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Old 09-11-2003, 04:01 PM   #1 (permalink)
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How hard is CS?

I've heard lots of people say that it's really hard along the way.

I'm just starting off and I've heard a lot of negative things about it.

So, to you CS majors, how hard is it?
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Old 09-11-2003, 04:16 PM   #2 (permalink)
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CS = Computer Science ?
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Old 09-11-2003, 04:31 PM   #3 (permalink)
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yes. sry about not mentioning that.
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Old 09-11-2003, 05:59 PM   #4 (permalink)
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If you find it hard then it's hard.

Take intro to computer science, or start the intro sequence at your school, it's only one lecture and a lab, if you find yourself lost or unable to complete the assignments then it probably isn't for you.

Not everyone has the head for it. Most important is that you find it interesting. If you find it interesting then you are probably understanding enough of what your are being taught to apply it.

You can't say that CS is universaly hard, for instance if you learn it @ your average college it can be a total joke. You learn to use a high level language and a few libraries and you turn into a coding monkey for some corporation. The average coder is fit for nothing more then the redeployment of tools created by other people. The average coder also tends to be someone who got into CS for the wrong reasons.

Other places will give you a strong theoretical background (your expected to be capable of learning any and all software tools and libraries and languages on demand... sounds hard, but isn't... once you have taken the intro sequence you'll find that all languages and tools work pretty much the same way with only subtle but important differences) and prepare you to work on higher level problems.

Like the design of operating systems and databases, the development of new software to drive the latest graphics hardware. Projects like the Doom engine or the Unreal engine aren't created by your average run of the mill CS major. It takes years of study and practice in mathematics and 3d graphics. There is really no limit to the areas you can study in conjunction with CS.
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Old 09-11-2003, 06:10 PM   #5 (permalink)
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You should inquire about what particular aspects they found difficult. There are so many different aspects to computer science, that a general "it gets hard" is pretty much worthless. If it is something you enjoy then stick to it.
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Old 09-11-2003, 07:02 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I find it do-able and have lil problem completing my assignments.

I'm doing 'em pretty efficiently too

The fact that's scaring me is the # of people that are dropping out. I think that about 50% of the people who start off finish it.

and how do i know whether UT (Univ of Texas-Austin) is an "average school" for CS or what? do u know?
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Old 09-11-2003, 07:12 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I competely agree with the previous posts, specifically kel's post.

I would take the preliminary courses[weed-out classes] such as intro to programming and then intermediate programming, as well as calculus and mechanics. Considering these are the very basic courses needed to start your CS degree track, I'd see how you handle them. They will definitely show you how much work to expect in the upcoming courses. The first year of programming is important and teaches you the core material, including the STL.

You will most likely have to take alot of math courses, at least 5 or 6. Also, physics will be thrown in for a few semesters as well.

Overall, the major isn't 'hard' [unless you need a specific GPA to be accepted into the program :-/], but it is alot of work, requiring a strong sense of math, science, and logic.

I agree with kel's statement about how many people are in CS for one reason, that reason being: money. Alot of people saw the tech boom a few years back and immediately decided to be a coder and expect to make $90k a year, it's not like that anymore, the average starting salary is about $45k, if you can find a job. So, make sure you're not in it for the money before you get that degree.

Once you have completed your introductory courses, you move into the core courses of CS... such as digital systems/logic, discrete math, hardware design, etc. Much can be done with a CS job, not just programming[depending on your school's degree criteria], which is the beauty of the major.

And to close this long post, Computer Science can be hard, IF you make it hard, by not doing your work or keeping up with course materials/lectures. I'd try my best at getting through the classes because alot of very cool stuff can be learned later on, such as Game Design Theory, Artificial Intelligence, Logic Theory, and such.

Good luck in your decision making process!
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Old 09-11-2003, 08:41 PM   #8 (permalink)
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The major isn't hard. It's just intense. And gets intenser. If you're overwhelmed at the start, bail.

You seem to be doing all right, though, so I suggest sticking with it. Good luck. Use your TAs.
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Old 09-11-2003, 09:52 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Something that hasn't been stressed is the math.

