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Success in Computer Science. Success in Computer Science. As an undergraduate CS student, you want a roadmap to success Issue: There are many components to success in CS: Curricular Activities (Courses) Co-Curricular Activities Preparation for Post-Undergraduate Life Overall Planning.

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success in computer science1
Success in Computer Science
  • As an undergraduate CS student, you want a roadmap to success
  • Issue: There are many components to success in CS:
    • Curricular Activities (Courses)
    • Co-Curricular Activities
    • Preparation for Post-Undergraduate Life
    • Overall Planning
curricular activities
Curricular Activities
  • Curricular components
    • Course and Program Selection
    • Studying / Course Work
    • Grades
course selection
Course Selection
  • Many major courses decided for you
  • Choices
    • CS Electives – how to choose?
      • Explore current interests, possible areas of specialization
      • Take courses useful for likely jobs
      • Take courses to help prepare for graduate school (e.g. CS 450)
    • CS Comprehensive - ENGL 305 or ENGL 308 or CJ 202?
      • ENGL 305 – Communicating Scientific Subjects to General Audiences (communication –writing)
        • Also counts toward GE 3xx-level requirement (Three 3xx-level courses)
      • ENGL 308 – Scientific Communication for Expert Audiences (communication – writing)
        • Also counts toward GE 3xx-level requirement (Three 3xx-level courses)
      • CJ 202 – Fundamentals of Speech (communication – speaking)
    • GE Courses – Strategies and Tactics
      • Take courses that you’re interested in
      • Take courses that fit best with your major (and minor) program(s)
      • Take courses that meet multiple requirements to free up other slots
program selection
Program Selection
  • Which major?
    • Computer Science – Comprehensive (63 cr.)
      • Broadest array of computer science courses
      • More mathematics, required Physics for science lab sequence
      • Requires some other courses (communication, ethics) under GE
    • Computer Science – Software Engineering (39 cr.)
      • Similar amount of computer science to CS-Comp.
        • Only differences: not CS 462 (Networks), one less CS elective
      • Less mathematics, required Physics for science lab sequence
      • Requires minor (24 cr.)
    • Computer Science – Computer Engineering (68 cr.)
      • A computer science degree with an emphasis on computer hardware and engineering issues
      • Useful for working in computer hardware industry, positions including hardware verification and testing
    • Computer Science – GIS (68 cr.)
      • Combination of computer science + study of geographic information systems
program selection 2
Program Selection (2)
  • Which minor, if needed?
    • Information systems
      • Complementary to CS, added understanding of business
    • Mathematics
      • Additional problem solving tools for toolset, some practical applications (e.g. probability and statistics, digital signal processing)
    • Any area that you can combine with computer science
      • E.g. Biology, Physics, Criminal Justice (Forensics), maybe Materials Science in future?
    • Any area that you’re interested in
      • E.g. Music, Foreign Language, others…
studying and course work
Studying and Course Work
  • Read assigned materials
    • Several computer science instructors work primarily with PPT slides; don’t forget how to read technical material!
  • Review periodically
    • Helps anchor and integrate material
      • Important with comprehensive nature of CS
  • Study with others (at least some of the time)
    • Especially if you’re not well-disciplined at studying on your own
    • Try to study with others at or above your level – this helps you to rise to their level
  • Study actively
    • Try to ask “what if” questions, e.g.
      • Does this algorithm really work (correctly / efficiently)?
      • What other approaches are there here?
      • Is there a better approach possible?
studying and course work1
Studying and Course Work
  • Participate in class actively
    • Ask questions
    • Comment where appropriate based on your own experience
  • Understand what the instructor is looking for
    • Read carefully, solve the problem asked, not the problem you would like to see asked
  • Be complete, thorough and organized
  • Use a variety of problem solving techniques (more later)
  • GPA review
    • How is GPA calculated?
    • How is GPA used?
      • Honors for semester, degree
      • Internship and full-time job applications
        • Perhaps the most important factor!
