This spring semester, I decided to tackle my first ever computer science class. No, I have never had any prior coding experience. And yes, I was terrified before the first day of class. Actually, terrified is probably an understatement. In case you aren’t aware, CS 1114 is known as a weed-out class, and I was fairly certain that I would be susceptible to becoming one of those who would be weeded out. However, I am nearing the end of the semester, and can proudly say that I have managed to endure through 1114.
Through my experience in the class, obviously I learned a lot about coding, but I also learned how to tackle a class way outside of my comfort zone. So here are a few tips or advice I would like to have known before taking this class. Some of these may seem obvious, but when you are going into something completely new, any information is useful.
Go to every class.
No, attendance is not mandatory, but you really should go to every class. To be completely honest, this applies to every class, especially for a class that you may be more likely to struggle in. The professor will upload the PowerPoint slide online, however, they will generally spend half the lecture going over the information on the slides and the other half demonstrating what they just taught through scenarios. When it comes time to doing my labs and programming projects, I will usually go back to the in-class scenario to clarify any confusion I may have, so yeah, go to class.
Problems are going to appear a lot larger than they actually are.
Not going to lie, I will often time hit a wall and not be able to figure out what is wrong with my code. Like I will literally lose sleep over not being able to figure out why my code isn’t doing what I want it to do. I then will go ask a friend, TA or professor and they well literally add parentheses or a period somewhere and the code will magically compile and work. It is sometimes the most frustrating thing ever but make sure you don't over-stress about issues or problems you face. Because more often than not, you won’t be told that you have to rewrite your entire code. Actually, sometimes you may be told this unfortunate news.
Sign up for the CS mentor program.
The professor is going to mention this program towards the beginning of the semester and you are going to hear some people remark that they don’t need that program or laugh at it. Ignore them. I personally have a mentor and it has been very beneficial. It’s basically like having a free tutor, which, I don’t know about you, but sounds like a pretty decent program to me.
Computer science is a collaborative process.
It is important to realize that computer science is actually a pretty collaborative subject. I don’t know why, but for some reason, I previously thought that 1114 would be one of those classes where you don’t really know anyone in the class and just did your work independently. It wasn’t long before I realized I was completely wrong. Whether it’s reaching out to TAs, professors or even other students, everyone is willing to and anyone can offer help. So, don’t ever be afraid to ask for help because other people are probably facing that same, if not similar, issues as you.