If you find mathematics hard, CS is probably not for you.

Many CS programs require a math minor.
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Old 09-12-2003, 12:54 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by Lebell
Something that hasn't been stressed is the math.

If you find mathematics hard, CS is probably not for you.

Many CS programs require a math minor.
Actually this is not entirely the case. There is an aptitude for CS itself. I wish I could remember the computer scientist who did this study, but he says essentially that there is a direct relationship between SAT math scores and success in CS courses for non-CS majors. However for CS majors this relationship does not hold true. That's not to say there aren't a lot of people good at math in CS-- far from it. They do seem to go hand-in-hand but there are those with a programming "streak" who are math-challenged.
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Old 09-12-2003, 06:42 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Agree with kel's post.

Taking an intro to CS class probably won't give you a good idea of what CS really is about. Some CS classes might not involve much programming at all. My school focuses heavily on the theorethical aspects of CS (i'm not a CS major, but i have a few friends who do. )

As lebell mentioned, math is important. My Real Analysis class is crowded with first year CS grad students.
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Old 09-12-2003, 08:22 AM   #12 (permalink)
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I would say that undergraduate isn't so important. If you don't get the theoretical background there it means you won't be able to jump into more advanced study later. This is because your professors will have no language with which to discuss the problems with you. IE Turing/Finite State machines, lambda calculus, funky stuff like that which are ideal for describing fundamental issues in CS and not their manifestations in various applications.

I would recommend going to masters level to anyone. You will definitely get the background that way. If you feel there is one area that fascinates you and your not satisfied with your current abilities in that area then go for a PHD... I am falling in love with physics simulations and I want spend my PHD years studying engineering, so that I have the background to write simulations at will.

Anywhoo, as for your case, the curriculum for the major in your school seems to be pretty expansive. Some schools will simply cut-out and compress things. Your school seems to shy a bit away from pure CS and more towards diversity with hardware and stuff. There are no introductory courses to AI (more useful just to find out if you want to study that) I definitely think you should stick with it. Don't worry about the strength of your undergraduate degree. When applying to grad school for a Masters (which should only take one-two years and will pay for itself) it won't matter very much. Mostly what they look for is what learning potential you have in the graduate environment (the paper is insanely important... if you have already done interesting research and actually produce something then your way ahead of the game).

Also... get to know your professors! VERY VERY IMPORTANT. Talk to them whenever you wonder about your career or future. They either made the right decisions already or know which ones not to make ;-) They will also be the ones hooking you up with all the good intra-university research and internship opportunities, and might even help place you outside. And uhm... summer school is a great way to help keep your GPA up. It means you don't have to take a very heavy courseload. You can also schedule courses you find inherently difficult (like all mathematics for me) during the summer so you can focus on them. Although watch out... those summer courses can be taught by unqualified people way to fast.

Blah... college is to damn complicated.
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Last edited by kel; 09-28-2003 at 07:44 PM..
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Old 09-12-2003, 11:07 AM   #13 (permalink)
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I'm a second year CS student.
I don't think that you have much to fear from the huge number of drop outs. From my expercience those that drop out:

a) Feel they are "finished school now" and so don't need to work in any way shape or form. Go to lectures!? Nah! I'll just photocopy the notes from Bob. Bob...c'mere...oh you weren't at the lecture either? Oh well. He can't have said anything too important now can he?

b) Have no interest in computers/technology/maths/science/knowledge/etc. They are of the opinion..."I can check my e-mail, how much harder can CS be?" Plus I have a friend of a friend who made shitloads of cash a few years back from doing websites. And he didn't even have a degree!

So assuming you are not like that, then I don't think that you should be too worried.

Oh yeah, and another thing...you'll probably have a small group of arrogant, condescending, pretentious nerds, that did nothing during high school but program. They'll do their very best to make you feel inferior.
Ignore them, you'll have the last laugh when it comes to results time. They often don't do as wonderful as they expect they will.
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Old 09-12-2003, 03:34 PM   #14 (permalink)
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CSflim.....
COMPUTERSCIENCEflim?

!

!!

