Advice For New Computer Science Majors

Everything I wish I knew

Advice For New Computer Science Majors

Going into the first year of college can be just as scary as it is exciting. Pursuing a degree in Computer Science means taking a wide breadth of programming and math classes while also figuring out what type of career you want to pursue. Here's some advice that will be helpful for any Computer Science major.

Classes Are Only One Part of the Experience

Classes are not the entire college experience. While they play a very important role and will take a significant amount of your time, make sure you are not spending all of your time focused directly on classes. Join different clubs and organizations, both related to your career aspirations and not.

A Computer Science club is often a great way to network and learn from older students in your major. Clubs related to hobbies can be a great way to meet new people and continue doing something you love or learning something new. Classes are important, but branch out and don't be afraid to try new things

It's Ok To Not Have An Internship

One of the worst feelings is that you are behind your peers.

Seeing others have internships lined up their first summer can be incredibly demoralizing, but I promise it's not the end of the world. My first summer I didn't work a tech internship and everything ended up fine! There are many things you can do the summer after your freshman year to set yourself up for success.

Consider trying to do a personal project, maybe take some of the skills you learned in your first two semesters and apply them to a project. You can also spend this time trying to learn something new, there are tons of resources out there to hone your technical skills or to learn new ones (FreeCodeCamp is amazing).

Start Using the Terminal

Ubuntu terminal

Not only is learning how to use terminal commands important for a professional programming career, but it will also help greatly in your classes. Any systems programming class or a class using C or C++ will benefit greatly from the prior terminal experience.

If you are using a Windows operating system, consider setting up Windows Subsystem for Linux and do your programming work there. If you are working in a Mac or Linux operating system you should be able to start working directly in it. Learning how to use the terminal effectively can increase your efficiency as a developer, and help your transition to a professional environment where you might be working in a terminal at an internship.

Consider a Co-Op Program

If your school offers a Co-Op program, I would highly consider it. A Co-Op program is generally a 5-year undergraduate program where you alternate classes and internships throughout the spring, fall, and summer semesters.

Doing this can give you more work experience over your time in college before you graduate, giving you a leg up when applying to entry-level jobs. It is also a great opportunity to make connections with companies and use those to get a full-time job after graduation. You can always try out the Co-Op program and drop it later if it's not for you, you'll still likely be able to graduate in 4 years if you do this.

In my experience, my University helped me find my first 2 internships, one in the spring of my sophomore year, and the other in the fall of my junior year. This greatly helped me down the road for future internships, the first one is the hardest!

Do a Hackathon

Hackathons are a fun way to learn new skills and make connections in a very short amount of time. Especially for first or second-year students a Hackathon can be a great way to flesh out your resume or even create a startup! My first Hackathon involved writing code for a Python Flask web server that interacts with the Google Calendar API. It offered a great opportunity to learn and develop code rapidly, and the mentors and sponsors are great to interact with and get their advice. Look for announcements from your school's computer science department or club about Hackathons on campus. Alternatively, get a group of friends and find an online one with Devpost!

Be Yourself and Find Your Path

College is a great time to explore new things. Don't get bogged down thinking of what other people think you should be doing, do what you want to do. Getting a degree in Computer Science is a great way to go into a career in software engineering, it's not the only career path. Try new things and see what works for you, I never had an interest in doing full-stack web development until I took a web development class. Software engineering has a wide breadth of jobs in it, but a Computer Science degree can also be a great base for consulting, technical sales, data engineering, DevOps, or cyber security. College gives you a great opportunity to try new things, go out of your comfort zone and do them, you might find you really like it.

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