Best Computer Science Schools for Great Education and Training

With every year, the number of prospective students looking at tech-based majors rises. It makes perfect sense that they want to know which of the many programs available can be considered the best computer science schools in America. It might be from educational and innovative offerings, costs, financial aid, and more.

FAQ

1. What Is a Computer Science School?

2. What Does a Computer Science School Do?

3. How Can You Enroll into One of Them?

How We Reviewed

The following products were reviewed based on the following parameters: highlights, pros & cons, tuition, acceptance rate, diversity, innovation, and scholarship.

Overall Price Range of the Best Computer Science Schools

The tuition rates of the ten schools we review range from around $36,000 to $72,000. Some of the higher priced programs might come from Ivy League universities or graduate programs.

What We Reviewed

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Stanford University
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • University of California–Berkeley
  • Northwest Nazarene University
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Cornell University
  • Harvard University
  • Harvey Mudd College
  • Columbia University

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Highlights

This premiere tech school boasts an academic atmosphere that supports diverse teams in finding innovative approaches to global problems. MIT has a world-class faculty that has more than 70 Nobel Laureates, more than 30 National Medal of Science recipients, and more than 20 MIT faculty and staff members have won the MacArthur Fellowship. Most MIT undergrads also participate in research in labs, offices, and machine shops on campus and around the world while attending the school.


Tuition

The yearly tuition for attendance at MIT costs around $50,000 but might increase to at least around $65,000 with additional expenses.


Website

http://www.mit.edu/


Acceptance Rate

MIT is notorious for its tough acceptance rate. As of 2018, the rate sits around seven percent on both regular and early decision applications.


Diversity

The Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science has made it a part of their mission to support an inclusive environment that understands, empowers, and engages every member of the community. The Office of Engineering Outreach Programs has developed services to schools from under-represented areas so that young students have a leg up on their post-high school education. They have also made strides in retaining faculty and students who are traditionally under-represented in computer engineering.


Innovation

There are interdisciplinary programs, such as Computer Science and Molecular Biology, which combine parts from two departments and focus on an emerging field in science and tech. The MIT Innovation Imitative is a collaboration with all five schools dedicated to fostering a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation between students.


Scholarship

Around 60 percent of MIT undergrads receive scholarships with an average of around $46,000 per student. They are awarded based solely on financial need.

Pros

  • Freshman Pass/No Record grading system
  • Research experience from the UROP program
  • Access to incredible research labs

Cons

  • Extremely competitive admission rate
  • Strong push towards a heavy, challenging academic load
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Stanford University
Stanford University seal

Highlights

The Stanford Computer Science department is highly regarded thanks to the range its undergrad program can offer — AI, computer engineering, systems theory, and others. Its location in the Bay Area also helps students not just in finding some of the best internships, but in providing the tools that will make the idea for their first startup.


Tuition

The yearly tuition for attendance at Stanford costs around $51,000 but might increase to at least around $67,000 with additional expenses.


Website

https://www.stanford.edu/


Acceptance Rate

Stanford also has a tough acceptance rate. As of 2016, undergraduate admissions sit at around five percent from almost 44,000 applicants that year.


Diversity

One of Stanford's goals is to strengthen their mission towards equity and inclusion. The Engineering Diversity Programs help achieve this by recruiting and graduating students across different backgrounds.


Innovation

The Computer Systems Lab is a joint lab between the Computer Science and Electrical Engineering department. It has developed new ideas and trends in computers since its creation in the 60s through both theoretical and experimental research. Results from the lab include:

  • 3D graphics chips
  • CISCO router
  • Yahoo
  • Google

Scholarship

Stanford stands above the best computer science schools in regards to financial aid and diversity. They are the No. 1 support of the Consortium for Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering and Sciences. There was an estimated financial aid award of around $53,000 in 2016-17.

Pros

  • Great location for the entrepreneur-minded
  • Excellent internship opportunities in Silicon Valley

Cons

  • Graduate program is lacking
  • Concentrated on startup culture
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Carnegie Mellon University

Highlights

The courses in Carnegie Mellon's computer science program as loosely connected to one another. That means students can go down their own academic path easily while staying within the major. Student advisors help build a curriculum that fits a student's interests while keeping them on task.


