Who Should Major in Computer Science?
Computer Science is one of the most popular, and often one of the most selective, college majors. It is a restricted or impacted major at several schools, especially those in California. However, the best places to learn computer science and choose your specialty within it might not always be the larger schools. One good place to learn Computer Science is The College of New Jersey (TCNJ).
I listened to a presentation from a team of faculty and students at TCNJ that was led by Professor Andrea Salgian, Associate Chair of the department. Professor Saligian’s research interests are in Artificial Intelligence, Computer Vision and Machine Learning. Afterwards, I asked her if she would do a Zoom interview so you can learn more about Computer Science as well as how to choose between acceptances to the major at different schools.
TCNJ has a “hands-on” program with classes that will rarely be larger than a high school class.
The college has approximately 7,000 undergrads, about the same that you will find at Elon or Villanova. Nearly 200 students major in Computer Science at TCNJ. For comparison, Rutgers-New Brunswick graduated just over 1,000 computer science majors in 2021. However, their experiences were likely different from those who went to the smaller school. Some schools do an excellent job of connecting students to research, internships and co-ops. But an undergraduate needs to compete for attention from the faculty against candidates for graduate degrees. Those who want a larger school should take the time to ask about the intro courses, research opportunities and potential connections before they deposit.
Professor Salgian and I covered some of the key questions that a high school student should answer before building a school list and checking off computer science as an intended major.
One immediate point I will add: different schools put the major in different places. A liberal arts college might similar list it as one among all of their possible majors. However, other schools place the major in a college of science (as TCNJ does), a college of engineering (as the University of Illinois does), a school of arts and sciences (as Rutgers does) or a separate school (as Drexel, Georgia Tech and UMass-Boston-Amherst do). A liberal arts college as well as some other private universities such as Case Western and the University of Rochester will admit students regardless of intended major. But others will be more selective for the major.
I hope that prospective computer science majors, their parents and advisors will listen to this conversation.
Too many prospective majors that I have met have become drawn to media rankings or thoughts that the “good job” is available only to graduates from “the best school,” what they believe that school to be. But whenever you commit to a school, you commit to taking classes. Computer science is a challenging major. A high level of mathematical competency is expected to be ready for the more advanced courses. There are glamorous and heroic aspects, for example, to artificial intelligence and cybersecurity. An opportunity to use the latest tools hands-on is certainly attraction. But you have to get through a lot of math and theory to get there.
Listen to this interview with Professor Salgian now!
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