I'm currently finishing my bachelor's degree of Computer Science and I'm really interested in Computational Complexity Theory and Analysis and design of Algorithms. As far as I know, if I do not have any papers or a MS degree it's almost impossible for me to get admitted into Phd in a top-50 US university. Therefore, a professor advised me to do a MS in CS with a thesis and aim to get published at least one paper while doing it.

That being said, I'm looking for a university where I can keep learning about those topics I mentioned (and maybe others like Scientific Computing for example) and that can provide me some sort of funding (i.e Teaching assistant, grading, etc) while doing the MS. I come from the best ranked university in my country (UNAL/Colombia), my GPA is 3.6/4, I have made a research project with the LLNL (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory) in FEM, I have good recommendation letters and I've obtained a 7.5 in IELTS Academic.

Is there any university (in US/Canada/Europe or Latin America) you would recommend me to apply for? (I cannot apply to many universities since each application is about 90 USD and my local currency is extremely devalued) So far I have just considered University of Waterloo.

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    $\begingroup$ Here is an ranking list of universities based on research activity in algorithms and complexity: csrankings.org/#/index?act&world $\endgroup$
    – Laakeri
    Nov 4, 2023 at 17:46
  • $\begingroup$ There are specialized master's programs in TCS, for instance the MPRI in Pari wikimpri.dptinfo.ens-cachan.fr (disclaimer: involved in that program). But I don't know if funding is available (maybe there are some scholarships via some of the participating institutions), and while graduates typically continue on a PhD in TCS they typically do so in Europe and I don't know whether this is the right path to get a TCS PhD in the US. $\endgroup$
    – a3nm
    Nov 6, 2023 at 19:44
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    $\begingroup$ Here's a good list with a few options: cs.princeton.edu/~smattw/masters/masters.html $\endgroup$ Nov 7, 2023 at 18:56
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    $\begingroup$ Many universities have continuous Master+PhD programs, e.g. University of Toronto. You start with Master and then continue with PhD. It is possible to get to top universities but you need very strong letters of recommendation from the right people (people whose recommendations can be trusted). $\endgroup$
    – Kaveh
    Nov 11, 2023 at 17:32

2 Answers 2


[Doesn't exactly answer the question, but too long for a comment]

For the USA: I don't think it's the case that you need either a master's or publications to get into a top-50 school. Top-10 sure. Maybe top-20. But not top-50. Having had a good research experience, good grades, good recommendation letters, and a good statement of purpose will be enough at many places.

Re: application fees. For PhD applications at least, many departments will waive or significantly reduce application fees for applicants in your situation; for some this will be advertised on their website, but for others you may just have to ask directly.

Most master's degrees do not guarantee funding; even if they have paid opportunities such as grading or TA-ships available, they are usually not guaranteed, so that is a big financial risk.

In Europe: I believe the situation is different. There, you essentially have to get a Master's Degree before a PhD (it is a requirement). The European graduate education system is quite different from the North American one, in a number of ways.


In the same spirit as in Joshua's answer (perhaps this could be made into a community wiki?) I will provide one more perspective.

In Brazil: similarly to Europe, most people get a Master's Degree before enrolling in a PhD. In many universities this is not a requirement, and there are exceptions, but they are outliers. There are no application fees for Master or Ph.D programs.

As for suggestions of universities, since you mentioned Latin America, there are some Brazilian universities with research groups on the topics you mentioned. To name a few: UFMG (which is my university), UFC, UFPR, UFRJ, Unicamp and USP.


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