Frequently Asked Questions

Admission Requirements

My undergraduate degree is not in computing or computer science, should I still apply?

Yes, we encourage students from other disciplines to apply.  However, once you are accepted into our program you may be required to take extra courses to strengthen your background in computer science to better prepare you for our graduate program.

The admission requirement speaks of needing a degree from "computing science or related field".  How are you defining "related fields"?

We are intentionally vague about "related fields" as we want to have an open mind when evaluating eligible applicants.  We would consider fields such as computer engineering, engineering science, computational mathematics, applied computing, applied mathematics, computer information systems, etc., to be more closely related to computer science than fields such as electrical engineering, civil engineering, or business administration.  However, we still consider all applications on their merit, and when reviewing applications we typically look at the undergraduate and/or graduate courses taken under your qualifying degree(s). That being said, the more overlap there is between the courses you have already taken and the courses offered by Computing Science, the better chance you have of being considered a qualified applicant.  Please use your best judgement based on the above, to determine if your past education demonstrates your ability to be consdiered a qualified applicant.

Would industrial experience help my application?

Industrial experience in software companies is a factor when being considered for admission.  For PhD and M.Sc. thesis students however, we do place more emphasis on the applicant's research potential, e.g., publications, participation in research projects, academic awards, etc. For course-based M.Sc. students industrial experience may take on relatively more weight.  There is no single criterion that determines the outcome of the committee's decision; all factors will be considered.

Are GRE scores required?

No, they're not.

What if I have a low TOEFL or IELTS score?

We look at the complete application package to acquire an understanding of the applicant's admissibility to our program.   Becasuse of this practice, if your test scores do not fulfill the minimum requirements, we may still consider your application as we consider other qualifications which may support your application. Please keep in mind, that an offer of admission made to an applicant who does not meet the English requirement must be approved by the Dean of Graduate Studies, prior to an offer being confirmed.

I have not taken the TOEFL/IELTS yet, how should I complete the appropriate fields on the application form?

Please enter 000 (zeroes) where we ask for a score and your application form should then be successfully submitted.

Application Procedures and Outcomes

Can my employer write a reference letter?

Yes. The main point is that your references come from a credible source. Although we would prefer at least one academic reference, references from well known companies or any source that sheds light on your technical and personal skills are encouraged.

When should I apply and how long does it take to receive an answer?

Please refer to the How to Apply page for information on application dates and procedures. The policy of the School is to admit the majority of students for the fall semester (September start date), though there is also a spring (January start date) admission cycle. New students are not admitted to the summer semester, but deferrals or early starts in the summer semester is possible when approved by the graduate director. You should expect a decision to be made within two-three months after the application deadline. Typically, we send out rejection letters on May 1 following the February 1 deadline for fall admissions and on October 1 following the August 1 deadline for spring admissions.

Can I pay the application fee after I am admitted or after my arrival at SFU?

No, the application fee must be paid when you apply.

I think I have an excellent record, why was I not admited?

Please note that admission to our graduate program is quite competitive. In recent years, we typically make admission offers to less than 15% of the applicants. That said, not being admitted to our graduate program is not necessarily an indication of your lack of qualifications. At admission, we attempt to match every PhD and M.Sc. thesis or project student with a potential supervisor. As well, all PhD and M.Sc. thesis students receive financial support, with a major portion of funding coming from research grants held by faculty members. Therefore, if the professor(s) who are the best fit for your intended research area are not admitting new students, we might not be able to make you an offer.

Are there ways to improve my chances of getting accepted?

As well as presenting an excellent academic record, here are some important notes that can improve your chances of being accepted:

  • Pay attention to your statement of purpose (SOP). It does not need to be long or read like an essay; the best SOP for a PhD or M.Sc. thesis applicant must clearly show an applicant's knowledge in the intended field of study and his/her vision for research. 
  • We also give the recommendation letters high regards. 
  • Lastly, we encourage interested students to make connections with the professors they would like to work with. If a faculty member is willing to take you on, then your chance of admission is significantly improved.

Academic Programs

Do you have a part-time program?

No, we do not. However, many of our graduate students (mostly PhD) typically attend a research semester in the industry or another institution. Some of our M.Sc. students have full or part-time jobs during their tenure at SFU. We do not encourage the latter, as we find it important to focus on your studies, which is often necessary to cope with the challenges of obtaining a postgraduate degree.

How long does it take to receive a PhD or M.Sc.?

The typical tenure of a PhD student in our department is 12 to 15 semesters. The expected time to finish the M.Sc. program is 5 to 6 semesters (within two years). 

How many courses does a M.Sc. degree require?

M.Sc. students choosing the thesis option complete at least 15 credit-hours of graduate work (typically 5 courses). M.Sc. students choosing the project option must take at least 24 credit-hours of graduate work (typically 8 courses). M.Sc. students choosing the course option must take at least 30 credit-hours of graduate work (typically 10 courses).

What are the areas of specialty of the professors?

The strength of our research program focuses in these main areas:

  1. Algorithms and Complexity Theory (including combinatorics) 
  2. Artificial Intelligence (including logic, natural language processing)
  3. Data Mining and Computational Biology
  4. Computer Graphics, Computer Vision, and Medical Imaga Analysis
  5. Networks and Systems (including software systems)
  6. Programming Languages and Software Engineering

Please see our faculty and research pages for more detailed information.