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I am unhappy with my college education in CS and would like to pursue my own way, advice?

 
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Hi everyone

I am a second-year computer science student. I am on a scholarship and considered lucky because of that, however, the way I see it I am not learning enough. I am done with 3 semesters and these are the subjects I have finished are as follows

Programming Concepts, Computer Programming, Calculus I, English Language I, English Language II, Engineering Skills and Ethics, Arabic Lang 1, Discrete Math, Physics I and Gulf History.

Now as you see most subjects I have done have nothing to do with my major and the rest to come are quite similar too, nothing to do with my major either. Discrete Math is supposed to be a major subject but even though it was taught by a professor who majored as a Computer Engineer has in no way linked it to programming in any way and I feel I am not learning enough. I love programming and would love to learn Graphics design as well and probably even get into Video game development. This love for subjects I am not taking and probably never will in my next 3 years in college is driving me crazy and thinking of transferring to another university however professors told me that others are not much different either and I will probably suffer as well since I will have to pay my own fees. So now I am thinking of getting rid completely of the university idea and instead get my education through online courses and other tutoring centres that teach by subject instead. I am not convinced that a degree from the University is the best way for a good career due to the fact I am not getting a proper education.

Before I take this step though that I may regret for the rest of my life I thought I should ask for advice here from you guys who have already started their careers in the same path I intend to travel on.

Thank you
 
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The only subjects I would say have little to do with computer science are Arabic and Gulf History. Discrete mathematics is a huge subject in computer science. Logic, combinatorics, graph theory, mathematical induction, set theory etc. etc. are pretty much the fundament of computer science.

Sometimes it's hard to see how these subjects relate to what you want to study. Maybe your idea of what you want to study is something other than computer science. Graphics and video game design has more to do with behavioral studies and the visual arts than with computer science.

What kind of career do you see yourself pursuing? What kind of subjects would you expect you need for that?
 
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As a comparison, I would add... Being a doctor is not just about wearing the white gown, and stethoscope. Being a lawyer is not just about the arguments in a courtroom. Any occupation, in any complex field, has lots of details (and foundations), that has to be learned.

If all you care about is the coding, and *not* any of the computer science behind it -- that can happen too. Sort of like being a medical assistant, instead of a doctor. Or like being a court reporter instead of being a lawyer.

Okay, perhaps the analogy broke down a bit... ... but there are jobs in the computer science field, that doesn't require a deep understanding of the sciences, or even a four year university degree. If you don't mind being a court reporter (which is a fine profession), instead of a lawyer, it may be an acceptable path. Good luck.

Henry
 
Yosuf Ibrahim
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Hello Stephan

Thank you for replying.

Stephan van Hulst wrote:The only subjects I would say have little to do with computer science are Arabic and Gulf History.



How are 2 courses in English writing essays and learning how to paraphrase written articles helpful with programming, or even in life later on?

Stephan van Hulst wrote:
Discrete mathematics is a huge subject in computer science. Logic, combinatorics, graph theory, mathematical induction, set theory etc. etc. are pretty much the fundament of computer science.



Well, that's a bummer because I have never heard of combinatorics, graph theory or set theory. And to top it after 2 lectures in mathematical induction and hours later of studying I still have no idea what I am supposed to learn from the chapter or how to benefit from it even. And what is killing me the most is I know this subject is extremely important for my programming. I also hate to break it to you, but both courses, programming concepts and Computer programming turned out to be the same subject taught to me twice. Both were literally the basics of programming in the C++ language.


Sometimes it's hard to see how these subjects relate to what you want to study. Maybe your idea of what you want to study is something other than computer science. Graphics and video game design has more to do with behavioral studies and the visual arts than with computer science.

What kind of career do you see yourself pursuing? What kind of subjects would you expect you need for that?

I want to be a programmer working on video games and\or applications that people would use in their daily lives (not the kinds used by a company to organise their work). I would like to see myself in the future working on jobs that would be shaping the world around me whether through games or educational apps for all age groups.  I want to be somewhere where I am required to think critically and innovatively and among people who are also ambitious and not there just because it is the job that needs to be done.

For that, I expect to be learning subjects that relate to programming, art, psychology so yeah. I thought that Computer Science was going the way for that.. Was I wrong?
 