  • Team Exercise
    • Effect of bad first year
    • Effect of one bad course on semester GPA
      • C if averaging B’s
      • F if averaging B’s
    • Effect of one bad semester after three good semesters
grades 2
Grades (2)
  • How to get good grades in CS courses?
    • Complete all assignments
    • Do your share of the work (or more) on team assignments
      • Team projects will often ask for each member of the group to anonymously evaluate all members’ participation
    • Make sure you learn the material; don’t leave unanswered questions
      • Computer Science is very comprehensive!
co curricular activities
Co-Curricular Activities
  • Co-Curricular Activities
    • Club participation / leadership
    • Part-time work
    • Study abroad
    • Internships
    • Job Search
club participation and leadership
Club Participation and Leadership
  • Computer Science clubs
    • Student ACM
      • ACM = Association for Computing Machinery, primary professional organization for computer scientists
      • Student club – social, service, educational, networking with other students, possible employers
      • Professional organization – separate student membership, access to magazine and CS literature
    • WITS (Women In Technology and Science)
      • Similar – social, service, educational, networking
      • All interested students welcome
  • Benefits of membership
    • Meet other CS students
    • Activities
    • Opportunity to run for and be a club leader, help guide club in future year(s)
part time work
Part-Time Work
  • Benefits
    • Generate funds for school
      • But remember your primary goal – education
      • Work should never be an excuse for not doing well in school
    • Obtain additional CS-relevant experience (if a job that utilizes CS skills: system administrator, web developer, help desk staff, etc.)
  • Issues
    • Can interfere with course work, especially group meetings
  • Overall
    • Make sure part-time work is compatible with your course work
study abroad
Study Abroad
  • Benefits
    • Learning about another culture
    • Experiencing the diversity of the world
  • Issues
    • In past, often just GE credits
    • Now, are some institutions that offer CS courses that may transfer
  • Recommendations
    • Talk to your adviser early (freshman year) if you are interested in study abroad
    • Second-semester sophomore year is the best semester for study abroad
      • Required course: one elective (CS 268 or CS 278) that can be taken another semester, doesn’t interfere with prerequisite chain
  • Temporary work (often full-time during a summer, possibly including another semester) with an employer
    • Can be for pay, credits, both
    • Often summer after junior year, but can be after sophomore or even freshman year if you have experience that matches employer needs
  • Benefits
    • One of the important accomplishments in the eyes of companies hiring for full-time positions
    • A good experience (from the employer’s perspective) on an internship is often the gateway to a full-time job offer
  • Opportunities to explore internships
    • CS Career Breakfast and UWEC Career Fair (late September)
    • Internship Mania (February)
    • Through Career Services online listings
  • Prerequisites
    • Have a resume prepared, reviewed by CS faculty and Career Services
      • Often WITS workshops on this in fall before UWEC Career Fair
    • In some cases, minimum GPA requirements (e.g. 3.0)
  • If want credit, must work with Dr. Jack Tan (CS Internship Coordinator) – do this in advance
job search
Job Search
  • Necessary to be pro-active
    • Can’t wait for employers to come to you
  • Same opportunities as for internships:
    • CS Career Breakfast and UWEC Career Fair (late September)
    • Internship Mania (February)
    • Through Career Services online listings
    • Also other contacts:
      • Employers speaking at CS 396 (Junior Seminar)
      • Employers met through talks, club events, etc.
