It is a Saturday so I should have plenty of time to write a blog, yeah?
I have an exam, so studying will take precedence today. Why in the world are Math courses only 3 credit hours?
I am completing my degree with a minor in Mathematics. Did I know a year ago that I would declare a minor? Not at all. Did I know four years ago that I would be completing a degree in Computer Science? Not exactly. This post is jumping all the way back to Summer 2016, right after I graduated high school. Please note: this heavily focuses on a starting guide for lost souls that plan to attend university, and my experiences impact the advice I share below.
My family members attended a local, public university, which is the most inexpensive option and within commuting distance. I, the brilliant 18-year-old, wanted to attend the prestigious private university twice the distance away in the fancy city. I thought I wanted to try Pre-Law. Mostly, I wanted a degree that would make me a generous income.
I researched.... A little.
Deciding a major can be overwhelming. Some universities break out one degree into many branches. Some may not even provide a degree with the title you're expecting. You have interest in Pre-Law? Try a club. Get an English degree and go to law school after you graduate. Imagine being told at 18 that you're just going to have to wait it out four years, so you can maybe spend another 2-4 in higher education. Before you get too distressed: schedule an appointment immediately with career advisement at an institution. Then schedule an appointment with each academic advisor of the subjects that interest you. These services exist primarily to help students find their best path and keep them on it (so meet with them regularly!).
So where do I put my money once I know what I want to do?
My brother graduated with a degree in Computer Science the same year I graduated high school. The local, public university aided him greatly in finding an internship that hired him at entry level (Internships Post), because their program provides a significant exploration in applying development skills. The private university I had my heart set on heavily focuses on theory in their CS program.
Unfortunately, when I was 18, my parents were forking out the funds. I went to the local university. But if I had the choice, I fear I would have made the poor one for me. As I have completed these last four years, I have had an immense amount of practice and feel comfortable reading code, even though I do not have a fantastic grasp on everything running behind the scenes. I often find myself frustrated with the black boxes, or the gaps in my knowledge. My perspective: It comes with time. The greatest developers I know are still reading and expanding their knowledge on their own work. By practicing in dozens of different languages and levels of abstraction, I now have the ability to research deep into subjects to which I have at least some exposure.
I want to express a final option: technical college! Tech colleges are not mentioned much, but can be very valuable. Most provide some form of degree or certificate after two years of night/online classes, but are significantly less expensive than a college degree. In regards to computer science, these schools primarily teach skills and practice but lightly touch on the theoretical side. Consider these in your research of higher education if you are focused on finding work!
A final word of advice my coworker brought up yesterday:
When you find a stopping point in your task to pick up later, write a brief for yourself on the things you discovered and what you need to accomplish next. This practice will drill new concepts into your mind and give you a jump-start when you start again. This is also a handy tool at the end of the day so scrum meetings are a breeze!
I close this post with a recognition of Dona Sarkar, a developer that started out like the rest of us and made it to the big leagues. She had an influence on my early college days, and I hope one day I can thank her for it!
Thanks for reading.