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Am I on the right track?


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Hello, this is my first post here.

I'm looking for high level advice / reality check before I invest a lot of time into applying to top CS programs.

I'm 28 years old, my background is in business, my undergrad was at a top specialty school (gpa 3.1) and later I got my MBA from a top 15 school (gpa 3.5), focusing mostly on finance and entrepreneurship. I have several years of work experience in management consulting and business analytics. I'm now looking to get an education in 'Big Data' or as close as possible with the goal of developing new algorithms and hopefully finding some people who are smarter than me to start a company together.

No GRE yet, but my GMAT was 99th percentile and I feel confident that with a little prep I can get above 90th percentile in Q. My math background is mostly in business modeling and basic statistics. Had a few side projects where I wrote simple scripts, so not completely new to coding, I know just enough to have established bad practices :).

I guess my questions are:

* Does it make sense for me to apply to a MS program?

* Assuming a good GRE score do I have a shot at top schools, or will my low ugrad gpa kill me?

* Should I look for a couple of classes (linear algebra, 101 cs classes) at community colleges in the area, or just watch online stuff?

Thanks for bearing with my rant. I appreciate all advice.

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Hello, this is my first post here.

I'm looking for high level advice / reality check before I invest a lot of time into applying to top CS programs.

I'm 28 years old, my background is in business, my undergrad was at a top specialty school (gpa 3.1) and later I got my MBA from a top 15 school (gpa 3.5), focusing mostly on finance and entrepreneurship. I have several years of work experience in management consulting and business analytics. I'm now looking to get an education in 'Big Data' or as close as possible with the goal of developing new algorithms and hopefully finding some people who are smarter than me to start a company together.

No GRE yet, but my GMAT was 99th percentile and I feel confident that with a little prep I can get above 90th percentile in Q. My math background is mostly in business modeling and basic statistics. Had a few side projects where I wrote simple scripts, so not completely new to coding, I know just enough to have established bad practices :).

I guess my questions are:

* Does it make sense for me to apply to a MS program?

* Assuming a good GRE score do I have a shot at top schools, or will my low ugrad gpa kill me?

* Should I look for a couple of classes (linear algebra, 101 cs classes) at community colleges in the area, or just watch online stuff?

Thanks for bearing with my rant. I appreciate all advice.

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I think your profile is fine. If you were to go for a MS, the adcom's biggest concern would be whether you had sufficient mathematics and computer science background to complete the program.

That said, I think that you don't need a full-blown MS to do what you want to do.

However, if you must have an MS, get one issued by a known, brick-and-mortar institution known for fostering an entrepeneurial atmosphere in a geographic area where there are other young folks like you. (Online or hybrid degrees issues by brick-and-mortar institutions are okay, but you may lose out on the networking aspect to varying degrees.) In other words, San Francisco, Seattle, Austin, Washington, Cambridge Mass., or New York. Think Stanford, UW, UT, Maryland, Harvard/MIT, or NYU/Columbia. "Big data" is popular in these cities - there are a lot of tech companies in San Francisco and Seattle, tech entrepreneurship is big in Austin and Cambridge, the financial services industry in NYC loves "big data" for obvious reasons, and so does the Federal government in Washington. Which city you pick depends on what sort of people you want to meet and what industry you ultimately want to target as your market. Choose wisely - you may end up sticking around for a while. You may also want to consider getting experience in your target industry - for example, if you want to target financial services, work in a financial services enterprise for a year or two. Consider that they may also pay for your continuing education.

That said, it can't hurt for you to pick up useful classes here and there. For example, Hadoop or SQL or SAS or R or various scripting languages (Python is useful). Classes in data structures and algorithms might be useful. Same thing for a computer organization and a discrete math course. You could do a formal post-bac (like the online one offered by Oregon State) or just pick up classes at a local school wherever you are. Also, learn UNIX. Actually, learn how to use Linux...err, GNU/Linux, for the fanatics among us.

Definitely learn about the cloud. It's the big thing right now in information technology. Rackspace has an amazing free certificate program called CloudU. Virtualization is also the rage.

Your most important challenges at this point are to go somewhere where lots of entrepreneurial young tech folks are hanging out, learn the basics on the tech side, meet new people, amass some capital, come up with a business plan, and execute.

Also, consider that your existing business background may make you an attractive candidate for handling the business side of a venture that also includes tech folks. Startups don't happen if all you have are tech folks. Startups also need business folks, and you've got an amazing background in that regard.

Good luck, and feel free to PM me if you want to talk more.

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In addition to Victor's comments I would suggest that you look for a program that is aimed at career change vs research. If your goal is to combine your business skills with a new set of CS skills, there are programs out there that would fit you needs quite well. I would not suggest that you look at a top 15 research institution for your MS rather look for a program that focuses on career changers. If you try to compete with other students who already have their BS in CS you might find it a bit overwhelming. Career change programs generally allow for the fact that you might need extra courses to come up to speed and will probably be able to teach you what you want to know. In addition most career change programs are part time with classes at night that allow you to continue to earn a living. This is important since most MS programs do not have any kind of funding available.

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In addition to Victor's comments I would suggest that you look for a program that is aimed at career change vs research. If your goal is to combine your business skills with a new set of CS skills, there are programs out there that would fit you needs quite well. I would not suggest that you look at a top 15 research institution for your MS rather look for a program that focuses on career changers. If you try to compete with other students who already have their BS in CS you might find it a bit overwhelming. Career change programs generally allow for the fact that you might need extra courses to come up to speed and will probably be able to teach you what you want to know. In addition most career change programs are part time with classes at night that allow you to continue to earn a living. This is important since most MS programs do not have any kind of funding available.

Thank you and Victor for the feedback. Can you give a few examples of good career change programs?

I noticed a number of programs mentioning prereqs (often times in the form of their own ugrad courses) - can I apply without having those prereqs?

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Thank you and Victor for the feedback. Can you give a few examples of good career change programs?

I noticed a number of programs mentioning prereqs (often times in the form of their own ugrad courses) - can I apply without having those prereqs?

You can but I don't recommend doing so, at least, for a computer science program. You will get thrown into upper-level courses without fundamentals (data structures, computer architecture, discrete math, etc.) which will not end well for you. If you want to do a computer science program, do a formal post-bacc. See my post above for an example at Oregon State. Quite a few schools have such programs. Here in Virginia, George Mason has a twelve-hour "Foundations of Information Systems" certificate (yes, certificates are considered graduate degrees, like master's degrees and doctorates) that is essentially the core of a computer science program.

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Depending on the school you can apply without some of the pre reqs but the school will usually require that you then take the required courses and the credits will not count towards your degree. In the NYC area I believe Hofstra, Pace, Fordham, Iona College and CUNY have career change type degrees as an option. They do not specifically call it that but you can tell by the pre reqs which usually require math thru calc 2 and some basic programming courses. Obviously some of these programs are better than others. You really want to talk to recent grads if possible.

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In the NYC area I believe Hofstra, Pace, Fordham, Iona College and CUNY have career change type degrees as an option.

Out of all of those, CUNY is the only one that perks up my attention.

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  • 10 months later...

Thank you for responses!

 

I've been away for a while, but at least I have GRE scores now: 168 q / 166 v /4.5 w

 

I would like to aim for a top school in NYC / SF (bay area) / Austin

 

Do I have a shot at the top schools?

 

Also, what is the best way to find out more than the programs say on their websites? Do you think students troll these forums?

 

Thanks again!

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