Frequently Asked Questions About Ph.D. Admissions

Q: What are the criteria for admission to the Ph.D. program in computer science at Tufts?

A: Academic performance, letters of recommendation and previous research experience are crucial in our selection process. We also consider GRE scores, TOEFL scores (if relevant), motivation, work experience, awards, honors, prizes, and other accomplishments. In more detail, we are looking for:

  • Academic performance: The GPA is not the only criterion. Grades in computer science and related disciplines (e.g., math) count more than grades in other areas. Also, we take into account the fact that at some very competitive schools it is very difficult to achieve a high GPA.
  • Letters of recommendation: Letters must give a detailed, factual, and candid evaluation of the applicant's capabilities. Rankings and comparisons with other students are very useful. Ask your recommender to follow these guidelines. If your recommender is sending the letter directly, check to make sure the deadlines are met. We routinely find ourselves unable to admit potentially qualified students because their letters of recommendation have not arrived in time.
  • Research experience: Research experience, although not required, can boost your chances of admission considerably. If you have worked on a research project, please tell us about it and ask at least one of your recommenders to comment on it. If your work is part of a joint project, the recommender should indicate your specific contribution to the project. Include abstracts or reprints of any papers you have published in journals or presented at conferences.
  • General GRE scores: These scores let us compare the basic skills of applicants from diverse backgrounds. We are aware that: test performance can improve considerably with practice, some people do not perform well on tests, and the verbal GRE is harder for some foreign applicants. Median scores for a group of recent accepted masters and Ph.D. applications (combined) were: GRE verbal: 159, GRE quantitative: 164 and GRE analytical writing 4.5.
  • TOEFL-iBT scores of at least 90 are required for all international applicants who are not native English speakers. (Older TOEFL-cBT or TOEFL-pBT scores will be considered only if accompanied by the TSE). For teaching assistantships, a minimum TOEFL-iBT of 100 is typically desired.
  • Statement: The statement that accompanies your application helps us learn more about you. Tell us why you want to pursue a Ph.D. program in computer science, and why you are applying to our department in particular. Clearly expressing any areas of academic interest, and/or faculty members you might want to work with make it easier for us to evaluate your application.
  • Work experience: Please describe your work experience in the application and, if related to computer science, mention how you think it will help you in graduate school.
  • Awards, honors, and prizes: Unless they are well known (e.g., NSF fellowship or graduation with honors), please give details about them (how many candidates? how many awards? what were the selection criteria?). This is especially important for foreign applicants. If these awards are really important, we would expect your recommenders to mention them.

Q: I cannot afford the application fee. Can you waive it?

A: The application fee is waived for current Tufts undergraduate students. If the application fee will present a financial hardship, please contact the Office of Graduate Admissions.

Q: What are my chances of being admitted?

A: We cannot estimate your likelihood of admission on the basis of your letter or email message. We need to see the entire application.

Q: Does a request for financial aid affect my chances of being admitted?

A: Each year we have a certain number of graduate fellowships and assistantships available. We give admission with financial aid to the best students who apply for the Ph.D. (we cannot typically offer assistantships to terminal M.S. students), and applying for financial aid will not adversely affect your chances. If we run out of aid offers but we still like your application, if you indicate that you may be able to come without aid, we may admit you without financial support.

Q: What financial aid can I receive?

A: The department can offer partial tuition waivers to strong applicants. In addition, depending on availability, we can offer between 10-15 new graduate assistantships to our strongest applicants each year. This support typically consists of a full tuition scholarship, plus a 9-month stipended position (excluding the 3 summer months) as a Graduate Assistant. Typically, students are assigned as a Research Assistant (RA), a Teaching Assistant (TA), or a System Administration Assistant (SA).

In our department a teaching assistantship (TA) does not usually involve teaching in a classroom; in most cases, duties will be limited to grading, preparing assignments, helping students in office hours etc. System administration (SA) tasks include helping run our computer network, develop and support web/DB applications, and support the teaching and research computing platforms. Research assistantship (RA) positions are normally assigned after mutual agreement with a faculty member on a research project, and are typically not offered in the first semester a student comes to Tufts. In all cases, RA/TA/SAs are expected to work no more that 20 hours per week, and to spend the rest of their time on coursework and their own research. As these assistantships are awarded on a competitive basis to full-time students pursuing a graduate degree, we expect that you would not hold any outside employment while supported by the Department.

We usually have some stipends for the 3 summer months at roughly the same rate for those working as a TA or SA, or doing research as an RA with a faculty member. Some students elect instead to do summer internships at area companies or labs.

Q: Do I have to pick an advisor prior to entry?

A: No. You are funded by the department and university for the first year. You have this year to find a Ph.D. advisor, which you do through courses, seminars, group meetings and other contact. We do not require you to pick an advisor prior to entry. (In contrast, some of our peer schools force you to align with a particular advisor, whom you may have never met and whose work may not entirely interest you, before you begin.)

Q: Do I have to take the GRE Subject exam?

A: The department does not require the Subject exam. Feel free to submit your scores if you took it, for they provide additional information. However, it is not required.

Q: Can I contact the Office of Graduate Admissions by phone or electronic mail?

A: The Office of Graduate Admissions' contact information is on their Web page.

Q: What is the Tufts Institution code for the GRE?

A: The GRE institution code for Tufts is 3901.

Q: Have you received all my application materials?

A: Please contact the Office of Graduate Admissions directly at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it for questions relating to the online application system or to see if all of your materials have arrived.

Q: Where do I send my transcripts, score reports, etc?

A: Please send supplemental materials to:

Office of Graduate Admissions
Bendetson Hall
Tufts University
Medford, MA 02155

Q: Who decides whom to admit?

A: Officially, admissions are generated by the Office of Graduate Admissions of Tufts University. In practice, the Computer Science Department (specifically, a group of faculty members) evaluates your application and makes recommendations to the Office of Graduate Admissions, which typically follows our recommendations. Therefore, you are generating your application (in particular, your statement) to be read primarily by computer science faculty.

Q: What if I have other questions?

A: You can email the department at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .  Please be sure to mention that your question is about Ph.D. admissions.