Who We’re Looking For

To be qualified for the MSE-DS online program, applicants must meet one (1) of the following criteria:

  • Undergraduate degree in computer science
  • Undergraduate degree and at least four for-credit computer science courses, which can include for example:
    1. Introductory programming
    2. Discrete Math
    3. Computer Systems/Hardware
    4. Data Structures
    5. Other CS foundational courses are also accepted besides (1)-(4). 
  • Undergraduate degree in a highly quantitative field (e.g., engineering, statistics, math, physics) + 2 years of work experience as a data scientist, software engineer, or any field with quantitative+coding experience.

If you have questions or concerns about your qualifications, you may reach out to our responsive admissions team at online-admissions@seas.upenn.edu

How to Apply

To apply to the MSE-DS Online program, you’ll need to submit the following:

The Application

If you’re ready, you can start your online application today.

Professional Resume

Submit a one- to two-page (maximum five) resume in English. We look at your resume to learn more about:

  • Your functional job skills
  • The breadth and depth of your experience
  • Your demonstrated leadership
  • Your experiences (if any) with online learning
  • We are more interested in what you have learned in your professional journey than in the length of time you’ve been in the workplace.

Personal Statement

Write a 1,000–1,500 word essay that answers the following questions:

  • What makes you interested in the MSE-DS Online program?
  • How will you benefit from the program?
  • Describe your career goals and how the MSE-DS Online curriculum will help to achieve them.
  • Why will you succeed in the program?
  • How will you contribute to the MSE-DS Online community?
  • Given the time commitment required to successfully complete the program, how do you plan to incorporate an average of 15 hours per week per course of studies into your lifestyle?

Please provide detailed and specific examples from academia, industry, or research when possible.

If you are a reapplicant, please address this additional required question (250 words):

  • Discuss any updates to your candidacy since you last applied (e.g., additional coursework, changes in your professional life, and extracurricular/volunteer engagements) and explain why you are qualified for this online degree program.

Letters of Recommendation

Submit official letters of recommendation from individuals who know you well and have evaluated you in an academic or work setting. Letters must be submitted through the online system. Letters of recommendation should not be from colleagues and/or friends. Applications with two or more such letters will be rejected.

Letters of recommendation should be written according to the following guidelines:

  • A minimum of two letters are required; a third letter is optional
  • Must be written in English
  • On official letterhead of the writer’s organization or institution whenever possible
  • Include the writer’s signature/name and organization
  • Range from 500 to 1,500 words

For additional details, see our Letters of Recommendation FAQs.



  • Upload unofficial transcripts from every university or college where you have earned academic credit.
  • Transcripts are to be uploaded in PDF format.
  • Transcripts must be in English.
  • Transcripts must include all courses taken, credit hours and grades earned.
  • Diplomas will not be accepted in lieu of transcripts.
  • If the grading is on a scale other than 4.0, please include documentation indicating the scale.
  • Applicants with international transcripts should strongly consider submitting a transcript evaluated by a NACES organization such as WES. Note that applicants should factor in additional time for third parties to evaluate transcripts before the final application deadline.

If you are admitted to the program, you will need to provide official transcripts to verify the information provided in the unofficial documents.

Application Fee

The $90 nonrefundable application fee is due with your online application.

GRE Scores (Optional)

You don’t have to submit GRE scores, but your scores could have a favorable impact on your application. If you want us to take your scores into consideration, submit your official test scores by the application deadline. Your scores are valid for five years.

GRE Codes

  • Institution Code: 2888 (2926 will also work)
  • Department/Major Code: 1699

English Proficiency Exam

Submit your official scores on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) if English is not your native language and you are an international applicant, a non-US citizen, or a non-US permanent resident. We do not accept the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) in place of the TOEFL.

This requirement can be waived if the candidate has completed a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree where the medium of instruction at the institution is English. The degree must be completed before matriculation into the MSE-DS Online program. Applicants will have the opportunity to be waived from this requirement as part of the MSE-DS online application process.

We must receive your official TOEFL score directly from ETS by the application deadline.

Scores are valid for two years.

A minimum score of 100 is required.

TOEFL Codes:

  • Institution Code: 2888 (2926 will also work)
  • Department/Major Code: 69

Technical Requirements

  • Internet – MSE-DS Online is an online degree program and it is your responsibility to have and maintain internet access that permits you to receive and transmit information freely for the duration of the program. Penn is not responsible for any inability to access the program due to disruptions in your internet service, whether caused by technical problems, governmental or other third party actions.
  • Proctored Exams – A few times each semester, students will take proctored exams. Please see the system requirements for Honorlock, the proctoring service used by the program.
  • We do not recommend using a computer provided by your work. Work computers may not provide students access to install important software and corporate firewalls may prevent activities required by the program.

If you are looking to purchase a laptop or notebook:  Laptop and Notebook Purchasing Guides

Important Dates and Deadlines

We offer both fall and spring start dates. Applications for the Fall term open at the start of January and are due in early May. For Spring, the application opens in early June and is due in early October.

The MCIT | MSE-DS Online Dual Degree application timeline can be found here.

Degree Admission Cycles

Fall 2024Spring 2025
Application OpensJanuary 3, 2024
June 3, 2024
Early Admission Deadline March 1, 2024August 5, 2024
Early Decision Notification April 19, 2024September 13, 2024
Regular Admission DeadlineMay 15, 2024October 7, 2024
Early Decision Deposit DueMay 17, 2024October 15, 2024
Regular Decision Notification June 14, 2024November 8, 2024
Regular Decision Deposit DueJuly 12, 2024December 2, 2024
Orientation Begins July 2024December 4, 2024
Classes Start August 2024January 2025

Admissions Decisions

We base our decisions on our assessment of your ability to successfully complete the program and the compatibility of your interests with our program. 

You will be notified of your admissions decision through the online application system. We cannot reveal a decision over the telephone, and we don’t reconsider applications. You can choose to re-apply if your experience changes. 

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