in reply to College suggestions for possible programming career

Thanks for all the feedback! If you guys don't mind, I'd like to seek your advice for preparation for college... but first, a little background.

I graduated high school in May of this year. I kept a perfect 4.0 through high school. I decided to stay out of college the first year because I was extremely uncertain what I would want to take and figured I had better save up. I've been learning quite a bit about perl during that time too... When I took the SATs, I got a relatively high score (1300), but it was a bit unbalanced... my Verbal scores were WAY above my math scores (730/570). I never took beyond Algebra II in H.S., so that is likely why. However, I'm wondering if that will hurt my chances at getting into the college of my choice, since I intend to go into computer science/programming. Also, finances are a big issue for me. Because I wasn't going directly into college after high school, I didn't get any scholarships. I assume you guys get the idea.

Sooo... what would you guys suggest I do to best prepare BEFORE going to college to study computer science/programming? I'd appreciate all the advice I can get at this point! Thanks.


P.S. Arashi, I'm checking out those links you sent and they are proving very interesting.

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Re: Re: College suggestions for possible programming career
by virtualsue (Vicar) on Oct 21, 2001 at 01:37 UTC
    Have you thought about taking a couple of classes at a local community college while you have your year out? I assume you are working full-time, so you won't have a lot of time for school, but maybe you could fill in your (for lack of a better phrase) " mathematics gap". I think that might look good on your university applications and help you get into a CS degree program. It'll also keep you in the 'school habit'. ;)

    Your academic background sounds good enough to get you into most universities, so it's a case of where you want to go and what you think you can afford. However, what you think you can afford and what you actually can manage may be two different things. If you haven't already, talk to financial advisors at the universities you would like to attend. They should be able to help you make it all happen. Good luck!
Re: Re: College suggestions for possible programming career
by arashi (Priest) on Oct 20, 2001 at 22:08 UTC
    Well, the first thing you need to do is apply at a few colleges that you are interested in. By applying, you will gain access to all of the recourses available at the college for new students, like financial aid, academic advising, etc. If you have an academic record as good as you say, I wouldn't see why you wouldn't be accepted, at least at UWP :)

    If finances are a problem for you, remember that a student can always receive some kind of aid, either government loans, grants, scholarships, or you can get a loan from just about any bank for your education (you'll probably need a co-signer) Once you are accepted at a college, you can apply for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which will determine what sort of financial aid you are eligible for. Speaking from my own experience, my parents are fairly well off, and I have held fairly good paying jobs (for a student) and I am still eligible for a government loan for about $5000 per year (note that the amount is based on my need, tuition for me is about $3500 per year, if you had a higher need, the amount of you loan is usually higher). I would suggest that you visit UWP's Financial Aid Office website and look around, perhaps give them a call or write them an email, I'm sure they'd be more than willing to answer your questions. With the knowledge that you can somehow get your education covered by either loans, grants, or scholarships, you should realize that your education is more important than money. Once you graduate and have a job in your field, you shouldn't have problems paying off any debt related to your education, provided you are responsible with your finances (I'm not making a judgement on anyone about responsible financial management, I'm horrible at it :)

    No matter where you decide to go, the most important thing you can do is call or write an admissions officer at that university, and they should be able to point you in the right direction. Their purpose is to help you make informed decisions about your education, and have many resources at their disposal to help with that goal. At UWP, they have an Admission Calendar that should give you some idea about when and what you should be doing to get into college.

    I hope this helps you, if you have any more questions, feel free to ask!

Re: Re: College suggestions for possible programming career
by arashi (Priest) on Oct 20, 2001 at 22:16 UTC
    As a quick sidenote to what jryan said about math, at UWP, you'll note that the Computer Information System (CIS) Major doesn't require anything past Calculus I, which is one reason I took that major. With a CIS major, you learn more about system design, how things fit together, and project management. Coding is a major part of the degree, however it is more centered on business appications of programming, rather than a scientific approach like a Software Engineering degree.

Re: Re: College suggestions for possible programming career
by andreychek (Parson) on Oct 21, 2001 at 01:44 UTC
    Just like yourself -- I graduated high school with Algebra II as my highest level Math course. If I were to attempt a computer science degree, due to my Math limitations, I think I would really struggle to make it through. Comp Sci students are responsible for a lot of Math -- things like Calc III, numerical analysis, differemtial equations, and so on. If you're simply a little behind, thats one thing. But if you find yourself having trouble learning it, make sure you know what you are getting yourself into.

    Instead of going that route, I decided to take a two year degree in Computer Information Systems, which tends to be a well balanced computer degree. Along with some interesting system troubleshooting, you also get into various sorts of programming, networking, possibly even web development, and so on. You will have to get into some math. For me though, it was still challenging, but not prohibitive.

    I have since been hired as somewhat of a network administrator. Actually, my title is Internet Specialist. I do everything from administer a bunch of Linux boxes doing "Internet stuff" (www, email, dns, etc) to web application development. I certainly get my fair share of programming in -- usually with Perl. Both web application development and system admin is really helped through the use of Perl, along with other languages where appropriate.

    However, programming isn't all I do, and I really enjoy it that way. Dealing with Perl code is an incredible amount of fun, but the variety I'm offered by also getting to learn new technologies, protect systems from intruders, configuring/tweaking software, and all that other wonderful stuff that comes along with sysadmin is something I don't think I'd ever want to give up.

    Good luck!
Re: Re: College suggestions for possible programming career
by jryan (Vicar) on Oct 20, 2001 at 22:04 UTC
    Just a tip, if you don't like math. Stay away from computer science in college; most programs at most colleges require up to the 5th-6th level calculus :)
Re: Re: College suggestions for possible programming career
by E-Bitch (Pilgrim) on Oct 22, 2001 at 09:35 UTC
    Actually, here at Colorado State, for CIS, you are required to take Calc I and II for business majors (as CIS is a business major here), and for CS, you are required to take Calc I and II for Scientists and Engineers, and for CS, you are also required to take Algebra I & II, Analytic Trig, and Matricies and Linear equations. By taking one more math class as an elective (typically Calc III) you can also get a Math minor (though I am not). The hardest part about calculus is actually sitting down and doing it. It really is intuitive, you just have to keep up and try to apply it to your assignments. I have had no problems with it.

    CIS and CS here are very different majors. Here, CIS majors are basically trained to do Sysadmin jobs and program on windows based platforms (the most complex they get is Visual Basic, and a light SQL course). The rest of the major is business oriented.

    CS here is the real difficult one. There is a class for everything from c, c++, java, lisp / prolog (sp?), database desgin, os design, compiler construction, graphics, machine learning, AI, etc. Unfortunately, there are no perl classes, though in several of the theoretical classes (like software Engineering I), you can use it for your projects.

    Hope this helps!

    Tempora Mutantur Nos et Mutamur in Illis
    "The Times are Changed Even as We are Changed in Them"