McMaster University will continue to host undergraduate academic activities remotely for the Spring/Summer/Intersession term with only a few exceptions for courses that need student access to specialized equipment.

Frequently asked questions

For incoming students

When will I find out about my TA assignments?

TA assignments are not generally made until the first week of the semester; they depend on having full information about undergraduate enrollment, which is not typically available until that time.

Why are the times of some courses still listed as “to be determined”?

Some instructors of graduate courses prefer to wait until after TA assignments are made (see previous question) to schedule their courses, to minimize time conflicts. In this case they will typically hold an organizational meeting during the first week of the term; if you are registered for the course, you’ll receive an e-mail with more information. If you think you might be interested in the course but haven’t registered, e-mail the instructors to let them know so that you are included in the organizational meeting.

Regarding application and admission

Is this a computer science program? Is it a software engineering program?

Neither. Our focus is on the application of computational techniques to scientific, engineering, and business problems. Previous education and experience in software engineering, systems administration, and IT is unimportant for admission to the program, and the program will not train you in these areas.

What kind of academic preparation is required?

We accept students from a broad range of academic backgrounds, and as such we expect to receive applications from students with a broad range of academic preparation. However, you are unlikely to be accepted in the program, or to succeed, without at least

  •  intermediate to advanced level of skill in at least one programming language; ideally this would be from a university-level course that appears on your transcript. Ideally your knowledge would cover both one higher-level/domain-specific language (e.g. Python, R, MATLAB) and one lower-level language (e.g. C, C++, Fortran). Some otherwise promising students are experts in computational frameworks for designing systems or analyzing data, but have no real programming experience; these students often struggle in the program.
  • mathematical coursework including at least calculus and two courses in linear algebra, ideally with some coursework in numerical analysis. Other useful mathematical coursework includes real analysis, mathematical optimization, and applied mathematics in general. Some otherwise promising students from a computer science background are deficient in math, having taken few courses beyond discrete mathematics.

What should I say about my interests in scientific computing?

In the “describe your interest in scientific computing” of the application, we want to know about your academic and career trajectory and future goals, not about your background (which we should be able to determine from your CV and transcript): what areas of scientific (not general) computing are you most interested in, and how do you see the CSE program improving your ability to work in these areas? Please do not tell us how important computation is in modern society, or how you first became interested in computing.

Do I need to have been accepted by a supervisor before I apply?

No. However, it is strongly recommended that you decide on and contact potential supervisors before applying (see the list here. The program only accepts students that an appropriate supervisor has agreed to sponsor. As supervisors make a significant intellectual and financial investment in their students, it is important when contacting supervisors to make clear how your background and interests align with their research program.

Are GRE scores required?

We do not generally require GRE scores for admission. However, some supervisors do prefer to have GRE scores available (general only, i.e. quantitative and verbal scores; not the math subject test). You are advised to contact prospective supervisors to find out if you should provide GRE scores with your application.

Why wasn’t I accepted in the program?

The CSE program is very competitive; we accept a small percentage of applicants. Every student must be accepted by a supervisor in the program; many students with excellent academic records are passed over because their skills and research interests don’t align well with a supervisor who has resources available. Students who do not attempt to contact potential supervisors, or who apply late in the application period (after supervisors have accepted other students), are less likely to succeed.

Which master’s degree should I choose/will I receive?

Which degree you will receive depends on whether you choose a project-based or a thesis-based program and whether your supervisor’s home department is in the Faculty of Engineering.

  • If your supervisor is from Engineering and you do a project-based master’s, you will receive an M.Eng. degree;
  • if your supervisor is from Engineering and you do a thesis-based master’s, you will receive an M.A.Sc. degree;
  • otherwise you will receive an M.Sc. degree.

In general you should choose a supervisor whose research area aligns with your interests; that, and the time commitment you want to make (i.e., project- vs. thesis-based program), will determine which degree you should choose/will receive.

What kind of financial support will I receive?

If you are accepted, the program will commit to providing you with sufficient financial support to maintain yourself as a full-time student during the planned course of your studies. In exchange for working part-time - usually, but not always, as a teaching assistant for McMaster undergraduate courses in science, engineering, or business - your tuition and fees will be paid, and you will receive an adequate (although not generous) stipend; the exact details will be laid out in an offer letter you will receive after acceptance in the program. Students are encouraged to apply for additional competitive scholarships which may be granted on the basis of academic excellence, research area, financial need, or other characteristics. Many scholarships are restricted to domestic students (Canadian citizens and permanent residents), but a few are available for international students.

Last updated: 26 October 2021

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McMaster University - School of Computational Science and Engineering