Frequently Asked Questions
Masters Degree in Computer Science
Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, College of Science
[This page mentions many course numbers. The course descriptions may be found at: Mathematics and Computer Science course descriptions (courses with a number less than 6000 are Undergraduate courses, courses with a number of 6000 or greater are Graduate courses)]
- Finding the right place to ask for information
This document covers material the department manages. This section points you to some other important sources of information.
Before entering the school
Information related to what we are looking for from applicants: degree, grades, GRE score, program prerequisites
After you have been accepted
- The program
Information for students after you have been accepted
- Getting started
- Program prerequisites
Extra courses required of students who have not satisfied what the department expects of new students
- Registering for courses
There are limits on how many Computer Science courses you can sign up for before a term starts and how many students may take any section of a course.
- Course prerequisites
Individual courses also have prerequisites
- Tiered courses
Courses which are simultaneously offered as undergraduate and graduate sections
- Finishing the program
Students usually need to pass the capstone course CS 6901. Some strong students with a special interest may do a thesis instead.
- Differences between CSU East Bay and the undergraduate universities of most new students
Some common problems for new students.
- Questions about grading
Includes issues related to your GPA, repeating courses if you do not do well enough the first time.
- Transferring to Computer Networks
- Taking time off
- Academic probation, disqualification
- Academic dishonesty
- Is this the right place to ask my question?
Students frequently ask us questions for matters not handled by the department. In particular, prospective and new students should look through the university website: http://www20.csueastbay.edu/index.html. The Prospective Students link has important information for both how to apply and what to do if you are admitted and decide to join the program. If you had your undergraduate education in another country, you should check the Center for International Education web pages.
- What are the requirements for admission?
Applicants are required to have a B.S. degree from an accredited 4 year institution. Official transcripts must be sent. We are looking for students who have university-level coursework comparable to our undergraduate degree in Computer Science. The specific courses are listed at: http://www20.csueastbay.edu/csci/departments/math-cs/degrees-and-programs/csms.html. Starting with Spring 2015, applicants are again required to submit GRE general exam scores.
- What grades do I need?
Even within the same country, grading schemes can vary, but in order to get credit for the required courses mentioned above, you need the equivalent of a C- or better in a lecture course (as opposed to a laboratory course). For universities in India, this generally means at least a "2nd class" grade (usually 50% or better) as opposed to simply a passing grade (usually 40% or better). We do want to see students succeed and reserve the right to require higher grades if we find that students are not prepared for what we expect of them.
The standards for admission vary with how many applicants we receive. Generally, successful applicants should have over half of their Mathematics and Computer Science courses at a B- level or better. Because there is a limit to how many students we can take, we cannot accept all qualified students.
- What do I need to score on the GRE?
As is mentioned on the Computer Networks MS FAQ, "Average scores vary from year to year. Potential students should score above the 20th percentile in the verbal section and above the 60th percentile in the quantitative section."
- Can I receive credit for work experience?
We do not accept work experience for credit.
- I have not satisfied all of the necessary prerequisites. Is there something I can do to make up for them?
- Students who have not completed a 4-year degree may apply for the 4th Year Bridge Program (http://www20.csueastbay.edu/csci/departments/math-cs/degrees-and-programs/four-year-bridge.html) to complete that year when they come as if they were an undergraduate transfer student. The main downside is that you will be required to take 3 general education courses that do not count towards the Master's degree. Students who get at least a 3.0 average in their courses while in the Bridge program can then file a Change of Graduate Objective form: http://www20.csueastbay.edu/prospective/files/pdf/admission-forms/application-for-change-of-graduate-objective.pdf. Note that admission to the Master's program is not guaranteed.
- Students who have a limited number of unsatisfied prerequisites can still be accepted. The maximum number of unsatisfied prerequisites varies, but is currently 5. However, such students will be required to complete those prerequisites at the start of their program. When calculating the expected cost of the program, you must factor in the cost of these extra courses.