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Old 09-12-2003, 10:43 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by QuasiMojo
CSflim.....
COMPUTERSCIENCEflim?

!

!!

hehehhehe....never actually thought of that!
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Old 09-13-2003, 10:50 AM   #16 (permalink)
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There are two things to watch out for in CS.

The first is the distribution of the work. Typically, you won't have any work at all for the first half of the semester. Then you'll have a major project in each of the 4 or 5 units you're doing. If you can't handle 2 weeks on little or no sleep, you're at a disadvantage. It's also wise to be as far ahead as you can get in those early weeks, because you won't have a lot of time for coursework in project week.

The other thing is the unexpected theory. In first year, your units will almost always be codemonkeying. You'll learn Java, maybe C or C++ or Haskell or something. When you get to second year, there will be a bit more theory, and in third year the theory can get nightmarishly complex. You'll often do units with very little coding at all. That comes as a shock to a lot of CS students, so you need to watch out for it. Personally, I love the theory.
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Old 09-13-2003, 02:12 PM   #17 (permalink)
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hmmm i've been thinking of minoring in CS (major is graphic design) to balance out that logical/creative right/left brain thing going on. i'm not sure if i'd be very good though.
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Old 09-18-2003, 04:32 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by The_Dude
UT (Univ of Texas-Austin) is an "average school" for CS or what?
Read Nature, Science etc., U. T. is hardly "average" - Edsger Dijkstra taught there! Now, of course you *are* competing down the road with TAMU which currently has Stroustrup (Hawking taught there, too, for a little bit). I'd suggest you go to talk with Dr. Alan Cline or Dr. Hamilton Richards (Cline is a bit krufty, Richards is an excellently lecturer - don't miss his Functional Language course!). Dr. Arbogast (TICAM) is also a good resource for more "advanced" topics.

The answer is that even a few years ago the freshman course was pretty bi-modal (CS304): T% would fail with a "0" and 1-T% would pass with a "100". There is no good way to know if you're any good. Also, the classes are (were?) HUGE - the largest I was in had >750 students.

TIO - I'm not sure if that's the way CS is at U. T. now, but a few years ago you were simply expected to know how to program - you either learned in class or you took an C/C++ course, they're not in the basics and I personally never took one.

Last edited by thechao; 09-18-2003 at 04:36 PM..
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Old 09-23-2003, 12:26 AM   #19 (permalink)
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I have a bs in computer science from Texas Tech University.

Getting the degree is not easy. You have to put more time into homework than people do for most majors.
It is harder during the first year than it is later on. They aren't kidding when they call them "weed-out" courses. Don't give up. Grades tend to turn out better than you expect.
Exchange phone numbers and help people when you can. You never know when you'll get stuck during debugging. A fresh set of eyes are priceless when a deadline looms.
Make sure your professors and TA's know who you are. Participate in lectures and always visit during office hours and you will have a hard time failing. Ask specific questions about programming assignments that show you have read the book and listened during the lectures. Especially during later courses, they give great hints if you are obviously working hard.


Getting the degree is easier than getting a job with the degree.

Find internships, whatever it takes. Those are only a handful of entry level jobs once you graduate and they all go to people with experience and connections.

Make connections. Show up early, join a fraternity, befriend your professors, participate in organizations, attend guest and thesis lectures. I know it's college, and it's a time to be free and have fun. Just remember the goal is having a great career.


It sounds like you've made a good start. I believe UT is an exceptional university. I hope you do well.
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Old 09-27-2003, 05:07 AM   #20 (permalink)
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Computer science is like mathematics, only a bit simpler.
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Old 09-27-2003, 08:37 AM   #21 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by Grothendieck
Computer science is like mathematics, only a bit simpler.
you really think so? I wouldn't say that at all. sure, there is some mathematics in CS, but mostly they are very different disciplines.
As for which is harder, well its hard to compare, but in my college at least, the drop out rates for CS are much higher, but that doesn't really mean anything.
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Old 09-27-2003, 03:10 PM   #22 (permalink)
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I find programming easy, and the school I go to here (UCSD) is impacted in this major, so they try to flood the firstyears with a lot in a short time, and expect the students to learn a lot of it on their own. There is a lot of programming in the first year (I spent over 18 hours a week on assignments for ONE class), but I find the other stuff harder. Because its an engineering class, you need to take as much lower division math as a math major, same goes with physics. Then its also specialized in that it is all about computing, so you need to take at least 5 or 6 programming classes in the lower division before you even get started.

