MS in Data Science - Official Blog

October 16, 2018

Application Advice Part 2 – Prerequisites

We get asked all the time – “Why are there so many prerequisite courses?” The short answer is that students need to have a strong quantitative and technical foundation to succeed in the M.S. in Data Science program. Our curriculum is rigorous, and the fast-paced classes assume you have a strong math background which includes calculus I-III and linear algebra. Our classes also involve substantial computer programming assignments which assume you have mastered the concepts covered in two introductory programming courses. The admissions committee also looks at the grades you earned in your prerequisite courses to evaluate your potential for graduate studies in data science. Strong grades are one indication that you have the preparation and motivation to excel in the program.

Another question we get asked all the time – “What if some of my prerequisite grades are not so good?” If this situation applies to you, do not despair! There are measures you may take to offset this obstacle:

  • Write an optional essay. If your prerequisite grades were affected by serious circumstances outside your control, such as an illness or a death in the family, you may wish to take advantage of the optional essay to explain the situation to the admissions committee.
  • Repeat a class. Another way to offset a poor grade in a prerequisite course is to take it again and earn a higher grade the second time around.
  • Take an extra class. What if you did poorly on your Intro to Computer Science II midterm and it dragged your final grade down to a C? You can take a more advanced course in computer science and demonstrate your drive to succeed. While a grade awarded in a more advanced course will not affect your previous grade, it will reveal your initiative and show that your prior performance is not indicative of your capabilities.
  • Show improvement over time. What if you earned a disappointing grade in calculus I and went on to earn higher grades in calculus II and III? An upward trend in your grades is an indication that you are capable of growth and improvement over time.

As a final note, prerequisites must be completed before the application deadline. The M.S. in Data Science program receives a high volume of applications, and we cannot offer one of the limited seats to someone who may not have the background necessary to thrive in the program.