- Both before and after admission, students can complete prerequisites whose course numbers start with a 1 or 2 (also called "lower division courses") at community colleges in the area. The website http://www.assist.org/ provides a detailed mapping of courses at these colleges to those at CSU East Bay. Select the community college, then "California State University, East Bay" and finally the "Computer Science B. S." major.
- Before admission, potential applicants can cover prerequisites whose course numbers start with a 3 or 4 ("upper division courses") through Open University at CSU East Bay or any other university in the California State University system.
- Note that before admission, a C- in a prerequisite course is considered satisfactory (though it may hurt your chances of admission). After admission, you need at least a B-.
- How much does it cost to get the degree?
- Tuition changes each year, but you can find the current year's costs from the "Cost & Financial Aid" tab on the Prospective Students pages. The current link is: http://www20.csueastbay.edu/prospective/cost-and-financial-aid/index.html.
- As mentioned in the answer to the question about prerequisites above, you should factor in the cost of the prerequisites when estimating tuition costs.
- The WST requirement may also require you to take extra courses that you will have to pay for.
- If you do not get a sufficiently good grade in a course (B- for prerequisites, C- for courses in the program), you will not get credit for the course. You will have to pay to either retake the course or, if the course was an elective, another course.
- Housing is a separate cost. There is some on-campus housing for which you can find information by clicking on the "Housing and Residence Life" link on the "After You're Admitted" tab of the Prospective Students page. There is a meal plan option. Most students will find off-campus housing. Neither the department nor the university manages these options.
- If you do not own a computer, you should plan to buy one, preferably a laptop, before starting your first course. Many courses require doing assignments on a computer, and even courses that are more theoretical usually require submission of assignments on Blackboard. A laptop would allow you to connect to the campus wireless network.
- How can I apply for assistantships/grader positions?
The department has a limited number of teaching and grader positions available. An announcement is sent out over email each Winter quarter to let students know when they can apply. To be fair, you should not plan on getting a position.
- How do I apply?
The Prospective Students page has a tab for how to apply.
- I have been admitted and want to start the program. What do I do next?
Do read your admission letter. Many students have wasted time and money because they do not bother reading the letter or ignore the material in it.
The university has an excellent guide for all new students. From the Prospective Students page, click on the "After You're Accepted" tab. The various pages and links will not only provide important , but also tell you which administrative departments handle each matter. Among other things covered here: health insurance, housing, paying for school.
- Where is my I-20?
This is a matter important to international students in all programs offered by the university and as such is managed by the university, not the department. It does take some time after your admission for the document to be generated and sent, so please be patient. Please contact the International Admissions Office at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
- What do I need to do to graduate?
You do need to satisfy all program prerequisites given to you in your admission letter. For the program itself, the requirements are described on the department website, which links to the university catalog: http://www20.csueastbay.edu/csci/departments/math-cs/degrees-and-programs/index.html.
Note that aside from courses taken to satisfy the WST and the capstone (CS 6901), you must take all courses for a grade, or else you will not receive credit for those courses towards your degree.
- Why do I need to take the Writing Skills Test (WST)?
The WST requirement is for all students in the California State University system. Only students who graduated from a Cal State will have completed this requirement, so all other students who are accepted receive a "conditionally classified" status.
You can read more about the WST at: http://www20.csueastbay.edu/academic/colleges-and-departments/apgs/testing/tests/wst/. There are frequent workshops given to help you prepare, which we recommend. You have two tries to pass the test. Depending on how you do, you may be required to take additional courses to satisfy the requirement. We strongly recommend you take these courses Credit/No Credit (CR/NC), as otherwise the grade does become part of your overall GPA, and students have in the past gotten grades that hurt their GPA.
