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What advice do you have for college students about balancing learning different things at once?

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For computer science majors, learning what you want to learn specially when it comes to programming languages is not easy. In most classes web development topics aren’t an option and you’re stuck with learning whatever the professor for that class chooses like C++ or Java. Most of the time, you end up learning one or more languages at a time just for classes. On top of that, wanting to learn other technologies and building projects adds even more chaos to the process. What advice do you have to deal with such situations? Have you gone through such experiences?

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So i'm balancing a CS masters coming from Biology undergrad and a full time job in a lab with rotating 12-hr shifts, including a 7 day stretch with 72 hours on my schedule. It's pretty tough to find the time to work on side projects, or learn something new, but basically I just squeeze it in anywhere I get the chance.

The biggest thing is, I think, to stay on top of stuff like assignments and projects for school, to avoid falling behind and having things pile up. One approach that's working for me is basically treating my classes that are less practical as just a means to get credit and a good grade. I usually like to go and learn the material in-depth so I can come out of the class having really developed my knowledge, but some classes just don't provide that much of a practical benefit. So, I'll just do my assignments, quizzes, and tests, and learn JUST enough to do well on those.

Other classes that are more practical, or can be really beneficial like Data Structures and Algorithms, or Intro to Machine Learning, I would focus more on learning more and maybe going a little beyond the material just because you can really reap the benefits once you start applying and interviewing.

As for side projects and extracurricular skill development, at some point sacrifices have to be made. There are only 24 hours in a day. For me, I did a lot of gaming and some parting during my free time when I was in undergrad. The result was I squeezed out a Bachelors in Biology with a low GPA. Since making the switch I've decided to ditch basically 95% of the time I spent gaming and socializing, and replaced it with learning to code early on, and now with developing projects and learning new things.

My point is, if you spend 4 hours of your day watching Netflix, or hanging out with friends, or gaming... consider replacing those 4 hours with coding for most (not all) of those days. Or cut down from 4 hours to 1 and use the remaining 3 to be productive. If you are like me, and balancing school and working full-time, you basically have to use whatever free time you can scrape up. Weekends and holidays are prime time for grinding out a nice web application project. Or if you prefer, just 45min-1hr a day and slowly chip away.

Time management and prioritization of tasks are the keys here. If this is what you really want, you have to sacrifice a little and be patient with your progress as well. Every tiny bit you chip away at is a step towards your goal and that's always something to be proud of

 

Well said. That’s some good advice for balance in general. Good luck with your pursuits!

 

When I was studying in college, I also had to learn a lot of different programming languages for various classes. The programming languages I used throughout college included Python, OCaml, Java, C++, C, and even SPARC assembly. In order to balance the influx of a variety of languages, I tried my best to stick to the fundamentals and try to develop a good understanding of the common concepts among those languages. Although it may not be ideal to be jumping around to so many languages at once, I recommend that you find the language you like and try to learn more about that language in your free time so you don't lose your learning about it.

 

Focusing on the different shared concepts and paradigms is the one thing I found to help. Most high level languages have similar structures so having a basic understanding of the concepts in one language can help to learn the other ones.

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