How to Get Into an Elite Computer Science School (2022)

Getting Into An Elite Computer Science (CS) School

There are several paths to admission to Computer Science programs and degrees at top schools. Universities administer different processes for admitting students into their CS programs. There are mainly four types of ways students are admitted:

  1. Applying to the major at the school before you're admitted to the university
  2. Applying to the major after you're already admitted and studying at the university
  3. Declaring the major directly after you're already admitted and studying at the university
  4. Transferring majors after you're already admitted and studying at the university

We will cover each of these paths in detail in this post.

Applying to CS Before You're Admitted

At some universities, you apply directly to the Computer Science major when you are applying for admission to the school itself. The application will request supplemental materials, such as extra SAT Subject Test scores, extra essays, or a resume, in addition to your application to the university.

(Video) How I Got Into a Top Computer Science School (Carnegie Mellon)

This is the case at, for example, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign (UIUC) and University of California at Berkeley (UCB), for the Electrical Engineering & Computer Science major. When you are admitted to these schools, your major is already declared when you start your freshman year.

Carnegie Mellon University is slightly different in that when you apply for admission, you apply to the School of Computer Science (SCS), which houses three different majors. You are accepted into SCS, and you declare your major at the end of freshman year.

Universities that follow this application method ask students to display a strong math and science background, an interest in Computer Science, and extracurriculars both within and outside of the field. They, generally, also ask students to discuss their interests, experiences, and intentions with a Computer Science degree in an additional essay. Extracurriculars associated with Computer Science, like being on a robotics team, or having worked on projects like those in Juni's curriculum, or achieving strong results in the USA Computing Olympiad, are helpful to have. They convey not only a keen interest in the field of software engineering, but also important qualities like leadership skills and the ability to take initiative to pursue your interests. Extracurriculars outside CS also help demonstrate interpersonal skills, work ethic, and varied passions, as universities look to admit well-rounded students. You can view a sampling of some admitted student profiles below.

Acceptance Rates

In today's climate, admission to CS programs can be up to four times more competitive than simply being admitted to the school. Below is a comparison of the acceptance rates to a few top universities as a whole, versus to their CS program.

(Video) How to Apply For A Computer Science Degree WITHOUT A Level Maths | UK Universities

University Overall Admissions Rate CS Admissions Rate
Carnegie Mellon University 22% 5%
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 62% 15%
University of California at Berkeley 17% 8.5%
University of Washington 46% 28%
University of Texas - Austin 36% 15%

Admitted Student Profiles

Here are the profiles of high school seniors who were admitted into these Computer Science programs, as examples of academic and extracurricular resumes:

CMU SCS student

High School GPA 3.99/4.0
ACT 34
SAT Subject Tests Math II: 760, Chemistry: 790
  • FIRST Robotics (an international high school robotics competition)
  • Mu Alpha Theta (National Math Honor Society)
  • Computer Science Club
  • National Honor Society
  • Spanish Honor Society
  • Civitas (a political discussion/ Model UN club)
Awards & Honors
  • National Merit Scholar
  • NCWIT Women in Computing Regional Winner
  • FRC (FIRST Robotics Competition) St. Louis Regional Winner

CMU SCS student

High School GPA 4.0/4.0
SAT 2190
SAT Subject Tests Math II: 800, Chemistry: 800, Physics: 800, English Literature: 760
  • Bharatnatyam (an Indian classical dance form)
  • Student Volunteer with Gift Your Organ
  • School Choir Leader
  • Model UN
  • Veena (an Indian string instrument)
  • Carnatic Vocal Music
Awards & Honors
  • Semifinalist at Technovation 2016
  • Pramerica Spirit of Community Award

UIUC Computer Science + Math student

ACT 36
SAT Subject Tests Math II: 800, Physics: 800, Chemistry: 800
  • Math Team
  • Scholastic Bowl
  • Quiz Bowl
  • WYSE (Worldwide Youth in Science and Engineering Program)
Awards & Honors
  • National Merit Finalist
  • Top 300 on USA Physics Olympiad
  • USA Math Olympiad qualifier
  • Science Olympiad State Medalist
  • Mathematics Department Award Winner
  • AP Scholar with Distinction

Applying to CS Once You're Admitted

At some universities, students are accepted to the university as a whole and do not have a declared major as freshmen. Students then apply to the Computer Science major later in college, usually as sophomores. For example, at University of Washington (UW), students are admitted to UW as Pre-Science or Pre-Major students. They then apply to the Computer Science major as sophomores to the school of Computer Science & Engineering. To be considered for the Computer Science major students must have completed a set of courses and must submit a personal statement.