- Why do I have a prerequisite of X? I have already had the material. (X = one of the program prerequisite courses)
You may not have scored well enough in the course – in particular, "pass" class is not good enough to satisfy the requirement
The course you took only has a similar name to the prerequisite you have been given. A common example is the CS 2430 Computer Organization and Assembly Language Programming course. The "Computer Organization" course at most universities covers the material of CS 3340. For most applicants, the course that would be considered equivalent to CS 2430 would have a title like "Microprocessor Interfacing" or "Assembly Language Programming".
The course you took did not cover the material with enough thoroughness.
- The probability/statistics component many students have had in a course like "Engineering Mathematics IV" is not sufficient. It is mixed in with several other topics, both resulting in the material being covered in insufficient depth for the requirement as well as making it impossible to determine from one score how much was learned.
- Similarly, courses that cover two different topics together make it impossible to determine the student's level of accomplishment. A course like "System programming and operating systems" is not sufficient to earn credit for CS 4560.
- I know how to program, so why has CS3120 Programming Language Concepts been listed as an admission deficiency?
CS3120 is a theory course, not a programming course. Programming experience in no way satisfies this program prerequisite.
- How can I complete the programming language theory prerequisite?
You can take either CS 3120 Programming Language Concepts or CS 4110 Compiler Design. If CS 6110 Theory and Design of Compilers is offered as a tiered course with 4110, you can take that, too. Both 4110 and 6110 count towards the degree, but 3120 does not. 6110 counts towards the System/Architecture requirement as well. However, 4110 is a harder course than 3120, and 6110 is a harder course than 4110. You still need a B or better in any of these courses to satisfy the program prerequisite. Many students have tried to take 4110 or 6110 to try to get as many requirements satisfied as possible and ended up having to retake a course because of an unsatisfactory grade.
- If there are changes to the M.S. program while I am a student, do I have to adjust my course of study?
No, not if you are a current student. If the degree program is modified while you are an active student, you have the option of continuing under the old program or switching to the new requirements (whichever you prefer). EXCEPTION: All students must now take CS6901 Graduate Capstone Experience no matter when they entered the program; the standalone comprehensive exams no longer exist. If you are not a current student, you must reapply to the program and will be subject to all degree requirements listed in the current catalog.
- Why can't I sign up for more than 2 Computer Science courses?
Because students have continuously abused the system by signing up for many more courses than they intend to take, we have had to implement a limit on how many Computer Science courses students may sign up for before classes start. The limit is 2, whether you are able to enroll or are on a waitlist. This is a strict limit on the number of courses -- the number of units is not considered.
Once classes start, you are free to sign up for as many courses as you want.
(Note: We have just implemented this for the first time for the fall quarter of 2014, and the benefits have been immediate. In particular, new students have, for the first time in a few quarters, been able to sign up for classes without trouble.)
- What is an enrollment cap?
An enrollment cap is a limit on the number of students that may sign up for a course. Almost all undergraduate classes have a limit of 35 students, while most graduate classes have a limit of 25 students. The goal is to keep course enrollments small enough for instructors to help all students.
- What is a waitlist?
A waitlist is a queue of students who have signed up to take a course that is full. If any students enrolled in a course drop it, students from the waitlist are enrolled in the course in the order that they put themselves on the waitlist. If not enough students have dropped the course and the instructor has not raised the cap, you may not be able to take the course. The deadline to add a course applies to everyone, so if that passes and you are still on the waitlist, you will unfortunately be unable to take it that term.
- What should I do if I am on a waitlist?
You are still expected to keep up with the course requirements as long as you are on the waitlist. You must still go to class, submit assignments and take quizzes or even exams.
You can politely ask for the cap to be raised, but the final decision is still up to the instructor. Note that because assignments are often submitted through Blackboard, you may not be able to submit your assignments through the regular way. Ask the instructor what you should do. Some instructors prefer hard copies, while others prefer email.
- I am enrolled in a course. Can I drop it so my friend can take the course?
If you drop the course, the first person on the waitlist will be added to the course. You cannot specify who replaces you in a course.
