For New Graduate Students

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This page contains information of interest to new graduate students. If you are a new graduate student and have further questions, please contact the department administrative assistant listed at

Steps to Complete

When you receive notification that you have been admitted, please complete the following steps.

  1. Decide if you will come to ISU or if you will decline the offer. If you need to ask additional questions about the program, please peruse this page and other CS webpages first. If you have additional questions you can write to the associate chairperson of CS or to any of the department lab assistants.
  2. Write to the associate chairperson of CS saying whether you plan to come to ISU or not (knowing who is coming helps us plan).
  3. If you plan to enroll at ISU, please check your application in the online application system to see if there are any documents that are still missing.
  4. When you have received your letter of admission from the admissions office, it will contain instructions for creating your online ISU Id. Do this, following the instructions in the letter and in the section "ISU Id" below.
  5. Consult the description of our graduate programs linked off the CS homepage and decide which concentration you will pursue. You will by default be placed into the professional concentration, and you will have the option to switch once at ISU depending on your performance in your courses here. If you are considering another concentration, please be in touch with your advisor or the associate chairperson of CS.
  6. Enroll in courses. The Graduate Advising lists the courses you should sign up for, and the section "Signing Up For Classes" below has information about how to enroll in these courses. Note that if you do not end up coming to ISU for some reason (e.g., problems obtaining visa), you need to drop any courses you enrolled in before the semester starts; otherwise you would be charged tuition.
  7. If you are an international student, you will be sent instructions for obtaining your I-20 document that is required for obtaining a student visa to enter the US. When given the choice of receiving your I-20 by regular mail or with expedited shipping, choose expedited shipping to receive your I-20 sooner. Complete the steps to do this, schedule a visa interview with your local US Consulate, and obtain your student visa (advice on the visa interview are at the end of Graduate Admissions).
  8. Arrange for a place to stay in Terre Haute when you arrive. Coordinate with other prospective students and students who have come to ISU in the past.
  9. Make sure that you pay your tuition and fees on time. See the information under "Finances" at
  10. Arrive in Terre Haute at least 1 week before classes start. The start of classes is listed on the academic calendar.
  11. If you are transferring from a graduate program at another school, you might be granted up to 9 credits of transfer credit for up to 3 courses at your previous university. Note that we can only accept courses in which at least a B was earned, and then it is up to the department to decide. If you have graduate credit from another university, contact the associate chairperson of CS to see if you will be given credit. If so, you will complete your portion of the following form and bring it to your advisor and associate chairperson of CS to complete and sign: .

Graduate Transition Team

You can contact any of our graduate assistants to ask questions about coming to Terre Haute and get advice. The GAs are listed on the ISU CS People page. Once you have been admitted, you can add your email address to the cs-chat email list, and you can write to the list to ask for advice.


You will recieve your ISU Id and instructions for logging onto the ISU website when you receive your acceptance letter from the admissions office. The website (currently, as of summer 2015) for activating your online Id is You can also check for more information. And the website for logging into the ISU portal is Note that the form for activating your ISU Id asks for a SSN. If ISU does not have a SSN for you, try putting your personal email address (the one you entered into the application system when you applied) in this field. If you still have problems activiting your online ISU Id, please contact the OIT Helpdesk; their phone number is 1-812-237-2910 or 1-888-818-5465.

Signing up for classes

You are not officially enrolled in the program here until you have signed up for classes. Once you have decided to enroll at ISU, you should sign up for classes. You can sign up for classes by logging into the ISU portal, clicking the "MyISU Apps" on the bottom of the page, and then click on "Student Self-Service". Once the Student Self-Service page loads, you can click on "Register (Add/Drop Classes)" under a heading "Class Schedule" on the left. From that point, the webpages should be self-explanatory.

Please see the information at CS Programs and Graduate Advising for information about which classes to sign up for during your first term.

Important: ISU has implemented a system for checking that prerequisites have been met when signing up for classes, and you will sometimes get a prerequisite or corequisite error when trying to sign up for some of the department's courses (because you have taken the needed courses somewhere other than ISU). If you get this error, you can write to your academic advisor with which courses you would like to sign up for, and ask them to write to the department administrative assistant to authorize you in the system for the courses.


Students tell us that many students choose to live either at University Apartments, on-campus dormitory, or with a relative. Note that University Apartments is significantly more expensive than other options in town, and regardless where you live you can try to find a roommate to split the costs. We have been told that you should not choose to live in University Apartments if you do not have roommates to share the cost with.

Graduate Assistantship and other Positions

Graduate assistantship positions typically include a fee waiver for 9 credit hours per semester and a small stipend that is just enough to live on in Terre Haute if you have a roommate. Positions in the Math & CS Department are normally filled by the end of the previous semester. We automatically consider all current CS students and all incoming students who have been admitted. We normally have a few openings each semester and consider all students again (in particular the new students who have just started).

Note also that many other departments hire CS graduate students to help with their websites, programming needs, etc. You can check regularly for positions that you can apply for. You can list the associate chairperson of CS as a reference but he won't be able to say much about you until after classes have started (and at that point would ask your instructors how you are doing in their courses).

