Faculty Recruiting Support CICS

MS Advising Frequently Asked Questions

MS Advising Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Who is my advisor?

Elizabeth Parolski is the academic advisor for all Masters of Computer Science students.

If you are pursuing the Data Science or Security Concentrations Elizabeth is your advisor, but you can receive advising from the directors of the two concentrations.  For the Data Science Concentration Professor Ben Marlin can answer questions. Professor Brian Levine can answer questions about the Security Concentration. 

Can I meet with my academic advisor? How do I meet with my advisor?

Yes! Elizabeth would love to meet with all the MS students! You can set up an appointment here. For Fall 2019, there will be drop-in hours for MS students on Tuesday and Thursday from 9:30 am to 10:30 am and from 1:15 pm to 3:30 pm. You will check-in for all appointments in LGRC A243. You can also always email Elizabeth!

Which courses should MS students take?! Can the advisor help me pick the classes?

Which courses you pick are entirely up to you as long as you meet the requirements for the MS degree.  Your choices depend on your interests, what courses you have taken so far that you liked, and courses you might think will be helpful to your career. Ask your peers in the program what classes they have liked and learned a lot from! Your peers are your best resources! 

How many classes should I take each semester?

It is highly encouraged that students take THREE, THREE CREDIT CLASSES, (9 total credits) a semester. Many students will take fewer classes in their final or fourth semester. 

Can I take more than 12 credits in a semester? 

Yes, you can, but IT IS *HIGHLY* DISCOURAGED/NOT RECOMMENDED! The department does not recommend taking 12 credits.  The form to override your number of enrolled credits can be found here.

Is course XXXX hard? Is this combination of classes too much for me?

Student abilities vary and it is very hard to predict what will be difficult for you.  Some students struggle with theory, some with systems, some with AI. 

The graduate program occasionally surveys graduate students regarding how much time students spend on specific classes. The most recent survey can be found here.  The department hopes to send a new survey to graduate students during the 2019-2020 school year. 

Our one recommendation to MS students is to not take 611 (Algorithms) or to take it with a light load.  It is our hardest course (though most students also say it is our best).  Algorithms for Data Science tends to work better to satisfy the theory core.

It is highly encouraged that students take THREE, THREE CREDIT CLASSES, (9 total credits) a semester.

What courses are available in the summer?

CICS has a few courses in security and affective computing.  Keep in mind that you can take courses outside of the department that can count towards your Computer Science MS (see the CICS webpages for guidelines on how many and what).  Therefore, if you can find courses at UMass in another department (Isenberg offers a large number of summer) during the summer, you are able to take those classes.  To find courses you need to look in Spire, as the list is constantly changing.

Can I take classes outside of CICS?

Yes, you can take graduate-level classes out CICS. Here is a list of the pre-approved non-CICS courses. If you want to a class that is not on the pre-approved list, please contact Professor Mark Corner via email, and state why you want to take the class, include the course description, how the class will benefit you/further your education, and if possible attach the syllabus. 

How do I start doing research?  How do I find a faculty member to work with?

Every professor is different. Start by identifying an area that you want to do research in, then see if you can find faculty members or Ph.D. students to speak with. Some will offer independent studies to MS students, some don't.  Some have zero MS students they work with, some have 40.  Some will want to see you get an A in their course, some do not require you to take their course.  It is truly an individual experience, but generally, you will have to take the initiative to find research opportunities. You also may be able to work with Ph.D. students in their labs, too!

Does the Master's Project, COMPSCI 701, count as an independent study?

No, COMPSCI 701 is not counted as an independent study. This six-credit research project does require two professors to serve as readers/graders. 701 also counts as a >=600 course.  701 requires two readers and 696 only requires one.

Can I do 701 by taking 6 credits in one semester, taking an incomplete and then finishing the incomplete in my last semester?

As of Fall 2019, you should take 701Y (Y for year-long) which carries three credits in each of two semesters. You will receive a "Y" for the first 3 credits, and then you will receive a letter grade after all 6 credits are complete.  This does not affect your credit requirements for Visas.  But you could take 9 credits in a Fall, including 3 credits of 701Y, then complete 701Y with 3 credits in the Spring.  Since the Spring would be your last semester, that qualifies you for full-time status.