Tuition

The yearly undergraduate tuition for attendance at Carnegie Mellion costs around $54,000 but might increase to at least around $72,000 with additional expenses. The yearly tuition for the graduate program costs around $47,000 but might increase to at least around $71,000 with additional expenses.


Website

https://www.cmu.edu/


Acceptance Rate

Compared to the other departments in Carnegie Mellon, the School of Computer Science has a tougher admission rate — only five percent of almost 9,000 applications were accepted for the 2018-2019 year.


Diversity

The School of Computer Science has been a leader in participation for women for quite a while. In 2016, almost half of incoming first-year undergraduates were women. The students and faculty represent all states in the U.S. and over 65 nations as well.


Innovation

Carnegie Mellon has powerful cross-disciplinary programs that provide opportunities to work in different perspectives. The Human-Computer Interaction Institute emphasizes the crossroads between technology, human activity, and society. The Entertainment Technology Center is a graduate program designed to combine the School of Computer Science and College of Fine Arts to explore subjects like interactive storytelling, innovation by design, and transformational games.


Scholarship

There are on-campus opportunities, financial scholarships, and post-graduate opportunities available to those attending the School of Computer Science. Undergrads can apply for grants for research in studies of their choice. Some scholarships apply for when CMU students study abroad in the United Kingdom.

Pros

  • Advanced cross-disciplinary program
  • Helpful alumni network

Cons

  • Windows/Mac-related skills might be done on your own time
  • No sponsorship for STEM extension for international employees
  • Can cultivate a high-stress culture
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University of California—Berkeley

Highlights

UC Berkeley has a reputation for many reasons, but when it comes to computer sciences, it is a unique experience. To begin with, there are two ways to major — a BS in computer science from the Electrical Engineering & Computer Sciences or a BA in computer science from the College of Letters & Science. The range of courses in either will prepare them for a career in engineering or one in academia.


Tuition

The yearly undergraduate tuition for attendance at UC Berkeley costs around $14,000 in-state and around $42,000 out-of-state. The prices might increase to around $36,000 and $64,000, respectively.


Website

https://www.berkeley.edu/


Acceptance Rate

There is a very different rate of application between the EECS major and the rest of UC Berkeley. The average of the school is around 17 percent while the EECS acceptance rate is around nine percent.


Diversity

EECS has a dedicated budget for programs and initiatives centered on promoting a culture of inclusion in the department. They work alongside the staff, and professors play double-duty as diversity officers and advisors on equity. The programs they have developed are directed towards under-represented groups from K-12 to graduate levels.


Innovation

UC Berkeley has a history of contribution to computer science, with its students and alumni creating tech monuments such as the computer mouse, initial development of Unix and email, and the co-creation of PowerPoint. The school has produced nine winners of the prestigious Turing Award, the highest distinction in computer science.


Scholarship

There are multiple companies and organizations that award undergraduates a wide range of financial aid. This includes Google, Adobe, and NASA among others. They also help Hispanic and women undergrads looking to pursue an EECS major with a scholarship as well.

Pros

  • Different paths for a computer science degree
  • Vast number of extracurricular activities
  • Produces more entrepreneurs than any other college

Cons

  • School environment might not be everyone's taste
  • Rigorous academic level
  • High housing prices
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Northwest Nazarene University

Highlights

Many people would not think that NNU's computer program would rank it on some of the best computer science schools in the nation, but the facts prove otherwise. Students can explore the foundations of computer and software design. While it is a Christian school, it still has its students strive for intellectual and academic work.


Tuition

The yearly undergraduate tuition for attendance at Northwestern Nazarene University costs around $29,000, but the prices might increase to around $39,000 with additional expenses.


Website

https://www.nnu.edu/


Acceptance Rate

The acceptance rate is a rather high 96 percent.


Diversity

The demographics of NNU shows that it is on par with the national average although that means it is predominantly white. The male/female student body skews towards women, however. Their Office of Multicultural Affairs supports students of colors, children of missionaries, and international students who attend NNU.


Innovation

At the Doceō Center, education becomes a personalized process thanks to original practices made through technology. They use the information gathered from new teaching strategies and share it to educators in Idaho and overseas.


