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#1 doncable  Icon User is offline

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As a freshman, what should I be doing for my career?

Posted 26 December 2014 - 03:33 PM

I'm a freshman in college. I did really well in my first semester, but I know that internships and experience always trump GPAs when it comes to getting hired. As such, I want to make sure I am doing all possible to further myself. I only took a Data Structures class in Java the first semester, and I am taking Discrete Structures and Data Structures II next semester, along with other required math and science classes. I don't know much computer science or programming yet. I know the little bit of Java that they taught us, mostly just arrays, creating objects and methods, a little bit of GUI stuff but not much at all.

The thing I am concerned about is beefing up a resume for internships. My school requires us to apply for at least one internship per year, but I don't even know what I would put on my resume. I don't have much experience programming, and I haven't built any projects or worked on anything on the side. I feel like I couldn't do anything I could imagine because I really don't know much about computer science to begin with. I am considering teaching myself the new Swift language for iOS apps, as I think that is a fun and easy way to demonstrate what I know.

What does everyone suggest I do? What should I be doing at this early point in my college career? Thanks everyone in advance

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Replies To: As a freshman, what should I be doing for my career?

#2 jon.kiparsky  Icon User is offline

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Re: As a freshman, what should I be doing for my career?

Posted 26 December 2014 - 03:44 PM

The best thing you can do for your career is figure out what the hell you want to be doing - that means, trying things, taking classes that look interesting, getting your feet wet in lots of areas. Get lots of experience programming, particularly since you say that's what you're lacking.

Don't do things because you think they'll get you work. That's only going to get you bullshit work with stupid people who you don't want to work for - people who are easily fooled by some freshman trying to game them are not the sort of people who make good employers. Instead, do things that help figure out what you want to to be doing, and how to do it better.

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I am considering teaching myself the new Swift language for iOS apps, as I think that is a fun and easy way to demonstrate what I know.


You've just told us that you don't know anything. That usually doesn't take a lot of demonstrating. :)

Sure, if you want to make an app, learn Swift. But again, do it if you have a use for the language and you want to make something with it. Don't just do it for cv fodder.
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#3 macosxnerd101  Icon User is offline

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Re: As a freshman, what should I be doing for my career?

Posted 26 December 2014 - 03:57 PM

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I only took a Data Structures class in Java the first semester, and I am taking Discrete Structures and Data Structures II next semester, along with other required math and science classes.

Be careful with how much you bite off. As a freshman, it's great that you're enthusiastic and grabbing the bull by the horns. You have time though. I'd shoot for an internship before your junior or senior years. Programming takes time to absorb and requires a lot of practice. One programming class with 15-18 hours of meaty classes won't give you much time to practice. You'll be pushing to get the projects done. I'd say lighten up the load with 14-16 hours, including one or two general eds/fluff classes. Then use your free time to write more code. Project Euler and Rosalind.info are great places to practice. Data Structures II is also non-trivial. In Data Structures I, you should have seen things like the linked list, stack, queue, binary search tree, searching and sorting, and some Big-O.

In Data Structures II, you get into things like the quad-tree, balanced binary search trees, the splay tree, graph algorithms, more complexity, etc. It's a class where being mathematically mature is helpful. Discrete math is definitely a good course to take. It should help you bulk up on your graph theory, which you will need. I'm not saying don't take Data Structures II, but another CS requirement that is programming intensive might be a better option for the moment.
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#4 doncable  Icon User is offline

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Re: As a freshman, what should I be doing for my career?

Posted 26 December 2014 - 04:44 PM

Thanks guys for the responses. I may have miscommunicated what I meant to ask. I am not just worried about getting a job, I am interested in different things. I just want to know what I should pursue on my own, what projects I could work on at my skill level, etc., and how helpful these will be as a student. For instance, I would like to work on a mobile game, but I don't know if that's possible yet. How would I learn to do this? How would I practice my skills outside of class? I'm not the most creative person, so I don't have any ideas for an app or program off the top of my head. So far, I like computer science not for the creative aspect, but the idea of solving problems and thinking of solutions for problems given to me.
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#5 macosxnerd101  Icon User is offline

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Re: As a freshman, what should I be doing for my career?

Posted 26 December 2014 - 05:04 PM

You'll probably want to focus on Android then. With a strong OOP background, Android is feasible to learn. I might look into a book and go from there.
With game programming, it's not glamorous work, even though everyone thinks it is. Some basic games include a guessing game, Blackjack, etc. You might work towards Pong after more experience under your belt.

You might also branch out some. Explore topics like HCI/GUI, bioinformatics, computer organization/systems, and theory. A strong math foundation will really be helpful. Number theory, linear algebra, graph theory, and combinatorics are staples. These will pay off down the road. Try implementing some of the algorithms you encounter. That's good practice. I mentioned a couple sites above to practice too.
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#6 jon.kiparsky  Icon User is offline

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Re: As a freshman, what should I be doing for my career?

Posted 26 December 2014 - 05:14 PM

View Postdoncable, on 26 December 2014 - 06:44 PM, said:

Thanks guys for the responses. I may have miscommunicated what I meant to ask


Probably, but that's okay. We're used to having to grill people to get them to ask the right questions.

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I am not just worried about getting a job, I am interested in different things. I just want to know what I should pursue on my own, what projects I could work on at my skill level, etc., and how helpful these will be as a student. For instance, I would like to work on a mobile game, but I don't know if that's possible yet. How would I learn to do this?


What's possible is really determined by you - who you are, what your skills are, how well you build out skills when the need arises, that sort of thing. Not something we're going to be able to answer for you. My best answer is, come up with something that really drives you, something you're really drawn to, and figure out how to get to building that. You might have to hit a few intermediate steps before you get there, but at least you'll be on the way to something you're jazzed about, and not something that I think you ought to be jazzed about.

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How would I practice my skills outside of class?
So far, I like computer science not for the creative aspect, but the idea of solving problems and thinking of solutions for problems given to me.


In that case, check out Project Euler and rosalind.info - they'll give you plenty of problems for which you can seek solutions. The former is more math-oriented. Difficulty ramps up sharply within the first 25 problems - this is by design. They're meant to be hard to solve. Some of them are deeply beautiful. This is also by design. I suggest that you will find this more pleasant if you are also doing some math - discrete math, number theory, graphs, all of these will be useful for different problems.

rosalind.info is mostly about bioinformatics - again, the problems are progressive, but here you're unlocking problems as you solve, so it tends to give you a little more obvious structure. Biology background is not required, but wouldn't hurt. There's also a section on general algorithms, so that could be interesting as well.

David Ahl's Basic Computer Games is also a good idea pump: a set of games, with specification and source code in classic BASIC. Find ones you like, and implement them in your language of choice. Since the behavior is generally well-defined, this doesn't require a lot of creativity, although you might need to be creative in your implementations.

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I'm not the most creative person, so I don't have any ideas for an app or program off the top of my head.


I think it's probably worth saying that this is not a great trait in a developer. Most people want to hire someone who's willing to cop to at least a little bit of creativity.
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#7 rleonekc  Icon User is offline

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Re: As a freshman, what should I be doing for my career?

Posted 13 February 2015 - 01:32 PM

Internships are extremely important. Try to do at least 2-3 before you graduate
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