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Frequently Asked Questions

Here, we address some of the common questions that prospective majors, new majors, and current students ask.

If you still have questions regarding the program, please send the MCS Program an email!

Big Picture Questions

Why do students choose the MCS major?

The MCS major gives students the chance to take classes in Math, Statistics, Computer Science, and MS&E while affording students the flexibility to delve deeper into individualized areas of interest. The program usually attracts students who have enjoyed math, computer science, and/or statistics courses in the past, as it gives them the opportunity to explore applications of these subjects while taking classes in a variety of departments.

I heard that the MCS program is discontinued. What's happening?

The MCS program stopped accepting new majors and minors on September 1, 2022, but this change is not as drastic as it might seem at first. All students currently enrolled in the MCS major or minor will be able to complete these degree programs. Starting on September 1, 2022, students interested in Mathematical & Computational Science should explore the opportunities in the new Data Science program. The Data Science B.S. has requirements very similar to those of MCS. If you have more questions, please see our special list of FAQs about the transition from MCS to Data Science.

I'm interested in doing a Coterm program. What happens if some classes required for MCS are also required for the Coterm?

Much like not double counting courses in multiple majors/minors, the courses required for your undergraduate degree do not also count toward your graduate coterm program. If a given course is part of your chosen coterm program and is also required to complete your degree requirements for your undergraduate degree, you will need to discuss appropriate higher-level, additional courses with the coterm department to satisfy the requirements of the coterm. Taking the courses for your undergrad degree does not simultaneously satisfy the requirement in your chosen graduate degree program.

What is the difference between an academic department and an interdisciplinary program?

An interdisciplinary program crosses the boundaries between traditional disciplines to tackle problems that require a diverse set of methods and concepts. The MCS Program's affiliated faculty members represent several other departments including Math, Computer Science, Material Science & Engineering, and Statistics. By learning to bring this rich collection of disciplinary expertise to bear on questions of science and technology, students graduate uniquely equipped to succeed in professions that demand interdisciplinary fluency across technical and social frameworks.

May I study abroad and major in MCS?

Absolutely! A quarter abroad in a different cultural context allows you to enrich your academic interests, expand your network, and generate new ideas. The MCS major constitutes roughly 80-90 of your 180 required graduation units, which allows you the time (if you plan ahead) to take a quarter to travel abroad. Please explore your options on the Bing Overseas Program website and meet with one of the BOSP advisors. Even if you are unable to take coursework towards your major, you will still be making progress towards your total Stanford units.

Can I minor in MCS?

The MCS minor stopped accepting students on September 1, 2022. However, minors in Data Science and Statistics are available. 

May I choose a faculty advisor?

After you declare, you will be assigned in Axess to a faculty advisor who is affiliated with MCS. Students who have a pre-existing relationship with an MCS-affiliated faculty member, and would like to request them as their advisor, must inform the mcs-inquiries [at] (MCS Student Services Officer) upon declaration. You should be proactive in scheduling an annual appointment with your advisor during their office hours to discuss your academic interests, goals and challenges. You are also encouraged to meet with your advisor to discuss research and other academic opportunities.

How many students are in the MCS program?

There are usually around 100 to 130 students in the MCS program. 

Course Credit Questions

I took CS 109 before declaring. Can I substitute it for STATS 116?

CS 109 is NOT equivalent to STATS 116. If you've declared MCS, you should take STATS 116 -- not CS 109.

If you are an MCS major and you have already taken CS 109, you should take STATS 217 instead of STATS 116. If you take STATS 217 after CS 109, this does not exempt you from any of the other statistics core requirements, but you may count CS 109 as an elective. If you take CS 109 and then Stats 116, CS 109 will NOT count as an elective. 

I took the AP exam in Computer Science. Do these units count toward the MCS degree requirements?

In general, no. The CS department has determined that the AP exam does not equate to that of CS 106A. If you place out of CS 106A and take CS 106B upon entering Stanford, we ask that you take an additional CS course (3-5 units).

I do not have AP Math credit. How do I decide which math course to enroll in freshman year?

Please take a look at the Math department's page specifically addressing AP math credit and the single variable calculus course sequences.

Does MCS offer curricular practical training (CPT)?

Yes, CPT is available for declared MCS majors maintaining a valid F-1 visa during summer quarter. (Additional information on CPT eligibility can be found on the Bechtel International Center website.) Students obtain an internship in a relevant research or industrial activity to enhance their professional experience consistent with their MCS degree. The student is responsible for arranging their own internship.  For more information, please visit the MCS policies on Internship Credit for International Students.