What you are about to hear is 100% real talk. No bullshit. I’m going to tell it like it is. This is my advice to incoming college freshman. This particularly applies to those who are going to be getting a degree in Computer Science. Take it as you will. I want to speak the truth and nothing but the truth, so here we go.
- You are no more qualified than I am right now at getting a job, and I am a rising Senior.
I really wish this weren’t true, but it really is. If I were to look back at my college career and pick out the courses that I took that were most relevant to me in getting a job, then it would be the courses that I took in Freshman and Sophomore year. If you are like me and go to Georgia Tech (Go Jackets!) these courses are:
CS 1331- This is your basic introduction to programming in Java. You should do well here, and by that I mean you should excel here. This is about as easy as it gets at Georgia Tech. This is one of the few A’s I received during my college career. Trust me, I can count the number of A’s I have received on both of my hands.
CS 1332- Data Structures and Algorithms. I like to call this class Interview Questions 101. This is a great class. PAY ATTENTION! I know it is easy to browse Reddit and slack off like the rest of the class is doing, but please for the love of God learn this material! You have no idea how valuable this will be later on in life when doing your technical interviews.
CS 2340- Objects and Design. Boy do I wish that I paid more attention in this class! Honestly, this class is where the rubber meets the road. Everything that you have learned since 1331 comes together here, and you learn how to create some nice Object Oriented programs. The year I took it, I learned how to program in Android, which is what really led me to want to pursue Mobile Development as a career.
CS 2110- Intro to Computer Organization and Programming. This class is tough. You are going to be pushed harder than you were in the past. I struggled with this class, and really am grateful for that. Sometimes in life you experience pain, and that pain will cause you to do great things later on as a result. I mean this sincerely. In this class I learned C and Assembly. Really interesting stuff. I remember one class watching my professor take a program that he wrote in Assembly and turn it into Binary. This was a truly special moment. Probably the biggest Aha moment that I have ever had in my life. It was like somebody showing me how the entire world works in an hour. Probably the greatest thing that I have ever experienced in the classroom.
Key Takeaway 1: Make sure to develop great study habits and pay attention. If you put as much effort into paying attention during class as you do trying to score alcohol on the weekend, you will do just fine!
- Start applying for Internships ASAP!
I know that this sounds crazy, but people are going to want to hire you just because you are currently in college. Take advantage of this. You can make a lot of money over the summer. I know I have during my three internships at Microsoft. To be completely honest, you have no idea when a great opportunity may come your way. My recommendation is to have a resume ready at all times. Even though you may not have any work experience out of High School, make a resume! Also, see if you can get your resume critiqued by a hiring manager. My school had an event that I went to. After I left I think I might have cried because my resume was so bad. However I listened, and their feedback was spot on! I forgot the man’s name, but I know where he works. If I ever see him again, he’s getting a beer! Anyways, have a resume on you at all times. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen companies recruiting in the lobby of the College of Computing at my school.
Key Takeaway 2: Regardless of whatever college you go to, know that you are part of something special and that you will have a bunch of opportunities coming your way. Be persistent and go to your local career fair! Do not, and I repeat DO NOT GET FRUSTRATED IN FINDING A JOB, it is a tough process and you are going to have to keep a great attitude if you really want to succeed. I personally attended the career fair for free T-shirts. I came home with a bunch of T-Shirts, and little did I know, a few weeks later I got an interview with two companies!
- Join a club which relates to a field that you are trying to get into when you graduate.
For me, that club was the Mobile Application Development club at Georgia Tech, or as we call it GIT MAD. Clubs like this will provide you with time to network with people more experienced with you and with people who are passionate about software development. This is especially true since everybody who shows up to club meetings wants to be there. If you want to check out another really awesome club that relates to software development, I highly recommend checking out the Video Game Development Club, or VGDev. I joined this my Freshman year and led two video game projects. The first semester I made a Kinect game, and the semester after that I made an Android game. If I learned anything during my Freshman year, it was probably that as long as you set your mind to it, you can probably accomplish it! So get on out there and create something. Also, recruiters for tech companies eat this shit up, so you will get major brownie points with them. I know I did! I was a member of about five different clubs in my Freshman year! That was a lot and boy did that take a lot of energy! I recommend signing up for as many as you can during Freshman year and exploring the things that you are interested in. You won’t have this much time in the rest of your college career, so make sure to put yourself out there!
Key Takeaway 3: Regardless of how stellar you are in the classroom, you are going to have to do something to separate yourself from the pack. I personally knew that I was never going to be the smartest person at my school, so I chose to focus as much as I can on creating side projects. This kind of stuff is what recruiters will go crazy over. I didn’t really know this at the time, I just got lucky with the fact that the stuff I was passionate about was the kind of stuff that people want to hire college freshman for internships on.
- Attitude, Attitude, Attitude.
Starting to see a theme here? Well in case you aren’t ATTITUDE MATTERS! It is what is going to get you through thick and thin during life. I had a shitty attitude during my sophomore year, and I really wish I didn’t. Life is too freaking short. Be happy. You are in college! It’s pretty great to be in college. As crazy as it sounds, I would say that I did not enjoy the past two years of college, but I cannot fucking wait to go back to school. Maybe I’m just excited for college football season, but who knows! Either way, I can’t wait!
- You are not the only one working hard.
This is the last thing I want to leave you with. (Maybe not J) Just know that everyone around you busted their ass to get here. There is absolutely no reason to stop doing that once you get to college. You are going to have to work hard. It is going to suck. There will be a bunch of sleepless nights. There is really nothing that I can recommend to you that will make it better. Well, there is one thing. Go to the library and make friends with people! I personally found it really motivating knowing that I was not alone in working hard to get my degree, so working in an area where I saw others doing the same really helped keep me going. Anyways, that is pretty much it. I just want you all to know that there are no shortcuts in life and that whatever you achieve in life will be earned. You may have coasted during high school, but that is no longer going to happen. I want you all to succeed, and with that I will leave you with this video:
Remember, all men are created equal, some work harder in pre season! Go forth and kick some ass!