In this section you will find the information you need to complete an application to our program, including prerequisites, required application materials, deadlines, and answers to the most frequently asked questions we receive from prospective students. All applicants to the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering Ph.D. program must submit their application using the University of Washington’s online Graduate School Application. The Graduate School maintains a central application platform for the University of Washington, which includes a main repository for GRE and TOEFL scores. If you have technical questions about the application, or problems that arise when using the application system, then The Graduate School would be your best point of contact.
In response to current restrictions created by the COVID-19 health crisis, the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering will temporarily waive the Graduate Records Examination (GRE) requirement for Ph.D. admissions during the 2020-21 academic year. For the Ph.D. program this means that reporting GRE scores will be optional for those applying to start in Autumn 2021.
The Allen School is an R1-rated research public University, and our application process is focused on a holistic assessment of a student's potential to do research. Prospective students are welcome to review our Research & Innovation page. There you will find information on the may Areas of Expertise at the UW-Seattle Campus. Each area has its own information page which is updated with the faculty, postdocs, graduate students, and staff involved in research. Graduate students and Postdocs are more likely to respond to a prospective student's inquiries, while faculty often are not. It is, in part, this reason that the Paul G. Allen School takes a different approach to the advisor/student relationship. We do not expect applicants to have previous interactions with our faculty, nor do they need to know who they want to spend their Ph.D.-life working with. All new grads are assigned a temporary faculty advisor based on availability, potential, funding, and several other factors. The student and advisor do not have to become "permanent" fixtures in each other's career until after the student's Qualifying examination.
If you are interested in finding out how to improve your application for a certain field or advisor, you are better-off contacting graduate students as they can be more frank with their recent experience of the process, and give more relevant advice than faculty and staff.
- GPA (3.0 minimum)
- Letters of Recommendation (3)
- Statement of Purpose: An approximately 1,000 word (max 500 KB) statement. Your submission will be refactored to plain-text, so don’t spend much time on formatting.
- Curriculum Vitae (CV): You can upload a PDF, Word, or plain text file.
- Application Fee: $85 paid online
To be admitted into the CSE Ph.D. program, a student must satisfy the admissions criteria outlined by the Graduate School. These criteria include the completion of a bachelor’s degree or higher, a 3.0 GPA (GPA Calculating Assistance) in the latest two years (aka 60 semester or 90 quarter credits), and English Proficiency. The Paul G. Allen School is unable to grant exceptions or make decisions concerning these requirements. If you have questions concerning whether or not your degree counts as a Bachelor's, or whether or not you are exempt from the English Proficiency, or how to calculate your GPA, and so on, please contact the Graduate School.
While the Allen School does not have a minimum GPA requirement, as this standard does not necessarily provide the best pool of candidates for us to choose from, the average GPA of those admitted is usually around 3.8.
On the application you will be able to self-report your GPA, and you will be asked to upload scanned Unofficial Transcripts. If you have grades to report after the deadline, you can log back into your application to upload an updated transcript. We try to make all decisions by the end of January, so any new transcripts should be updated by at least January 1st, to be considered. Official transcripts will need to be delivered to the University of Washington in a timely manner if you are admitted.
Please do not send hardcopy transcript materials until you are asked to do so. Any questions about transcript arrival or matching should be directed to the Graduate School.
English Language Proficiency & TOEFL
The Graduate School has established their English Proficiency requirements (Memo 8) for admission to the University of Washington, which is a recommended minimum TOEFL score of 80. There are exemptions options provided, please contact the Graduate School if you believe you are exempt. If your TOEFL score is < 80, then you will not be reviewed for admission. A score greater than but equal to 80 and below 92 (80<=score<92) will require the applicant to satisfactorily complete 1 to 3 UW Academic English Program (AEP) courses. A score > 92 means the applicant has satisfied the UW’s ELP requirement. If you are an international student, please review The Graduate School’s International Applicant Information page. If you have questions concerning complications regarding your situation, it is best to contact the Graduate school.
