New Student Frequently Asked Questions
This page is intended to answer some common questions from students newly admitted to one of our graduate degree programs. Most of these answers apply to students attending the Blacksburg campus.
For answers to questions related to special circumstances for Fall 2021 related to COVID-19, see the COVID-19 FAQ page and the University official COVID policy site at https://ready.vt.edu/.
I just got admitted. What should I do next?
Generally, the first two things to do are:
(1) Make sure that the Grad School knows your decision. You should see buttons to accept or decline at the application portal (http://www.guest.banner.vt.edu/). Or you can send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
(2) Get your Virginia Tech PID (email address), see https://my.vt.edu/accounts/new/pid.
(3) See the Grad School's New Student Guide.
I am still looking for funding. What should I do?
For details information about funding, see here. The short answers are: MEng students are not normally funded by our department. Most MS/PhD Grad students on support either get a Graduate Research Assistantship directly from a faculty member, or a Graduate Teaching Assistantship from the CS Department. GRAs are between you and the faculty member. If you want to apply for a GTA, see https://hosting.cs.vt.edu/gta/. Be aware that we make funding offers right up to the start of classes, and sometimes even during the first week of class. Unfortunately, new students on the wait list are not likely to be given an offer until after they arrive in Blacksburg.
I am funded on an assistantship (GRA or GTA). Will I have to pay tuition and fees?
Students on a full GRA or GTA assitantship (20 hours/week is a full assistantship) have their tuition paid in full. While many fees are paid, Students on assistantship must pay some fees. For the 2021-22 academic year, the total fees were $1,122 per semester for VA state residents in Blacksburg, and $1,424 for non-VA residents. Fees for students at the Northern Virginia campus were $75.50 per semester for VA state residents, and $377.50 for non-VA residents. For the latest and complete tuition and fee schedule, please visit the Bursar’s website.
Where can I find more information about tuition and fees as well as information concerning types of assistantships and compensation and insurance?
For all information related to Tuition and Fees, please visit the Bursar’s page (https://www.bursar.vt.edu/). Please note that tuition and fees and subject to change at any time by the appropriate University authority.
For information related concerning types of assistantships and compensation and insurance, please see the Graduate School’s Graduate Assistantship Information for Students page (https://graduateschool.vt.edu/funding/types-of-funding/assistantships.html).
When should I arrive on campus?
There are orientation sessions and events throughout the week prior to when classes start. So you need to be on campus and ready to attend by Monday prior to the first week of class. A CS New Graduate Student orientation is typically held on Wednesday afternoon prior to the start of class, and you need to attend if you are a new student.
How do I sign up for classes? How many should I sign up for? Or any question similar to that.
For students being admitted for Fall semester, you will typically be able to sign up for classes around the beginning of August using the standard online drop/add process in the usual way for enrolled students. If the class is full or you are blocked for some reason, there is a mechanism ("force-add") to ask to be added to the class. The exact process for doing force-adds changes each semester, instructions will come shortly before classes start each semester.
For details on mechanics of adding/dropping courses online, see here.
We discuss how many classes you should take during orientation. But to give you a bit of an idea on what to expect: For MS/PhD students on support, a full time class load is two regular (3-credit, for a grade) courses. Do not plan to take more than that, and there is no need to take more than that. To reach full-time status (12 credits), you can sign up for things like a credit of grad seminar or the Grad School GTA training 1-credit course, and then fill out your schedule with research hours (5994 and 7994) as needed. MEng full-time students will typically take three or four courses per semester.
What is the deadline for adding classes?
Your last day to add classes is the Friday at the end of the first week of class.
How do I find an advisor?
There are generally two types of advising: academic advising and research advising. Academic advising can be done by any of the program directors (Dr. Shaffer, Dr. Hooshangi, Trey Mayo) or the appropriate graduate coordinator (Sharon Kinder-Potter for Blacksburg MS and PhD students, Suzanne Boone for NVC MS and PhD students, or Alexis Snyder and Samantha Pipkin for all MEng students). Research advising is done by your research advisor for MS and PhD students (MEng students do not need a research advisor -- Alexis Snyder is the main academic advisor for the MEng program). Information about the role of the advisor can be found at the appropriate degree pages.
The research advisor is one of the most important people in a Graduate Student's degree program. It is the responsibility of each MS and PhD student to contact faculty and find a suitable match. You can also discuss the process with the Graduate Program Director (Dr. Shaffer). Some students (perhaps one third) start the program already knowing who their advisor will be. Many others will work on talking with possible faculty advisors during the course of their first year. While ideally you would reach agreement with a faculty member to be your advisor as early as possible, you are fine if you can do it by the end of your first semester.
Some students find it difficult to find an advisor. The first step is to decide what research areas are of most interest to you, and which faculty seem to be doing work that seems to be a good match. Two resources that can help are the Research Areas page that lists faculty by research area, and the spreadsheet of faculty status that shows how actively faculty are looking for students. Faculty can only take on so many students, and this spreadsheet can help you to get a sense of how hard it will be to get a particular faculty member to agree.
For many students, finding an advisor involves sending emails or visiting faculty during their office hours. Keep in mind that the typical faculty member is contacted by many students (both students already in the department and ones who are considering whether to apply). The most important piece of advice regarding sending email is that it clearly indicate that you are contacting that specific faculty member because you are interested in their specific research (and that you know something about it). Sending email that looks like it could have been sent to anybody, especially if it comes across as looking for funding instead of looking for an advisor, is likely to be ignored.
For advice on how to succeed as a research graduate student, see these presentation slides.
Where can I get more information?
See the Grad School's new student FAQ.
Northern Virginia students see here.