Accelerated BS/Master's Program
To enable the completion of both a bachelor's and a master's degree in five years, Virginia Tech allows students with at least a 3.5 GPA to apply for admission to the Graduate School on the completion of seventy-five hours of undergraduate study.
Computer Science students in this program may take up to four graduate courses during their senior year in place of required CS 4000-level courses. These courses will "double-count" toward a Master's degree in Computer Science as well. (A CS MS degree requires seven and a thesis, while the CS MEng requires ten courses.) Note that these courses must be taken for a grade, i.e., 5974 and 5994 do not count.
No more than two 3-credit courses can be double-counted in one semester while an undergraduate, and no more than a total of 12 graduate credits will count toward the undergraduate degree. A grade of B or higher must be earned in each course that is double-counted. Award of the BS degree occurs on completion of the requirements as spelled out in the appropriate CS major checksheet, including the 12 credits of graduate work and the other departmental and university curriculum requirements. The remaining graduate courses for the Master's degree should be taken after conferral of the BS degree. Double-counted courses must be taken during the final 12 months of the undergraduate degree; BS/Master's students are expected to complete their BS degrees within two semesters after being accepted into this program.
Computer Science majors interested in applying for the BS/Master's program should follow the application process below.
- During the semester before your senior year (i.e., typically during the spring semester of your junior year), apply for admission to the CS MS program through the Graduate School admission system. When you apply for the Master's program, indicate that you want to begin studies in the semester after you expect to complete your BS degree. For example, if you expect to finish your BS degree in May 2019, you would apply for admission to the Master's program beginning in Fall 2019, even though you would be filling out the application in Spring 2018.
- The Master's admission process requires three letters of recommendation. At least two should be from academic references. When you fill out the on-line application you will be asked to provide contact information for these three references, and then they will be contacted electronically to supply the letters. So it is important to speak with them before hand and get their permission to serve as reference letter writers.
- You do not have to take the GRE exam to be admitted to the BS/Master's program.
- Once you have submitted your Master's application, notify the CS department that you have applied to the BS/Master's program by emailing Dr. Edwards.
- BS/Master's applications are reviewed shortly after grades are issued for the semester in which you apply. You will be notified by email of the result.
- Students who are admitted will need to fill out an “Accelerated Undergraduate/Graduate Degree and Course Designation” form, available from the graduate school. This is an advising form on which you will indicate the four graduate courses that you plan to take which will count for both your BS and Master's degrees.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Accelerated BS/Master's Program
What forms do I have to fill to enroll in the BS/Master's program?
Admission to the program is neither automatic nor guaranteed. Athough as an undergraduate student, you are somewhat of an "insider" in our department, admission to the BS/MS program is highly competitive, just as regular college admission is. Please see the description of the program in the undergraduate section of the website (here) for specific details on how to apply.
What factors do you look for in admitting applicants?
Unlike a Bachelors degree, completing a MS degree requires a good amount of independent, unstructured, research. Hence we evaluate applicants by their potential to succeed in research. We expect our BS/MS students to engage in research projects with faculty members, leading to a Master's thesis. The GPA is an (imperfect) indicator of this trait, so if you have more direct evidence such as publications, participation in a VTURCS project, or undergraduate research or independent study projects, those are good features to highlight in your application. For the MEng degree, we are less concerned with research potential, and more concerned with your technical ability as an indication of whether you are able to complete the degree.
My GPA is slightly below 3.5. Can I still apply?
The minimum GPA requirement is a requirement for all BS/MS programs at Virginia Tech, not just Computer Science. It is set centrally by the Virginia Tech Graduate School. In the past, exceptions to the GPA>=3.5 requirement have been granted extremely rarely. These have typically gone to students who have otherwise demonstrated superior potential for research (e.g., prior research publications and/or faculty member's recommendation).
My GPA is greater than 3.5. Will I get admitted?
Not necessarily. It really depends on the entire application package such as the letters of recommendation and any prior research record.
Okay, I would like to do research but do not know what I would like to do research in. Can I decide that later, after I am admitted?
