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My undergraduate major was not computer science, but civil engineering, and I took five computer science courses in college. I worked as a software engineer for five years after I graduated, but not for famous companies. I love open source and I spend much time on it. Now I have a 2000+ stars GitHub open source repository and several 50-100 stars repositories.

My target is a top 30 computer science MSc program in the US.

How helpful are popular GitHub repositories like mine for applications, in particular when changing fields?

  • An admission committee can give you insights, but we aren't that committee, so we can't. Perhaps you can rephrase your question in terms that we can answer? (Please avoid shopping questions in any rephrasing.) – user2768 Dec 13 '18 at 8:07
  • One answerable question might be how much emphasis to put on the GitHub reputation in the application. – Patricia Shanahan Dec 13 '18 at 8:34
  • If you don't have a top B.Sc in CS you may find this a much more significant obstacle, as you'll be competing with mainly CS B.Sc. grads with top grades. You need to demonstrate a consistent interest in CS, not just programming. Be prepared for extra course requirements (to ensure you are at B.Sc. CS levels) and hence extra time and extra expense. – StephenG Dec 13 '18 at 14:17
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    If you don't have a top B.Sc in CS you may find this a much more significant obstacle — I doubt it, actually. Lots of people change fields between undergrad and grad school, and five years of experience and a popular github repo go a long way toward balancing out a lack of formal academic training. – JeffE Dec 13 '18 at 14:34
  • OP, this might be off-topic, but I hope you aren't going solely off of the US News report on CS programs. If you're looking at a career in academia, it's much better to find a professor or research lab in the field you're interested in. These might happen to be at schools well-regarded in general for CS, but it's just as likely they wouldn't be. Read some papers and journal articles in your niche and note down who wrote them - these will be where you want to apply. – user98270 Dec 13 '18 at 21:02
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2000+ stars for a GitHub repository is an amazing achievement. This will definitely make you stand out if you know how to use it right.

You should tell a story in the cover letter/statement of purpose/or whatever it is called: what is your passion with coding and open source, how did you come up with the idea for that project, how well it was received by the community (explain a bit as people may not know GitHub), and how it helped other projects (search if any other repositories that use your tool).


This part is not an answer: ask yourself why do you want a Master? This is impressive for a PhD program too. If you just want a Master, then it's better to find a job with a top tech company instead of wasting two years, and a lot of money. Stack Overflow has a function that if you give them your GitHub account URL, it can refer you to employers.

  • What is the function where if you give them your github, they refer you? I took a small glance and couldn't find anything like that. – Seiyria Dec 13 '18 at 14:13
  • @Seiyria Try the jobs board and the developer story. – TRiG Dec 13 '18 at 14:38
  • @TRiG I see that and have it set up, but what I'm trying to figure out is where the "github employer match" feature is. I don't recall this existing in that capacity - just that you can put your github stuff on your profile. If there exists some documentation that SO uses it to match, that would help. Otherwise, it's just a result of having github related stuff on your profile and it being more appealing to employers (not specifically seeking to match with them). – Seiyria Dec 13 '18 at 14:45
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    It will definitely need some explanation. Many CS academics don't participate in open-source development (*raises hand*) and will have no idea what "2000 stars on github" means. – David Richerby Dec 13 '18 at 15:56
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    @PascLeRasc No, it's a terrible filter. The asker can continue to do open-source development in grad school regardless of what his professors do, and it's perfectly possible to have enthusiastic open-source developers on the faculty but not on the admissions committee. – David Richerby Dec 13 '18 at 21:08

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