
them.  Please take a moment to read this message carefully.
I think we need to be more consistent about admissions.  I reviewed
several cases last year where I honestly could not explain why
an applicant was not admitted.
A handout from previous years was included (at least in my bunch)
that contains some guidelines, but this message has more specific
If you see an error or omission in these notes, or simply disagree,
please send me email or talk to me.
In the Autumn and Spring, we have a small number of folders consisting
of three classes of applicants:
* co-terminal BS/MS degrees (Stanford CS undergrads)
* Honors Coop (HCP) students (from industry)
* People wanting to transfer to other departments (or get another degree).
The Winter has a boatload of external applicants, so that’s when we
have to work the hardest.
Transfer’s are held to a higher standard than co-terms and HCP students.
On the evaluation sheet, the threshhold score for co-terms & HCPs was
around 6, and for transfers and external applicants, around 7.25.
Before we made the program more competitive last year, the 
threshhold for external applicants was 6.25 or 6.5.  We accept
about 1/4-1/5 of external applicants (although you won’t have
a statistically meaningful sample in this batch of folders).
Our main priority is to make sure they will do OK in our classes.
Since we can see their Stanford grades, test scores and recommendations
are secondary unless they are truly problematic (or unless there
is a grade problem).
I would like to see at least a B+ average in the tougher CS courses,
such as CS140, CS143, CS154, CS157, and CS161.  It would be great
to have at least one A and nothing worse than a B at this level.
Classes like CS108 and CS193whatever seem to be easier.
The usual guideline has been: the applicant is in if they have 
>= 3.5 GPA, and people under that are considered based on 
recommendations and test scores.
HOWEVER, be careful about applicants with good GPAs who have had
no upper-level CS courses.  Usually, we can ask them to reapply
after they’ve had some more classes.
The Honors Coop program consists of students working in industry
who are generally working full-time.
Many of these students will have taken some of our courses “NDO” (not
for credit).  The standards should pretty much be the same as co-terms
in these cases -- if the grades are good, GREs and recommendations are
no too critical.
If someone has NOT taken our classes, then test scores and
recommendations carry more weight.  Still, our main concern is whether
they can handle the classes.  Of course, other universities vary in
strength, so you have to use your judgement to adjust their grades to
If a candidate is marginal and has not taken our classes, we can
reject them and suggest that they take some classes NDO.  If they
do well, they’ll get admitted later (and they can convert the
Transfers from other departments
These students need to be treated like external applicants
(otherwise, they apply to, say, Petroleum Engineering as an
easier way to get into the CS MS program).
The guidelines handed out with the folders are fairly reasonable,
but could be perhaps a little more stringent.
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