I often receive inquiries from prospective students; however there are too many to respond in detail to each one. Below are answers to common questions:
Q: I want to join your group or another group in AI or your department in general. What should I do?
A: Students in the machine learning group and all others in our department must first be admitted to the graduate program in the Department of Computer Science. The deadline is around Dec.15 each year (in order to align with large US universities), and all of the information is available online here.
Q: What is involved in applying?
A: Roughly speaking, you have to fill out some forms (which are available online) and send some of them to our department and some to the central university School of Graduate Studies. There is also a nominal fee for applying. You must decide if you want to apply to the master's program or to the PhD program directly. If you don't have any prior graduate studies, we generally recommend that you apply first to the master's program and transfer to the PhD program as you progress. We try to inform you in March of our decision. We usually accept a very small percentage of the best applicants, but the exact numbers vary from year to year and from area to area.
Q: What are the admissions criteria?
A: Admissions decisions will be based primarily on your past academic performance (including marks and standardized tests like the GRE), your reference letters and forms which we look at very carefully, and any research, teaching or job experience you might have. Having some idea of the sort of research in which you are interested helps us send your file to the relevant faculty, but many students do not know exactly what they want to work on -- you shouldn't make up a research interest that you aren't sure of. You should be advised that even if you meet the minimum admission standards of the University, spots in our department and the machine learning group are very limited, and so nothing can be guaranteed.
Q: Can you provide funding (i.e., a research assistantship) for my studies?
A: All students admitted to our department are guaranteed funding for the normal time of completion in their degree program (17 months for master's plus an additional 43 months if you continue to the PhD). This money comes from various sources including student scholarships, central university funds for student support, and research grants from faculty members. The details of where your support comes from should not be of concern to you, and I cannot possibly discuss any financial arrangements until after you have been admitted by the department, and this cannot happen until we have received and processed your complete application.
Q: It's now spring/summer, and I'm really, really interested in your research area. Can't you accept me right away for September?
A: No. We stick to the timeline of applications as indicated on the department web site.
Q: What about working in your group or with you?
A: If you are specifically interested in machine learning, please indicate this on your application. Note, however that students are NOT admitted to work with specific professors; they are admitted to the department at large, with guaranteed funding and are free to work with whomever they find a good match with once they arrive. If are interested in working with me specifically, you can indicate this in your statement of interest included with your official application. This will mean that I look at your file, and should you be admitted we can decide once you arrive if we'd enjoy doing research together.
Good luck in your pursuit of graduate studies, wherever it takes you!
Thanks to Sam Roweis for this page.