Admission to the department is highly competitive. Although we welcome promising students from all disciplines, entering students must have a substantial background in both mathematics and computer science. This background normally includes at least six semester courses in mathematics and six in computer science. We consider knowledge of the following subjects to be essential preparation for our graduate program:

  • differential and integral calculus;
  • discrete mathematics: sets, relations, functions, algebra;
  • linear algebra or matrix theory;
  • mathematical probability, preferably calculus-based;
  • structured programming techniques;
  • data structures and abstract data types;
  • computer organization.

Most entering students have studied all but two or three of the following subjects, which are required preparation for our graduate program:

  • design and analysis of algorithms;
  • formal languages and automata theory;
  • databases;
  • operating systems;
  • compilers;
  • digital logic techniques;
  • numerical computing methods;
  • programming languages;
  • software engineering.

Students who are admitted but who have not completed all the requirements must complete them after admission. Preference is given to applicants who are solidly prepared, especially in mathematics.

Previous Degrees

A baccalaureate degree is required, with a grade point average of at least B (3.0/4.0); most entering students have a GPA of more than 3.5.


High scores on all three parts of the General Aptitude Test of the Graduate Record Examination are also recommended: a minimum of 80th percentile on the verbal section, 90th percentile on the quantitative section, and 90th percentile on the analytical section or a minimum of 5 on the analytical writing section. In recent years, most entering students have averaged in the 90th percentile or higher on each of the three sections. Allowances are made in interpreting the verbal test scores of applicants whose native language is not English. Although GRE Advanced Test scores are not required, applicants are encouraged to take the advanced test in computer science, mathematics, engineering, or physics, as appropriate. Standardized test scores must be officially reported directly by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) and no more than five years old. The official report of your score must arrive before admission can be offered. If you did not specify the UNC-CH Graduate School institution code #5816 as a score recipient at the time of taking the test, or if your scores were sent more than one year ago, you must contact ETS to request that your scores are sent to us. No departmental code is required.


Please see for TOEFL information and minimum scores. We give preference to applicants who score above a 615 on the paper-based TOEFL exam.

Personal Statement

(Also known as Statement of Purpose)

Each applicant must submit a short personal statement. This statement is considered the departmental supplemental application and should include:

  • objectives in pursuing graduate study;
  • identification of fields within computer science in which the applicant has a particular interest;
  • information that is relevant to the applicant’s qualifications for graduate study but that has not been included already in the application (e.g. major academic projects, papers presented or published, and non-academic computer experience);
  • an informative title or a brief description of any course listed on the applicant’s transcript without a title (or with a vague title such as “Mathematics II”);
  • a list of all courses taken or planned that do not yet appear on a transcript;
  • an e-mail address, if available.

It should be between a half page and two pages long. Electronic submission of the personal statement is required by the application software.


Three letters of recommendation are required. Letters written by an applicant’s present or former professors are usually more informative than those written by employers or colleagues. Electronic submission of all three recommendations is required by the application software.


Because of the large number of applicants, the department’s faculty members are unable to provide individual assessments of an applicant’s chances for admission. Applicants cannot improve their chances of admission by finding a faculty sponsor within the department, because all admissions decisions are made by a faculty committee that reviews all applications, ranks the applicants by overall merit, and makes decisions on admission and financial support based on the application material submitted. In particular, students are not admitted by research project directors; contacting individual faculty members whose research is of interest has no effect on one’s chances of being admitted.

How To Apply

Admission is based solely on merit. The University of North Carolina is an affirmative action, equal opportunity institution. Prospective applicants who clearly surpass the minimum requirements are encouraged to apply.

The Graduate School’s web site includes information on applying and on-line application forms.

If you do not have internet access and need to request a paper application, write for application materials to:

The Graduate School
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Campus Box 4010, 200 Bynum Hall
Chapel Hill, N.C. 27599-4010 USA
Phone: (919) 966-2611
Internet mail:

Admissions Deadlines

Applications for Fall 2017 admission, complete with a personal statement, all transcripts, three letters of recommendation, and official GRE and/or TOEFL scores will be accepted by the Graduate School and reviewed by the department until April 11, 2017. Early submission of applications is encouraged and recommended.  Deadline applies to international applicants.

**The optimal application submission would be the end of January.**

N.C. Residency For Tuition Purposes

If you have questions about North Carolina residency for tuition purposes, please visit


Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Training Program

Students interested in a PhD in the area of Bioinformatics and/or Computational Biology (BCB) with a focus on computer science techniques have two choices:

(1)  PhD in Computer Science with an optional certificate from the BCB program.  This requires an application for admission to Computer Science PhD program and an optional application to the BCB certificate program that can be made concurrent with the Computer Science application OR in a later semester.

(2)  PhD in the Curriculum for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology with one or more committee members from computer science.  This includes a first year fellowship supporting rotations in faculty laboratories.  This requires an application to the BCB PhD program.



If you have any questions about our admissions process, please contact us:

Admissions and Graduate Studies
Department of Computer Science
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Campus Box 3175, Sitterson Hall
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3175 USA