Thoughts on CS at University - mature student.

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#1 KnifeTea   User is offline

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Thoughts on CS at University - mature student.

Posted 10 August 2014 - 12:58 PM

EDIT - Balls the title should have included self study :/

Wasn't sure of the best area for this post, and hopefully it's not completely "how longs a piece of string"

I'm 28, and I've got the option of going to College for a year, then going to University to study CS.

I'm wondering what the thought's were about this path versus self study.

Currently I'm teaching myself maths (much needed) and Python. My background is in music, I was a competent and proficient producer for a few years. I know the link is tenuous, but it was all self taught, so I know that focus and application can yield some decent results.

I don't think that a corporate job would be what I'm after - and as my academic background is pretty thin I'd also pretty much rule out using Programming in a field that was coupled with much Science. My main motivation is creation really, I'm not sure how to phrase that without sounding like a floppy tool. But the idea of making something for someone is very motivating (for me). So some sort of application production might suit.

So time wise that would put me around 33 when I finished University. I'm with my parents at the moment which is giving me support to reformat my brain a bit, so that might give some more weight to self study I'm not sure. I could have a year or so to self study I would have thought. But I would need to make some kind of schedule / plan to talk through with the folks, otherwise they'd just think I'd dropped out before I started.

I don't really know anyone who's heavily in the field, so It's hard to bounce ideas like these off people with experience (other than via a forum such as this)


So, perhaps Uni would lend itself to me as I'm not currently as capable physics / maths wise as many people are. I'm not sure. Maths I'm building up to higher GCSE (those outside the UK, that's 15 / 16 year old school student kind of level) and would like to do an A level as an external candidate. Python, I'm working through learn python the hard way at the mo, and a course on Udacity.

Would be great to hear the opinions of some people on here, and where you're basing that from.

Don't think I've left anything out, if so I'll add to this.

Cheers!

This post has been edited by KnifeTea: 10 August 2014 - 12:59 PM


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Replies To: Thoughts on CS at University - mature student.

#2 modi123_1   User is online

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Re: Thoughts on CS at University - mature student.

Posted 10 August 2014 - 01:29 PM

Quote

I don't think that a corporate job would be what I'm after - and as my academic background is pretty thin I'd also pretty much rule out using Programming in a field that was coupled with much Science.My main motivation is creation really, I'm not sure how to phrase that without sounding like a floppy tool. But the idea of making something for someone is very motivating (for me). So some sort of application production might suit.

What is your goal? Not corporate and not academia leaves you with.. what?
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#3 macosxnerd101   User is offline

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Re: Thoughts on CS at University - mature student.

Posted 10 August 2014 - 01:34 PM

If your goal is to program and you're math averse, CS probably isn't the track you should pursue. I'd advocate looking at a Software Engineering track or a Business Information Systems track. The latter is a bit lightweight on the programming, with more a focus on becoming a business analyst (a semi-technical go-between for the programmers and clients). A CS degree is usually a course or two short of a math minor, and then there is a CS theory course (which is essentially a math course).

A year of college I think would be a good thing. It would offer you some structure and direction. If nothing else, assuming you learn how to program some before then, you should be ahead of the game in your courses. Hopefully they help fill in some holes or expose you to other languages as well.

Just remember that your goal should be to learn how to think and problem solve. That's the big deal with programming more than learning a single language.

If you have a more focused question or area you'd like to explore, I'm happy to expand as best I can. Best of luck in your pursuits! :)
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#4 KnifeTea   User is offline

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Re: Thoughts on CS at University - mature student.

Posted 10 August 2014 - 01:47 PM

View Postmodi123_1, on 10 August 2014 - 01:29 PM, said:

What is your goal? Not corporate and not academia leaves you with.. what?


I can't say a specific goal long term as I haven't done enough... I'm not adverse to academia, I'm just trying to be realistic about my options... And as for corporate, it's not really "me" so much, I'd take lower pay and extra freedom... Freelance work would probably door me, of I was able to pursue my own projects as well. But again, I haven't really had experience in a corporate setting, so it's hard to say here as well.

I know that I love creating things, and this motivates me pretty consistently. The idea of being able to make software ideas (within reason) is exciting to me.

I like the idea of working with artists and disposable applications, but without any real coding chops its a bit here and there at the mo... Creating visuals also appeals...

Sorry if this is vague on vague.
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#5 macosxnerd101   User is offline

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Re: Thoughts on CS at University - mature student.