At North Carolina State University (NCSU), students are accepted with their majors as First Year Engineering - Computer Science Intent, First Year Engineering - Undecided, Exploratory Studies, or Undeclared. When students apply to the Computer Science major, their grades in a few particular classes are taken into account in order to make the decision. Engineering majors are automatically enrolled in some of these prerequisite classes, which makes it easier to get in to the Computer Science major. This method puts more weight on a student's performance in their first year at college. Other universities like Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) and Harvard University also use this method to accept students into their Computer Science programs.

Declaring a CS Major Directly

At a handful of universities, do not have to apply to the Computer Science major in order to declare. Usually as sophomores, students can just simply declare the major, and as long as they complete the necessary coursework, they can graduate with a degree in computer science or computer engineering. At Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), freshmen enter undeclared and usually choose a major at the end of their first year. There are no prerequisites to declaring a major, but Computer Science students are advised to start required coursework in their first year, before they are formally declared. Similarly, at Stanford University, students are admitted to the university and then choose an advisor and declare their major sometime in their sophomore year.

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Transferring into a CS Major

At most universities, students can change majors and transfer into another department. This usually happens when a student discovers that they are passionate about a field that is different from the one they initially intended to study. Universities understand that students' interests can change, and they have systems in place to allow qualifying students to switch majors.

Depending on the university, this can be as simple as submitting a change of major form (for example, at Stanford), or an application process very similar to the process of applying to university as a high school senior (for example, at UIUC). Most universities require students to have a minimum GPA to be considered for a change of major to Computer Science. Some universities, such as CMU, require students to have taken a handful of prerequisite classes, in addition to having a GPA above a certain threshold (usually above a 3.2/4.0) and submitting a personal statement.

All universities look to admit students into their Computer Science departments who are passionate about the field and its applications. Personal statements are highly valued by most universities, as they are a chance for students to express who they are, what got them interested in CS, and how they intend to use their degree to further their passions. Regardless of the application method, a strong interest in Computer Science and activities that support this shine through. Having experience building projects is a great way to show that you are passionate about the field, and have taken the initiative to start learning.

At Juni, we offer award winning online coding classes for kids. Many of our older students go on to study Computer Science at the schools mentioned here. Try a free private class or speak with a Juni Advisor today to learn more by calling (650) 263-4306 or emailing

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How to Get Into an Elite Computer Science School (1)

(Video) How to Get Into an Ivy League School

How to Get Into an Elite Computer Science School (2)

Ananya Rao is studying Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA, and she is an instructor at Juni Learning. She is a biorobotics researcher at CMU, and she is pursuing an additional major in Robotics. She was previously a Digital Technology Intern at GE Transportation and an Assistant Teacher at the National Academy For Learning in Bengaluru, India. Ananya also enjoys dancing, building robots, and writing stories.


Is computer science the hardest degree? ›

Computer science ranks as one of the hardest college majors for its combination of theoretical and technical material. Majors must master operating systems, computing principles, and data structures.

Is Purdue CS hard to get into? ›

While the school doesn't offer any official figures, the CS acceptance rate is believed to be as low as a touch under 10% or as high as 15%, depending on the year. The number of accepted internal CS transfer applicants has dwindled each year as Computer Science has become Purdue's most popular major.

What is the best Ivy for computer science? ›

So, if you're looking for a computer science degree, consider that while all of the Ivy League schools can give you a solid and reliable CS education; the top options are Harvard and Columbia.

How competitive is CS? ›

Computer science is generally considered a difficult and competitive major. You can expect to spend long hours learning concepts and applying them through your own coding projects, and you may find it challenging to keep up with your peers.

What is the toughest field in computer science? ›

7 Hardest IT Jobs to Fill
  • Cybersecurity Consultant. Qualified security consultants are hard to find. ...
  • Systems Analyst. Some companies basically consider an analyst anyone who sits at a computer. ...
  • Database Architect. ...
  • Systems Integration Engineer. ...
  • Embedded Software Developer/Engineer. ...
  • Developers. ...
  • DevOps Engineer. ...
  • Wrapping Up.
30 Oct 2017

What is the dropout rate for computer science? ›

Computer Science Tops the Dropout Charts

A recent survey from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), revealed that among universities, Computer Science has the highest dropout rate – 9.8%.