I am very much enjoying research and want to get into the Ph.D. program. How do I do that?

Admissions for the Ph.D. is separate so you will have to apply to that program. Keep in mind that the CICS Ph.D. program is even more competitive than the MS program. The thing that will really put your application over the top is to have a CICS faculty member say that you should be admitted to the Ph.D. program because they want to work with you.

Can MS students use the University's grade replacement systems to wipe out an F in a class?

Unfortunately, no. That policy is only for undergraduates. You do need to have a 3.0 GPA to graduate with an MS, but keep in mind this is a 3.0 across all of the 30 credits you are using to graduate. If you have an extra class that was an F (which you can't use for the MS since you need a C), it will not count in that GPA.

How do I take a class Pass/Fail?

Ask your course instructor if they will permit you to take the course for a Pass/Fail grade which is recorded as SAT (satisfactory) or F (failure) on your transcript. Your instructor is under no obligation to say yes. You must complete the requirements of the course. Remind your instructor at the end of the course about your agreement so the correct grade is entered in SPIRE. Your instructor is under no obligation to retract the p/f if you request it at the end of the semester. As soon as you believe that you want to take a class Pass/Fail, speak to your professor, RIGHT AWAY. The sooner the better, as professors may set deadlines for switching the class to Pass/Fail.  If you take a class Pass/ Fail you still earn credit for the class, if you pass it. 

NOTE- Students can only take SIX credits Pass/Fail. If a class is taken Pass/Fail it does not meet the core requirement. Core classes must be passed with a B or higher. Additionally, NO MORE THAN SIX CREDITS CAN COME FROM PASS/FAIL & INDEPENDENT STUDY.  This means if you take one class Pass/Fail and one independent study you cannot take another class Pass/Fail and/or you cannot take another class independent study and then have those classes count towards your MS Degree. 

How many classes am I able to take as Pass-Fail?

CICS MS students are able to take up to 6 credits Pass-Fail.  

If I take a class Pass/Fail do I still get credit for it?

Yes, if you take a class Pass/Fail and pass the class you will still receive credit for the class. This class will count towards the 30 credits needed to graduate with your MS. 

Can I/How do I drop a class after the Add/Drop Period?

Yes, you can drop a class after the Add/Drop Period. However, doing so will result in having a DR (for dropped) on your transcript. You can drop the class in Spire. You must also complete this form- https://www.umass.edu/graduate/form/adddrop-form and have your professor sign it. 

INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS- You must be enrolled in 9 credits every semester except for your final semester. Therefore, if you are an international student, you cannot drop a class if that would being your enrollment down to less than 9 credits. The only exceptions to this are explained here on the IPO website- https://www.umass.edu/ipo/iss/exceptionsftenrollment. Read these carefully and consult with IPO if you believe they apply to you. 

Can students do a Curricular Practical Training (CPT) during the Fall or Spring semester?

It is virtually impossible to meet the requirements to do a CPT during the semester. The rules are complex, and sometimes poorly defined, but our understanding boils down to:

  1. You must be full-time (9 credits)
  2. You can only take one course per semester that doesn't require your physical presence
  3. You must take at least one course that requires your physical presence here (in presence faculty meetings for 696 would count)
  4. In your last semester, you don't have to follow rule #1, but you still have to meet requirements #2 and #3.
  5. You cannot delay your graduation.

So....if you are in your last semester this Spring and think that you can take 696 remotely and work at Amazon in Seattle, you can't. If you have no courses left to take, you can't do a CPT because of rule #5. You can work from Amherst remotely or at a local company, but in all cases, we will have a conversation about exactly what you are doing and where. Please do this before interviewing.  All of this is for your benefit to make sure you don't run into serious problems in the future. Check out CICS Careers Guide to CPT and OPT.

When can I do a Curricular Practical Training (CPT)?

Yes, but only after two full-time semesters as a student in the United States. If you start in the Spring, you can't do one the first summer. If you were an undergraduate student in the United States you may be able to do CPT earlier. For all 

For more CPT and OPT Information click HERE.