Henry Wong
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Yosuf Ibrahim wrote:

Stephan van Hulst wrote:The only subjects I would say have little to do with computer science are Arabic and Gulf History.


How are 2 courses in English writing essays and learning how to paraphrase written articles helpful with programming, or even in life later on?



I attended a college that required 8 humanities courses -- basically, one per semester. I tried my best to picked the ones that were interesting, like Greek Mythology, but I must admit that I didn't really enjoy it much.

The dean actually told me, that when I got older, I would not only appreciate it, but would actually preferred that the requirements were higher... and interestingly, he was right ...

The humanities courses is what rounds out a person. It give appreciation to explore the world. And to be honest, there is probably no way that I can convince you either -- just like the Dean couldn't convince me back then.

Henry
 
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Yosuf Ibrahim wrote:. . . How are 2 courses in English writing essays and learning how to paraphrase written articles helpful with programming, or even in life later on?  . . .

When you apply for a job anywhere other than your own country, the answer to that question will become very obvious. International communication is done in English. Full stop.
 
Stephan van Hulst
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The English language is incredibly important in CS. We have to be very precise and pedantic when we describe things, so a good command of the language is essential. This doesn't just go for communication with others, but also for writing understandable programs. CS is more concerned with language than other engineering studies are.

A good CS curriculum will also include subjects like user-machine interaction, user interface design. As Henry has noted, seemingly unrelated subjects will make you a well rounded individual, which brings great benefits that you don't see immediately.

Anyway, I think CS will help you achieve some of your goals, but if you remain sceptical, you could take a look if colleges in your neighborhood offer studies like video game design or application programming. CS is after all an academic subject, and those are not always well suited for a career in the industry.
 
Yosuf Ibrahim
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Thank you, everyone who replied, much appreciate it. Based on my experience and your advises I have decided to stick with what I have until I find a better opportunity. As much as I wish my uni would give me more freedom with subjects and curriculum I can't always expect to be pleased. I have a whole summer break I will indulge in learning what I enjoy and lets see how it goes next semester
 
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I would like to add just one last thing to the list of already valid reasons to stay with your university: Only you decide what you make into useful knowledge. If your professor doesn't relate discrete math to programming, then whenever you learn something new (matrices), it is your job to relate it to (path routing with matrices). Everything, even knowledge about cars can turn out to be useful, you might work on the next Grand Theft Auto, who knows?

To add to that, professors usually have such a vast amount of concepts to explain to you on lectures that they dont have time to explain why they are important. Or they rather concentrate on that you really, really understand the material, so that later when you have to apply it,  you dont have to understand mathematical concepts that are far away from your everyday life at your workplace, all from the scratch. Of course you wont remember it in detail, but you will know where to look.

The thing is, keep yourself motivated. When you see something that seems far away from what you want to do, google "how to code XY" and insert the thing into XY. And voila, it is all related now!

Hope this helps widen the perspective, Dóri
 
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Discrete Math was required for my major too. It was taught by the math dept so there wasn't any intention of connecting it during the class. Which made sense, they wanted to have that same class for people in different majors. The class included truth tables (which we use for communication) and induction (which we use for recursion.) I found the course boring because I learned both of those in high school. But the concepts are important.

Also, remember that CS degrees are not designed to teach you how to be a professional programmer. So you need to supplement what they teach you with your own learning. Read online, play, do projects, do an internship, etc. I think you should complete your degree while simultaneously learning online. For example, Coursera has a lot of good tactical courses. Some of what you learn in college will be useful later. Some won't. While I don't think college is the most efficient way of learning what you need later, it provides a credential. And employers are going to comparing someone with a degree (that can be verified) to someone who took a bunch of online courses. Even if the later person knows more, he/she faces an uphill battle when it comes to finding a first internship or job. It's not impossible. But you have the opportunity to get a degree for free and that is quite valuable.
 
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Hello Yosuf ,

You are thinking about your good career from this stage is very good thing.

every subject which is offered to you as a syllabus have some importance in you CS whether it is history or anything else.
find out why they are offering this subjects. in addition to build your knowledge base you can join any community, learn new technologies from internet, take internship, do projects , read books.
 
Campbell Ritchie
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