Can you get into an Ivy with CS? ›

Since all Ivys use a holistic approach to admitting students, it's entirely possible that someone with a good reason could get admitted with a C or multiple Cs.

What is a good GPA for college as a CS major? ›

At most universities a 2.0 is the minimum requirement to graduate and avoid being placed academic probabtion. Generally speaking a 3.0 or higher is considered "good" across all majors. I wouldn't recommend listing a GPA below 3.0 on a resume.

What is the average CS major GPA? ›

If a high school applicant puts CS as their intended major, it goes through the direct admission program. All they need to do is apply normally and indicate CS as major. AVG high school GPA for these majors is 3.8.

What is the hardest Ivy academically? ›

Harvard is the oldest institution of higher education in the US and consistently ranks #1 hardest Ivy League to get into. Founded in 1636, Harvard offers students a world-class education from some of the most brilliant professors in the world.

Which Ivy is the easiest? ›

Based on the information provided above, you probably noticed that Cornell University has the highest acceptance rates out of all the Ivy League schools and can therefore be classified as the easiest Ivy league school to get into.

What is the hardest Ivy to get into? ›

Harvard University — 3.19%

With a record-low admission rate of just 3.19% for the class of 2026, Harvard currently ranks as the most difficult school to get into. This rate reflects admission into Harvard College, the Ivy League university's undergraduate school.

Is CS declining? ›

The decline is modest but notable: About 49 percent of developers entering the workforce now have an undergraduate CS degree, while about 55 percent of developers that have been in the workforce for 10 or more years have the degree.

Are CS graduates happy? ›

All of this leads many computer science students to computer science programs, rewarding internships in the field, and long and satisfying careers in tech. So, the answer is yes. In general, most computer science majors are happy with their field of study and career.

Is CS a stressful job? ›

No Stress: Company Secretary does not have any stress regarding meeting requirements and deadlines. The administrative work is required to be done but there is no such limitation of time. It is not that tough like other jobs where you feel stressed and gets problems related to health and dissatisfaction from the job.

Which is most toughest degree in the world? ›

It is believed that a Bachelor of Science in Nursing or BSN is the toughest course in the world as per the Guinness Book of World Records along with courses like MBBS, BCom, IAS, IPS and Engineering, etc.

What is the hardest thing in coding? ›

It's a common saying that the two most difficult tasks in development are naming and cache invalidation.

Which is the toughest job in the universe? ›

Astronauts: Toughest Job in the Universe - BBC Earth.

Will computer science be oversaturated in 5 years? ›

You may be wondering whether computer science will become oversaturated in the future. The answer is still no. Computer science is already an exceedingly broad field with numerous branches—all of which have distinct career paths—but there are many frontiers in computer science left to explore.

Why is CS the most dropped major? ›

A lack of understanding from prospective applicants, pushy parents and attractive job offers all contribute to computer science having the highest drop-out rates in College.

Which major is most dropped? ›

Computing is the major with the highest college dropout rate — 10.7%. The number of dropout college students varies across degrees and majors. After computing, advertising is another field of study that many students give up on — 7.7% of them.

Can I get into Yale with a C? ›

Probably not, since the class isn't related to your major, as long as your overall GPA is still 3.8+/4.0. Obviously your odds are slim to begin with and there is much more to getting in than a transcript and a few extra curriculars. Try for Yale, but find matches and likely schools you love just as much.

Can you get into Berkeley with a C? ›

For Berkeley, as well as all UC schools, you need to have at least a 3.0 GPA in your A-G classes if you're a California resident, or a 3.4 GPA if you're a non-resident. Additionally, you can't have gotten below a "C" in any of the A-G classes.

Does GPA matter for CS students? ›

Recruiters and GPA

There's no “magic number” that grants you an internship. Most companies use grade point averages to disqualify unmotivated* candidates (“Job requirements: GPA of 2.0 or higher”). Almost every company uses GPA as one factor in the interview process (a perfect 4.0 looks nicer than a 2.5).

What is a GPA with all B's? ›

B Letter Grade is a 3.0 GPA or 83–86% – GPA Calculator.

