Computing That Serves

Graduate Policy Handbook - General Information


An admissions committee consisting of faculty within the Computer Science Department determines acceptance to the graduate programs. This committee meets after the required documents deadline to review applicants and usually notifies candidates of their decision within 8-10 weeks. For more information on the admissions cycle you may contact the Graduate Program Manager at


Funding is guaranteed for successful Ph.D. applicants including a regular stipend, tuition benefit, and health insurance. Successful international Ph.D. applicants are also reimbursed for the cost of the transcript verification required by the application to Brigham Young University. Funding is also available for successful M.S. applicants through individual advisors.

Safe Campus

Brigham Young University provides a safe campus nestled in the shadows of the Wasatch mountains with quick access to a variety of outdoor activities. Attached to the university is a state certified police department committed to providing a safe peaceful environment on and around campus. The university also enjoys being selected by the Princeton Review as the top stone-cold-sober school in the nation for the last 17 years.

Admission Deadlines

An applicant must provide the following items to be considered for the graduate program:

  • BYU graduate studies application
  • Ecclesiastical endorsement
  • Unofficial undergraduate and graduate transcripts
  • Official GRE scores
  • Recommendation letters

Additional for international applicants:

  • Official TOEFL scores (English second language)
  • Official IERF certified transcripts (non-US degree granting institutions)

The applicant is responsible for ensuring that all application items are complete and arrive by the posted deadlines. The following deadlines are for all applicants. There is no admittance to the Computer Science graduate program for Spring or Summer terms.

  Winter 2019 Fall 2018
Graduate Studies Application and all Required Documents 15-Jul-2018 15-Dec-2017

Required Documents

  • Ecclesiastical endorsement
  • Unofficial undergraduate and graduate transcripts
  • Official GRE Scores (Quantitative, Verbal and Analytical)
  • Recommendation letters


Additional for international Applicants:

  • Official TOEFL scores (English Second Language)
  • Official IERF certified transcripts (non-US degree granting institutions)



Incomplete applications are not considered. An application is incomplete if it is missing any of the above listed items including the additional items for international students at the posted required documents deadline.  Recommendations can only be submitted electronically through BYU's online system. It is strongly encouraged that you directly communicate the deadlines to your recommenders and follow up to ensure timely submission.  Also, please be aware that the IERF certification takes time as does receiving official GRE and TOEFL scores (it will take a minimum of 8 weeks). An applicant should plan accordingly.

The BYU office of Graduate Studies provides a step-by-step guide for the application process that includes minimum university standards for graduate applicants. Standards for the Computer Science program are detailed below and supersede the University minimums.

As a reminder, all applicants must receive an ecclesiastical endorsement to be considered.  If you are having difficulties obtaining an endorsement, please contact Graduate Studies at to arrange an interview with the university chaplain.

BYU Office of Graduate Studies
105 FPH
Provo, UT 84602
(801) 422-4091   Fax: (801) 422-0270




MS Admission

Selection to the MS program is based upon consideration of:

  • preparation in Computer Science;
  • GPA (expected cumulative average of at least 3.25 where A is a 4.0);
  • general GRE exam (nominal minimum expectation: Quantitative 70th percentile, Verbal 60th percentile, and Analytical 4.0--official scores must be received before the application deadline);
  • letters of recommendation (where possible, one or more of the letters of recommendation should be from faculty members with whom you have worked in a research capacity, or who have personal knowledge of your research and writing potential);
  • content of the letter of intent; and
  • if English is a second language, a TOEFL exam score (nominal minimal expectation: 620 PBT or 260 CBT or 105 iBT) or IELTS exam score (nominal minimal expectation: 8).

Please note, there is no guarantee that if a student meets or exceeds these expected scores that they will be admitted.  Similarly, exceptional scores in one area could help overcome deficiencies in others.

Students without an undergraduate degree in Computer Science may be considered for admission to the MS program. However, applicants should realize that completion of an MS in CS at BYU will involve taking 4 or more CS classes at the 400 level and above and passing them with a grade of B- or better.

