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 stopped accepting new majors and minors on September 1, 2022. However, all of the opportunities from MCS are still available – they are now offered under the Data Science B.S.
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 allows 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.
I think I'm interested in the Data Science Program. What classes could I take to get started and/or see if the program is a good fit for me?
- CS 106A (Programming Methodology) - This is an introduction to programming and uses the Python programming language. No prior programming experience required. CS 106A is a prerequisite for the major’s gateway courses and a requirement for the majors and minor.
- CS 193Q (Introduction to Python Programming) - Sometimes, a student might come in with AP computer science credit and skip CS 106A. If those students don’t know Python, this 1-unit class will be important in preparing for DATASCI 112 (a gateway course for the B.A. and B.S.), which uses Python.
- DATASCI 112 (Principles of Data Science) - This is a gateway course for both the Data Science & Social Systems B.A. and the Data Science B.S. It also fulfills the data science requirement for the minor. It’s a great class to take to see if the data science program is a good fit for you!
- DATASCI 154 (Solving Social Problems with Data) - This is the gateway class for the Data Science & Social Systems B.A., and it’s a great class to take to see if the major is a good fit for you!
- Your first math class(es) - Let the math placement diagnostic test guide where you start, which might be Math 19, Math 20, Math 21, or Math 51. Math 51 is required for the B.A., B.S., and minor and is a prerequisite for many other core classes.
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.
- Data Science B.S. students who have a strong preference for their faculty advisor should inform the student services team of their top two choices upon declaration.
- Data Science & Social Systems B.A. students can read more about the procedure for choosing a faculty advisor here.
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 in the Data Science B.S.?
CS 109 is NOT equivalent to STATS 116. If you know you want to major in the Data Science B.S., you should take STATS 116 -- not CS 109.
If you wish to declare the Data Science B.S. 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?
For students who declared the Data Science B.S. before September 1, 2023: If you place out of CS 106A and take CS 106B upon entering Stanford, you are required to take an additional higher-level CS course (3-5 units) in place of CS 106A.
For students in the Data Science & Social Systems B.A. and students who declared the Data Science B.S. on or after September 1, 2023: If you place out of CS 106A and successfully take CS 106B upon entering Stanford, you do not need to make up additional units in place of CS 106A.
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. All such petitions are subject to approval by the Data Science program, in consultation with faculty. The required forms can be found on the Forms & Resources page under Academics.
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 submit the Data Science Requirement Inquiry Form.
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.
Please see the Forms & Resources page under Academics to obtain the applicable forms.
Questions from Non-Stanford Students
I'm not currently a Stanford student, but I'm interested in the Data Science program. How do I apply?
Undergraduate students apply to Stanford University as a whole rather than to a particular program. Please read more about the admissions process. The admissions website is your best resource, and it includes information about first-year applicants, transfer applicants, international applicants, requirements, deadlines, recommended academic preparation, financial aid, and more. Our team is not part of the admissions process. After you have been admitted to the university and have started as a Stanford student, you could begin the process of declaring the major.