I am a 25 year old European student, I will graduate in a CS & Math dual degree this year. I have accepted an offer from a very good company (Meta) and I would like to get into a top CS Master program (either in the US or in Europe) and maybe consider PhD in a couple of years. I don't want to start right now because I am burnout from academy and I need the money.

My grades are solid although not perfect (around 9 / 10) and I have one publication in a mid-level conference in the topic of Machine Learning.

What can I do to improve my chances of entering into a good program? All the advice I have found is aimed to bachelor students, like improve your grades or create a relationship with your teachers.

Some ideas I have:

  • Try to publish more. My advisor has shown favorable, so it may be possible to keep researching and try to get publications. However, publications would have to be limited to somewhat niche fields, as I am not sure I can keep up with the frenetic path of Machine Learning research while working full-time.
  • Participate or assist to congresses, workshops or other academic events.
  • Participate in professional events, like Hackathons. Most of these events involve coming up with ideas to approach industry problems, so it may reflect favorably on my capacity to approach practical problems.
  • Do personal projects, collaborate more with open source projects, get certifications: I think all of these are valuable for getting hired, but I am not sure they will provide any advantage at academic level.

What of these will improve my chances the most?

Observation: I am not asking about my chances of entering a concrete program. I rather want advice on what is the best way to improve your admission chances to a program once outside of university. While every program has its own process, I believe admissions valuate more or less the same things (correct me if I am wrong)

2 Answers 2


In the US, M.Sc. programs in Computer Science tend to be commercial products. In general, they give good value (retraining and actualizing) for money. If you have decent grades and letters of recommendation (and working at Meta itself would also be a positive sign), you will get in.

In the US, people tend to go directly into a Ph.D. if they are interested into research. They leave with an M.S. if it is not for them. The main concern of an admissions committee is always whether a candidate has the capability to do independent, but supervised research. Since this is difficult to assess, a number of measurements are substituted. Getting into a top program usually requires excellent test results. However, senior faculty can always ask for a certain student to be admitted (with a good reason given). Even in the US and in CS, universities are hiring less tenure-track people and often want people in the hot field de jour (such as data science or machine learning). So, getting an academic job might not be so easy, even if you come from a highly ranked but not top university. However, the Ph.D. gives you much more interesting jobs and usually, the pay differential pays for the time working on your Ph.D. where you will live on a stipend that pays nicely for your living expenses, but not much more.

If you want to do research, the easiest way to get into a good Ph.D. program is to have some research already under your belt. If you can combine this with your work, do that. If not, I would not waste my time on hackathons etc. Personal projects that show capabilities related to your desired field of specialization might help. But if you are working for one of the big, high-stress companies with lot of turn-over, no-one seriously expects you to do much outside of work. Meeting people at conferences and workshops does not work out too well in my experience, unless you present something.


First of all, congrats on your job offer! As for MA programmes, the situation is different in the UK and in continental Europe.

Europe: Most MA/MSc programmes take two years and are similar in form to a BA/BSc degree: you take courses and write a dissertation. Admission is often solely based on grades, and a 9/10 average seems decent.

UK: Master's courses usually take 1 year, and offer either training in a specialised sub-field of CS, or are research-based. The latter often give you an option to write a longer thesis - this could be a good starting point to a PhD.

As for admission, in the UK you need:

  • good grades - which you already have;
  • reference letters - so it's important to stay in touch with your undergrad professors, and perhaps to cultivate a good working relationship with a manager/mentor at your workplace (who can later write a "professional reference");
  • research proposal (especially for research-based degrees) - so think of a project that you find interesting and/or important. Maybe you'll come across an interesting research problem at work?

Good luck!

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