Computer Science

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The Department of Computer Science (CS) operates and supports computing facilities for departmental education, research, and administration needs. All CS students have access to the departmental student machine for general use (mail, news, etc.), as well as computer labs with public workstations located in the Gates Building. In addition, most students have access to systems located in their research areas.

The Ph.D. is conferred upon candidates who have demonstrated substantial scholarship and the ability to conduct independent research. Through course work and guided research, the program prepares students to make original contributions in Computer Science and related fields.

The following are general department requirements. Contact the Computer Science Ph.D. administrator for details.

  1. A student should plan and complete a coherent program of study covering the basic areas of computer science and related disciplines. The student’s adviser has primary responsibility for the adequacy of the program, which is subject to review by the Student Services Office.
  2. The first year of the Ph.D. program is spent working with 1-3 different professors on a rotating basis. The intent is to allow the first-year Ph.D. student to work with a variety of professors before aligning with a permanent program adviser. Students who don't need the full year to find a professor to align with will have the option of aligning within the first or second quarter.
  3. The CS 300 Departmental Lecture Series seminar gives faculty the opportunity to explain their research to first year CS Ph.D. students. First year CS Ph.D. students are required to attend 2/3 of the classes to receive credit.
  4. A student must complete 135 course units for graduation. Computer Science Ph.D. students take 8-10 units per quarter. Credit for coursework done elsewhere (up to the maximum of 45 course units) may be applied to graduation requirements. Students must also take at least three units of coursework from four different faculty members. There are NO courses specifically required by the CS Ph.D. program except for the 1 unit CS 300 Departmental Lecture Series and CS 499 Advanced Reading and Research or its equivalent. At least one course must be taken for a letter grade. A 3.0 GPA must be maintained.
  5. Each student, to remain in the Ph.D. program, must satisfy the breadth requirement covering introductory-level graduate material in major areas of computer science. A student must fulfill two breadth-area requirements in each of three general areas by the end of the second year in the program. If students have fulfilled the six breadth-area requirements, and taken courses from at least four different faculty members, they are eligible to apply for candidacy prior to the second year in the program. An up-to-date list of courses that satisfy the breadth requirements can be found on the department's web site. The student must completely satisfy the breadth requirement by the end of the second year in the program and must pass a qualifying exam in the general area of their expected dissertation by the end of the third year in the program.
  6. University policy requires that all doctoral students declare candidacy by the end of the sixth quarter in residence, excluding summers. However, after aligning with a permanent adviser, passing six breadth requirements, and taking classes with four different faculty, a student is eligible to file for candidacy prior to the sixth quarter. The candidacy form serves as a "contract" between the department and the student. The department acknowledges that the student is a bona fide candidate for the Ph.D. and agrees that the program submitted by the student is sufficient to warrant granting the Ph.D. upon completion. Candidacy expires five years from the date of submission of the candidacy form, rounded to the end of the quarter. In special cases, the department may extend a student's candidacy, but is under no obligation to do so.

  7. Each student is required to pass a qualifying exam in their area by the end of their third year in the program. A student may only take the qualifying exam twice. If the student fails the qualifying exam a second time, the Ph.D. program committee is convened to discuss the student's lack of reasonable academic progress. Failing the exam a second time is cause for dismissal from the Computer Science Ph.D. program and the committee meets to discuss the final outcome for the student.
  8. As part of the training for the Ph.D., the student is also required to complete at least four units (a unit is ten hours per week for one quarter) as a course assistant or instructor for courses in Computer Science numbered 100 or above.
  9. The Reading Committee form and Oral Thesis Proposal must be submitted within one year of passing the qualifying exam.
  10. The Oral Thesis Proposal must be submitted nine months before the oral defense date.
  11. The most important requirement is the dissertation. After passing the required qualifying examination, each student must secure the agreement of a member of the department faculty to act as the dissertation adviser. The dissertation adviser is often the student's program adviser.
  12. The student must pass a University oral examination in the form of a defense of the dissertation. This is typically held after all or a substantial portion of the dissertation research has been completed.
  13. The student is expected to demonstrate the ability to present scholarly material orally in the dissertation defense.
  14. The dissertation must be accepted by a reading committee composed of the principal dissertation adviser, a second member from within the department, and a third member chosen from within or outside of the University. The department requires at least two committee members to be affiliated with the Computer Science department. The principal adviser and at least one of the other committee members must be Academic Council members.


  • Completed Online Application must be submitted by the CS application deadline.
  • Application fee of $125: to be paid in the online application with a credit card.
  • Statement of Purpose - Your Statement of Purpose should be concise, focused, and well written. It should describe succinctly your reasons for applying to the proposed program at Stanford, your preparation for this field of study, research interests, future career plans, and other aspects of your background and interests which may aid the admissions committee in evaluating your aptitude and motivation for graduate study. The Statement of Purpose must be no more than two pages in length, single-spaced. It will be submitted as part of the online application.
  • 3 Recommendation Letters -In the online application, you will be asked to identify your recommenders and their email addresses. Please notify your recommenders that they will receive an email prompt to submit their recommendation online. CS only accepts online recommendations through the application system; CS cannot accept mailed, emailed or faxed recommendations.
  • You must submit a minimum/maximum of 3 recommendation letters and they must be submitted through the online application system.  We recommend that at least 2 of these letters be from academic sources. Please have your recommender write candidly about your qualifications, potential to carry on advanced study in the field specified, intellectual independence, capacity for analytical thinking, ability to organize and express ideas clearly, and potential for teaching. In describing such attributes as motivation, intellect, and maturity, specific examples are more useful than generalizations. For more information on submitting letters of recommendation visit here.
  • Resume- Please submit your resume in the online application.
  • Supplemental form- This form is part of the online application. Please be sure to list any publications and your website on this form AND on your resume (CV). Upload your resume (CV) on the Document Uploads, Confirmation & Submission" section (page 15) and a copy of your NDO transcript on the Additional Information's section of the online application.
  • Transcripts - You are required to upload official copies of your transcripts or e-transcripts onto the online application for all institutions you have attended for at least a year as a full time student. Transcripts from Stanford's Non Degree Option (NDO) program should also be uploaded. Please DO NOT mail your official transcripts unless we contact you to do so. 
  • Please DO NOT mail any other  paper documents to the Admissions Office such as publications, or financial  statements/documents, as they will not be reviewed by the admissions committee. The committee reviews all graduate applications online, and will have no access to copies of  any documents sent via post. Please note that we will not upload documents emailed  to us to your applicant file.
  • GRE:All applicants are required to take the GRE General Test before the application deadline and within five years of the application deadline. Scores must be from an examination taken within the last five years. Be sure to take the test in time for your scores to be received at Stanford by the application deadline. Self-report all available scores on your online application and have ETS report your official scores to Stanford immediately. Stanford Institution code: 4704 (no department code is required). 
  • TOEFL:Stanford University requires the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) from all applicants whose native language is not English. The Test of Written English (TWE) portion of the TOEFL is not required. Applicants who have completed a four-year bachelor's degree or a two-year master's program (or its equivalent) in the U.S. or at an institution where English is the main language of instruction are not required to take the TOEFL. For more information on TOEFL requirements, please see:
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