Best Advice for CS Majors

Sep 10, 2021

5 Min Read

Many working professionals spend years working in an unfulfilling job and then make up their minds to quit and join the tech world. Some people get another college degree while they are more mature and know how to better manage their time. This article is for those who are considering studying computer science — whether it’s your first or second time in college.

Start preparing for your projects early on. They may take longer than you initially anticipated. For instance, you might make a mistake that takes forever to fix. Finish your homework at least a few days before the deadline, if possible. This will give you enough time to look it over with a fresh perspective and improve parts of it.

Classes are exhausting, so you might not be 100% focused all the time. Still, don’t use that as an excuse to skip attending altogether. Homework will most likely contain a lot of nuanced tasks. You’re going to need someone who’ll explain them to you. This is especially important if you miss some of the concepts explained in lectures, which are sometimes hard to grasp even for the brightest students.

You’ll most likely encounter students who seem to know everything. Most of the time, they don’t. If they’re particularly rude or arrogant, they’ll quickly fall out of favor with their classmates and professors. It’s much easier to succeed in an academic setting when you build relationships based on mutual respect and help.

Don’t hesitate to ask for guidance when you need it.  You’ll distinguish yourself as someone hardworking and dedicated. It’s also likely that professors will remember you and be eager to help. This is true for any field of study, but professors’ guidance is especially important for CS students.

Maintaining a good relationship with your professors might allow you to attend conferences and get access to exclusive labs. It will also be easier to get help with coursework if you need it.

Don’t miss lectures, especially if new topics are being introduced. Learning is an essential component of a successful career in computer science. It is a constantly evolving field, so you can’t go far if you refuse to learn. You should always be present at lectures.

Don’t hesitate to ask questions in the classroom. Be pleasant and try to get to know people. Even if you don’t make lifetime friends, you’ll have someone to study with.

Find out the working hours of the TA. Visit him or her to ask questions if necessary.

To give yourself a head start, do textbook exercises even if it’s not your homework. Professors often assign homework that isn’t included in the textbooks. You can also try to look up related programming challenges online. You can even create your own exercises and try to solve them.

Doing these exercises will be a significant boost to your abilities. You’ll be able to handle tests and homework assignments with less effort. If you don’t put in the time to practice, you’ll have to put in a lot more work for the first real test.

How to handle assignments

Everyone struggles with coding assignments at first. The best way to get through them is to find other people’s solutions for the same problems on Google. Read their code and try to digest it. Then change certain parts of the code and see if you get the desired results, or observe how it changes the program’s behavior. After working within the framework of an existing program, try to write a similar code yourself.

The good news is that homework assignment problems have been solved before. You can find similar solutions online. Once you understand the concepts, you’ll find it easy to write an original solution from scratch.

If there’s one thing you shouldn’t do, it’s copying. Do not borrow complete solutions from your peers or from StackOverflow. You will definitely get caught and all your efforts and money will be wasted. Most average students can find solutions to homework assignments by themselves if they’re willing to work hard. If you’ve tried everything and still can’t do it, ask for directions from your peers.

Plagiarism is not worth the risk because it is strictly punished in every school. Your CS program most likely has the technology to detect code plagiarism. Everyone has their own unique way of writing code, so copying someone’s work will be easily detectable.

Taking care of yourself

Before going to class, make sure you get a good night’s sleep. You’ll need your brain in sharp condition. Taking good care of your body will ultimately raise your brain’s capabilities as well. Many studies have shown that taking a walk, or other simple exercises can boost your mental aptitude.

You should also try to minimize the stress. If you’ve tried hard and still notice that you can’t comprehend the learning materials, you should quit. Withdraw from the class and try again when you feel like you’re ready. It is very common, especially at the undergraduate level. A lot of students go through this experience at one time or another.  Eventually, it’s going to get easier.

After Graduation

Once you’ve graduated, start to implement your coding knowledge in practice. If you had an idea for a certain app or a website, try to build it. You’ll enjoy building solutions for the subjects you’re interested in. If you have a hobby, write a project related to it.

When preparing for your first job, your technical knowledge is important. You’ll learn a lot of theories throughout your studies. Still, you won’t use most of those theories when you start your first job in the industry. Coding skills might land you a job, but social skills will help you keep it. Your first job is going to involve a lot of communication with those around you.

Once you got the job, you’ll be surprised to find out that most of your time will be spent on meetings, documentation, and other non-technical tasks. Writing code will be important, but it might not be the most time-consuming activity on the job.

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