International Student Applicants
Nearly 80% of Computation's 2016 cohort were international students. International students are considered for merit aid on exactly the same terms as US citizens. We are intensely proud of our ability to recruit talented students from around the world, many of them prize-winning undergraduates at top national universities, and several coming with a MA degree already in hand. The fact that some may have had less exposure to the social sciences should be no deterrent. If you have excelled in your prior studies, we are confident that you will find in Computation the opportunity to make life-altering transitions in your area of academic expertise.
The Transition to Graduate Research
International students often wonder whether their undergraduate preparation will be adequate for UChicago seminars, because of different institutional practices in how the core disciplines are taught, and different academic expectations for how their work will be assessed. They should know that many American students have that same concern. Undergraduate students are expected to read and understand difficult material that other researchers have established. That’s a challenging task, and essential for scholarly development, but the starting point of serious inquiry as you move forward in your studies. Graduate researchers are assessed by the intellectual contributions they make - by their ability to specify an interesting question, whose answer is not obvious to professional scholars; to identify the most important literatures on that question; and then to push that conversation in newer and better directions. The entire two-year program will help you make the transition to professional-grade research. We help you make smart methodological choices, and smart theoretical interventions, for whatever research problem you propose.
The Computation Preceptors
The transition to graduate research can be daunting, as you learn to write for a professional readership. How do you get someone with twenty years of expertise to revisit their assumptions, or their understanding of a problem, after reading your work? PhD students typically take four or five years to figure out how to do that. In Computation you have the singular benefit of a doctoral student preceptor, someone whose overriding concern is to communicate, week by week, the informal norms that govern academic research. Your preceptor will assist with your course selections, with your choice of faculty advisor for the MA paper, and with the development of the MA thesis, from the initial proposal through the submission of your final draft. They are selected from the very finest doctoral students in the Division. You are strongly advised to make as much use of them as possible. You will also have ongoing mentorship and advice from our senior academic staff.
The MA Thesis
All students complete a 30 to 70 page double-spaced paper, modeled on a professional journal article. The average MA thesis is 40 double-spaced pages in length. With their preceptor’s assistance, students can approach any UChicago faculty member as their MA thesis advisor. That normally follows the completion of the MA Proposal Workshop in May, when students have a developed sense of their research question, relevant literatures, and intended research design. Formally the MA thesis has three stages. Students complete a 5-page MA proposal that must be approved by the Faculty Reader; they then agree on a submission timeline for receipt of the first draft; the Faculty Reader and preceptor each take two weeks to respond with comments; and the student completes and submits the revised version for detailed evaluations from both readers.
UChicago seminars are designed to take students who may have had little or no exposure to the graduate literatures in a particular area, and bring them right up to speed with the most current research in the field. An important consequence is that the seminars move very fast. Courses with heavy reading loads may require 300 pages per week; more technical or methodologically oriented classes often have weekly problem sets, with midterm and final exams. Students take three courses in each of the Fall, Winter, and Spring quarters. Why does the University of Chicago choose an academic curriculum this ambitious and intellectually intense? You will know the distinct pleasure of feeling smarter each Friday than you were at the beginning of the week.
Timeline for Degree
The academic year begins in late September and concludes in mid-June. Many students will arrive earlier on campus, either to join a Psychology lab, to participate in the Academic English Program, or to complete a preparatory math camp. The academic calendar is authoritative and your most reliable guide for booking travel. In between year 1 and 2, it is expected that Computation students will seek out their own internship or research experience or seek the assistance of our Director of Career Services, Shelly Robinson, for help. No additional tuition is required for the summer experience, but students engaged in experiential learning are required to register for a non-credit research course so that the experience is reflected on their transcript. International students may find that they need to apply for CPT (Curricular Practical Training) in order to maintain their legal status beyond the expiration of their student visa. The Office of International Affairs is your best contact for all visa-related issues.
Non-Native English Speakers
Computation has high TOEFL thresholds for admission (26 in all categories). The same for the IELTS alternative (7 across the board). We do make conditional offers of admission for students who are otherwise deserving but have not yet reached those scores. Those thresholds must be achieved by early July, however, for student visas to be processed by our Dean of Students Office. For anyone who does not have English as a native language, the University’s English Language Institute has inaugurated a number of programs that should be of interest. For a fraction of what it would cost elsewhere, students can take a 4-week summer program in Academic English. They can participate in 8-week ESL courses during their MA year. And they can sign-up for intensive, one-on-one ESL tutoring.