This is an FAQ about applying to USC for the CS M. S. program.

Q: My GRE score is 2140 (Q:790, A:670, V:680).I plan to pursue an MS degree (in CS, with specialization in Computer Networks) at USC. What chance do you think I have of getting admission (given other factors such as reccos, SOP, acads and projects are good)? Do U think my analytical score is low?
A: USC usually cares mostly for Q+V. Your scores appear to be sufficient for a Masters program. Usually Q + V more than 1100 will be required.

Q: If I apply for a MS degree, how can I convey my interest in pursuing a PhD degree after completion of the MS program, i.e. are there provisions for this in the MS application form ? If not how can the above be achieved?
A: You will have to work with some professor and convince them of your research interests and long-term commitment as a Ph D student. Chances of aid should improve with such a direction. And the change of program involves some paperwork, but most importantly, changing to the Ph D program requires you to go through the admission procedure again. So they will check your grades, GRE, recommendations, and a new SOP.

Q: If I apply to and get admitted to the Ph D program, will I be allowed to complete my MS first (i.e. does the Ph D program have provisions for letting me obtain an MS degree in the first two years and then getting on with hardcore research later??) How will this option differ from the normal MS option?
A: You can obtain an M. S. degree along the way by satisfying the degree requirements which tend to be compatible with the Ph D degree. Usually the first year is a time to finish as many courses as possible, and then you might get involved in research.

Q: Which degree should I preferably apply for : MS or a Ph D degree?
A: If you are unsure, you should think about your patience, and decide. A Ph D takes a lot longer than an MS.

Q: Also will a work experience of 3+ years in a core area in a reputed MNC increase chances of scholarship/TA?
A: Depends, if there is something special in your experience such as embedded systems or artificial intelligence.

Q: Even if I get partial scholarship how much does one need to spend in US$ for a masters program?
Detailed breakdown of costs of attending graduate school at USC can be found here. The tuition rate is going up next year to $989 per unit for School of Engineering. You can substitute the living expenses given there by the number I give here, but the rest of the line items will stay much the same.

A typical semester would look like this:

Tuition: 9 units - $8910

Course Fees: 3 courses - $105

Student Programming Fee - $39

Norman Topping Fund - $6

Student Health Center - $181

Student Health Insurance - $204

Orientation Fee (only first sem) - $133

Total (for one semester) - $9374.

You will need at least three such semesters so total of tuition and fees = $29,122.

Three semesters of housing and living costs will @ $450 per month = $6,750.

Thus total expected costs of attending USC for an MS are: 35,872. I think in 2003 USC is asking proof of $34,000 (!!!) for the first year from International students.

Possible earnings from a well-paying job = 1000 x 13 = 13,000.

Do the remaining math yourself to find out how much money you will need.

Q: What areas are RAs available in?
A: Scholarship is difficult at USC for Master's students (and generally at other universities also) However, your work experience in embedded systems will make it easier for you. At USC there is a lot of interest in embedded systems, and you can get a scholarship after 1 semester.

Q: I know that very little aid is available for masters students at USC, computer science. However are there any other options available for funding your education at the university?
A: Other than a TA and an RA, getting a tuition waiver is difficult. However, there are many other high paying jobs available that pay about 1000 bucks a month or more. These include programmers, administrators and graders in the business school. Positions are usually available at the beginning of the academic year.

Q: I heard that officially expected time to complete the M. S. program is 3 years. Does it really take as much time for an average student ?
A: It takes anywhere between 9 months and 16 months to complete the program if you do not have any prerequisites. If you choose to take the Master's thesis, then it may take upto 2 years.

Q: Is it convenient to live around USC?
A: Finding housing around USC tends to be challenging, but one can be creative. Arriving early also helps. Further, there are a lot of neighborhoods where one can live. Many students live close to USC for a couple of years, and then move to other neighborhoods later once their coursework is over. The Association of Indian Students also offers some help in locating housing. Moreover due to the close proximity of housing, you can walk to campus in 15 minutes, take a bicycle, or just wait for a free USC shuttle that operates every 15 minutes around the clock. USC also provides a free car escort for late hours that takes you home or brings you to school from home. Groceries, movies, sports, etc. are also quite close by.

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