Academic Programs Master's in Data Science

Note that answers to more questions may be found at our graduate school website:

Q: What are the criteria for admission to the master's program in data science at Brown?

A: We consider numerous criteria including academic performance, letters of recommendation and industrial experience. We also consider GRE scores, TOEFL scores (if relevant), motivation, work experience, awards, honors, prizes, and other accomplishments. Because master's applicants are so diverse, no single set of criteria adequately cover all the cases. In more detail, we are looking for:

  • Academic performance: The GPA is not the only criterion. The grades in data-science related areas are also important. Also, we take into account the fact that at some very competitive schools it is very difficult to achieve a high GPA.
  • Letters of recommendation: Letters must give a detailed, factual, and candid evaluation of the applicant's capabilities. Rankings and comparisons with other students are very useful. Ask your recommender to follow these guidelines. Remind your recommenders of deadlines to ensure they are met. We routinely find ourselves unable to admit potentially qualified students because their letters of recommendation have not arrived in time.
  • Work experience: Please describe any work experience you might have. Obviously not all applicants have work experience, but for those who do, some description of it helps us better evaluate your application.
  • GRE scores: These scores let us compare the basic skills of applicants from diverse backgrounds. We are aware that: test performance can improve considerably with practice, some people do not perform well on tests, and the verbal GRE is harder for some foreign applicants. While we do not require general test scores, the test provides an additional objective form of evaluation that is often helpful in determining an applicant's abilities.
  • TOEFL and IELTS scores: Applicants whose native language is not English and who have not received a college degree from an institution in an English-speaking country must take the TOEFL exam. Additional evidence (e.g., certificate of completion of an English course) may also be submitted. We generally do not consider applicants who have scored below 620 (PBT) or 260 (CBT) or IBT (105), and prefer scores higher than that. The corresponding minimum IELTS score is 7.5. If you feel you are exempt from taking the TOEFL please email the Graduate School directly at to get a waiver.
  • Personal Statement: The statement that accompanies your application helps us learn more about you.
  • Awards, honors, and prizes: Unless they are well known (e.g., NSF fellowship or graduation with honors), please give details about them (how many candidates? how many awards? what were the selection criteria?). This is especially important for foreign applicants. If these awards are really important, we would expect your recommenders to mention them.
  • Research experience: Research experience is not required for master's applicants and many of our applicants do not have any, but you can use experience you've had to demonstrate your ability to handle graduate-level data science material.

Q: Can I still apply if I cannot have all the material ready by the deadline?

A: Unfortunately not. Applications have to be submitted completely before the deadline of March 15th to be considered. Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis and no applications will be accepted after the deadline.

Note that we need a complete application, including letters of recommendation AND OFFICIAL SCORE REPORTS, before we can make admission decisions. Therefore, please give your letter writers enough time to write and mail your letters of support. 

Q: May I begin the program in the spring semester?

A: We have one application cycle per year, and it is for fall-semester matriculation only. (Note: the fall semester begins in early September). 

Q: I cannot afford the application fee. Can you waive it?

A: To request a fee waiver, complete the Application Fee Waiver Request on the online application form (of the graduate school). In addition, you must submit documentation that substantiates your financial hardship. Acceptable forms of documentation are FAFSA, a letter from a college/university financial aid office, receipt of GRE fee waiver, unemployment verification, or other forms that provide significant documentation of financial hardship. Do not send copies of your tax returns.

All supporting documentation should be sent to using the email subject line "Fee Waiver Materials."

Q: Do you have financial aid available for ScM students?

A: We do not currently have financial aid available for ScM students. See the Office of Financial Aid for financing options (their worksheets page is here). 

Q: Are scans of any of the application material acceptable?

A: Scanned copies are encouraged as part of the initial application; original documents are required if you are admitted and decide to enroll here. Please send all documents to the Graduate School, not the Data Science Initiative.

Q: Do I have to take the TOEFL test?

A: Here is the TOEFL/IELTS waiver policy. If you feel you are exempt from taking the TOEFL please email the Graduate School directly at to get a waiver.

Q: Do I have to take the GRE General exam?

A: We do not require the General exam for master's applicants. Your General test scores give us an additional objective form of evaluation. On the other hand, some students have extremely strong records, and this strength is evident from their application. For such students, the General test score does not provide much additional information. In the end, it's your call.

Q: Can I contact the graduate school by phone or electronic mail?

A: The graduate school's contact information is on their Web page.

Q: Where do I send my transcripts, score reports, etc.?

A: If you are admitted and prompted to do so, please send supplemental
materials to:

      Brown Graduate School,
      47 George Street, Box 1867,
      Providence, RI 02912.
Please do not send hard copies of any application materials unless requested by the Graduate School.

Q: What is the institution code for the GRE and TOEFL?

A: The GRE and TOEFL institution code is 3094. 

Q: Have you received all my application materials?

A: Please contact the Graduate School directly at for questions relating to the online application system or to see if all of your materials have arrived.

Q: Who decides whom to admit?

A: Officially, admissions are generated by the Graduate School of Brown University. In practice, the Data Science Initiative (specifically, a group of faculty members) evaluates your application and makes recommendations to the Graduate School, which typically follows our recommendations. Therefore, you are generating your application (in particular, your statement) to be read primarily by the faculty of the Data Science Initiative.

Q: What is the tuition of the program?

A:  The annual tuition for the DSI Master's Program for 2018-2019 is $63,440. This information is also listed on the Graduate School's website:

Because the program comprises 4 fall credits, 4 spring credits, and 1 summer credit, the total cost of the program is equal to the annual tuition plus one-eighth of the following year's annual tuition (since summer courses fall in the following fiscal year). Tuition rates typically rise around 4% per year, so the total cost of the program should be estimated at 1+(1/8)(1+4%) = 1.13 times the annual tuition. 

There is a financing worksheet available here

Q: What about the writing sample? 

A:  The online application includes a prompt for a writing sample. If you have written a technical article or paper which you feel would help us evaluate your preparation for the program, this is where you would attach it. But this part of the application is purely optional. 

Q: How many recommendation letters?

A:  We ask for three recommendation letters (two for current Brown seniors applying as fifth-year master's students). As many as five are allowed. 

Q: Is the DSI Master's a STEM program?

A:  Yes, this is considered a STEM program for OPT extension purposes (this is a visa issue, of concern to international applicants). 

Q: Do you accept GMAT scores in place of the GRE?

A:  The GRE General is recommended. If you decide not to take the GRE, you may choose to indicate your GMAT score on your application. The application does not include a blank specifically for GMAT score, so you will need to put this information somewhere else. For example, you might include a separate line or page in the document you upload for your personal statement document which states your GMAT score. 

Q: I submitted my application, but it still says "awaiting materials". What should I do? 

A:  One possible reason for this problem is that you are eligible for a TOEFL waiver, but it has not yet been processed. Contact for handling waivers. Note that we are still able to view your application materials in the meantime. 

Q: Can I see statistics on prior classes (job placement rates, etc.)? 

A: The initial cohort will complete the program in Summer 2018, so we do not have any data to share beyond the number of master's students participating this academic year (27).

Q: What if I have other questions?

A: You can email the program director, Samuel Watson