Frequently Asked Questions - PhD

Program Related Questions

Q: Do you have to be a Computer Science undergraduate major to apply?

A: No, it is not required that a student have majored in CS but it is important that you have strong quantitative and analytical skills.

Q: If I already have a PhD degree in Computer Science from another institution, may I apply to the PhD program at Stanford?

A: No, if you have a PhD in CS from another institution, you cannot apply to the CS PhD program here at Stanford.

Q: Are my units transferable?

A: Units may be transferable to the Ph.D. program towards residency credit. This determination is made via petition to the Registrar’s Office AFTER attending our Ph.D. program for at least one quarter. 

Q: Do you accept visiting scholars, exchange students, and postdocs?

A: No. The Computer Science department does not have such a program, per se. All visiting scholar, exchange student, and postdoc arrangements are made between individual professors of the universities involved.

Q: Where can I find housing information?

A: You can find housing information at: R&DE Student Housing.

Q: When will I receive my I-20 form?

A: Foreign students offered admission to a U.S. university are required to fill out an I20 form. The central office of graduate admissions begins processing your I-20 form after you accept the offer of admission in Axess indicating your intention to enroll at Stanford and return the Financial Resources Certification form, along with a copy of your passport, to the Graduate Admissions office. Once this response form is received from you, it typically takes several weeks for Stanford to mail an I-20 to you. Please see this website for more information: I-20, DS-2019 and Transfer-In Requests | Graduate Admissions.

At the department level, we cannot do anything to speed up this process. Foreign students are encouraged to seek a visa promptly upon receiving their I-20 because it may take up to several weeks to be processed by the U.S. Consulate due to increased security considerations.

All new international students will be assessed a SEVIS fee in addition to other fees associated with processing visa applications. For details, please see: pay the I-901 SEVIS Fee.

Q: Does the CS department offer a MS/Ph.D. program?

A: No, the MS program and Ph.D. program are two separate programs. The MS degree also does not automatically lead to a Ph.D. degree. Applicants planning to pursue a Ph.D. degree should apply directly to that program. For more information about the MS & Ph.D. programs, see the MS versus PhD section of the graduate admissions web page.

Q: How can I find out more about course requirements for the Ph.D. program?

A: See the Stanford University bulletin for program requirements or visit Computer Science | Stanford University.

Q: Where can I find information about the CS Ph.D. program?

A: Please visit the Computer Science Ph.D. program website at: PhD | Stanford Computer Science.

Q: How am I assigned an advisor?

A: Each Ph.D. student spends the first few months becoming better acquainted with the various faculty and their research areas before aligning with a faculty member to pursue their doctoral research.

Deadlines and Application process Questions

Q: Where do I get an application

A: External applicants and current Stanford graduate students applying to the PhD program must apply online at Starting Your Application | Graduate Admissions. Current Stanford undergraduate students applying for the PhD must also apply online at Starting Your Application | Graduate Admissions

Q: How do I submit an On-line application?

A: To apply on-line, go to Starting Your Application | Graduate Admissions. Submit the online Graduate Admissions application. The Statement of Purpose must be no more than 8000 characters in length. This includes spaces in between words.

Q: What are the application requirements?

A: Please refer to the CS Admissions web page at Admissions | Stanford Computer Science for admission requirements.

Q: What is the application deadline?

A:  Check the admissions deadline page on our website for details.

Q: If I previously applied, can my application be reactivated?

A: No. We are not able to re-activate applications or supporting documents from previous applications. Re-applicants must follow the same application requirements as new applicants by submitting a new online application and new supporting documents.

Q: What supporting documents should I send and where?

A: No paper materials will be accepted except 2 sets of official transcripts ( ONLY after we contact you to submit them). Otherwise, official copies of transcripts or e-transcripts must be uploaded onto the online application. 

Q: Can I reapply to the Ph.D. program?

A: Yes, however you cannot apply more than once for the same academic year. Regular Ph.D., MS, and HCP applicants can look under the Reapplying section of the CS graduate admissions web page for instructions on how to reapply. Additional degree applicants should click on the Additional Degree link at the beginning of the CS graduate admissions page to see instructions for reapplying.

Q: Can I get a waiver on the application fee?

A: If you are unable to pay by credit card, or if the application fee is considered to be a financial burden, please see the Review Requirements section of the Stanford University Graduate Admissions website at:

Q: Where can I list my publications and website?

A: Please list your publications (if any) and URL to your website on the supplementary form which is part of the online application. Please also list your publications and website on your resume.

Q: How long is the statement of purpose?

