Computer Science, Software Development, College

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by Coolnat2004, Mar 12, 2008.


What should I do?

Poll closed Mar 26, 2008.
  1. University of Cincinnati

    1 vote(s)
  2. Northern Kentucky University

    1 vote(s)
  3. Other School

    1 vote(s)
  4. Switch Degree Programs

    0 vote(s)
  1. Coolnat2004 macrumors 6502


    Jan 12, 2005
    So, I'm a HS senior this year, and the deadline for confirming my college decision is quickly approaching. I want to go to college in order to study software development (and related topics), and it seems that the most popular degree for this is Computer Science.

    It looks like I am staying close to home, so I've narrowed it down to two options.

    The first is the University of Cincinnati. UC offers a decent engineering program with all-tenured professors, a great campus, and a decent amount of prestige. It's affordable to me, but the CS program seems a but daunting to me. In my visits, I have sat through slideshows describing the CS program. One was presented by the head of the department, whom I could barely understand due to his deep Indian accent. He did not seem to have a great grasp of English, and his slideshow was all charts and graphs explaining why CS graduates are going to be in high demand.

    Their CS program is 5 years long, and it seems to be focused on "traditional" CS, as in the theory and mathematical background to it. That's not what interests me the most, and I hate Calculus with a passion. The best thing about this program is the required 4 summers of co-op, which is essentially a paid internship.

    I'm worried that UC would involve a lot of work in areas of the field that I find tedious and boring.

    On to my second choice, which is Northern Kentucky University. This one comes with the advantage of being closer to home (I will be commuting), avoiding the 'bottleneck' of traffic crossing the river to Ohio. Their CS program is 4 years long, and is in the College of Informatics, rather than Engineering (they have no college of "engineering").

    The CS program here seems to be very software oriented, with classes in C, Java, web development, etc. There is also less math (however still a lot of it). I'm sure that I can get internships or co-ops on my own if I attend NKU, especially because I already do some software stuff (for businesses) in my free time.

    The college is cheaper by a few thousand dollars a year, and it would end up being nearly free for me (although UC would be a similar situation).

    All in all, it seems "easier", giving me more time to explore the "interesting" parts of the field, and it is a year shorter. This school doesn't come with a lot of prestige, as it is a commuter school that is generally considered a "safety" school for people who live around here.

    I'm not sure what my final decision will be. I enjoy the "idea" of going to UC, but I do not like the extra effort it will take to get through the program. I want to enjoy school.

    Can anyone offer some advice? For all of you CS students out there, is the prestige of a 5-year engineering degree really worth it? Better yet, does the college you attend really matter in the long run?
  2. dmr727 macrumors G3


    Dec 29, 2007
    In my former life I wrote code for a living. I have a CS degree as well. So with that said, I'd say go to the school that you'll enjoy the most. 'Prestige' isn't going to matter for a CS job. Most companies will like to see a portfolio of stuff you've done. Impress them there, and you're all set. Many of the people I worked with had unbelievable talent with degrees in completely unrelated fields. Many didn't have degrees at all. If you can prove to an employer that you'll be of value to them (this is what the portfolio is for) - your background will matter little.

    Go to college. Have fun. Learn. Write a lot of code. Build a portfolio of cool stuff you've written. Have fun.

    College is awesome. If it isn't, you're not doing it right. :)
  3. Gelfin macrumors 68020


    Sep 18, 2001
    Denver, CO
    Of the two, go UC. Challenge yourself. Note that although you'll have to take calculus for sure, the mathematical foundations of computer science involve precisely zero calculus. A CS degree with a good academic foundation will be far more useful than you'd think. A trade-focused program will help you get a job; an academic-focused program will help you get a career.

    The trade program might teach you how to make, say, Cocoa applications in XCode, but if you're any good you'll pick up languages and platforms on your own, as it seems you're already doing. If that's all you needed, why bother with school at all? The theory underlying it all is exactly what you need. Specific technical skills become obsolete. The knowledge you'll get in an academic program is relevant to every platform, every language, now and forever.

    Knowledge of how memory works, when to prefer one data structure over another, how to calculate algorithmic complexity, what it really means to "call a function" or "throw an exception" and all the other "academic" things you'll be exposed to in a more "traditional" CS program really do become very relevant in the real world, and a large number of the people you'll be competing with for jobs don't really know those things.
  4. Rodimus Prime macrumors G4

    Rodimus Prime

    Oct 9, 2006
    The prestige. of a college is highly over rated. Big time when it comes to under graduated degrees.

    First off if it is in the college of engineering it is going to have Calculus and upper level physic in it. It is required for the accreditation.

    Another degree you might be interested in is an MIS (management information systems) degree from the school of Business. I know some people how got that degree and they do a fair amount of coding. It does not have all the upper level math and science that CS would have.
  5. CalBoy macrumors 604


    May 21, 2007
    While I disagree with this in a general sense, I think it applies in your case OP.

    I think both schools are fairly good (or they seem to be at least) so prestige isn't really your big concern here; it's not as if you were deciding between Harvard and Coney Island College right?

    I also advise you to make your decision based on how the school atmosphere is. A general rule is that the more prestigious the school, the less it cares about its students (undergrad that is). You might actually get a better quality education out of the school that you think is "less prestigious."

    In the end though, you should challenge yourself in new ways. When you go to school, do other things like join clubs and travel abroad for a semester, do Americorps, etc. These things will likely make your future résumé far better than just the name of your school can.
  6. rhsgolfer33 macrumors 6502a

    Jan 6, 2006
    I agree, some of the brightest graduate students at top schools went to schools you've never heard of for undergrad, same with some of the best professionals out there. Name doesn't mean a whole lot now days it seems like. My starting accounting salary at a big 4 firm, coming from a school with 3000 students that most people have never heard of, is pretty much the same as accounting students coming from UCLA, UC Irvine, ect.

    That said, go to the school you like the most. Pick which one you think you will have a more enjoyable experience at and go there. Both schools offer what you want, but it sounds like you find the UNK program more interesting. Just go for it, at worst you end up transferring schools 1-2 years in.

    I didn't choose my school based on prestige, I chose it because it offered the program I wanted, was close enough to home to commute comfortably, offered me a 1/2 tuition scholarship, and because class sizes in my major range from 8-20 students. Plus they have don't use graduate student instructors and my professors, not the departmental assistants, grade all of the papers I write. That was important to me; I enjoy where I go to school, and I really couldn't be a whole lot happier with my choice.

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