Academic performance: The GPA isn't the only criterion. Grades in computer science and related disciplines (for example, math) count more than grades in other areas. Also, we take into account the fact that at some very competitive schools it's very difficult to achieve a high GPA.
Work experience: Please describe any work experience you might have. Obviously, not all applicants have work experience, but for those who do, some description of it helps us better evaluate your application.
Awards, honors, and prizes: Unless they're well known (for example, an NSF fellowship or graduation with honors), please give details about them (how many candidates? how many awards? what were the selection criteria?). This is especially important for foreign applicants. If these awards are really important, we'd expect your recommenders to mention them. Research experience: Research experience isn't required for Master's applicants and many of our applicants don't have any, but you can use experience you've had to demonstrate your ability to handle graduate-level computer science material.
What we're looking for is readiness to take our Master's-level courses. While we sometimes discount weaknesses in some areas if there are strengths in others, we'd like to see most of the following courses: An introductory Programming course An introductory Algorithms and Data Structures course A Computer Systems or a Software Engineering course (preferably both) A course on Discrete Mathematics and basic Probability A Linear Algebra course In addition, a student should have taken a more advanced course (normally offered to juniors and seniors) in at least one area of CS.