Posted 10 August 2014 - 01:50 PM

If you really like visual computation, I'd find a school with a good Human-Computer Interaction program and start there. My school has a Virtual Reality lab and a pretty big HCI program. It involves a fair amount of GUI and Linear Algebra. If you take an HCI course and find you don't like it, then you have time to shift your focus. If you do go back to school, take a summer internship or a semester off for a co-op. Take internships at various companies, both big and small. It's a good way to get your foot in the door, get a feel for the environment, and then decide if that's where you'd like to work.
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#6 KnifeTea   User is offline

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Re: Thoughts on CS at University - mature student.

Posted 10 August 2014 - 01:58 PM

Cheers Mac.... Was just replying to you properly, but I'll just say that I'm not math adverse at all... Just that I'm really not where I should be with it. Its actually quite fun to do, I'm just trying to be real about what I know and what I can reasonably achieve level wise....

Going to Google some of the things you suggested now, cheers
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#7 macosxnerd101   User is offline

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Re: Thoughts on CS at University - mature student.

Posted 10 August 2014 - 04:27 PM

I'm a math person (a discrete math major, actually), so I can talk a lot about that if you have specific questions. You might want to check out my blog entry Which Math Course Should I Take?, as well as our pinned Math Resource Thread.

After I got through my freshman courses, I found myself getting substantially better each semester. The trick is to take courses that are challenging, interesting, and stretch your mind in some way. If you're really good at Algorithm Analysis, for example, a 4000 Algos course might be good for new material. However, it might not push you to think in a different way. A Theory of Computation course might be a better option in that case.

If you take this approach, you'll grow a lot over the next two or three years.
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#8 KnifeTea   User is offline

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Re: Thoughts on CS at University - mature student.

Posted 10 August 2014 - 04:52 PM

Ace thanks Mac, there's quite a lot for me to mull over here so I'm going to hit this thread up tomorrow :)/>

Quote

I'm a math person (a discrete math major, actually), so I can talk a lot about that if you have specific questions


Are you UK or US? (Just wondering if I should convert any UK specific education levels / systems when referring to stuff...)

Quote

You might want to check out my blog entry Which Math Course Should I Take?, as well as our pinned Math Resource Thread.


Cheers Mac - just had a quick look, think that's all a fair bit beyond me at the moment.

Quote

After I got through my freshman courses, I found myself getting substantially better each semester


Yeah, I think theres a lot to be said for learning to think in something. Relating to music experience again, I could just churn things out without issue, my brain was saturated in thinking that way. Maths isn't there for me, if it ever gets there I'm not sure. I'm certainly not a 'I can't now so I won't then' person, but I don't want to disrespect the subject or mislead myself by making plans on doing graph theory within the next few months.

I'm going to research some of those things more fully, thanks for the info though.

This post has been edited by KnifeTea: 10 August 2014 - 04:53 PM

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#9 brep   User is offline

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Re: Thoughts on CS at University - mature student.

Posted 10 August 2014 - 05:37 PM

Earlier you said:

Quote

I like the idea of working with artists and disposable applications, but without any real coding chops its a bit here and there at the mo... Creating visuals also appeals...


The last phrase made me think that, if you want to go into programming, a career in web design might suit you best. This is a field where programmers code the front-end of a website, which essentially means how a website looks (what you see as you browse dreamincode is one example). I'm in an internship where I have to work with web design all the time, and I can say it's very enjoyable.

If you want to explore this more, check out languages such as HTML5, CSS3, and javascript. Those are the backbone to any website with a good design (I should note that javascript isn't always required. Awesome websites have been made without the use of javascript).

GUI for mobile or desktop applications might be something to look into as well.

Good luck,
brep

Edit: spelling

This post has been edited by brep: 10 August 2014 - 05:39 PM

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#10 macosxnerd101   User is offline

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Re: Thoughts on CS at University - mature student.

Posted 10 August 2014 - 05:55 PM

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Maths isn't there for me, if it ever gets there I'm not sure.

Once you get pas the freshman/sophomore number crunching classes, math becomes increasingly conceptual and proofs-based. Mathematicians are valued for their abilities to think critically and learn new, technical skills quickly. Mathematics courses are good "train your brain" courses, more so than in other departments.

Quote

I don't want to disrespect the subject or mislead myself by making plans on doing graph theory within the next few months.

Graph Theory is actually an incredibly approachable subject. It has a lot of problems you can explain to a smart third grader, or with which you can engage a middle school class. Coloring is a good example. You might not be ready to do research in a few months, but you could have a decent handle on the subject in that time. It doesn't rely on the precalc/calculus sequence that many other courses require. It's great to be humble and know when you're biting off to much; but by the same token, don't be shy about dabbling in new areas. Just be smart about it.
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#11 KnifeTea   User is offline

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Re: Thoughts on CS at University - mature student.

