Back to School


I’m incredibly excited to announce that I’ve been accepted into Northwestern University’s Master of Science in Data Science (MSDS) program.

If you’ve kept up with  my blog, you’ll know, I applied to three schools: Northwestern University, where I was accepted, Johns Hopkins University, where I was provisionally accepted once I completed five specific prerequisites, and University of California, Berkeley, where I was denied (seemingly due to lack of prerequisites).

NW has classes for people with less of a programming and math background, so their admissions are based more on their belief in a candidates overall potential than on their specific academic background in the field. For someone like me with neither a computer science nor a mathematics background, NW was a better option.  One of the things I really liked about both NW and Berkeley is that all the classes were made for Data Science applications. JHU offered a number of statistical analysis and computer science courses that were from their respective departments and more general in nature. By going to NW, I expect my courses to be focused on what I want to do.

NW doesn’t do rolling admissions. Starting at their deadline, October 15, they take 4 to 6 weeks to make all their decisions and send them out. I applied in August, so I was going a bit nuts. While I was waiting, in addition to taking prerequisite courses, I was investigating almost every possible option in the data science and artificial intelligence areas, including potential “double master” programs. I really liked the three schools where I had applied, but wanted to make sure I’d made the right choice. There were a lot of other options, but I think I picked the right three for me.

Getting accepted helps me focus on a more specific path going forward and SERIOUSLY reduces my anxiety around the uncertainty, but there are a couple downsides.

Most of all, it means the three prerequisite classes I took at UCSD this term, Calculus I, Intro to Python, and Python for Analytics, were not completely necessary. I’m sure they will help me going forward, but they were not strictly required like they were for the other two schools. My company has a small tuition reimbursement program, so I will get paid back for them once they are over, but they were a LOT of work!

The other issue, and arguably a good one to have, is there are just too many classes I want to take. I need to take 12 courses to complete the MSDS program… my problem is that they offer about 30 and I want to take about 22 of them.There are 8 that are required, so I really only get to choose 4 electives.

One option is that NW offers “post graduate certificates” in Advanced Data Science (which just lets me take 4 more classes from the list) and in Artificial Intelligence (which is 4 out of the 5 AI courses they offer), so I have the option of getting the degree and then one or more certificate. What is kind of nice about that option is that the Advance Data Science certificate offers the classes for 25% off and the AI certificate offers them at 35% off. I can take both the masters degree and both certificates for what Berkeley’s masters degree alone costs. I don’t think I would (right now I’m thinking the degree and Advanced certificate to get most of the classes I really want), but it’s an interesting comparison.

Depending on my discussions with my academic advisor, most  likely my first classes with be Python for Data Science and Intro to Data Science.

Here we go!!