All MS students are required to complete CS 240 and 312 or demonstrate equivalent competency. Competency can be demonstrated by taking similar classes in other programs or by some other means. MS students who have not completed CS 240 and 312 but who believe they can demonstrate equivalent competency should meet with the Graduate Coordinator to have the courses waived. The burden is on the student to demonstrate equivalent competency and waiving the courses is at the sole discretion of the Graduate Coordinator.

During your first year, you will need to complete CS 240 and 312, with a grade of B- or above in each class, or demonstrate equivalent competency. Depending on your background, you may need to complete all or some of the prerequisites for CS 240 and 312 before taking these classes. The prerequisites are CS 142, 235 and 236. You are allowed one retake per course for CS 142, 235, 236, 240 and 312.


PhD Admission

Selection to the PhD program is based upon the following:

  • GPA (expected cumulative  average of at least 3.5 where A is a 4.0);
  • general GRE exam (nominal minimal expectation: Quantitative: 80th percentile, Verbal: 70th percentile, and Analytical: 4.5--official scores must be received before the application deadline);
  • letters of recommendation (where possible, one or more of the letters of recommendation should be from faculty members with whom you have worked in a research capacity, or who have personal knowledge of your research and writing potential);
  • content of the letter of intent;
  • if English is a second language, a TOEFL exam score (nominal minimal expectation: 620 PBT or 260 CBT or 105 iBT) or IELTS exam score (nominal minimal expectation: 8);
  • applicants must have a BS or MS in Computer Science (or a closely related discipline) from an accredited institution (applicants with deficiencies to this must apply to the MS program); and
  • proper faculty supervision must be available in the proposed area of study.

Again, there is no guarantee that if a student meets or exceeds the following information that they will be admitted.  Similarly, exceptional scores in one area could help overcome deficiencies in others.


International Applicants: Credential Evaluation

Starting Fall Semester 2008, international applicants whose degrees are awarded outside the United States must submit all official transcripts, diplomas, and mark sheets to the following agency for a credential evaluation, which must include a comprehensive course-by-course evaluation and calculation of a grade point average (GPA):


Applicants will be able to select in the online graduate program application which agency they plan on using for their evaluation. Applicants must then complete an evaluation application, which is available on the agency’s website or in hardcopy in the University’s Graduate Studies office (356-B ASB).

Transfer Credits

Transfer credit will be reviewed on an individual basis. To count toward graduate requirements, the credit must be clearly graduate level and a grade of B or better must have been received. MS applicants may transfer a maximum of:

  • 7 credit hours taken at other accredited universities or
  • 10 credit hours taken at BYU, but not used as credit for the BS or
  • 10 credit hours split between non-BS BYU hours and hours at other accredited universities so long as at most 7 credits come from other universities.

PhD applicants without an MS in Computer Science may transfer a maximum of 15 credit hours. PhD applicants with an MS in Computer Science, may transfer up to 30 hours of course credit. Please speak with the Graduate Coordinator to verify if you attended another school other than BYU for your MS in CS.

Notes about Transfer Credit: (1) Credit can never be transferred if it applied to another degree. (2) Transfer credit must be approved during a student's first semester of study at BYU. (3) Courses taken at another university after a student has begun graduate work at BYU must be preapproved by all members of the student's graduate committee and by the Graduate Coordinator; in addition, the student must notify the Office of Graduate Studies.


Admission Acceptance

Admitted students must reply to their acceptance letter by the date indicated in the letter. If students have not replied by the stated deadline, their acceptance to their graduate program may be withdrawn by the department.

Students wanting to defer their enrollment must reapply to the program by creating a new online application and paying the application fee.


Financial Assistance

The Computer Science Department recognizes that most students require financial assistance to remain in school. The department has funds to supplement students' financial needs which are available within department and university guidelines. Assistance is available in the following forms.

Types of Assistance

  • Teaching Assistantships: Teaching assistantships are available. We recommend that you contact the faculty teaching the course in the semester you are interested in being a TA for that course and make arrangements with them directly to become a TA.
  • Research Assistantships: Many faculty members hire research assistants to work on funded research projects. It is expected that students working on these projects will use the work to further their own research goals. To obtain a research assistantship, arrangements must be made with the faculty members who have funded projects.



