I want to get into MS in Computer science in the US, specifically in data science. I have a Masters in Physics but my GPA is low. I have scored 51% in my undergrad and 62% in my postgrad. I have cleared my postgrad with 10+ back logs. But I have an international conference paper published in radio astronomy. I have also worked as an intern in web team of leading daily as a science writer. I also have 2+ experience in teaching Physics. I have also volunteered in outreach activities by TIFR, Mumbai. In my undergrad, I have also won prizes in working models related to science. I have an 8.0 score in IELTS and gearing up for my GRE. what are my chances to get into a decent college?

To make my application better, I have enrolled myself into John Hopkins Data Science program by Coursera and I am also learning Python. Will it help?

The reason I had for backlogs is financial troubles in my family. I was doing odd part-time jobs which caused so many backlogs.

  • 3
    The concept of backlogs is not universally known. Can you explain a bit? Without a formal answer, though, it seems like you are doing the right thing. – Buffy Jun 25 '18 at 16:37
  • Grading systems vary greatly by county. Your previous education was presumably not done in the US (as those grades would be failing grades in the US), so adding that context and some information about how poor these grades are would be helpful. – Stella Biderman Jul 25 '18 at 18:24
  • Also, are you now in the US, or elsewhere? India, perhaps. – Buffy Jul 25 '18 at 18:27
  • Rereading this, I realize you have included no information about your CS background. Do you have a CS background? Do you know the basics of algorithms, data structures, data bases, and compilers? It would be very hard for you to walk into a reputable CS program without any CS knowledge or experience. – Stella Biderman Jul 25 '18 at 20:48

Without more information from the OP, this answer will be a bit tentative. I'm not sure that a low GPA is your biggest issue, though some schools have rules that they enforce quite rigidly.

I think the biggest obstacle for you now, that you can correct somewhat at least with time and effort, is that your academic background seems to be haphazard rather than focused. Normally a master's is quite focused and depends on the student having certain skills, usually from their undergraduate years. You don't seem to obviously have that.

Learning Python, of itself, will help you very little, actually as it is just a tool. But you may be missing most of the content of the undergraduate education, including, perhaps the vital Algorithms and Data Structures courses, as well as Database and a few others.

Physics (at most levels) is an actual science. That seems to be your background. Computer Science isn't a science at all (in most areas) and hasn't been for half a century. Data science is a bit between, however, as it can be experimental, not just constructive. In CS, we mostly build things, rather than search for the truths provided by the cosmos.

It might be, that if you want to study big data in Physics specifically, that you might find a program somewhere that focuses on that, though it would likely be in a Physics department. If you can find that, your background might be seen as helpful.

But in general, if you want a MS (MSc) degree you should spend some time (not a small amount of time) focusing your studies in one area primarily that will help you be seen as having the needed skills.

While broad interests in life are valued and valuable, academia mostly values specialization. Studying data science online may help you provided you do enough of it and do it well enough, but your broad background may only make it harder. If you can find a way to get some of the background in an actual educational institution (with a mentor) it would (for most people) be better than online courses, which are harder to judge no matter how good they are. There is too much variability in student outcomes to trust them completely. Focus.


Learning Python will definitely help, but you have to also prove your mettle by showing the program you're applying to some projects you've worked on. Believe it or not, academic programs don't simply blanket reject applicants just because of academic factors. Every applicant is considered on a case by case basis. They can only assess what they are provided. If you do nothing more than apply, they can see nothing more than your provided materials.

Recommendations? First, do very well on your GRE, for starters. Prepare heavily. A high score can offset a low GPA. Secondly, find a program that offers exactly what you're looking for. If you see a CS program that's more focused on theory and computing, don't go for that. It doesn't have to say "computer science" for it to be a data science degree program. This is a very common mistake. Finally, prove you have something to bring to the table. Look up on Google projects you can do yourself with Python. Make a Github or even a personal blog of your work. Show initiative that makes them believe you want to be a data scientist!

Best of luck

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