I've always had an interest in applying tech skills to improve the educational landscape. To do this, I've been building a video game to teach foreign languages as a side project. I've had positive feedback, but feel that I need a deeper understanding of the way students think and learn to successfully lead the project. I'm applying to a Master's program in Cognitive Science in Education at Columbia's Teachers College to fill these gaps.

My undergrad studies, however, were in business, computer science, and Chinese, and my career has been in business and software engineering. I don't have any formal training in Cognitive Science, Psychology, or academic research, beyond the second language acquisition and game-based learning theories I've read from academic journals such as the Educational Psychologist. While I do have experience as a volunteer teacher, and while my game is education focused and relies on data-driven learning outcomes, I'm worried that my background just isn't relevant enough for the program.

To strengthen the relevance of my application, I've begun reading related texts from Pinker and Kahneman, and have been taking Coursera coursework in Cognitive Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience. Q: are these good steps to take towards strengthening my otherwise unrelated / interdisciplinary background? Is Coursera viewed kindly as a way to build elementary knowledge in the field? Any recommendations or advice?


I suspect that the admissions office will look at your experience and the steps you are taking to fill gaps in your background and want to have you in the program. You might consider trying to find someone at Columbia to talk to before you apply formally.

  • Great answer. Additionally, you could look up course materials and requirements of the undergrad CogSci courses at Columbia.
    – Aolon
    Aug 1 at 5:19

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