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What's it REALLY like to study computer science in college?

Computer science is one of the toughest majors out there, and easily the most selective in the admission process. I tell my students interested in CS the same thing I tell my students who want to go to conservatory for college... if you do this thing, it will be hard and there will be a lot of off-ramps, so you should really, really love it. You should commit to it absolutely and be ready to make sacrifices. Many students say, "YES, 100%," and that's when I know it's time to talk about how to make it happen. If you're on the fence about pursuing a computer science major, I recommend chatting with some students who have gone through the experience in college recently. Sanjana Dutt, a soon-to-be graduate of Northeastern University with a B.S. in Computer Science, offered to share her experience in the College Torch blog:

Sanjana describes her experience at Northeastern as a computer science major.

Experience of being a CS major

"As a computer science major in college, I experienced highs and lows. On one hand, I have had the privilege of being able to learn and apply skills that will help me in my career. On the other hand, the journey has been filled with frustrations and confusion as I tried to make sense of the concepts, theories, and coding languages I had to learn. I came into university with little to no programming experience, so I was intimidated by the challenging workload and classmates who seemed to be grasping concepts faster than I was."

Northeastern University is a place where students learn and work in equal amounts.

What are the best parts of being a CS major?

"One of the greatest joys I have experienced as a computer science major was when I was able to build my first game. I was replicating the Tetris game in my Fundamentals of Computer Science course. After countless hours of debugging code during office hours and rewatching lecture videos, I finally got my program to run and it felt amazing. I was so proud of my accomplishment and it gave me the confidence to continue pursuing my degree.

Another high was when I received a job offer to work as a software engineer. I was overjoyed to have a chance to use the skills I had learned in college in the real world. It was a great feeling to know that all of my hard work had paid off.

One of the most rewarding experiences I had with computer science in college was working on a project for a Human-Computer Interaction class. The project involved designing an interface that allowed users to interact with a computer in a more natural and intuitive way. I worked with a team of four other students to develop a prototype of the interface. We worked together to come up with the concept, design a prototype, and then test it with real users to see how they interacted with it. After months of hard work, it was incredibly satisfying to see our project come to life and be successful. We were all thrilled to see that our design was able to improve user experience and make the process of interacting with the computer easier and more enjoyable. It was an amazing experience that taught me a lot about the importance of design in computer science."

Computer science was definitely hard sometimes.

"One of the most difficult times was when I was struggling to understand a concept in my algorithms class. I felt like I was banging my head against a wall as I tried to make sense of the material. I was ready to drop the class and even switch my major when I finally figured it out and it felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders.

Another challenge was when I was trying to debug a program and I couldn't figure out why it wasn't working. I found that a huge part of being successful in my major was developing a strong support system of classmates and mentors who could give me advice and motivate me when I felt like giving up on the material."

Here is why you should give it a shot!

"Being a computer science major in college has been an amazing experience. I have learned so much and have gained so many skills that I will use in the future. Whether I want to work in the tech industry or banking, I know the skills I have gained from this major have allowed me to become a competitive problem solver and analytical thinker."

Are you ready to find the college with the computer science department that's the best to help you reach your goals? Download my completely free College Research Guide to get my ultimate list of college search resources so you know exactly where to start.

Did you like hearing from Sanjana about Northeastern? She talks more about her experience there in our article about co-op programs.

Robert Powers (M.A. Johns Hopkins) is the college consultant at College Torch. He is an expert in colleges and the college admissions process. Parents, join his private Facebook group for Parents of College-Bound Students.

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