Tell me about the Computational Social Science program.
Our two-year MA program draws on some of the latest innovations in machine learning, statistical inference, and large data analysis to engage big questions about our social world.
Our curriculum provides students with solid foundations in statistics, modeling, and programming approaches to large data, and fosters critical thinking skills needed to innovate in and across social science fields. This combination of computational tools and experience conducting social scientific research distinguishes our students and alumni from more generic data science programs.
We also have substantial financial aid that we can offer. See the response to merit aid below.
What are your student placement outcomes?
Our master’s degree is designed to prepare students to become the next generation of researchers in computational social science. The majority have gone on to excellent professional opportunities, and a smaller number have elected to pursue advanced PhD work in the social sciences.
In both cases, students draw on biweekly support from the MACSS academic and administrative staff, including a structured curriculum of professional development workshops.
We have an in-house Director of Career Services who will facilitate internships between the first and second year, and work with students on an individual basis as they seek employment afterward.
Our graduates are also strongly positioned to compete for top doctoral programs in fields such as economics, psychology, sociology, political science, business, or information science.
What is the class size?
We have 51 first-year students and 54 second year students in our 2022-2023 cohort, for a total of 105 students.
Those persons are coming from 67 different undergraduate institutions. 48% of our students are women.
What are the math requirements for this program?
The mathematical components of the degree can be formidable, but are designed to ramp up in a way that is accessible for all students. You’ll find a good description of the curriculum on the program’s webpage, under MA Program Requirements.
There are no formal math or computer science prerequisites for the program. There will be an intensive summer math camp to assist students who may have had less exposure to linear algebra, differential/integral calculus, and statistics.
Does the program have formal concentrations?
All students earn a degree in computational social science. The only formal concentration is in Economics, and students are only admitted to the concentration at the time of application to MACSS. Many students end up taking specialized coursework in specific disciplines (e.g. economics, sociology, psychology, political science), however this is based on your research interests and the skills and methods you seek to utilize in your work. We encourage students to take courses across a range of departments and professional schools.
Is there an MA Thesis?
Yes! We view the MA thesis as an integral component of your training in research design and conducting computational social science, and many students find it to be one of the most enjoyable aspects of the program. The MA thesis will be written under the direct supervision of a UChicago faculty member. Students work in their second year to identify prospective advisors, draft a research proposal, and write a paper modeled on a professional journal article published in their discipline of interest. In order to develop this project, students can enroll in a three-course “MA Research Commitment” in their second year of study.
Is there any merit aid available?
The program offers merit-based tuition grants on a competitive basis at the time of admission. All prospective students are considered for these scholarships, and no further application is necessary.
The average admitted MACSS student receives a merit-based grant of 1/3 or 1/2 tuition for the first year. A small number may qualify for 2/3 or full tuition funding, on an exceptionally competitive basis.
For second year funding, scholarship aid will be determined based on your academic performance in the first nine courses. To be eligible for your award, you must maintain full-time registration. Persons with a minimum 3.9 GPA will earn a merit award of 2/3 tuition for the second year. Persons with a minimum 3.4 to 3.89 GPA will receive a merit award of 1/2 tuition for the second year. Persons earning a 3.3 to 3.39 GPA will receive a merit award of 1/3 tuition for the second year. Persons earning a 3.1 to 3.29 GPA will receive a merit award of 10K for the second year. For context, 95% of our students secured a 3.4 GPA or better this past year.
What types of courses may I choose?
Students are expected to complete a certain number of courses in computational methods and social science electives. You can read more about this requirement here. We have identified hundreds of classes from the regular graduate offerings at the university which fulfill these requirements.
For your remaining courses, you may complete any graduate course from any University of Chicago department or professional school, provided that you meet the minimum prerequisites. You can get a good sense of the available options by going to this link.
The MACSS program does not accept any transfer credit, whether from the University of Chicago or from other institutions. You will need the full MACSS curriculum to become maximally competitive for professional or PhD placement after you graduate.
Are there any RA/TA opportunities?
Most of our Computation students will seek and find RAships with UChicago faculty. Given the intense academic demands of the program, we recommend that students start with a 5 hour per week commitment and see if they can handle 10.
There may be opportunities to TA for courses in MACSS or other departments in the Division. Those TAships are normally reserved for graduate students in their second year of study.
There may also be other on-campus employment opportunities, including administrative and research positions in the 140 Centers and Institutes that we have on campus.
Am I required to attend the Computation Workshop?
As part of their degree requirements, all students attend our weekly Computational Social Science Workshop.
The Workshop gives you a chance to see emergent computational work in the social sciences, to learn new methodological tools, to meet leading computational researchers from around the world, and to forge connections with faculty and students across campus.
What summer programs do you offer?
All entering students must take either the Computational Social Science Math Camp or the Economics Math Camp in late August / early September. Additionally, we highly recommend that international students who do not have English as a native language complete the Academic Writing Pre-Matriculation Program (AWPP) before the math camps begin.
Is there STEM authorization for international students?
For international students, Computational Social Science is an approved STEM program for your work authorization in the U.S. That means you will receive three years of work permission, following your graduation from our two-year program.
The optional paid internship between your first and second year, meanwhile, can be held under your regular student visa, because of the “collaborative” status our program has negotiated with those employers.
Which international applicants must submit proof of English proficiency?
Please visit this site to see which students must submit the TOEFL or IELTS as part of their application, what minimum scores must be obtained, and which tests are accepted.
Our MA program will make conditional offers of admission if you do not meet the minimum thresholds at the time you apply.
If your scores are substantially below, it can be in your interest to delay the submission of your application until you feel that the scores are truly representative of your abilities. We begin reviewing applications on January 4, and continue on a rolling basis through May 2.
Admitted students will need to report scores that meet the minimal Divisional thresholds by mid-June to be assured of receiving their visa in time to join us in person for September.
Is the GRE required?
The GRE is not required for consideration into the MACSS program. Please note, the committee will utilize other resources such as courses completed to assess applicants quantitative skill set. If you are applying to MACSS-Econ, you should still plan to submit your GRE scores. The institution code is 1832.
Academic Writing for Non-Native English Students
All international students who do not have English as their primary language are strongly encouraged to take the Academic Writing Pre-Matriculation Program (AWPP) in August, before the Computational Math camp or the Econ math camp begins.
The AWPP will teach you how to bring your written work to the professional level. It will provide a credential that you can show to professional employers or to PhD selection committees after you graduate. Last but not least, it will help you do as well as possible in your graduate coursework at UChicago.