What major has the highest GPA? ›

GPAs by Major

Science majors tend to have lower GPAs on average, with chemistry being the major with the lowest average GPA. Meanwhile, education majors earn the highest GPAs on average.

What major goes well with CS minor? ›

Some good disciplines for minor complement Computer Science degree include math, communications, business, psychology, physics and even biology.
  • Mathematics. Math makes a good complement for a computer science degree. ...
  • Communication. ...
  • Business. ...
  • Psychology. ...
  • Physics. ...
  • Biology.

Is a 3.5 computer science GPA good? ›

Of course you may encounter some top jobs that ask for a 3.5 or better, but that is not the norm and I would encourage you to still apply. Keep it up, stay motivated and graduate with a 3.3-3.5 (very possible). You will be fine and computer science is a very desirable major.

How hard is IT to get a 4.0 in college? ›

In order to achieve a GPA of 4.0, a student must get straight A's their entire college career, in every class. Even if you got an A- in all of your classes, that would drop your GPA down to a 3.7. A 4.0 demands nothing but perfection.

What is the happiest Ivy League? ›

How is each Ivy League school unique? Brown: It has the Open Curriculum and is known as the “happiest” Ivy. Columbia: It has the Core Curriculum and is located in the epicenter of the nation, New York City. Cornell: It is the largest Ivy and has a stellar Engineering program.

Which Ivy has the most attractive students? ›

Congratulations to Brown University for having the most attractive Ivy Leaguers around.

Which high school sends the most students to Harvard? ›

Nationwide, these are the three top schools with the most graduates who registered at Harvard, Princeton or MIT from 2015-18: Thomas Jefferson High School in Alexandria, Virginia: 96; Stuyvesant High School in New York City: 94; and Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire: 87.

What is the prettiest Ivy League campus? ›

The Ivy League with the best campus is Princeton. It's reputed as having the prettiest campus. But beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Some people see Columbia as the most beautiful because of its gothic and classical buildings, while some will pick Cornell because of its breath-taking landscape.

What is the cheapest Ivy? ›

Princeton. Princeton is commonly regarded as the “cheapest Ivy” thanks to its extensive financial aid offerings. 62% of admitted students receive financial aid.

What is the least competitive Ivy? ›

3 Easiest Ivy League Schools to Get Into
  • Cornell University. Location: Ithaca, New York. Acceptance rate: 8.7% Undergraduate enrollment: 15,503. ...
  • Dartmouth College. Location: Hanover, New Hampshire. Acceptance rate: 6.2% ...
  • University of Pennsylvania. Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Acceptance rate: 5.9%
12 Jun 2022

What is the lowest GPA an Ivy League has accepted? ›

The admission rates of these schools have an average of merely 7.6%, with only Cornell University's acceptance rate being greater than 10% (and it's only up by 1%). None of the Ivy League schools have a minimum GPA requirement for applications, which means anyone can apply regardless of their GPA.

What is the #1 University in the world? ›

1California Institute of Technology (Caltech)100.000
2Harvard University98.697
3Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)98.634
80 more rows

Can you get into an Ivy League with one B? ›

Yes, you can still get admitted to most if not all elite private US colleges with a sprinkling of B grades on your transcript, and possibly with a C or two. Your standardized test scores had better be very good. There isn't any GPA that will get you into an Ivy, not even a 4.0 unweighted.

What is the least stressful job I can get with a CS degree? ›

Least Stressful Computer Science Jobs

These include software developer, information security analyst, and computer systems analyst. These positions typically involve working with code and developing software applications or systems.

Is CS still a good career? ›

Is computer science a good major? With a median pay of $91,250 and job growth of 11% in the computer and IT field , yes, computer science is a good major. The pay is competitive, and job growth for the industry is faster than the national average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

How do you survive CS major? ›

Looking Back: 5 Tips for Surviving the CS Major
  1. Own your experience. ...
  2. Plan, but prepare for your plan to change. ...
  3. Don't be afraid to say “yes,” or to say “no.” Don't let fear get in the way of what could be a pivotal opportunity. ...
  4. Never underestimate the power of an email. ...
  5. Stand up for yourself, and know your worth!

Is CS high paying? ›

With an average salary of ₹ 23,46,700 per annum, software engineers are among the highest-paid jobs for candidates with a computer science degree. Software engineers are largely responsible for maintaining and monitoring the technical aspects of the company.

