UChicago, Carnegie Mellon IS, UC Berkeley CS - How hard is it to add a CS major to CMU Information Systems (IS)? Is the IS program as prestigious as SCS or Berkeley CS? Is UChicago CS good?


I’m in a bit of a dilemma. I’ve narrowed down my college choices to UC Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon, and UChicago. Georgia Tech was on my list before but I figured that it was not as prestigious as the other three.

In the future, I hope to be involved deeply with technology. My goal is to ultimately launch a startup of some sort that works with cutting-edge technologies. If I had to work for a company, I would like to work in something in the investment management/private equity/venture capital space with a focus on investing in tech companies.

I was admitted to the Carnegie Mellon Information Systems program, a joint program between the Dietrich College of Social Sciences and the Heinz College of Public Policy and Information Systems. I really like the program and it’s CS & Business focus, but I am unsure about how it compares to my other options. I have 3 questions:

  1. Is CMU IS worth picking over UC Berkeley just because of the benefits of going to a smaller private university over a large public university?
  2. Is CMU Information Systems as prestigious as UC Berkeley CS and CMU CS? Will I be disadvantaged in my future career if I choose IS?
  3. Is adding a Computer Science major to CMU IS very difficult? I asked on an Information Systems Zoom call and they said that it’s possible by completing the CS minor first, then getting approval and taking most of the classes that are part of the CS major along with all the classes that are part of the IS major. Is it worth the risk to take the IS program if I’m not able to get SCS and if we determine that it isn’t as prestigious as Berkeley Letters CS?

I’d greatly appreciate any insight I can get. It’s so hard to pick between these options. If anyone has any thoughts as to how UChicago CS & Econ and maybe Georgia Tech ranks in comparison to these colleges that’d be great too.

Many thanks for all your guidance in advance.

You seem to have an obsession with “prestige”.

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To answer your last question first, adding a 2nd CS major to CMU IS major is nearly impossible. You have to clear so many hurdles. You won’t have priorities to even take some of the classes that you’ll be evaluated on for the 2nd major. And ultimately, after you successfully completed all the requirements, you’ll face essentially another admission process in which the outcome is uncertain and depends on factors such as availability that no one can control.

CMU IS covers a lot of areas but not in great depth in any of them. Its graduates are in high demand (like in CS). It seems many of them went into technology consulting. However, it’s very different from CS, even though they overlap in some basic courses.

UCB will give you the best exposure to CS. It offers both breadth and depth in CS, but it faces the common problems that all large public universities face, especially in CS. @ucbalumnus may be able to give you some better insights.

UChicago’s CS department has its origin in its math department, so it’s more theorectical and lacks some breadth. It’s probably ill-suited for someone who intends to be an entrepreneur.


At Cal, you also have to get in to the CS major. The requirements don’t seem too difficult but some big chunk of students at Cal who try fail to do so.

U of C CS is more theoretical, but a lot of the cutting edge of CS is in those theoretical fields. They would also offer Toyota Technological Institute courses.

BTW, if you want to be an entrepreneur, prestige of your degree program isn’t what matters most, it’s what you do with your ideas.

UCB L&S CS requires a 3.3 GPA in the three prerequisite CS courses. Grade distributions suggest that about half of the students earn B+ or higher grades in these courses (which are not graded on a curve).

UCB EECS is direct admission to the major. It is almost impossible to change into if you did not get directly admitted to the major.

In terms of best preparing you for creating an innovative startup:

CMU SCS > Berkeley CS > UChicago CS > CMU IS

But given that CMU SCS is not in the cards, Berkeley CS is simply one of the greatest best CS educations available, up there with Stanford and MIT. It won’t be easy, and it might not be pleasant (and that’s even more true of CMU SCS), but the payoff at the end is very good.


If you are looking at a double major at UChicago of CS+Econ, that might be a little tight. Both Econ and CS are on the larger side of requirements. If I looked correctly, they would only have one class of overlap.

Though probably easier than double majors elsewhere as the U of C is on a quarter system, which is helpful for double majoring. Especially if AP’s can get you out of some core classes.

Here are the requirements:
14 for CS
15 for Econ ( including the 2 principles classes)
6 Hum, Sosc, Art
6 Natural Science
3 Social Science
3 Foreign Language
47 Total

You can then maybe subtract
3 Foreign Lang 5 on AP or placement test
2 Math AP BC (you can get more if you can place out of MVC or LA)
1 Bio from AP
1 CS required course that can count as Econ elective (e.g. CMSC 151)

That would leave 40 classes. The max load each quarter is 4 classes for a total of 42. That gives you a 2 class wiggle room.


42 is the number of courses required to graduate. 48 is the maximum number of courses possible if 4 courses are taken all 12 quarters.

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My mistake thank you. I had the 42 stuck in my head and didn’t actually multiply 4x3x4.

I don’t think AP Exams help much at UChicago.

You may earn any amount of credit from AP, IB, accreditation, or other examinations. However, at least 3800 of your total 4200 units must be earned through course enrollment. Note if you earned AP/IB credit for a specific course (e.g. CHEM 11100 Comprehensive General Chemistry I) and later enroll in an equivalent course on campus (e.g CHEM 11100 or CHEM 12100 Honors General Chemistry I), you’ll forfeit the test credit for the course in favor of the course enrollment credit.