Admissions Advisor

Upon admission to graduate study, each student is assigned an admissions advisor. The admissions advisor will assist the student for the first registration and in the selection of an area of specialization until the student chooses a permanent MS/PhD advisor.


Choosing An MS/PhD Advisor

Graduate students should be knowledgeable about the department. Well informed students can more intelligently choose an area of specialization and an advisor. The following points should be kept in mind when choosing an advisor:

  1. The advisor must be a member of the Computer Science Department and have graduate faculty status.
  2. Talk to several graduate faculty members (preferably from at least two different areas) about their research.
  3. Take initial graduate courses in potential areas of interest to ascertain true interest and potential compatibility with the faculty member.
  4. Faculty members may be overloaded or have other acceptable reasons for not committing to be a graduate student's MS or PhD advisor.
  5. For PhD advisors, the student must have the Graduate Coordinator's approval before proceeding.

Only graduate faculty can be members of thesis or examining committees of MS students, and may sit as chairs of MS thesis, proposal, or examining committees.

All graduate faculty members can be members of thesis or examining committees of PhD students. Due to the tremendous investment of time and effort by a PhD candidate, advisors for PhD students are selected carefully, in order to supply qualified advisement which will lead to original and quality research. While any graduate faculty member can be an advisor to MS students, only those showing stronger fulfillment of graduate faculty requirements (specifically the requirement of active publication of refereed articles) should be advisors for PhD students.

The purpose of the Graduate Coordinator's approval is to provide some measure of protection against faculty overload, of too many students per professor, and to assure the potential for competent supervision within the student's chosen area.


MS/PhD Advisory Committee

Procedures for forming MS and PhD committees:

  • MS:
    1. The student chooses an advisor.
    2. The student and advisor choose a second member.
    3. The Graduate Coordinator appoints the third member.
  • PhD:
    1. The student chooses an advisor.
    2. The student and advisor choose a second and third member.
    3. The Graduate Coordinator appoints the fourth and fifth member.

The purpose of appointments is twofold: (1) to provide a measure of checks and balances, and (2) to balance the committee workload among the faculty.

These committees are permanent and serve for approving the program of study, as resources for the student, on thesis and dissertation proposals, and on final examinations.

As soon as the student has chosen the research advisor and the second committee (second & third for PhD), the student should have each of them sign a Program of Study or a Program of Study Change form (the course portion can be left blank if a program of study has already been filed) and take it to the Graduate Coordinator. The Graduate Coordinator will then assign the final committee member(s). After getting these final signatures, including the final signature of the Graduate Coordinator, the student turns the form in to the Graduate Program Manager to enter into the BYU AIM System . At this point the committee is officially established.

Students can also change their committee at any time by having the new committee sign a Program of Study form and checking the box to indicate a change in committee. If the requested change is inappropriate, the Graduate Coordinator may deny the request. Normally, however, any request to change the student-chosen members would be granted, and any request to change the appointed members would be granted for a good reason. Advisor changes made after proposals have been completed may invalidate proposals. This will be worked out by the student, the new advisor, and the Graduate Coordinator at the time of the change.

Roles of Committee Members:

  • All committee members: Be responsive to student inquiries, be a resource for guiding students in their research, and encourage students to complete their work successfully.
  • First committee member (advisor): The advisor has primary responsibility for guiding the student in course work and especially in thesis/dissertation work. The advisor should ensure that proposals and theses/dissertations are ready in a form the advisor and student consider to be final before passing them along to other committee members. The advisor also conducts all proposals and defenses.

    Sometimes advisors are not doing their job -- second, third, fourth, and fifth committee members should only be dealing with "finished" products. These committee members are much like external reviewers on papers we submit.

  • Second committee member for MS students and second and third committee members for PhD students: These committee members provide a first check of proposals and theses/dissertations. Any required revisions should be made and approved and documents should be considered satisfactory by the student, advisor, and these committee members before they are passed on to additional committee members.
  • Third committee member for MS students and fourth and fifth committee members for PhD students: Proposals should be scheduled before these committee members see the written proposal. These committee members should be given at least one week to read the proposal. Exceptions to this one-week rule should be rare and must be approved by the entire committee and the graduate coordinator. Thesis and dissertation defenses should also be scheduled before these committee members see the written thesis/dissertation. For final examinations, a university rule requires at least two weeks between scheduling and holding defenses.


