Frequently Asked Questions


What graduate programs are offered in the Computer Science (CS) Department?

There are three graduate programs offered by the CS Department:

  • post-baccalaureate certificate program for students interested in entering the professional computing workforce
  • post-baccalaureate advanced-degree preparatory track program for students whose goal is further graduate study (MS or PhD) in computer science
  • Interdisciplinary Computer Science (ICS) Masters program

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What are the admission requirements and criteria to the graduate CS programs?

All applicants must possess a bachelor's degree in a major other than computer science. The post-baccalaureate certificate program has no additional requirements. Applicants to the Interdisciplinary Computer Science Master’s Program and the post-baccalaureate advanced-degree preparatory track program must have the equivalent of:

  • one year of introductory computer science using Java or C++; and
  • one year of discrete mathematics. (Students with only one semester of discrete mathematics may arrange to complete their second semester at Mills, but this credit will not count toward their degree.)

Provisions may be made to complete these requirements through the Mills post-baccalaureate certificate program.
We are looking for students who do not have undergraduate computer science degrees and who are interested in acquiring experience in an interdisciplinary, liberal arts setting. Our philosophy includes creating a non-competitive environment for our students, encouraging them to work closely with faculty and each other. Because our students and programs are so unique, we encourage prospective students to contact us to discuss their educational goals and whether Mills would be a good match.

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How does the post-baccalaureate certificate program compare with certification programs?

They're not really directly comparable. The post-baccalaureate certificate program is not a certification program; the computer science fundamentals that we provide will last a lifetime and be applicable over a broad range of fields. Microsoft (or Apple, or Oracle, or Cisco, or whoever) certification tends to be extremely product-specific. Thus, one might be certified as a Microsoft Network Administrator by taking a set of specific classes and passing a test. That doesn't mean that one knows much about networks in general, though. Rather, one knows lots about how to edit a configuration file and set options X, Y and Z.

A student who studies ICS, however, will understand how networks work (if they take that particular course) in general. Faced with the task of configuring a Microsoft network, they'd have to read lots of documentation to fill in the gaps in product-specific knowledge. However, if they were then assigned to configure a DECNet or some other network, they'd know what was going on, while the Microsoft Certified person would be up a creek. Further, they'll never be able to grow much in their career.

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Is there any guarantee that students who enroll in the post-baccalaureate certificate program are accepted to the ICS MA program?

Students who are doing well in post-bac almost always make the transition to ICS smoothly, although admissions to post-bac is not a guarantee of admission to ICS. ICS admission is more selective than post-bac for many reasons. Primarily, ICS students must complete a thesis, which requires considerable independent work—a big distinction from post-bac. We don't want to admit anybody who won't prosper—that would be a waste of everyone's time.

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How long will it take me to complete the program and obtain an ICS Masters degree?

The ICS Masters program is designed to take two years (Mills College residency required). If you enter through the post-baccalaureate certificate program and transfer into the Masters program, you should be finished in three years, and sometimes less.

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What are some of the prior fields of the ICS students and some of the disciplines the ICS MA theses have covered?

Our ICS students’ prior fields and MA theses cover a broad range of disciplines, including music, education, health, business/economics, biology, psychology, and engineering. Visit ICS Theses for a comprehensive list.

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How do I apply to the ICS program?

Apply online or contact the Office of Graduate Admission at 510.430.3309 or You will need to complete the Mills Graduate Studies admissions form and provide the following additional items:

  • Complete graduate application including an essay
  • Transcripts of your undergraduate work
  • Three letters of recommendation
International students should be aware of the Special Information for International Students

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What is the admission deadline?

Check the Graduate Admissions Guidelines for admission deadlines.

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Can I apply to begin the program in the spring?

Yes, you can. It's a better choice for some people to start with the spring class schedule.

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Is there any flexibility in the application deadlines for the post-baccalaureate and ICS programs?

Yes—as long as we have room.

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What percentage of ICS students complete the program?

Nearly all ICS students complete their coursework and about 2/3 complete their MA thesis. Some students complete the coursework and never complete their thesis. Some complete their thesis after a break of a year or two. Some complete their thesis immediately.

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I have no background in computer science. Can I still apply?

Yes, you are encouraged to apply. You may want to review the MA program's special admissions requirements, and consider the post-baccalaureate program if you have not completed the required coursework for admission.

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I am worried that I do not have a strong enough math background for this program. What do you advise?

This is a common problem. Like you, students frequently have had a fair amount of math, but no discrete math, some time ago. We have many ways to help you re-ramp-up your math skills in the post-bac program so that you'll be comfortable in the ICS program. Alternatively, you can prepare by taking a semester of discrete math at a community college during the summer and take the second semester at Mills starting in the fall (our discrete math sequence starts in spring and continues in the fall).

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I'm a man, can I apply?

Yes, you are encouraged to apply. While Mills is known primarily as a women's college, graduate studies are coeducational.

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I'm an international student, can I apply?

International students are welcome to apply. For more information on American regulations on international student admission, and the Test of English as a Foreign Language examination (TOEFL), see Information for International Graduate Students.

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Can I transfer credit from courses taken at another college?

Possibly. This is handled on a case-by-case basis. See also Mills' transfer credit policy.

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Can I enroll part-time?

Yes, and sometimes it is best for balancing course work with other obligations.

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How much will tuition cost?

See the M Center/Student Accounts tuition & fees.

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Can I get financial aid?

Both full-time and part-time students are welcome to apply for financial aid. The M Center/Financial Aid Office has information about financial aid requirements, forms, and deadlines. There are also alumni scholarships available, and the department has assistantships that provide reductions in tuition (support for returning students).

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Do you provide on campus housing?

Yes, housing is available on campus.

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How big are the classes?

In general, our class sizes range between 7 and 15. They do not exceed 30, and some upper division classes have as few as 5 people.

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How big are the CS graduate programs?

Students active in the CS graduate programs range between 10 and 18.

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When are classes scheduled?

The majority of our classes are scheduled on Tuesdays and Thursdays. See the most recent Course Schedule for this semester's offerings, and the ICS Course Descriptions for information on course offerings throughout the year.

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Do you have cross registration with other colleges?

Yes; local colleges that we have cross registration agreements with include University of California at Berkeley (a shuttle is available for transit), California State University East Bay, and a number of local community colleges. For more information, see the M Center's Cross Registration Programs.

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What career options will this degree open up to me?

ICS students have been successful at finding jobs in their field. Graduates are leaders in pioneering the transfer of technology to various fields, serving as bridges for technology in their disciplines. Recent graduates have found employment with companies and educational institutions developing discipline-oriented products as well as with companies such as Apple Computer, Hewlett-Packard, Oracle, SalesForce, Wind River, Google, and Ingres in the areas of software engineering, technical writing, multimedia product development, and user interface design.

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Are there internships available for ICS students?

Yes, the Mills Career Center has resources for finding internships and other employment in a variety of fields. For more information, see the Career Center's Internship page.

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What is the atmosphere/environment like?

In contrast to a big university's "every man for himself" approach, we provide a small, intimate environment and encourage a group learning experience..

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I still have questions—how can I contact a real live person in the department?

Feel free to contact us at

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 ICS Program Brochure

Contact Information
P: 510.430.3309

If you have a specific question for a faculty member, please contact or call 510.430.2226.

Last Updated: 11/17/15