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I wish to apply for an MS in CS in the United States or Canada for Fall 2022. I am from non-CS background (engineering physics) and currently work as a software developer. I had programming experience in college and took undergrad courses in data structures, algorithms and machine learning. But I have not taken core CS courses like operating systems, compilers or computer architecture.

If I take any online courses on these topics and mention the certificate link in my statement Of purpose, can it help boost my profile? Considering the fact that I would need to start applications 6 months from now, I was wondering if such online courses are worth the time now. If yes, can someone suggest online courses on these topics which have the same level of rigor as an undergraduate course?

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  • The best way to show your course material is to present a project along with it. A good part of your application will depend on projects. If you can manage something "your resume" worthy, it should hold way better than simply mentioning it on your CV.
    – Academic
    Jun 21, 2021 at 13:48

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The problem with such online courses is that it is very difficult for an admissions committee to verify that you actually learned anything. If you work hard at such a course and do at least as much as the course requires then you might learn something useful, but it is very difficult to equate such a "credential" to a proper university course.

So, such things won't hurt and you might get a chance to answer questions asked if you get an interview, but don't depend too much on them.

On the other hand, US admissions is based on a broad assessment of the likelihood of success in the program so it might be that some online courses could help fill in the broader picture.

But the knowledge is more valuable for the knowledge rather than any "credential" or "boost for admission".


Since you mention Statement of Purpose, let me give my standard advice. Don't spend many words there talking about the past - what you have done. Use those words to focus on what you will do in future - plans and goals. A short phrase noting how past things support those goals can be fine, but it is the CV that focuses on the past. So don't miss the opportunity that the SoP is intended to provide.

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