My bachelors program is coming to and end this summer. Soon I’ll be a bachlor of science. But besides my college degree I will have gained a lot more. My time at the University of Bamberg has changed who I am and taught me so much. In this blogpost I want to give some tips how to succeed in studying Computer Science, these are mostly lessons I learned “the hard way”. Keep these tips in mind and I promise you you will do good in college and — even better — have something to show after your time as an undergrad.
1. Forget everthing you “know” about Computer Science
While I was in high school I started to learn C++ and wrote my first programs. I came to college with the opinion that I knew a lot and that the studies would be easy. In my opinion, this was a huge disadvantage of me compared to other students who had no idea of computer science.
My advice: even if you already have some knowledge, take your studies seriously. Software development is much more than programming. And computer science is much more than software development.
2. Take part in extracurricular activities
I joined the students association in my first year at college. Most of the friends I made in college, I met here. Additionally, I came in contact with people in a higher semester that gave me advice on nearly every question I had during my enrollment.
But this is just one example of what you can do. Every university has a wide range of clubs and associations (or whatever it is called in your country) you can join. Do it!
3. Learn a new programming language every year
You should do this too, because knowing a programming language is not just something you can put on your resume. Modern software systems are very rarely written in one language. Usually there are many subsystems that may originate from different (sub)projects. Additionally, you often have scripting languages to build and/or test your software. While you most likely will not master any language in college, having advanced knowledge in several programming languages will become very useful in your future work-life.
4. Take as many graduate-level courses as possible
You may think it is smart to take easy courses and may have the opinion that is crazy to do any extra work. However, marks are just a letter (or number) on your transcript. You should never take courses because they are “easy credit” or because you already know most of the things that get taught there. Take the courses that interest you. These are mostly graduate level courses, but the additional workload will be worth it.
5. Get involved in research early
During your first years you may think you are not qualified enough for research, but if you are willing to work and have an interest in a topic, you are in fact qualified to do assist in a research project.
Professors are always looking for motivated students. This is your chance to separate yourself from the crowd.
6. Use Linux on a daily basis
While choice of operating system — and software in general — is mostly about personal preference, I can highly recommend using Linux on your main machine during your college studies. After a few months you will know how to administrate a Linux/Unix machine; a skill that can come in handy during your first internship or employment.
7. Learn to fail
Coming from high school, you may have the opinion that you are very good at math or computer science. You will not expect to encounter any serious problems. Fun fact: you will!
One of the biggest lessons you will learn during your time as an undergraduate is how to handle failure and criticism. So don’t give up if something goes wrong, because everybody will have to handle such situation at some point in their lives.
8. Start your own project
This is why you went to college in the first place, right? There is something you wanted to do. Maybe write that software you imagined or start your own firm? College is the best time to try out these things. Again, even if you are not successful, it will teach you a valuable lesson.