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martin rojas
martin rojas

Posted on • Originally published at nextsteps.dev

College is still better for coding

WITH A LOT OF CAVEATS!!! All I ask before posting comments is to read and think about the points that I plan to make to explain why I believe that going to college is still the best path for a career as a developer/software engineer.

WHO I AM: I moved to the US when I was 12 years old from Colombia and went to public school in GA and then went to Georgia Tech, where I graduated with a Computational Media Degree in 2010. So I have been working for ten years now and more recently have been focusing on React. I am sharing this so that, as a reader, you can see what my experiences have been, and this opinion is based on my experiences.

Supposing you are someone who has not had a career in the “Real” world and are trying to decide between college and coding camps as a way to start. College is the right place for you to learn the skills to help you with the rest of your life. In a coding camp, you will learn to build an app or a web page, but you won’t understand why things are done a certain way. Starting out, that may not be an issue, but as soon as you are no longer a junior dev, you will have to learn many of these fundamental CS concepts, or it will become harder and harder to progress in your career. These fundamentals don’t change from language to language, and as technology moves forward, it will be easier to move on to the next technology as I have had to do in the past ten years. And that is only on the purely technical side of the equation unless your family already are white-collar professionals with a network, no matter how brilliant a coder you are. Those starting jobs will probably first go to the recent grads of colleges. Access to those Alumni professional networks, especially as a PoC, is invaluable. It’s a lot like climbing a mountain with and without a rope. You can do it, but it’s a lot more dangerous, while with the rope, even if you are not always perfect, missteps won’t set you back as much.

Ultimately it is your life, and only you know what the right path for you should be.

Discussion (12)

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haris_secic profile image
Haris Secic

Being one that went to college and had some coding before I can't agree. College is nothing, teachers are something, if you get a bad professor you won't do much better than other approache. If you take a book and read it, that you can do it without going to college or even better I found more books through job, podcasts, YouTube videos of conference or such than recommended by teachers. You assume that software based college = CS and in the US or some country with good reputation. Well gotta break it to you, some of us weren't so lucky with that. I did learn more about computer networks, project management, and some computer graphics. However, I did want to know more about software development. That changed a lot on the same college I went to but for me it was not so good. So it depends how lucky you are. You might as well go to different bootcamps and get the same knowledge. Mine was focused on delivering people ready to work with Microsoft tech stack which was not my preference so I ended up exploring online, digging more stuff. In all fairness I didn't pay attention it said Information Technologies not CS but I thought ahhh it's the same.

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martinrojas profile image
martin rojas Author

You are correct that having the right teacher makes all of the difference. To your other point Tech moves so quickly that if you are a year out of any school the code you learned has evolved and all of these things are the ones that you need to keep up. It's the fundamental basics of computer science that give you the understanding to pick up a book and understand it that you get from going to college.

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haris_secic profile image
Haris Secic

Again, can't agree having different experience. College in my case had different influence. I picked up things on my own because it didn't provide me what I was searching for. They were more like bootcamp. They did change plan and program couple of years after I left but they definitely did not provide what you're talking about at that time. So it's not only teachers that played the role in there but also college itself. I saw this with many colleges and you need to dive a bit deeper to understand such issue. Maybe MIT, Stanford, Berkley, and such are better than any job experience but in most cases it's opposite. If you go with "good college" than you're limiting how many people can benefit from it since not many can get there. I've been playing with computers since I was like 9, and always wanted to work with it. I've been to 12 different companies now and worked with all sorts of profiles of people. College was the least of influence on how good someone was. In fact most of those who went to good college were too arrogant to understand new technology as they were too good to use such thing. I'm saying that fundamentals are not thought as good as you think in college, and sometimes they are in fact wrong.

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jonrandy profile image
Jon Randy

Supposing you are someone who has not had a career in the “Real” world and are trying to decide between college and coding camps as a way to start.

You don't need either. All the best developers I know or have met, are self-taught

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martinrojas profile image
martin rojas Author

I would say that most of the self-thaught are people with experience working in other fields and have come to work in tech. From people I have met, I can't remember someone that went from high school to being a self-taught developer and been long term. Self-thaught takes a level of maturity that is incredibly rare from someone that hasn't had worked in the real world.

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jonrandy profile image
Jon Randy

Most self taught developers I know started before they left highschool. I started very early at aged 7, back in 1983

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ishanpro profile image
Ishan Tiwari

I have not studied high school yet but I suppose that I am doing well in my field.

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ishanpro profile image
Ishan Tiwari

I am currently 14 and I have never saw college and I am a django and react developer. Being at a good college gives you all the resource that you can have for coding, which is bad and would lead to a destruction.

If you'll never face bugs in coding and your professor does solve those bugs for you you'll never be able to think and solve those bugs yourself and will fail.

I believe that self taught programmers are better because they have a thirst for knowledge and people who just study their course in college are way back.

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martinrojas profile image
martin rojas Author

congratulations on having taken the initiative and being a developer at such a young age. However If college is an option for you it is still something that will open up many doors in the future as well change the perspective of how you see and approach your work and life.

I would encourage you to do a little research on the The Dunning–Kruger effect. While you may know a lot about programing there are a lot of other skills that are key to a great career that college is great a teaching you. So if its an option that won't put you in decades of debt then it is in my opinion the best option.

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ishanpro profile image
Ishan Tiwari

Yeah, you are right but if you see the cost of things and compare. There are things out there for free on the web whereas taking a college will cost much more money than that. Having said that I am a 14 year old developer means that I have not spend a single penny on online courses.

I am not against going college but if you compare things in college which are like very pricy and see the free stuff on web and the content for free is ever increasing then spending your dad's income on something which you can I obtain for like free is stupidity.

Going to college makes sense because you know what to study but if you can get a decent job without spending money and time then why not?

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rvxlab profile image
RVxLab

I went to college in the Netherlands from 2010 until 2014, graduated with a diploma. (MBO-4 for those wondering).

It put my foot in the door to become a full-stack developer, but no more than that.

What I learned in college:

  • How to code in general
  • OOP
  • Scrum
  • SVN

SVN did give me some prerequisite knowledge to learn Git, which was nice.

By the end of it I still knew nothing outside of knowing how to somewhat program, the rest came from jobs and internships.

I can only speak for the Netherlands here, college is definitely worth it to get started, no more. The rest of learning on your own, through internships and through jobs.

In regards to Haris' comment:

College is nothing, teachers are something

He couldn't be more right. Teachers really make or break college for you.

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martinrojas profile image
martin rojas Author

I think that is exactly correct. It gets you in the door and gives you fundamentals. One of the best examples I can come up with is the realization that most web developers are having in JS after working with Typescript. That is a language that enforces good CS practices that pay off in bigger or more complex projects. I feel is the same with college, when you mature in your career a lot of concepts will click and make sense in the real world.