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Tips for being a computer science student at university

James Davis

Careers Commentator
Computer science is a field bursting with potential. We’re here to help you tap into it.

As a student of computer science, you’re in a field responsible for many advancements and many more to come. This is one of the most exciting times to be here. Yet, learning the ropes can be particularly difficult due to the sheer volume that has to be learned. So, we’re here to help your student experience be positive with some of these tried and true tips.

Don’t be afraid to work in groups

Computer science courses are for the most part self-driven. They require students to use their individual problem-solving capabilities in such a way as to pass test protocols thrown their way. It encourages individual excellence, but this shouldn’t deter you from simply talking to your peers about how they’re going and sharing tricks of the trade. By working on problems with others, you not only build camaraderie, but potentially help with each other’s problems and save some time. Yes, individual skill is highly important, but collaborating can produce work that’s greater than the sum of parts. If it produces a better results, there’s no shame in it so long as you learn where you may have gone wrong in your reasoning or code.

Learn to write clean code

You’re not the only one who will be reading your code. Markers and peers may have to for various reasons. So, try to order your code in a clear manner with plenty of comments. Just like with writing in English, if you can express something in fewer lines, do it. However, try not to get carried away so as to lose meaning or necessary complexity. If you feel like trying to clean up your code any further will result in gutting functionality, that’s a good indication you ought to stop.

So what exactly does ‘clean code’ entail, aside from lots of comments? For starters, give all your variables, classes, functions etc names that are descriptive. If you’re giving everything a vague name, nobody’s going to know what those assets were referring to. Hey, even you might forget what any given thing does without clear descriptions! It also helps to study the habits of experienced coders online in your language of choice and do whatever you can to ensure all your functions are only doing one thing. This way, you’re removing a lot of ambiguity that may arise from reading your code. Picking up good habits like these can go a long way to making your student life and even professional life easier.

Apply for internships/ small work experience opportunities

This can be daunting, especially if you’ve never dabbled in the world of business or lack confidence in your written communication. Fear not, however! You’re not alone. Employers understand you’re still a student when you put in your application for an internship. Furthermore, the only way to get better at writing applications is by putting them in! The more you do, the more confident and proficient you’ll become. If you want, you can even let a few friends see your application so they can pick up on any spelling or grammatical issues you may not have seen. It’s often easier for other people to see the mistakes in your own work.

Do your best to put in a couple applications every few weeks. You never know which ones will turn out to be a ‘yes’. It’ll improve your student experience by giving you what employers love to see: work experience.

Sleep on problems

Many computer science students like to stay at a problem obsessively until they either pull their hair out or miraculously get it done, but there’s a much better way. By starting tasks early and giving yourself more time, you can really ponder any problems you’re having. If you then go to sleep thinking about those problems, the brain has a funny way of working through them while you sleep. It’s a very efficient way of doing problem solving! Why stay up late into the early hours when you could be sleeping and working at the same time? This is perhaps one of the best quality of life tips we can give any computer science student. Start things early and sleep on the tough problems.

Hopefully this short article has given you a few quick insights into improving your student experience. Whatever you wish to do with your compsci degree and career going into the future, we sincerely wish you the best. It’s a field we’re very excited about too!