Program of Study

A program of study is a carefully considered course that helps students fulfill all degree requirements by outlining their course of study. It is essential for well-organized graduate work. The program of study should be completed and approved under the direction of the MS/PhD advisor. For courses, the Program of Study need only be signed by the chair advisor and Graduate Coordinator.

In making a program of study a student should consider such things as:

  • Taking courses immediately that will aid in deciding on a research topic,
  • A set of courses that can be scheduled without conflict within the student's planned time frame,
  • If the student might pursue a PhD, courses that would prepare for the qualifying process,
  • Courses leading toward depth in the thesis research area.

The list should be prepared using a Program of Study Form. When the form has been prepared and signed, it should be given to the Graduate Program Manager to get the Graduate Coordinator's signature.  After being signed it will be entered into BYU's AIM system. Subsequent changes in a student's program of study can be made if authorized by the committee and Graduate Coordinator using the Program of Study Change form. All changes to the program of study must be done before applying for graduation.


Graduate Student Progress Checklist

These are approximate guidelines on major milestones and when they should be accomplished by an organized and self-motivated graduate student. In general, the sooner a milestone is completed, the better. Please note, however, that these are not the required deadlines that all students must meet. Please see the MS section of the Graduate Handbook for specific deadlines. MS students must complete all requirements within three years from when they started the program.

Master's Degree

  • Program of Study Filed - By the 2nd week of 2nd semester
  • Thesis Chair Chosen - By the end of 1st semester
  • MS Proposal Passed* - During the 3rd semester
  • Course work completed (8 courses) - By the end of the 1st year (3rd semester)
  • Research accomplished and thesis written - By the 3rd/4th semester
  • Thesis Defense - By the end of the 4th semester

PhD Degree

  • Program of Study Filed - 1st Semester
  • Dissertation Chair Chosen - Either before admission or during first year
  • Qualifying Process Passed - End of first year (3rd semester)
  • Coursework completed (6 more courses) - End of 4th semester (some courses can be taken later during the research)
  • Dissertation Proposal Passed* - 6th semester
  • Research Accomplished and Dissertation Written - during 7th semester, 8th semester, 9th semester
  • Dissertation Defense - During 3rd Year

* One should begin considering and working on the proposal before coursework is finished. (This seems to be the hang-up for both MS and PhD students). Otherwise, expect at least another semester before graduation.


Graduate Student Association

All graduate students at BYU are automatically members of the BYU Graduate Student Association (BYUGSA). Currently, the association serves about 3,000 graduates in over 50 departments. BYUGSA provides a range of workshops, symposiums, and financing for travel grants, and represents graduate student interests to the Office of Graduate Studies. BYUGSA is presided over by a president, and two vice presidents. Graduate students from each department serve on a council that helps make decisions, and plans for graduate student needs. To find out more about BYUGSA and who the current representative from the Computer Science Department is, contact the Graduate Program Manager.


Ownership Of Research

In order to fulfill the mission of Brigham Young University, students may be required to engage in scholarly research for which the student may or may not be paid as a Research Assistant or by some other method such as scholarship, internship, fellowship, tuition waiver, etc. Such research is a requirement for thesis and dissertation work, which are part of degree expectations. Students may elect to participate in the research programs of various entities within the University to enhance their educational experience. In the education process, the University strives to preserve an environment of open inquiry for the pursuit of truth. The student needs to understand that the University and its sponsors, including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, provide approximately two-thirds of the cost of the student's education without charge to the student. Therefore, all rights (including rights to income from sale or licensing), ownership, and title will reside with Brigham Young University for the following:

  • thesis or dissertation work used to complete degree requirements;
  • projects, computer programs, reports, or research papers developed to satisfy course requirements; or
  • any data, formulae, computer software specifications, processes, patents, copyrights, and other technical information as well as data and product information developed by the student for meeting degree requirements.

University ownership of the foregoing allows the University to carry out its academic mission, fulfill external obligations, and ensure access to such scholarship in the future.