      • Personal contacts
    • Prerequisite
      • Again, having a good resume is key
      • Also want strong recommendations from faculty
      • May be minimum GPA requirements (e.g. 3.0) here too
after uwec
After UWEC
  • Options:
    • Job in CS
    • Graduate School in CS or other area
    • Job in another area
job in cs
Job in CS
  • Many different possibilities
  • Consider areas previously discussed
    • Application vs. systems
  • Major CS employers
    • Marshfield Clinic (Marshfield, WI)
    • Great Lakes Higher Education (Madison/Eau Claire, WI)
    • Liberty Mutual Insurance Company (Wausau)
    • Northwestern Mutual Insurance Company (Milwaukee)
    • 3M Corporation (St. Paul, MN)
    • IDEXX Systems (Eau Claire)
  • Other employers of CS students
    • IBM (Rochester, MN)
    • Menards / Midwest Manufacturing (Eau Claire)
    • McKesson Surgical/Medical (Minneapolis)
    • C.H. Robinson (Minneapolis)
    • Silicon Logic Engineering (Eau Claire)
    • Many others…
graduate school
Graduate School
  • Approximately 5-10% of CS students go directly on to graduate school in CS
  • Worth considering if interested in teaching, research, or advanced/focused work
  • See: for more information (Student ACM talk given by Dr. Dan Ernst and Dr. Paul Wagner of UWEC CS)
  • Will need recommendations from faculty
job in other area
Job in Other Area?
  • Always possible to use CS as a supplement to a job in another field
  • Students have gone on to jobs such as:
    • Teaching English in foreign countries
    • Document translation
    • Web design
  • Issue
    • Easy to get stale technically, may limit future options
    • However, CS knowledge is always helpful
  • Planning includes:
    • Considering options
    • Making choices
    • Being an active participant in your undergraduate education
    • Organizing your time
    • Thinking ahead
considering options
Considering Options
  • Choices are made out of all available options
  • Make sure you don’t limit your options
  • Examples:
    • Student not attending class and not doing well
    • Student not attending class but doing well in class – later issues
    • Student not attending class but not officially dropping
  • Goal: leave yourself more options where possible
making choices
Making Choices
  • Carefully consider each option for:
    • Advantages
    • Disadvantages
    • Other implications
  • Consciously choose and act on the option you prefer
    • Ownership translated to success
being active
Being Active
  • How you can you be active in your CS education?
  • Many ways:
    • Active participation in class
    • Active consideration on choices for major, minor, CS electives, GE courses
    • Active consideration of co-curricular options
      • While making sure that all choices reasonably fit within your schedule
    • Talk to instructors, understand the course requirements
      • What accomplishments expected?
      • What participation expected?
organizing your time
Organizing Your Time
  • Treat studying and review like a class
    • Set aside standard periods of time each week to work on your courses
  • For team projects, communicate with team members to identify common times to meet regularly
    • Requires flexibility and cooperation
  • Budget time for everything, including co-curricular interests
thinking ahead
Thinking Ahead
  • Your undergraduate career is a “knapsack problem”
    • Knapsack problem – famous CS optimization problem
      • Many objects of different weights and values (not proportionate); all have some value...
      • How to determine the optimal set of objects to put in your knapsack/backpack that will give you the most value while staying within a given weight limit?
  • We really need a “forward advising” system to supplement degree audits
    • Backward advising – how does what you’ve done fit into a degree plan?
    • Forward advising – what should you do and when should you do it to successfully complete a degree program?
thinking ahead 2
Thinking Ahead (2)
  • Putting it all together
    • Consider your options regularly
    • Develop a plan early, but be ready to change it if necessary (and reconsider it regularly)
    • Develop the discipline for completing course work, participating in class, and active learning that will allow you to succeed in CS
    • Make sure you keep your options open
      • Don’t back yourself into a corner with no/few options
thinking ahead 3
Thinking Ahead (3)
  • Key Timeline Items – Sample Schedule
    • Freshman year
      • Do well in your courses!
      • Consider exact major, minor, clubs, work, study abroad, act on some…
        • Join SACM and/or WITS
    • Sophomore year
      • Continue to do well
      • Develop your resume
      • Study abroad 2nd semester if desired
      • Run for office in club
    • Junior year
      • Continue to do well
      • Update resume, investigate internship possibilities
      • Apply for internships
      • Do internship – summer
    • Senior year
      • <you get it…>
      • Update resume, investigate full-time job possibilities
      • Apply for full-time job
      • Graduate, start that job…