So, no reason to bury the lede: yesterday I received my acceptance to the Masters of Science in Computer Science program at Georgia Tech. After 24 hours, I sent in my acceptance, so I’m starting the program in Spring 2023.
A very special thanks to my friends and colleagues James Walker, Ward Cunningham and Harry Smoak who wrote me what I assume were good recommendation letters for the program. I feel really blessed to know great people in my industry and to have a good enough connection to them that they’ll say kind words about me on paper.
Also, thanks to everyone who wrote me letters for other programs. Even though I didn’t get in, it meant a lot that I had your support.
Since then, I’ve continued to work on my underpinnings in computer science. I’ve also been studying for the GRE, in hope of reapplying to programs next year. I signed up for an online course from Princeton Review, which I think I don’t need at this point.
Do I have any suggestions for other applicants to CS master’s degrees? I guess here are a few.
- Look at programs early. I was really pressed for time when I applied, and it resulted in weaker applications than I thought. Giving yourself a year or so before starting the program gives you a lot of time to get ready.
- Take the GRE. It’s optional, but it really seems to help a lot. And it isn’t actually that hard.
- Take MOOC courses from accredited universities. I didn’t have a lot of CS on my college transcript, but my MOOC studies were accepted instead. I think that helped a lot in filling in gaps in my prerequisites.
- Work in the industry for several decades. Ha ha! Just kidding. This doesn’t seem to have counted for much in any of the universities that turned me down. I think any experience above 5 years is superfluous for these programs.
- Keep checking back. I know that a lot of universities have started new online master’s programs recently. Others, like Cornell or MIT, have really solid online certificate programs, but no degree programs. I expect that will change soon.
- Don’t apply places you can’t afford. I don’t regret turning down Carnegie Mellon. It was the right decision for me. But I probably shouldn’t have put myself in that position in the first place. I was aware enough to not even apply to more expensive programs like Columbia.
Maybe the main thing I’ve learned is that higher degree programs are hard to get into. That probably seems obvious, but I’ve spent a career assuming I’d be able to get a degree whenever I wanted in whatever I wanted, if I actually valued it. Not true! This was probably cognitive dissonance over not having a degree. I have some newfound respect for people who do full degree programs.
What happens next for me is that I’ll be finishing my certificate in Algorithms from Stanford, and maybe filling in other prereq courses before I start in January. I’m trying to keep formal study part of my regular daily rhythm so it isn’t too disruptive when I start class in January 2023.
Thanks again to everyone who’s shared ideas and encouragement. I’m looking forward to showing you my mortarboard photos in 2025.