Posted 11 August 2014 - 04:04 AM

Cheers Mac - what are your thoughts on getting a tutor? Do you think they're redundant with all the resources online? Just something I've been thinking about.
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#12 macosxnerd101   User is offline

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Re: Thoughts on CS at University - mature student.

Posted 11 August 2014 - 11:30 PM

I'd probably suggest not. A tutor isn't a substitute for a classroom. And if you're not moving in a targeted direction yet, hiring a tutor will do little good.
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#13 KnifeTea   User is offline

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Re: Thoughts on CS at University - mature student.

Posted 12 August 2014 - 06:47 AM

View Postbrep, on 10 August 2014 - 05:37 PM, said:

The last phrase made me think that, if you want to go into programming, a career in web design might suit you best.


Hey brep, cheers for the input... I've thought about web design, and it's definitely something that I'd experiment with at some point. When I said visuals I was thinking This This and This.... I like the idea of synchronizing things to music and such. It would be cool to build something that automated visuals from midi / stem audio file input (kick / snare / synth on separate tracks etc...) I did a few bit's of generated music, they are quite nice to do, kind of Brian Eno esque ideas (there's a massive field that just specializes on this already )

These are a fair way off though!

Quote

GUI for mobile or desktop applications might be something to look into as well.


GUI yeah, I guess that would be inevitable... I'd be more interested in mobile than desktop, as I like the idea of using things like location services and such... It'd be neat to build something that was integrated with a particular artist for a particular time / event... I also like the idea of bridging musicians studios / people via some sort of app, the soundtrack being comprised of the artists demos or such...

I dont mind games, but if I had to choose between something like HALO and Tetris it'd be Tetris every single time, don't think that working on some huge game would appeal to me. I like the idea of a game with a randomized element, so that it changes periodically or something...

These are just me babbling though, I'm currently learning maths and Python.

View Postmacosxnerd101, on 11 August 2014 - 11:30 PM, said:

I'd probably suggest not. A tutor isn't a substitute for a classroom. And if you're not moving in a targeted direction yet, hiring a tutor will do little good.


Cheers Mac, I would like to sit my A Level next year, it would be nice to have and having anything >= C at A Level would look good for Uni as well...

One of the main things that concerns me about Uni is not having time to work on any projects of my own, and leaving with just the degree and no portfolio.

Cheers for the responses though, it's helping me to think aloud like this even if it is all disgustingly vague and subjective!
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#14 brep   User is offline

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Re: Thoughts on CS at University - mature student.

Posted 12 August 2014 - 07:35 AM

View PostKnifeTea, on 12 August 2014 - 11:47 AM, said:

View Postbrep, on 10 August 2014 - 05:37 PM, said:

The last phrase made me think that, if you want to go into programming, a career in web design might suit you best.


Hey brep, cheers for the input... I've thought about web design, and it's definitely something that I'd experiment with at some point. When I said visuals I was thinking This This and This.... I like the idea of synchronizing things to music and such. It would be cool to build something that automated visuals from midi / stem audio file input (kick / snare / synth on separate tracks etc...) I did a few bit's of generated music, they are quite nice to do, kind of Brian Eno esque ideas (there's a massive field that just specializes on this already )

These are a fair way off though!


I can imagine this possibly being accomplished using javascript. I would have to research it a bit more, but I definitely think it could work. The html5 <canvas> tag comes to mind as well...

This post has been edited by brep: 12 August 2014 - 07:36 AM

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#15 Plotnus   User is offline

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Re: Thoughts on CS at University - mature student.

Posted 13 August 2014 - 04:55 PM

College gives more then just the knowledge that self study provides. College gives you opportunities that can not be had in self-study, but, these come at a cost. Self study also has it's own perks.

My advice is this. Do both. Go to university full time. Also explore the field, and other fields to see what you captivates your attention. This way you get the structure/formality/accountability of a formal education, and you get the freedom of self study.

Also, while waiting to hear back from universities join classes at you're local JC. Being a mature student you may find that your classes move too slowly. Use this extra time to explore and deepen your understanding.


Those are my 2 cents.

Note: this is all a general response. Sometimes university is not the most optimal path, but I feel for most people it is a very good path.

This post has been edited by Plotnus: 13 August 2014 - 04:56 PM

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