You can. But recall that the online application would require you to write a statement of what you would like to do in your graduate studies. Vague statements such as "I am interested in software engineering, bioinformatics, networking" (i.e., listing multiple areas of specialty in our department) are not taken as seriously as some specific theme you want to pursue. Graduate school is all about having a focused goal and preparing a plan of study to attain that goal. So the more concrete your plans sound, the more weight your application will be given.
Can I send you my application before I submit and you can help me make it more competitive?
We are unable to do pre-reviews of applications. Further, it would be a conflict of interest to tell you exactly what you need to do in order to get accepted. You should treat this like a regular college/graduate school competitive admission process. The only sure-fire way to know if you will be accepted is to apply.
How do I find out what areas of research are being conducted in the department? How do I find out which faculty members have interests similar to mine?
Browsing through the departmental webpages is a good start. Talking to faculty would be a natural next step. See in particular the CS Department page listing our major research areas. You can see the status regarding which faculty are actively recruiting students and which are not here.
How many students do you accept in the BS/Master's program each year?
We do not have a fixed number of seats that we seek to fill. The program has grown a great deal in recent years.
I have already finished my BS here. Can I get admitted to the BS/Master's program?
No. The BS/Master's program is specifically meant for students who have not yet completed their BS. If you have completed your BS, you must apply for regular graduate school admission and satisfy all the regular requirements of graduate student applications.
So when is the "right" time to apply for the BS/Master's program?
The primary virtue of the BS/Master's program is that it allows you to "double count" up to 12 credits between the BS and Master's programs. The Concurrent UG/G form is where you specify which 4 courses (3 credits each) you would like to double count. You must apply before registering for any of these 12 credits . Courses cannot be double counted in retrospect, so you must be admitted to the BS/MS program and submit your Concurrent UG/G form before you take any of these courses. For instance, if you are in your senior year (Fall xx), have one more semester left to go in your BS, you apply for the BS/Master's program now, and you get admitted, you will be able to double count only courses taken in the following Spring, not in Fall xx. (This will mean fewer courses).
What courses can I double count?
Since double counting is toward an undergraduate degree and a graduate degree, you should ask this question separately to two people: your undergraduate program advisor and your graduate program advisor. The generic answer for the graduate program is: Any 4000-, 5000-, or 6000- level course available for CS graduate degree credit can be counted toward your MS degree, with the restriction that at most two 4000 level courses can be used toward that degree and the course cannot be a 4974, 4984, or 4994. See here for a list of CS graduate courses and whether they count toward the CS Master's degree. See here for a list of CS4xxx courses that can be used for graduate degree credit. For BS requirements, consult your undergraduate program advisor.
Should I take CS5944 Graduate Seminar?
MS and PhD students must take two instances of CS5944 Graduate Seminar. (MEng students do not get credit for Graduate Seminar.) Note that this course cannot be double counted, or be substituted with or for Senior Seminar. You may take CS5944 while you are still an undergrad and claim it toward the graduate degree. Or you might choose to wait until you are officially a graduate student. Note that traditionally the graduate seminar is given on Fridays at 11:15-12:30 during Fall semester. During Spring semester, the time of given seminars is highly variable, as it is dicted by the schedule of faculty candidate interview talks. So you might find it more scheduling friendly in Fall than in Spring.
I am happy to have been accepted to the BS/MS program. What courses do I need to take now?
Welcome! Be sure to attend the orientation that usually happens the week before first week of classes. Here's a brief summary of what will be discussed there: the MS degree is given in either the thesis or the coursework option. Almost all admitted students take the thesis option. It requires 21 credits of coursework (7 courses) plus 9 credits of research culminating in a thesis. The set of courses used for the Master's degree must satisfy several requirements and constraints which are discussed in the detailed degree requirements. Since 12 credits (4 courses) overlap with the BS program, a BS/MS student pursuing the thesis option need only do 3 more courses during the final (5th) year of their study, leaving ample time to devote to research. BS/MEng students should need to complete only six more courses.