- Can you raise the cap for me?
Only the instructor of a course can increase the cap. No one else, not even the chair of the department, can do so.
- This is my last quarter and I am on the waitlist for a course which I need to graduate, so can the graduate coordinator add me into the class?
The graduate coordinator has no authority to override the waitlist for a course. The rollover from the waitlist to the class roster happens automatically as students drop the class. After the first week, the instructor can sign add forms, but this is almost always done in order of the waitlist. You may speak with the instructor about this. Do not wait until the end of your studies to attempt enrollment in a required course; finish these classes as soon as you can!
- Do I need to complete the prerequisites for a course before enrolling in it?
Absolutely. We expect students to be able to understand the material in the prerequisites. Note in particular that "having seen the material" is in no way equivalent to understanding the material. Many students get into trouble because they try to take courses for which they are not ready.
As a general expectation, if you sign up for a graduate course, you should understand the material in all program prerequisites. As a practical example, we expect you to be able to learn new programming languages (ex: Lisp, Lua, Python, Ruby, PL/SQL) during a term. This is one of the reasons we ask you to have successfully completed so much higher-level language programming plus assembly language programming plus the CS 3120 Programming Languages Concepts course.
- Can I take a prerequisite for a course simultaneously with the course itself?
No, of course not. Prerequisite means “required before”. You may not take CS6170 and CS6260 in the same quarter, for instance, as CS6170 is a prerequisite for CS6260. Plan ahead to get courses satisfactorily completed in time for your plans. Not all courses are offered every quarter.
- Can I “skip” a prerequisite for a course if the instructor gives me permission?
Usually NO. Only if the course description reads “or permission of the instructor” is this possible. In such cases, the instructor (and not the student) would have to notify the graduate coordinator to give his or her permission to enroll. Students should still use good judgment in determining whether they are ready for a course or not.
- How can I tell if a course is "tiered"?
A course is tiered if:
- two courses, one numbered at an undergraduate level (3xxx or 4xxx) and one numbered at a graduate level (6xxx) -- for an example, CS 4525 and CS 6525
- are offered at the same time
- are offered in the same room
- are offered by the same instructor
- Can I take the undergraduate version of a tiered course?
No. A graduate student must always enroll in the 6000-level version of a tiered course. You will not get credit for the 4000-level version of a tiered course.
- What is the capstone?
CS 6901 is a course that summarizes the core of our program. It is offered in the Fall and Spring terms. Students take a sequence of 3 exams to demonstrate their understanding of the material. You must have completed all program prerequisites from your admissions letter, the WST, CS 6000, CS 6260, CS 6560 and a total of 30 units that count towards the Master's degree before taking CS 6901. There are no exceptions. You are responsible for taking care of the prerequisites in enough time to take the capstone when you want.
You can find more information about the capstone, including the syllabus and past exams at: http://www20.csueastbay.edu/csci/departments/math-cs/capstone/index.html
- What would I have to do for the thesis option?
The thesis option is something extra for students the Graduate Committee is confident will pass the capstone if required to do so. Besides doing well in your classes, you need to find a professor to serve as a thesis advisor. It is typically the case that students take a course from a professor to demonstrate their abilities before being accepted as a thesis student. Currently (July 2014), the professors who regularly take thesis students are Professors Ertaul, Grewe, Thibault, and Zhong.
Once you get an advisor, you need to develop a thesis proposal, doing some preliminary research on related work. The related work is typically the kind described in conferences and journals from the ACM and IEEE professional organizations. You can find this work on the library website's online databases: http://library.csueastbay.edu/online-resources/databases/. The thesis topic should include a substantial implementation component. The proposal is submitted to the Graduate Committee. If it is approved, the student does the work proposed, including further research, and writes the thesis. The student then finds two additional professors to serve on the thesis defense committee, schedules the defense and then defends the thesis.
A thesis can be a way to learn much more about a narrower area of interest, but typically delays your graduation. If you want to graduate sooner, the capstone option is the safe route.