Source: Placement & AP Tests | The College | The University of Chicago

So I think that you can basically get about 4 classes worth of credit or about 10% of the credits cut from AP credits. If I understood the page correctly (I’m really not sure if I do), it seems like AP Exams and placement tests are more to progress to the “Honours” classes rather than skip a class entirely. I might be mistaken though.

Thank you for your advice, @hebegebe. What do you think about the Statistics & Machine Learning Major, which is done together with the Department of Statistics and the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon? How would you rank that program?

There’s also the additional Human-Computer Interaction Major which is also part of the School of Computer Science. Both the Human-Computer Interaction and Machine Learning Majors are pretty easy to add to IS.

I feel like this factor makes the decision so much more complicated!

Are you instate at UCB? Did you get into the L&S program (secondary admission to CS) or to the EECS major?

CMU CS would be great for start ups but you didn’t get in and adding it as a major is nearly impossible. HCI or Stats&Machine Learning can be added as additional majors or switched into more easily. Not sure they’d offer the same odds for your specific goals. Someone who hires from CMU stated (on another thread) that they’d hired 1 IS, 1 Stats&Machine learning, and many, many more from CS, so clearly CS at CMU isn’t the same as IS or Stats&ML. That being said, I’d imagine Stats&ML have fantastic prospects, like, on a scale of 10 where CMU CS is 10, level 9?

CS&Economics would be very difficult to do at UChicago, but UChicago CS would attract money for your projects. Still, I’m not sure you could do both. Could you do just CS? With perhaps a business certificate or Economics classes you select as electives, to form a coherent academic cluster that makes sense to you?

Not sure why you think GTech is not as prestigious as the other ones. It is. It’s a national powerhouse. What major did you get for GTech? If CS or CS&Econ, it probably is your best answer. :slight_smile:

Double majors at GaTech are difficult to pull off but they do have support for startups.

Yes, regardless of what OP is admitted to, I’d think CS alone would be plenty enough. :slight_smile:

First of all, we are talking about different grades of excellent. There are no bad choices.

But in your original post, you said:

In my career, I have worked in a couple of successful early stage startups (and some unsuccessful ones as well), raised money from VCs, and now am a quant investor. So I understand the goals. It’s important to note that it’s rare to do any of these immediately after graduation (there are few successful FaceBook like companies launched in college), so you will most likely be working for a company for a while. The one exception is that a small number of exceptional undergraduates do get work in hedge funds. More on that later.

Creating a successful startup is immensely hard. You need the right combination of idea, execution, sales ability, team building, and luck with timing. A great idea at the wrong time will flounder, whereas a decent idea at the right time, properly executed, will do well.

The best way to create a startup is to work for a really innovative company and in a position where you see where the industry is headed, and what the upcoming opportunities are.

CMU SCS grads are valued because they can be put to work on the hard problems in a software company, and that’s one of the places where you learn about the challenges and opportunities. I am an MIT grad, and I will be the first to say that CMU SCS creates the best CS graduates. Not because they have better incoming students than MIT, but because they push them harder in CS than anyone else does. Generally, CMU SCS students are unhappy with their experience, but happy with what they have learned. That’s why I call it a boot camp.

Berkeley CS is very similar to CMU SCS. You will get a chance to work on hard problems coming from there as well.

CMU’s stats and machine learning prepares you for a different and smaller subset of problems. A CS degree prepares you to be a generalist, whereas stats and machine learning makes you more of a specialist. There are fewer startup opportunities needing exactly that skill set.

The one place where stats and machine learning can be highly valued right out of undergrad are some quant hedge funds. But they will hire straight CS people with strong math skills as well.

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My question, these are expensive schools…do you have $65k+ per year to pay for these universities?

Thanks for your reply!

I only applied to the Letters and Sciences CS program for Berkeley. It requires a 3.30 in 3 subjects to declare computer science. I’m out of state for Berkeley.

I agree with your analysis on CMU HCI/IS/ML. Is it as good for startups as Berkeley, being in Pittsburgh, PA instead of Silicon Valley?

I think you guys are right CS and Economics at UChicago is probably nearly impossible. It doesn’t seem like Economics classes are part of the Common Core, but if I was at Chicago, I would take those classes outside of the Core anyways, just for the experience.

Would UChicago CS attract money for projects compared to UC Berkeley and CMU? Is that just because it’s a more elite/private university or something?

I don’t think Georgia Tech is as prestigious as UC Berkeley, CMU, or UChicago, but I might be mistaken? I was admitted to Georgia Tech College of Computing to study Computer Science.

3.3 is not easy to get in college, let alone at UCB. I wouldn’t risk it from OOS.

I would take the “direct admit” at Georgia Tech if you want CS, or Carnegie Mellon IS keeping in mind it’s not the same as Carnegie Mellon CS.
Lots of startups in Pittsburgh but the money would go to CS not IS (AFAIK).
Georgia Tech is extremely prestigious in the tech world. I’d go as far as to say Georgia Tech CS is more prestigious than CMU IS, but others may contradict me here as this is an impression (what we call “prestigiosity”) rather than hard data.
Is Georgia Tech affordable?

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