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 datasciencemajor-inquiries [at] lists.stanford.edu (Data Science Program) an email!
Why do students choose the Data Science major?
The Data Science major gives students the chance to take classes in Math, Statistics, Computer Science, MS&E, Ethics, and (for students who choose the B.A. option) Social Sciences. In addition, the program offers a B.S. option and a B.A. option, both of which afford students the flexibility to delve deeper into individualized areas of interest.
The B.S. route often draws 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. The B.A. route often appeals to students who want to use a data-driven and computational approach to solving problems in our communities.
What happened to the MCS program?
The Mathematical and Computational Science (MCS) program’s name is changing to Data Science on September 1, 2022. This adjustment is intended to align with common language used in the field. In addition, the name allows us to expand the major to include a new B.A. option (called Data Science & Social Systems), which will allow students to work at the intersection of computation, statistics, and the social sciences to improve our communities. If you were interested in the MCS program, you should consider the B.S. route within Data Science, whose requirements you will find are very similar to those from MCS. If you have more questions, please see our special list of FAQs about the transition from MCS to Data Science.
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 Data Science Program's courses represent several other departments, including Mathematics, Computer Science, Management Science & Engineering, Statistics, Ethics, and Behavioral Sciences. By learning to bring this rich collection of disciplinary expertise to bear on questions of data science, students graduate uniquely equipped to succeed in professions that demand interdisciplinary fluency across technical and social frameworks.
May I study abroad and major in Data Science?
Absolutely! A quarter abroad in a different cultural context allows you to enrich your academic interests, expand your network, and generate new ideas. The number of units for the Data Science major 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.
May I choose a faculty advisor?
After you declare, you will be assigned in Axess to a faculty advisor who is affiliated with Data Science. Students who have a pre-existing relationship with a Data Science-affiliated faculty member, and would like to request them as their advisor, must inform the datasciencemajor-inquiries [at] lists.stanford.edu (Data Science 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.
Are the B.A. and B.S. STEM majors? Do International students qualify for STEM OPT?
Yes! Both the B.A. and the B.S. are STEM majors. All F1 international students majoring in either the B.A. in Data Science & Social Systems or the B.S. in Data Science will qualify for STEM OPT.
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 know you want to major in Data Science, you should take STATS 116 -- not CS 109.
If you wish to declare Data Science but 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 core requirements, but you may count CS 109 as an elective for the B.S.. 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 Data Science 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'm interested in doing a Coterm program. What happens if some classes required for Data Science 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.
May I use transfer credit toward the major?
Transfer students may petition to apply coursework from institutions outside Stanford University to their major, provided the Registrar has already awarded transfer credit and that the coursework is relevant and/or equivalent to courses approved for the Data Science major. All such petitions are subject to approval by the Data Science faculty advisor. The required forms can be found on Data Science Resources page.
How do I take a course for my major that is not on the pre-approved course list(s)?
Students in the B.A. in Data Science & Social Systems program should contact the Associate Director, Mallory Nobles, for course substitution and transfer petitions.
Students in the B.S. in Data Science program may count no more than one approved course substitution (subject to Data Science faculty advisor approval) toward their individual requirements. Faculty advisors review all course substitution petitions and course transfer petitions.
Please see the resources section of this website to obtain forms for both course substitutions and evaluation of transfer courses. If the course is taken at another institution, Stanford must first award you Stanford credit if you would like the course to be considered in lieu of an Data Science requirement.