Scholarship

There is an Engineering Excellence addition to the existing NNU President's Scholarship that can award an approximate yearly sum of $17,000 of financial aid. This adds up to a total of around $68,000 for the years spent at NNU.

Pros

  • Offers either BS or BA in Computer Science
  • Smaller classes

Cons

  • Have to sign a “lifestyle contract"
  • Required chapel meetings three times a week
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University of Pennsylvania

Highlights

Penn's Department of Computer and Information Science covers research areas and advanced fields of all types. Students learn software principles, AI, systems, theory, and more. They can take a hands-on approach through on-campus labs like the Center for Human Model and Simulation and the General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception Lab.


Tuition

The yearly undergraduate tuition for attendance at Penn costs around $49,000, but the price might increase to around $75,000 with additional expenses.


Website

https://www.upenn.edu/


Acceptance Rate

Like other Ivy League universities, Penn has a tough acceptance rate. As of 2018, it sits at around eight percent from an application pool of around 44,000.


Diversity

One way Penn is increasing diversity in the CIS is through the development of an undergraduate course where students can contribute to open-source software projects under mentorship. That way the collaborate with the larger Penn community and hopefully increase student retention. Fourteen percent of the student body is made up of international students.


Innovation

There is a long history of innovation in Penn's computer science department. ENIAC, the first computer designed for use, took its first steps in the university in the 1940s.


Scholarship

Overall, Penn has an $8 million pool of financial aid available for their applicants. Penn has a need-blind (merit-based) financial aid policy for students and permanent residents in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. International students must be able to pay full tuition in order to apply for the financial aid available.

Pros

  • Ivy League education and prestige
  • Wide range of research opportunities
  • Hands-on experience with robotics and cutting-edge technology

Cons

  • School leans more towards finance
  • Direct engineering program not as strong as some others
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Cornell University

Highlights

Considered “the first American university,” it has been regarded as one of the best computer science schools with an amazing return on investment. Undergrads at Cornell have the opportunity not only to work with faculty with connections in the industry but create a network through talks and lectures. Cornell also holds a three-day hackathon and has connections with recruiters with big-name companies. 


Tuition

The yearly undergraduate tuition for attendance at Cornell costs around $55,000 out-of-state and around $37,000 in-state.


Website

https://www.cornell.edu/


Acceptance Rate

Cornell maintains the Ivy League pattern of a low acceptance rate for undergraduate admissions. For 2018 only around ten percent from more than 51,000 applicants found a place in the school.


Diversity

Ezra Cornell's statement of “any person, any study” still rings true within the halls of his university. Almost 15 percent of CIS undergrads and 65 percent of graduate students come from overseas. Google recognized two CIS students of color as part of their Pay It Forward Challenge, which was made to honor Black History Month. There are groups supporting women and LGBTQ+ in STEM and computing interests at Cornell as well.


Innovation

Cornell Tech, the university's graduate school department, is located in the newly inaugurated Tata Innovation Center on Roosevelt Island. There, digital technologies meet business solutions as graduate students research on new ways to commercialize new avenues of collaboration. It is a hub of education (not just for Cornell, but for K-12 education in New York City), the tech sector, and investment.


Scholarship

About half of Cornell students can receive some sort of financial aid through Cornell grants. This is not a traditional loan — it is in effect free money that does not need to be repaid. There are also work-study programs that can provide money. Unfortunately, graduate students cannot receive financial aid.

Pros

  • Plenty of summer research opportunities
  • Ability to double major in an Arts/Science college
  • State-of-the-art facilities

Cons

  • Slightly remote location for internship opportunities
  • Size of CS program can become impersonal
  • Increased length of time to complete dual major
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Harvard University

Highlights

One of the largest takeaways from Harvard that makes it one of the best computer science schools is the degree of freedom they give students. There are not many classes you have to take in order to complete the computer science program — intro to comp, a two out of three two-semester intro sequence, and the intro to systems. After that, you are free to choose the rest of your electives.


Tuition

The yearly undergraduate tuition for attendance at Harvard costs around $46,000, but the price might increase to around $68,000 with additional expenses.