- How are grades at CSU East Bay different from universities in other countries?
For many of our students, the grading scale in your home country is different. Here, 85 is the mark that typically translates to a B. While students typically only take 2 courses per term, most still find getting satisfactory grades to be challenging, regardless of the level of the course.
- How are courses at CSU East Bay different from universities in other countries?
For many universities in other countries, the vast majority of your final grade is based on the final exam for the course. CSU East Bay, like most universities in the U.S., tends to place a significant weight on homework assignments and exams taken during the term.
The main way this affects you is that it is a bad idea to come to school late. Assignments are frequently given on the first day of classes and can be due as early as the next class meeting.
We do see a lot of universities where the undergraduate program has a highly structured schedule of courses. You have a lot more flexibility here, but it is up to you to make sure you are prepared for the courses you take. Students frequently get into academic trouble and are forced to leave the program because they do not pay attention to the listed prerequisites for courses and find they are unable to do the work satisfactorily.
Keep in mind that "adapting to the US" is not a valid excuse for poor performance. We do strongly recommend limiting yourself to two 4-unit courses the first term you are here and making sure you have satisfactorily passed the prerequisite courses before taking later courses.
- Is there grade forgiveness? Grade erasure? Grace points? Can I retake the final exam?
- When I retake a required course because I did not earn a grade of at least C-, will the new grade replace the old?
No. The original grade will still appear on your transcript, and will be averaged with the new grade to compute your M.S. GPA. For example, if after failing CS6260 you earned a B on your second attempt, then (0.0 + 3.0)/2 = 1.5 would be used in your GPA calculation for the course (a 0.0 for F and a 3.0 for B, divided by the two attempts). Your overall GPA will also be averaged.
- If the averaged grade for a required course that I have retaken is below a C-, do I have to take the course again in order to raise the averaged grade to C- or higher?
No. As long you earned a grade of C- or higher, you have satisfied the grade requirement for the course. You still need to maintain an overall GPA of 3.0 or higher to avoid academic probation or disqualification.
- Can I retake an elective course if I earned a grade lower than C-?
Yes. The grades of the two attempts would be averaged (as with a required course). It is often in the student's best interest to take another elective instead. When calculating your major GPA, the department uses the best 45 units that satisfy all degree requirements.
- Can I retake a course in which I earned a grade of C- or better in order to improve my GPA?
Yes, with the graduate coordinator's permission. The two course grades will be averaged.
- Do I have to retake an elective course if I did not receive a grade of C- or higher?
No. However, in order to satisfy a prerequisite, you must earn a grade of C- or higher in the course. For example, CS6592 lists CS4590 as a prerequisite. If your grade in CS4590 were a D, you would not be able to enroll in CS6592.
- If I did not earn a grade of B- or higher on an admission deficiency or remediation course, do I have to retake it?
Yes, in all cases. You must satisfy the requirements listed on your admission documents in order to become a Classified Graduate student. You cannot take the capstone if you have not satisfied all of your prerequisites.
- If I retake an admission deficiency or remediation course, will the new grade replace the old?
No. The original grade will still appear on your transcript, and will be averaged with the new grade to compute your overall GPA. For example, if after receiving a C for CS3240 you retook the course and earned an A, your GPA calculation for the course will be 3.0 (a 2.0 for C and a 4.0 for B, divided by the two attempts).
- If the averaged grade for an admission deficiency or remediation course is below a B-, do I have to take the course yet again in order to raise the averaged grade to B- or higher?
No. As long you earned a grade of B- or higher, you have satisfied the admission requirement. You still need to maintain an overall GPA of 3.0 or higher to avoid academic probation or disqualification.
- I was accepted to the Computer Science program, but would like to transfer to the Computer Networks program. What do I do?
