How to succeed in obtaining a Computer Science education

Gabriela Motroc
computer science
Conceptual image via Shutterstock

Students’ interest in Computer Science has skyrocketed in the past couple of years, but the demand for software engineers still exceeds the supply. One of the reasons could be the fact that CS is very hard and many students abandon the idea after they encounter several bumps in the road. However, one can succeed in obtaining a CS education by following a set of steps.

It’s no secret that transforming Computer Science into your major will surely maximize your career prospects. A plethora of surveys and reports show that students who choose CS and obtain a degree in this field of study end up having some of the highest starting salaries, but not all students who choose it have the chance to display their diplomas on a wall.

Waseem Ahmad, a techie who majored in Computer Science at Rice University and became the President of the Rice Computer Science Club wrote in a blog post on Medium that after extensive conversations with hundreds of students from a number of universities, he decided to share some pieces of advice that can ultimately help students navigate and succeed in obtaining a CS education.

SEE ALSO: Why today’s computer science students need to know more about ‘professional coding’

Learn the basics

Just like any other enthusiastic student, Ahmad wanted to know everything about the curriculum and how it would prepare students for the industry. However, he quickly learned that the best engineers do not label themselves and that what matters is the foundation. The undergraduate believes that CS departments worldwide vary on how much they divide their attention between the practical and theoretical aspects of computing, but opines that the abstract thinking will be more helpful in the long run than learning a programming language o framework.

Programming should be at the top of a CS student’s list

In his book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell claims it takes roughly 10,000 hours of practice to master a field. He writes about the fact that Microsoft founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen had thousands of hours of programming practice before establishing Microsoft and then switches to the Beatles’  story to prove that practice makes improvement.

Ahmad compliments Gladwell’s statements and ensures readers that there is no shortcut or substitute to gaining mastery in programming. However, the techie also makes the distinction between practice and frustration, which is one of the reasons why CS students find it especially hard to obtain a CS education.

SEE ALSO: Why coding skills are not enough for a developer to get hired

Side projects matter

Side projects should not be taken lightly because the freedom and creativity that come with them can make students love or hate CS. Probably the most famous example in this case is Mark Zuckerberg, whose famous side projects is none other than Facebook. Ahmad also encourages CS students to participate in hackathons because they are not only fun, but also productive.

Speaking of side projects and hackathons, CS students should learn to spot and grab opportunities, according to the undergraduate. However, overcommitting should be avoided because breaking down is inevitable in this scenario and this is not helping the student’s morale or his or her grades. On the contrary, overcommitting will only breed hesitation towards CS and fear of everything that it stands for.

The bottom line is that computer science continues to be an in demand and a high value major for students, but obtaining a CS education does not come easy. Being a lone wolf, expecting the course to teach you everything and preferring theory to practice will not help your cause either.

Gabriela Motroc
Gabriela Motroc was editor of and JAX Magazine. Before working at Software & Support Media Group, she studied International Communication Management at the Hague University of Applied Sciences.

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