A: The Statement of Purpose must be no more than two pages in length. This includes spaces in between words. Please upload it in the online application.

Q: How do I find out about the status of my application?

A: Due to the large volume of applications our office receives, we are unable to respond to inquiries regarding the status of any application. You can check the status of your application by logging in to your account here. Our office will contact you via email if your application is incomplete, so please be sure that our office has your current email address on file.

We recommend that you retain copies of the supporting documents that you send us and have your recommenders retain copies of what they send us. It is very important to make sure your first and last names remain consistent throughout the application process and in your correspondence with the department.

Q: How/When will I be notified of the admissions committee decision?

A: The Admissions office will send decision letters electronically for all applicants starting by mid Feb for PhD applicants.

Q: What if I don't receive notification about an admissions decision by the posted decision date?

A: If you have not received an email from our office by the posted decision date, you may email us at and include your email address. Please do not call our office with this particular inquiry as we are unable to provide any applicant information over the phone.

The decisions are made in late February for Ph.D. applicants.

Q: If I am admitted to a CS graduate program, can I defer admission?

A: Deferrals are granted on a case by case basis and usually for only compelling reasons.  Deferral petition requests are due by April 11 for PhD admits.  Requests for deferrals should be sent to Jayanthi Subramanian at

Q: What is your GPA requirement?

A: Typically GPA's are at least 3.6 (on a 4.0 scale) for Ph.D. applicants and 3.5 for MS applicants.

Q: How do I calculate my major GPA?

A: You have to identify all the courses you are counting towards the "major" requirement and find the average GPA of all those courses. If you have a double major, you need to calculate two different GPAs based on the separate group of courses that are being used to meet the requirement.

Q: What do I put for my overall GPA and max GPA at your school on the online application form?

A: Maximum GPA varies from school to school. Most U.S. universities follow a 4.0 scale. There are some exceptions where the scale extends to 15 points; case in point, Harvard University. Stanford follows a 4.3 scale which distinguishes the minus and plus grades for the top three letter grades. It is best to state the cumulative GPA (CGPA or the UG GPA) that appears at the end of the latest quarter/semester grades. This is an average of all your quarter/semester grades.

A weighted average calculation is necessary when courses have variable credits /units structure.

Note to International Students: If your institution does not follow a GPA system, please enter the required GPA in the "Unconverted GPA" field on the application. If your institution follows an absolute grading system, please use the maximum absolute aggregate for your institution in the "Unconverted GPA System" field and the aggregate score you have obtained in the "Unconverted GPA" field. At most foreign universities, it is typically out of 10, 20 or 100 points. The maximum score per course is defined on the transcript in almost all cases. For example, if the maximum score is 100 points per course and you have 6 courses per semester, your unconverted scale value would be 4800 (8x6x100) for the eight quarters of the undergraduate program. If you obtained 3700 points out of the potential 4800 points, that will be your unconverted GPA. Please do not normalize your GPA to reflect a value relative to the highest achieved aggregate score in your class/batch/year. The only exceptions are Physical Education and Military History; these two courses can be eliminated from the calculation. Please utilize the "Additional Information" section under the Statement of Purpose section to briefly highlight the grading system used by your institution and your relative placement in that grading scheme.

Q: Can I apply to start in the Winter or Spring Quarter?

A: No, we only offer admission to the Autumn Quarter for Ph.D applicants.

GRE/TOEFL Questions

Q: Do I need to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE)?

A: GRE scores are not required from PhD applicants. 

Q: Do I need to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)?

A: TOEFL is required from all applicants whose first language is not English regardless of citizenship. Tests must be taken prior to the program’s application deadline and application submission. Self-reported scores should be recorded on the application.   We do not accept IELTS scores.

Exception: Individuals who have completed (not only attended) a bachelor's degree or a two-year master's degree (or the equivalent of either degree) at a recognized institution where all instruction is provided in English. This does not apply if the courses were completed in a country where English is spoken, though not all courses were provided in English.

For more information on TOEFL requirements, visit Stanford University's central Office of Graduate Admissions website at

Q: How recent must my TOEFL scores be?

A: TOEFL scores submitted to Stanford must be from a test taken within the last 24 months (2 years). No scores are valid beyond the date ETS will send or resend them to schools. Tests must be taken prior to application submission and the program application deadline

Q: When should I take the TOEFL?

A: If you are taking the TOEFL tests, it is recommended that you take the tests at least six (6) weeks before the application deadline. 

Q: What is the TOEFL recommendation?

A: We expect applicants to have "good" English skills.