New Student Frequently Asked Questions

This page is intended to answer some common questions from students newly admitted to one of our graduate degree programs. Most of these answers apply to students attending the Blacksburg campus.

Before Arriving

I just got admitted. What should I do next?

Generally, the first two things to do are: (1) Make sure that the Grad School knows your decision. You should see buttons to accept or decline at the application portal ( You can also send email to (2) Get your Virginia Tech PID (email address), see

Is anything special happening this Fall?

The Virginia Tech administration has scheduled making a decision on whether classes will proceed as normal ("face to face") or otherwise in the June 10th timeframe. This is outside of the control of the CS Department, or even of the Grad School. The rest of this document is written as though things are going to be "normal".

What is the Department's advice and policies regarding deferrals?

If you are an international student, we advise that you move forward as best you can with obtaining your visa and planning to arrive for classes on campus in August. In a couple of months, it could be that the way people are viewing the world today has changed again. If you do what you can to obtain a visa, then you keep your options open. If things do not look promising a couple of months from now, you can decide then whether to defer.

That said, we will let people defer. We also plan to permit students who were not able to arrive for the Fall semester the option of doing an online semester. In no way would this be a "remote degree", but rather an exceptional semester done remotely. We do want to have as many people as possible moving forward productively. Please note, however, that we are never able to pay people (either through assistantship or other means) who are not physically in the United States.

If we made a funding promise for some amount of time, then we intend to honor it for the stated time period. This means that if a person was promised a year, and defers one semester, we intend to honor funding in the second semester. Or if they were promised two years, and they defer a year, we intend to honor funding in the second year.

I am still looking for funding. What should I do?

For details information about funding, see here. The short answers are: MEng students are not normally funded by our department. Most MS/PhD Grad students on support either get a Graduate Research Assistantship directly from a faculty member, or a Graduate Teaching Assistantship from the CS Department. GRAs are between you and the faculty member. If you want to apply for a GTA, see Be aware that we make funding offers right up to the start of classes, and sometimes even during the first week of class. Unfortunately, new students on the wait list are not likely to be given an offer until after they arrive in Blacksburg.


Things for August

When should I arrive on campus?

There are orientation sessions and events throughout the week prior to when classes start. So you need to be on campus and ready to attend by Monday, August 17, 2020. The CS New Graduate Student orientation will be held on Wednesday, August 19, 2020 in the afternoon, and you need to attend if you are a new student.

How do I sign up for classes? How many should I sign up for? Or any question similar to that.

Do not worry about any of that prior to the CS New Graduate Student orientation session in August. At that time, you will be given information that you need to decide on classes to take, and a mechanism for indicating your class preferences. We will then enroll you into classes (we reserve seats in classes for new students that are not publicly available until afer we do new student enrollments).

But to give you a bit of an idea on what to expect: For MS/PhD students on support, a full time class load is two regular (3-credit, for a grade) courses. Do not plan to take more than that, and there is no need to take more than that. To reach full-time status (12 credits), you can sign up for things like a credit of grad seminar or the Grad School GTA training 1-credit course, and then fill out your schedule with research hours as needed. MEng full-time students will typically take three or four courses per semester.