Nearly every student who wants to work on campus will find some kind of position within the first semester. It may not be an assistantship (so no fee waiver) and may not be related to CS. Most of the very good students are able to find an assistantship by the end of their time at ISU, so they have good experience to cite in their resume and statement of purpose when applying for things after ISU.


Many of the CS faculty have research projects that students can become involved in. Your first step is to do well in the courses you have signed up for, and then get in touch with faculty mid-semester to see about getting involved in research. Faculty who have worked with students recently include Rafiey, Exoo, Kinne, and Baker. See the research page for the research areas. You must first do well in your courses before faculty will meet with you to discuss research possibilities.

International students (I-20 and visa)

As indicated above, if there is any concern about being able to schedule a visa interview in a timely manner, we recommend you choose expedited shipping for the I-20 shipment. See the information above. You can also ensure there are not delays by reading all information on the application pages very carefully and making sure to submit all required documents.

New Student Orientation, Arriving On Campus

ISU requires students to be on campus at least one week before classes start. This in particular is required for international students entering the US. The College of Graduate Students and CS program also have mandatory orientation programs for new graduate students.

Note that the Center of Global Engagement office at ISU offers airport pickup for incoming international students depending upon the availability of reliable designated student drivers. If interested you should write to them and share your itinerary with them at least two weeks ahead of your arrival.

For those without a contact in Terre Haute yet, one option is to rent a place on AirBnB (or similar) for a few days while you find a place. You can also contact graduate assistants listed on ISU CS People to ask for suggestions.

Removing your Weaknesses

If you know you are weak in some area (e.g., programming, algorithms, math background), you should work to remedy this right away. You will get more out of all of your classes by refreshing any material that you do not know as well as you should. You can get much help online (from wikipedia, course lecture notes, MIT opencourseware,, etc.), and you can also sit in on the introductory courses to learn material that you still need to master. Each year there are students who drop out of the program because their grades are too low; most often this is because they were not properly prepared for the master's level courses and did not take steps to learn the background material that they needed.

Review Before Coming to ISU

If you have some time to review and prepare for your time at ISU before you arrive, you will have a better experience and learn more while you are here. The two biggest areas to make sure you have a sound footing in are programming and algorithms. Here are some concrete things that you can work on.

  • Most important - Programming and CS - Getting Started - pick C or Python to work on as much as possible, and do work on C programming before you arrive as well.
  • Review discrete mathematics. Read the lecture notes and try the assignments for this MIT discrete math course.
  • Review data structures and algorithms. Start reading through the book "Introduction to Algorithms" by Cormen, Leiserson, Rivest, and Stein, and try some of the problems and exercises. In particular, review the following: sorting/searching, stacks, queues, heaps, binary search trees, linked lists, hash tables, basic graph algorithms (shortest path, minimum spanning tree).
  • If there is some particular area of CS you are most interested in, find a course with online content, and follow along the course.

American Education

Some entering graduate students are unfamiliar with how American university education works. Here are a few points that may be different than what you are used to. Take these points very seriously, and ask others for clarification if you are unsure.

  • Assignments. Homework assignments are very important, and often count for a significant part of the grade. Many assignments will take time to figure out and will not be too easy. Start working on an assignment right when it is given out so you'll be able to ask questions if you run into difficulties.
  • Cheating/plagiarism/copying. Work that you turn in for assignments must be your own. Many professors will allow you to discuss assignments with your classmates, but not to complete them together - check with each of your professors on their collaboration policies. You may not copy solutions off the internet or from anywhere. Anything that you turn in must be your own work. If you have used any source, you MUST give a citation at the top of your assignment saying where you got help/information. Not doing so is plagiarism. Students have received F's for courses when they have turned in solutions that are not their own.
  • Student responsibility. It is your responsibility to ask questions and go for extra help when you are confused. If you do not ask any questions in lecture, the professor assumes you understand everything. Do not let yourself fall behind and become confused. The moment you are unsure, you should ask in class or set up an appointment to meet with your professor outside of class.

How long for the degree?

Students are recommended to take 3 courses per term and finish the degree in 2 years. This allows you to gain the most from the degree to be competetive for a job or PhD program after graduating. It is possible to finish in 1-1.5 years by taking 4 courses per fall and spring term and up to 3 courses in the summer (the degree is 11 courses). It is not recommended to take 4 courses if you are also working part time. We do not normally offer 3 different courses in the summer, so in practice the quickest time to complete the degree is 3 terms (1.5 years).

Who to get advice from

For students completing the academic concentration you should take advice from the professors and recent top students (e.g., those listed as current or past GAs / assistants on ISU CS People). For those completing the other concentrations, let the professors know that is your intention when you ask for advice, and also get advice from a range of different types of current and recent students. Use the email list to ask advice of current and recent students, and let them know which concentration you are asking about and what your ultimate goals are. You can also stop by the CS unix lab, A-015 to ask students there for advice.

Be on time to class

It leaves a bad impression if you're late. People in the US are generally on time or early for things...

More Frequently Asked Questions

See the CS FAQ