This is an FAQ about applying to USC for the CS Ph. D. program. See Doug Comer's essays on grad studies for more general information on graduate studies leading to Ph. D. in Computer Science.
Q: What is the GRE score, TOEFL score required to get into the PhD program?
A: You should look at a score between 2000 to 2300 to get admitted to a Ph D program in a Top-25 CS department. If you meet this profile, you are likely to have a TOEFL 275 which should be good enough. However, more importantly, for a Ph D program, you should have excellent academics: high GPA, great recommendation letters, a solid SOP and some co-curricular activities.
Q: My area of interest is Computer Vision and I have heard that USC CS dept., specifically IRIS, does very good research in that area. Is the dept. highly ranked in computer vision research. A secondary area of interest that I had mentioned in my application was that of Computer Networks. In case I decide to do my PhD work in networks, would the dept. allow me to do so...How would you rate research at the CS dept. in terms of quality, reputation etc.
A: Robotics, artificial intelligence, computer vision, and such subjects that are considered a part of autonomous and immersive computing are being actively studied at USC. Research in computer vision, as well as networks is cutting edge
Q: I am a student of MS(Information Technology with specialization in Software Engineering) from SSN School of Advanced Software Engineering, India. Our institute has collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University,West Coast Campus. We study for 1 year here in India and 6 months in CMU, West Coast campus. I am coming to US in August for my remaining 6 months. After my degree I might look for research/post grad opportunities in US.
A: Post grad opportunities are only available to Ph Ds. Research opportunities require admission to a graduate program.
Q: How long does a Ph D course usually take?
A: It varies by the field you work in and your enthusiasm/experience. It can take anywhere between 4 to 7 years depending on how fast you can do it.
Q: If I pursue a Masters Degree first, & then go for a Ph D, does this mean that I have to study lesser no. of years to get a Ph D?
A: Unfortunately not. In fact, if you take up a specialization in your MS then it could take even longer to get a Ph D.
Q: Are the Tuition Fees for ALL Ph D students waived off, or is it so only for the students who make a very good impression?
A: Getting admitted for a Ph D is like a job recruitment process. The best get it all: a good college, a great stipend and fun work. So if you make it to the top 50 percentile of incoming Ph D students, you should not have to worry about funding.
Q: What kind of jobs are Ph D students likely to get (e. g. TA, RA)? Are chances of these better if you are doing your Ph D?
A: Usually an RA, and if you are not clear about your Ph D objectives, then a TA job.
Q: I read somewhere that if you fail to meet some requirement before the Qualifying Exam, then you are asked to leave the Ph D Program. How often does something like this happen?
A: It does not happen often, if you know and do your research well. I have only heard of one instance of it, and even then the candidate was given one more chance to prove their research mettle.
Q: What should one do if something like this happens?
A: Just go back to the drawing board, work with your advisor or even change them, because at this stage it is your professor who is being examined, you are just a front for her.
Q: Which line is worth pursuing for a Ph D? (I'm aiming at CS so far)
A: It is best for you to find this on your own based on your likings and strengths. If you still don't know an answer for this, then you should either take some courses and figure it out. You have to be more precise. Remember, every Ph D is unique, and gets a well paid job. However, you should really decide what you like to do before choosing a field, because it is *extremely* difficult to do research in an area you don't really like. See Doug Comer's essays on grad studies for more information.
Q: How satisfying is it to hold the post of a Professor at any University after finishing your Ph D?
A: It can be very gratifying both personally, and monetarily to be a professor, especially at a top-50 University. But it also requires a lot of patience, hard work and discipline. Ph. D. only teaches you how to do all that.
Q: How much money does an RA make in your university?
A: At USC - approximately $1775 per month before taxes and free health insurance.
Q: Is the stipend amount offered by the department sufficient to live comfortably, despite the fact that LA is a costly place.
A: Both RA and TA jobs pay well, and are sufficient to cover all living and educational expenses. Health and vision insurance is also provided free.
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.
Q: Are the Ph D students allowed to do summer Co-op/Internships outside the university in summer?
A: Yes you are allowed to take up Internships, although most people do so only in the first 1-2 years.