Incoming Students FAQ

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Contents

FAQs

Courses / Degree Requirements
  1. Does course XYZ count for MS/PhD credit?
  2. Is course XYZ hard/easy/worthwhile?
  3. What are the course requirements for a Masters? a PhD?
Research
  1. How do I find an advisor?
  2. How much time do other students spend on research?
Teaching
  1. Which courses require light/heavy time commitments for TAs?
Department
  1. Is there any way to get around the mandatory fees?
  2. What resources does the department provide to students?
General/Other
  1. How safe is College Park?
  2. How do I balance coursework with research/teaching?



Courses / Degree Requirements
  1. Does course XYZ count for MS/PhD credit?
    A list of qualifying courses, and what makes a course qualify for MS/PhD credit can be found in the graduate policy manual. Specifically in section 6. If you are interested in a course that is not listed there, you should contact the instructor and if they are unsure, you should contact Jenny Story (jenny@cs).
  2. Is course XYZ hard/easy/worthwhile?
    Generally during the Graduate Student Panel portion of Visit Day, current graduate students answer questions about specific courses and professors. If you were not able to attend visit day, or your graduate panel did not discuss this, the best thing to do is to contact current graduate students who have previously taken the course. For example, if you're interested in a Programming Languages course, you should contact a graduate student working in Programming Languages.
  3. What are the course requirements for a Masters? a PhD?
    The official requirements are provided in the department policy manual. Graduate students do not have qualifying exams at UMD. Instead, graduate students are required to satisfy a breadth requirement when completing coursework. All of the up-to-date information on this can be found in the policy manual.
Research
  1. How do I find an advisor?
    Generally admitted students are given a TA position for the first year, while they determine their research interests. There is no one way to find an advisor. However, if someone you are interested in working with is offering a class, you should take it. If you enjoy the course, then meet with the professor outside of class and offer your assistance with one of their research projects. Meet with graduate students in your area of interest who work with different advisors. This will help you to get a feel for the work being done in your area at UMD, not just in one group. When you've narrowed down your area of interest, meet with all the professors that fit into that area. Face-to-face meetings are a must. Remember, the Ph.D. program is long (about 5 years on average) so you need to get along well with your advisor. Sometimes the research is a good fit, but you and the professor are not a good fit.
  2. How much time do other students spend on research?
    As a full time Research Assistant, you're paid for 20 hours per week, but most work more than that, especially as they advance in their degree. Early on, when you're taking several courses each semester, you may not have much time to devote to research, but when you've finished your coursework you may spend 40 hours/week on research.
Teaching
  1. Which courses require light/heavy time commitments for TAs?
    Unfortunately this depends on too many factors to answer directly. Generally, the lower-level courses take more time, but that's not always true. Some of the 100-level classes have dozens of TAs, so the work can be distributed nicely. The 400-level courses can require a lot of time if there are many difficult projects. We advise students to TA for professors they are interested in working with, or for classes they are interested in. If you TA for a professor you are interested in working with then you have an opportunity to discuss their work and demonstrate your abilities, and if you TA for a class you are interested in, then you will likely learn something in the process.
Department
  1. Is there any way to get around the mandatory fees?
    Unfortunately, mandatory fees (between $4-600 a semester) cannot be covered as part of tuition remission. These fees do provide services: for example, by paying them you are allowed to use ShuttleUM and the gym for free. However, it is important to remember that you will have to cover these yourself and budget accordingly. The Terrapin Payment Plan offers a way to pay fees gradually throughout the semester. This will allow you to pay your student fees gradually over the semester rather than in one (expensive) sum right now. You can enroll in the program and get more information here: [1]
  2. What resources does the department provide to students?
    There are many computing resources available to graduate students. You can get help setting up servers, you have access to computing clusters, access to the VR equipment and lab, access to an eye scanner and other HCI equipment, and access to hardware rental (including VR headsets). At the university level, there are many resources for students. You have access to courses at other universities [2]. The university provides students with access to adobe creative suite and other expensive software tools, such as Matlab. Eppley Recreation Center is amazing. There are tons of cardio and weight machines, basketball, and squash courts, and there are many classes including dance fitness, weight training, and yoga that you can take for free. The Arts and Learning Center (ALC) has classes every semester for a small fee (usually less than $100) and they're generally weekly or twice per week. Classes include pottery, dance, drawing, intro to guitar, etc.


Other
  1. How safe is College Park?
    The College Park area is known for being a rather rough area at night, and it is not uncommon to hear of robberies, particularly between the hours of midnight and 4am. Your best bet is to stick to well-lighted and populated areas and never travel alone after dark. Generally the unsafe parts of College Park are around Knox Road and Fraternity Row, so if you are looking for housing, avoid those areas. The Campus is very well lit at night and there are Nite Ride vans that take students around campus when it gets late.
  2. How do I balance coursework with research/teaching?
    Managing your time as a graduate student is something many people struggle with. One piece of advice would be to have dedicated hours for each responsibility. If you are taking two courses, they're likely on two days. Use those two days, and those two days only for coursework. Don't do research, or teaching on those two days. Generally as a TA you won't be doing more than 1 session of teaching per week. Try to schedule all of your TA responsibilities for one day. Hold your office hours and your teaching session on that day, and use that day for grading/prepping for the next week. If your coursework or teaching load is light then you can do both of those things on the same days. The rest of your time can be used for research. This is a very general example, and should obviously be adapted to meet your specific needs.

Links

How to Succeed in Grad School - presentation by Mike Lam (08/26/2010)

Official Graduate Program Policy Manual