Basically, theres a TON of material, and its nearly impossible to do in 4 years (even though I am trying, thats a different story, I do it in 4 years out of necessity, not convenience). If I leave a suicide note here on the forum, you will know what happened to me :P

CS here has a 50% dropout rate in the first year, none of the other majors have even close to half that. At the end of the 4 (5) years, usually there are only 15-20% of the original students remaining.

Its tough, but worth it, even if you aren't guaranteed a good job anymore.

[edited typo]
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Old 09-27-2003, 03:12 PM   #23 (permalink)
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It's really hard once you get outside of school and find out that all the good CS jobs have been exported to india.
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Old 09-27-2003, 07:29 PM   #24 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by CSflim
you really think so? I wouldn't say that at all. sure, there is some mathematics in CS, but mostly they are very different disciplines.
Agreed. I was just being an arrogant mathematician.

Quote:

As for which is harder, well its hard to compare, but in my college at least, the drop out rates for CS are much higher, but that doesn't really mean anything.
Dropout rates have to do with the student quality too.

If you want me to make my point precise: Mathematics is more about abstraction, which a lot of people find difficult when taken to arid degrees.
Computer science probably is more about complex simple systems, but I really don't know much about that.
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Old 09-30-2003, 06:07 PM   #25 (permalink)
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UT CS is crazy hard, lots of people do drop out, but UT does have a really good CS program. if you stay the course, you'll really know what you're doing when you get out. but CS for me was pretty bambooozling, so i switched to business...
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Old 09-30-2003, 11:03 PM   #26 (permalink)
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Having just gone through a rather high quality CS I must say that it's really easy for people that like it, and terrible for people that didn't. I had friends who were amazingly smart, but couldn't do it well because they didn't find it interesting. In addition, pretty mediocre people (like me) did pretty well in most of the classes. Of course, I had some classes where I'd spend 20+ hours a week on the homeworks, but for most of those, it was because I enjoyed what I was doing and spent extra time making sure they were perfect.
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Old 10-02-2003, 09:27 PM   #27 (permalink)
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doesnt matter how hard it is...all that matters is how hard itll be to get a job after you finish school computer science is a very competative field you are better off majoring in something else such as engineering and getting a minor in computer science
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Old 10-03-2003, 06:38 AM   #28 (permalink)
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I remember back at UGA in the early 80's, I had to take a CS class. That was back in the good ol days of FORTRAN and having to use puch cards for the old IBM big ass computers. I hated that class, and either made a "C" in it or dropped it. I hate CS, so I am not a good judge of how hard it is today, but if you continue with it, I tip my hat to you. Good Luck
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Old 10-03-2003, 01:05 PM   #29 (permalink)
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I have a BS in Computer Science and about 15 hours towards my Masters.

If I had to do it again, CS would be my minor.
I learned little in school that had to do with my actual work. (My work is more Hardware Systems performance, configuration, design, etc. I mostly learned programming in CS)

Find some field you are interested in (Biology, Engineering, etc) and think about majoring in that, with a CS minor. Unless you want to program alot or work for a PhD and go into research.
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Old 10-03-2003, 02:50 PM   #30 (permalink)
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well, dragonhawk, there are other majors (at least here) that closer match your current field. Computer Engineering I liken to taking a double major in EE and CS, but without the double major. Its the hardest major here, unit-wise, but its all really based on interest.
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Old 10-03-2003, 03:41 PM   #31 (permalink)
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Well for me CS is actually pretty easy. I took 2 years of it in high school it was easy in college. Anyways for then most part CS is easy its just that at a certain point theres a steep learning curve which you might find out soon if you just started the course. OH i need to ask, What lanuage are u taking? If u started this year ur probably takin Java or C++ right?
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