You need to file a Change of Graduate Objective form: http://www20.csueastbay.edu/prospective/files/pdf/admission-forms/application-for-change-of-graduate-objective.pdf
The form is processed as if you were applying to the new program (here, the Computer Networks MS program). While you do not have to pay an application fee, you must satisfy all requirements for the application.
- Can I do an internship? Can you help me find one?
To answer the second question first, we do not have regular internship opportunities. Companies will contact the department from time-to-time with an internship to offer, and such offers will be forwarded to students through your campus email.
If you are an international student, internships have restrictions tied to your visa status. Please go to the CIE website linked in the answer to question #1 and you can read about it there.
- What kinds of skills will help me get an internship?
It varies, but as of July 2014, the most common internship involves website development. Companies are gradually getting more interested in developing apps for mobile phones. Some knowledge of databases may also help.
- How is CS 3898 related to the internship? Do I sign up for 3898 first? Does that help satisfy any requirements for the degree?
You do need an official offer from the company before you can do an internship. For Cooperative Education (international students will usually refer to this as Curricular Practical Training -- CPT for short), you will enroll in CS 3898. Note that this course does not count towards the M.S. Requirements in any way. You do have to pay for the course just like a regular course, though the pay for the internship will usually cover the cost. You do need to write up a 5-page report about the internship.
- What should I do if I need to take time off?
You do need to let the school know if you decide to take time off. If you do not, you may have to reapply.
For international students concerned about this and any other visa-related issues, please see CIE.
- What is academic probation?
As a graduate student, you are required to maintain at least a 3.0 average. If you fall below this number, you will be placed on academic probation.
- What should I do if I have been placed on academic probation?
- You need to get your overall GPA to at least 3.0. This means that you cannot afford a quarter where your GPA is only 3.0 since that is not making progress. If while on probation your term GPA is over 3.0, but your overall GPA has not reached 3.0 yet, we can try to work with CIE to get you more time, but this is not guaranteed.
- Strategically, you should try to improve your plan of study to avoid the risk of a low GPA quarter.
- Change your study habits – it would be a good time to start asking questions of your instructors in class and during office hours, to start doing your assignments earlier, to try running and experimenting with classroom examples if that is applicable. Working harder is good, too, but simply spending more time the day before an assignment is due or the last week of classes is not likely to produce a significant improvement.
- Avoid taking courses for which you lack the proper prerequisites. Even courses with an "easy" reputation can be quite difficult if you lack the proper background. It may not be that hard to get a B, but remember that a B is only worth 3.0 and does not help you get out of probation.
- Avoid taking more than two courses for the quarter – if you start the quarter with 3 courses, plan on dropping or withdrawing from whichever one turns out to be relatively hard.
- It is not always an option, but if you have to retake a course where you did badly, you should probably try a different instructor.
- What can I do if I have been academically disqualified?
Students who have a GPA below 3.0 for 2 consecutive quarters are academically disqualified.
If you have been on probation for two or more quarters and your term GPA for any two of these quarters is 3.0 or below, there is nothing you can do. You will have to make other plans.
If your GPA is still below 3.0, but your term GPA has been above 3.0 for all following quarters, you can discuss options with the graduate coordinator.
- How do I appeal academic disqualification?
You cannot. It is determined by your overall GPA.
- What is academic dishonesty? Why should I care?
Academic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to: copying part or all of an assignment done by another student, collaborating with another student unless the assignment is expressly designated as a collaborative assignment, copying lines from the internet to create part or all of your submission. The university has a uniform policy on academic dishonesty you can find here: http://www20.csueastbay.edu/academic/academic-policies/academic-dishonesty.html
The link is posted on all Blackboard courses by default to make it easy to find. You are responsible for the contents of the policy regardless of whether you choose to read it or not, so please do read it.
Students caught committing academic dishonesty once will lose the right to sign up for Cooperative Education as well as teaching or grading positions and any scholarships or awards.
Students caught committing academic dishonesty a second time will be declassified – in plain English, they will be kicked out of the program.