How to Succeed as a Computer Science Student

5 tips for CS majors

As we approach the start of a new academic year, incoming College of Computing & Informatics (CCI) students may have some concerns about how to prepare for computer science classes and how to successfully study in college. We asked some CCI students to share advice for computer science freshman, how to succeed in computer science and what they wish they had known during their freshman year. We used their advice for computer science majors to create this list of guidance for college students. Keep these five tips and tricks in mind during your time at Drexel in order to make sure you have the best possible experience.

1. Communicate with Professors

Professors are there to help and talking to them is not as scary as you may think! You should feel comfortable sharing any questions or concerns you have with your professors. The more individualized feedback you can get for your studies, the better you will perform in class. Taking the steps to establish that student-teacher relationship is one of the most effective tips and tricks for computer science students. Shivansi Nagar (BS computer science, ’21) says “[Professors] are the best resource to go to whenever you are confused and stuck. I understand that people might choose asking their friends or Google first, but I have always approached my professors directly with all my questions and it has helped me so much in gaining a better understanding of the topic and also forming a better relationship with them.”

2. Start at week 0!

Start preparing the things you need before the academic term even begins. Check out the class materials and requirements so you can get a head start. Once you receive a syllabus, take a look at the homework deadlines as well as dates for midterms and final exams so you can block off time on your calendar to prevent these tests “coming out of nowhere.” Purchase, borrow or copy any reading materials needed in order to mentally prepare for class each week. CJ Good (BS computer science, ‘21) recommends taking advantage of tech tools to stay organized: “I use Google Keep to track all my assignments. I parse each syllabus for its assignments and tests, and then make a list for each week so that it’s all broken down and in one place. This is also great, because you can get a visual of your assignments and their due dates and it helps make the classes seem less daunting,” he says.

3. Stick to a Schedule

Keep a weekly schedule to stay on track, both inside and outside the classroom. The mindset used when you set aside time to go to class, gym, clubs or meetings is the same process that goes on here as well. Having your days laid out and dedicated to your work will get you one step closer to graduation! Late night study sessions and procrastination should never be the norm. “For my freshman year I broke down my schedule and treated school like a 9-to-5 job, which kept my weekends and nights much more free. This also helped with the adjustment to Co-op life too, since you’re already accustomed to working typical office hours,” said Good.

4. Be Language Agnostic

Good brings up another very helpful tip for the classes you will be taking Freshman year – don’t get too attached to one single programming language. “Most Freshman classes are based on Python,” he says, “but some classes in your later years will require you to learn C, Java, Scheme, Racket, and others. By not focusing so much on the language and actually learning the syntax or properties (function composition, recursion, etc.) you can be pretty well set to learn these new languages when you’re expected to.”

5. Make Self Care Part of Your Routine

Your physical and mental health are much more important than a letter grade. Going to college for the first time can be a major adjustment, and Drexel’s quarter system is particularly fast paced. If you’re not intentional about creating time to take care of yourself, you might experience symptoms of burnout and find yourself feeling exhausted. Use that schedule to block off time to do the things you enjoy, whether that’s playing a sport, making art, or simply chilling out and streaming your favorite TV shows.

Bonus Tip: Attend CCI’s College Day

At the start the fall term each year, CCI hosts College Day, which is a great opportunity for connecting with your peers and getting to know your Academic Advising team. This year, the event will be taking place virtually on Tuesday, September 15. At this event, incoming CCI students will have the opportunity to meet members of the CCI leadership team and Academic Advisors via Zoom, as well as participate in conference style fun & games with our CCI Peer Mentors.

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