DEV Community

Mara McCrann
Mara McCrann

Posted on

Challenges on Learning How to Code as a College Student

I wouldn't dare say that I'm done learning.

If you're trying to learn programming, many will say that learning programming is never-ending because learning itself is lifelong. I truly believe this is true, because of the rapid change happening with modern technology nowadays, that as I type this things off, you'll just know that Iron Man's MK46 armor suit might already exist in real life!

I am currently a first year Computer Science student on my 2nd semester and I practically live at school from around 7am to 4pm. Crazy, I know. Going through the day, I have 2 major subjects directly related to the course: Data Structures (w/ Java) and Advanced Programming (w/ Python).

Now, from the day I started College™, here's the thing I've noticed: *most of the students were having a hard time with programming (this might include me).

Unlike others though, I started programming early at the age of 12-ish, so I never had much problems understanding the what's and why's.

With what I observed from last year since I started going to college, I noticed some few, maybe subtle 'challenges' students face when doing or even learning programming at this point of life. And with this article, I'm gonna share some to you.

The following things that will be stated below may vary. This is purely based on my observation and opinion.

1. Walking in as a Total Newbie

I think nobody is to blame here. Okay, you might've thought after high school that: "Oh! Suddenly I want to make a website like Facebook!". So you go fire up your browser and search 'how to make facebook' with your favorite search engine and some dude will tell you to open your browser and search Google- I mean learn programming! And you just known that in order to learn programming, you need to learn Computer Science, so you decided to.

Classes start and the teacher will introduce you to programming. He discusses things about variables and printing stuff (I bet it's the infamous 'hello world') on the screen. So far so good, then, you get to operators. Okay, nice. Then, if-else statements, and loops. Somehow, you started scratching your head when your teacher made everyone make a single program incorporating what you have learned. You haven't understood everything, yet the class is already on Arrays.

Again, this may vary, but this is what is happening: school won't really teach you programming. This may sound wrong, but what I meant is, it's you who teaches programming to... you. I see people rely too much on teachers and eventually blame them in the end if you still don't understand anything about programming.

My opinion only, but I think this is something someone should do when deciding to take Computer Science: search up the very basics of programming. Know the terms. Know what an IDE is, know how most things work. You don't have to necessarily master programming before coming in, but it's really handy to know these terms so you'll be comfortable learning. Besides, you have other subjects to take care of!

2. Time, and Time Again

We can all agree that at this stage of life, we already have a lot of responsibilities to hold onto. We need to prioritize stuff or we'll probably pass out due to over-fatigue. I've seen students choose to work while studying, or someone getting a schedule that ain't giving them a free time to do anything much.

And with programming, it's really important to practice what you know. I, once never got to write a single code for 2-3 weeks, and after that, I suddenly got confused of the syntax and what the code was supposed to do (this led me to understand why comments are a gift to programmers).

3. Random Access Memory

Enter class. Endure an hour of discussion of simplifying radicals from Pre-Calculus, and leave. Come back tomorrow. Forgot what happened yesterday. Cycle goes on. This is actually a scenario that happens to me every precalc class, and until now I couldn't stop this somehow, never-ending cycle. The information goes in me, like there's RAM inside my head. After closing the PC (or me, sleeping), all the info stored is cleared. There's one reason why that stood out to me (that might be obvious).

I never really liked Math. I mean, let's admit that I'm not the only one who really dislikes the subject. But I do know, this greatly affects me from understanding the subject. And everyone else too. If someone doesn't like a particular subject, he/she would not put focus on it and instead, just let it go. This happens to every student out there, especially with programming. Either they are having a hard time with it or just not interested and just chose the course because... it's Computer Science!

4. The Limit does not Exist!

I've heard many developers say that anyone could code, because programming is a skill and never was a talent that you just inherit from parents or just having it since birth. Students, or people who are starting out with programming will always have this stigma of being unable to learn and grasp the concepts of programming since many will say it requires a lot of math. Fortunately, at this time, more and more people now try to code, but unfortunately, there are still people who believe programming should look like the thousand green texts on the command-line that only 'programmers' understand.

5. Under Pressure

After finishing high school, you have now to decide whether you need to go to a local Uni, or just straight-up apply to jobs near you to hopefully get experience and let the wind take 'ya from this stage of life. If you ever decide to go to college, then you'll now be in a challenge for choosing a course that you'll endure -take for approximately 4 years, depending on what course you'll land on. The choice would go on to different factors before being the final one. For example, What jobs would you get if you finish this? How much people will pay you for the job that you'll get? Are the subjects hard to take? Are you going to pay much? Are you going to be bankrupt?

Slowly, but surely, the pressure that is in your head builds, making you decide things that somehow might go wrong.

And even if you're studying already, the pressure still builds. You have to pass the assignments and projects on time. Understand the lesson on one sitting, and still be smiling from all that. But the thing is, you will not really understand programming on one session. You have to practice making small programs just to get how things work.

That's only five to a lot of challenges that students are currently facing. Not only on learning programming but in general, as you take your course or as you're learning something.

Have you experienced anything from the things mentioned in the article?

Is there anything you could share about the things you've experienced that are not mentioned here with learning programming?

Let me know in the comments!

Discussion (4)

rachelsoderberg profile image
Rachel Soderberg

"it's you who teaches programming to... you" - I learned this the hard way when I earned my degree in Software Engineering. I didn't always have the motivation or time to dig into computer science topics outside of class and homework assignments, so I was finding my abilities to be very lacking when working on assignments. I'm a little older than most of my peers were and didn't have the experience of growing up programming like many of them did, so I was behind and never pushed myself to catch up during that period.

Thankfully, I am tenacious and stubborn. I worked hard and graduated! I was able to lean on my technical communications skills (something I was passionate about and developed in college) to get my first software developer job. Once my foot was in the door it became a lot easier to motivate myself to learn computer science topics because I had a focus (I knew which languages and frameworks I was using) instead of being faced with "learn all of the things because you don't know what's coming."

Great post, thanks for sharing! I'm sure this will help lots of newbies both in school and at the start of their careers.

mars profile image
Mara McCrann Author

Thank you for finding this post helpful! I am happy for you that you actually got over this 'challenge' since I think making yourself understand programming by your own is something that is never easy. May you be an example for others, ya :)

hammerfall1 profile image
hammerfall1 • Edited

It turned out very interesting, I fully approve. Education is always very cool, and it's never too late to learn something new. Recently, I began to study what I like, and not what they ask. The site (get more info) helps me with this, on which I find all the material I need. There are a lot of students there, and I passed my work on Frankenstein perfectly.

hmiconss profile image

Studying is always good, but we have one life. That is why students should be able to correctly prioritize, and also be able to relax. I've read a cool article that inspired me This is a real guide on how a student can have a rest in order to burst into study with renewed vigor. Look, it will be interesting.