Master's Degree FAQ

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.

The Data Science Master's program at Brown is a challenging program that requires a certain level of preparation in math, statistics, and computer programming. You can find descriptions of the courses at Brown that would prepare you for the program here (see "Before You Apply").  Please take a look to evaluate your own preparation and decide what additional work you might need to do. You don't have to have completed this preparation before you apply; we will accept students who demonstrate that they can prepare themselves before the start of the program.  

 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

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

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. 

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."

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). 

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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

The initial cohort just completed the program in Summer 2018, and we are still collecting information. Currently, we can tell you that 27 students completed the program in 2017-18, and 40 students (of over 550 applicants) are participating in 2018-19. 

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

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.

You may find additional useful information on the Brown Graduate School website. For questions related specifically to the Data Science Master's program, you can email the program director, Samuel Watson

No. You can apply for the 5th-Year Master's Degree, but this program is not suitable for concurrent degrees. 

Yes. We do not require your undergraduate degree to be four years in duration.