Website

https://www.harvard.edu/


Acceptance Rate

The prestigious Ivy League university has a tough acceptance rate of 5 percent.


Diversity

SEAS is slowly but surely increasing both female and minority representation in their workforce in the past year. Asian faculty members have increased between 15 to 22 percent in the last decade. They were one of two schools in the university to select two Fellows in the Administrative Fellowship program. 30 percent of the SEAS student body is from overseas, and 20 to 30 are women.


Innovation

Harvard scholarships are dependent on a wide range of criteria from the incredibly specific to the basic. International and graduate students have very different opportunities than undergrads. It is a matter of choosing the desired college and contacting the financial aid office.


Scholarship

Harvard scholarships are dependent on a wide range of criteria from the incredibly specific to the basic. International and graduate students have very different opportunities than undergrads. It is a matter of choosing the desired college and contacting the financial aid office.

Pros

  • Few requirements to graduate with a CS degree
  • Wide range at finding internships and full-time jobs

Cons

  • Very tough acceptance rate
  • Few courses on entrepreneurship
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Harvey Mudd College

Highlights

This small liberal-arts college in a sleepy part of California is a hidden source of technological power in the workforce. They have been producing alumni that rival MIT in career earnings over time. This is done by an unorthodox approach at computer science that encompasses not just STEM, but the humanities.


Tuition

The yearly undergraduate tuition for attendance at Harvey Mudd costs around $57,000.


Website

https://www.hmc.edu/


Acceptance Rate

Harvey Mudd College has a student body of around 800, so admissions is rather selective. The rate to enter an undergraduate course is 15 percent.


Diversity

The way the intro courses are designed have made an equal ground for students who understand computer science and those who are just learning. This has been effective in setting equity across gender and race in each course. In fact, in 2017 HMC graduated its majority female computer science class.


Innovation

HMC's computer introductory courses now have the support of the National Science Foundation. This has development a curriculum that is a mix of practical programming skills with the societal contributions to computer science. There are also intro courses that combine computer science with the evolving challenges in biological sciences.


Scholarship

Around 50 percent of Harvey Mudd College students receive need-based financial aid of some kind. The average amount they receive from these grants or scholarships is around $40,000.

Pros

  • Creative approach to learning
  • Tight-knit community
  • Professors focused on undergrads

Cons

  • Academic STEM boot camp
  • Undergrad-only college
  • Not as prestigious as other computer science schools
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Columbia University

Highlights

The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science has become one of the best computer science schools in the world thanks to some cutting-edge research. Students can take part in new fields such as computational biology and social networking algorithms.


Tuition

The yearly undergraduate tuition for attendance at Columbia costs around $52,000 and around $47,000 for the graduate program.


Website

https://www.columbia.edu/


Acceptance Rate

As another Ivy League university, Columbia has to deal with a difficult acceptance rate. Theirs sits at seven percent for an applicant pool of around 33,000.


Diversity

More than a decade ago, only nine percent of Columbia's computer science majors were women. Now it has skyrocketed to 40 percent. Part of this comes from their support of Women in Computer Science, an on-campus organization, seminars for female students, and hiring more female TAs.


Innovation

One computer science professor worked on a project that combined a brain-computer interface on disabled people for their advanced arm and hand device. Columbia researchers have also designed an affordable DIY camera with 3D capability for children.


Scholarship

Columbia has multiple scholarships that are directed towards students majoring in computer science. There is the Peter K. Allen Scholarship for SEAS-enrolled undergrads, and the John E. Bertram Memorial Scholarship is for students in electrical engineering or computer science.

Pros

  • Great for data-driven students
  • Hands-on approach to learning
  • Located in New York City

Cons

  • Demanding, intensive coursework
  • Low school culture
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The Verdict

If you look through the many forums online, you will see that it is a daunting task for new students to choose between the best computer science schools. Will it be Carnegie Mellon or Harvey Mudd? Will I go Ivy League or choose something more disruptive? Here are things to consider:

  • Is creating a startup something in your future?
  • What about graduate school?
  • Are you going for a pure comp sci degree?
  • What kind of internships are you looking for?

Keeping those ideas in mind should whittle down the list to the one you are going to attend to come fall or spring.

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