It's that time of year again! The start of the semester! While you may still be hungover from all the fun over break or the hard work put into that internship, it's time to start thinking about hitting the books again. But, if a computer science major, make that hitting the books and the computer! Whether you're a returning upperclassman or just starting out your college years, tackling the beginning of the semester as a computer science major can be a little tricky. Here are some personal tips as to how to make the most of the first couple of weeks for a smooth sailing semester.
Befriend the syllabus
It's pretty much your go-to for all test dates, project deadlines, description of assignments given, professor's office hours and more. Even information about extra credit opportunities is sometimes listed and described in the syllabus. Make sure you take down all the important dates (mainly the test dates) listed in it in your calendar. Trust me, you want to know how much time you have approximately between lessons and tests. It helps a lot when trying to decide when a good time would be to start practicing the lessons learned and revising the material. Also, if you are taking more than one computer science course, you'd want to know if you have tests on the same day or if you have projects due in each of the classes around the same time. Additionally, check the syllabus to see if the professor has specified which IDE (integrated development environment) you should use when writing and running your code. This will allow you to get familiar with the IDE in the first couple of weeks, rather than too late in the semester if you are not sure how to use it.
Brush up coding skills
This is the most important thing to do, in my opinion, when tackling the start of the semester. The first couple of weeks, especially during the add-drop period for classes, is the best time to get back into coding and again familiarizing yourself with the programming language. If you are going to be learning a new programming language, learn some basic commands (such as how to print "Hello World") and syntax on your own so you can catch on faster once the professor fully introduces you to the language.
Pace out projects, homework and other assignments
If you already know the professor and how the format is regarding projects, homework and other assignments, you already know (or should know!) how to pace yourself in the class. Else, if not explained in the syllabus and the professor doesn't mention it in the first week of classes, make sure to ask. Ask how much time you'll have between homework assignments and between projects. This way, you have a rough idea of what to expect in terms of coding and debugging time and can pace your semester out before hand.
As a side note, it won't hurt to look a few pages ahead in your computer science textbooks to know what's next! And, if your professor has a Blackboard page, check it before the first day of class as it may contain helpful information, such as the homework for the second class or even readings that you can browse through to see what's in store for the semester.
Hopefully, you've been following these tips or are planning to. Good luck, fellow computer scientist on a fun and exciting semester! And, as a final piece of advice, remember the most important and crucial tip of all: never procrastinate on programming!