Is a BS in CS worth it? ›

Yes, a computer science degree is worth it for many students. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting 11% job growth in computer and information technology occupations over the next 10 years.

Do CS majors make more than doctors? ›

Although the difference in average pay between a doctor and a software developer is about $83,000 per year, the difference between a doctor's net worth and a software developer's net worth at retirement is about $3 million.

What is the hardest field in CS? ›

Compilers are the most challenging courses taught in undergrad. Two areas that are taught somewhat superficially in both undergrad and masters level are operating systems and database systems.

Is CS the hardest major? ›

CS has earned a reputation as a challenging major. And earning a degree in computer science does test students. Majors need strong technical skills, the ability to learn multiple programming languages, and exceptional analytical and problem-solving abilities.

What is the most fun CS job? ›

From white hat hackers to environment artists, some of the most fun computer science jobs are only just emerging.
  • Cybersecurity.
  • Healthcare informatics.
  • Computer systems.
  • Human and computer interactions.
  • Machine learning.
  • Network and systems administration.
  • Software engineering.
  • Web application development.
11 Feb 2021

Which is harder math or computer science? ›

Math is hard; CS is unforgiving. If you major in math, there will probably be (many) times when you don't understand what's going on in lecture, or you don't know how to solve something on your problem set.

Is computer science harder than Doctor? ›

Without a doubt medicine is much much tougher. You need to study for at least 10 years before you can be a competent doctor and I learn a new programming language within a few weeks.

Which is more harder IT or computer science? ›

One is not easier or more difficult than the other. Both of these areas have so much to learn, and many people have different aptitudes, so whichever one you choose should be based on what is most interesting to you.

Which is harder biology or computer science? ›

As it all depends on interest but in most cases computer seems to be easy than biology if you have mathematical mind because in biology you'll have to memorize things a lot without logic so you may loose your patience and interest but computer codings are easy to understand and logical.

How many hours do computer science students study? ›

For computer science scholars, the workload can be slightly heavier than other majors. While the average student spends about 17 hours per week on outside study, computer science students clock in at 18.23 hours a week. At the end of the day, it's as manageable as other majors.

Is computer science a stable career? ›

Computer scientists tend to have good job stability. Computer systems are a part of nearly every industry, which means businesses require team members with computer science backgrounds to manage them. As computers are likely to become even more present in businesses, technical positions may be recession-proof.

Which one is harder programming or coding? ›

Is coding harder than programming? Short answer: no. Coding is the first step to set up complex queries, and it is easier than programming. It deals with lines of codes without worrying too much about the details.

Is it better to major in IT or computer science? ›

Though an IT and computer science degree can both prepare you for jobs in the tech field, they often appeal to different types of people based on the slightly varied skill sets. Computer science involves more independent work creating computer programs and applications, using algorithms and writing code.

Is it better to go for it or computer science? ›

Which is better Computer Science or IT? There is no such thing as “better” because they lead to different careers and have different specialisations or subfields. Either discipline is a great choice for your studies, as long as you're passionate about technology, and you understand what each study option implies.

Can a CS major become a doctor? ›

“Can I go to medical school with a computer science undergrad degree?” Absolutely. Medical schools (and law schools) tend to like people with engineering/comp-sci backgrounds as these fields are challenging and students are generally accustomed to hard work.

Is CS harder than engineering? ›

That depends on your skills and motivation. If you love Computer Science and you apply yourself, Computer Science becomes easier. If you love digital design and the architecture of computer and build your skills in computer engineering, then Computer Engineering becomes easier.

Which pays more computer science or engineering? ›

On average, computer scientists can earn $118,370 per year and computer engineers make $114,600 per year. Not only do these career paths boast lucrative salaries and stable job growth, but earning a degree in either field can pave the way for many different career options.

Which degree is best for IT field? ›

Best tech degrees for high-paying jobs
  • Computer science. ...
  • Web development. ...
  • Web design. ...
  • Computer networking. ...
  • System administration. ...
  • Database management. ...
  • Cybersecurity. ...
  • Software development. Like a web development degree, this degree can help you learn how to code and understand different programming languages.

What is the easiest type of computer science? ›

Many programmers consider Python the easiest programming language to learn, although it can still prove difficult to get the hang of. There are many free online resources, Python bootcamps, and online Python bootcamps that can help you learn the language.


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