Additionally, The Allen School believe in the value of teaching, and find it to be an important component of research; therefore, we require our Ph.D. students to TA for at least two (2) quarters during their time in the program. International students must take the TOEFL and be proficient English speakers to be eligible for Teaching Assistantships (Memo 15). The Graduate School has determined a TOEFL speaking score of 26 is necessary for TA positions. This means you will need a minimum overall TOEFL score of 80, with a speaking score of at least 26. These scores can be self-reported, or this section skipped, if you don't have your test results yet. If you meet the minimum TOEFL score of 80, but your speaking score is below 26, you can still be admitted to the Ph.D. program; You would be required to pass an appeal interview or take English 105 in your first quarter at UW.
Letters of Recommendation
Letters of recommendation are not required by The Graduate School, but their application portal is responsible for collecting them. You will be asked to enter online the names and contact information (e.g., affiliation, email, phone) for your references and then to activate a request for a letter of recommendation. Your recommender will receive an email with a link that they then use to upload their letter. Interfolio is not supported by The Graduate School application portal. The Allen School requires three (3) letters of recommendation when applying. You can submit more than 3, but we find that is not often beneficial for the applicant. Recommendation letters can arrive after the deadline. Our application system is capable of accepting letters that arrive after this date. We try to make all decisions by the end of January, so your letters should be submitted by at least January 1st, to be considered.
The application has a Supplemental Questions section where if you are confident that you'd like to work with any particular faculty member(s), you may indicate their name(s). This question won't affect your chances of admission, rather it will help us to sensibly route applications during the review process. We do not only enroll students who have faculty sponsors, and students do not need to declare an official adviser until their second year. Please only list their full first and last name, and double-check for typos before submitting. For a list of faculty and a description of their research, see our faculty directory. No changes can be made to this section once it is completed.
Allen School Requirements
The Graduate School does not require the GRE, but the CSE department does. We do not have a minimum GRE score. While grades and test scores form an important component of an applicant’s case for admission, letters of recommendation and other factors – such as undergraduate research projects or unusual experience that would predict excellence in graduate school – all enter into admission decisions in a significant way. No component in isolation will guarantee or preclude admission.
The average GRE scores of recent applicants were: Verbal 83% (including international applicants), Quantitative 93%, and Analytical 61%.
Please request that ETS send your scores to the University of Washington, institution code 4854. Scores will be delivered electronically to your online application (You can check for your scores by going to your Application Status Page > Tests section. Scores must be no more than 5 years old. A note on self-reported scores: The Allen School will evaluate an application using self-reported scores. However, official scores must be delivered to the University of Washington prior to accepting an offer of admission. If your scores aren’t showing, please review The Graduate School FAQ and follow their process.
Computer Science Background
The competition for admission to the Allen School's Ph.D. program is keen. In recent years, the number of applicants has far exceeded the number of openings for the program. The Allen School expects that most entering graduate students will have a solid background in software development, data structures, discrete math, automata theory, programming systems, computer systems and organization (e.g., see CSE courses 311, 331, 332, 351) and advanced knowledge of one or more computing topics. However, we welcome applications from students who may lack a portion of this background but show exceptional promise. We accept a small number of such students each year.
Test scores, grades and degrees, institutions of previous study and personal recommendations are all important [used as] indicators of an applicant's future success. However, these data do not reveal much about the individual, their motivation, why the applicant is interested in that particular program, or whether the applicant is the kind of student the Faculty want around the department. The Statement of Purpose exists to allow applicants to convey something personal about themselves and to convince the Faculty making the admissions selection that the applicant is an especially attractive candidate.
The Statement of Purpose should not relate a life story or flatter either the applicant or intended readers. It provides applicants the opportunity to present information that is not conveyed through objective data, in a clear, direct, and concise way, to explain their interests, motivations, goals and special talents. It must be honest.
Please note that we are proactive in handling partner situations in the admissions review process, so please let us know if such a situation exists and we will help if we can.