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Questions about college major

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Hi all! I'm planning to attend Rochester's Institute of Technology this fall to major in Computer Science, and if you all will bare with me through my long explanation, I have a quick question that follows... After looking through the course schedules and descriptions I've noticed something that concerns me quite a bit. Computer Science year 1 and 2 both deal with Java and basic programming concepts. This would be fine except for that I took a very detailed course on Computer Science using Java during my 10th grade year, and even at that time had 2+ years of basic C++ knowledge under my belt ( got a 5 on the national AP exam at the end of the course). After I saw the info on the first two years of Computer Science, I skipped ahead to the college's description of their CS Year 4 class, and was rather surprised to find that halfway through the course was a lab titled "Introduction to the Standard Template Library & C++". Now I don't have any large projects under my belt, but I've got close to 5 or 6 years of experience with C++, and in the past few months I've devoted a good deal of my free time to improving my knowledge of it's more advanced concepts and small game development (File formats, memory management, DirectX, SDL, etc.). Now I have heard from many credible sources that both RIT's Computer Science program and it's Game Design program are among the best in the USA. I'm wondering if anyone may be able to help me answer this question: Is it worth my time at this point to major in Computer Science, or should I switch to programming-oriented major in their Game Design program? Also, if you think I should switch to Game Design, would it prevent me from working in a separate Computer Science field in the future? (I certainly don't want to be locked into the Game Design profession for my entire life because my Major says that's what I'm good for.) Thanks for your time.

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It is absolutely worth your time to major in Computer Science. If anything, you'll learn that the languages used are immaterial to the CS you actually learn.

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Yeah, I sort of noticed afterward that I put too much emphasis into the languages I had learned and was proficient in. What I really mean is that I can scroll through any of the course descriptions for CS 1, 2, 3, or 4 and the ONLY topic covered that I haven't learned to do through my own endeavors is the synchronization of multiple running threads that is offered in CS IV. (And that is on my todo list...)

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And you're looking at computer science, not software engineering? The software engineering degree looks a bit more rigorous just looking at the degree requirements. [edit: either way, formal education in programming is a boon. Personal learning only goes so far]

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Your degree is only relevant for the first few years after college(when you don't have enough experience to stand on that alone). After that you are more graded on work experience. As far as their program goes RIT isn't a school that has made for a name for itself, so most interviews you go to will not have heard of it (unless it is well known in the region). If you don't like their program don't go. It is a lot of time and money to spend on something you don't want.

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Originally I was having a hard time choosing between Majoring in Software Engineering, Game Development and Computer Science. I weeded Game Dev. out fairly early on because at the time I thought that with a major in Game Dev. I'd have a harder time getting a job in another CS oriented field if I ever decided I didn't like it. The deciding factor that made me choose Comp. Science over Software Eng. was the course outline which mentioned that with the Computer Science course I could work within a program called Concentration In Game Programming which takes the CS major and throws what you learn into some of the Game Dev. major's classes. This seemed to be a good combination of the two that ruled out Software Engineering.

To be perfectly honest I've had a hard time picking the correct course. I want to get a degree in CS and focus on Artificial Intelligence if I can...

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My college (Georgia Tech) did very little language specific stuff. We used languages to learn methods of doing things. We had 2 Intro-like classes which taught you how to program, and the different techniques available. We then went through classes that taught functional programming (Lisp), OOP (C++), Concurrency programming (C), some procedural stuff (Prolog). Alot of the other stuff was theory based, and had nothing to do with programming languages. Finally, it was software-engineering real-world type things.

The school considered you can learn to use any language if you know how to program and understand the best/most efficient way to do it.

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Just don't confuse computer science with "programming". You could theoretically become a giant in the field of computer science without actually knowing a real programming language (I said theoretically, :-) ).

Computer science is more about how to break down problems and how to describe the solutions to those problems. Doing this effectively requires a solid foundation in math, and will include a firm understanding of the underlying and evolving theories/philosophies of design for compilers and languages, the hardware architectures which influences those philosophies, the algorithms which form the basis for scheduling, resource sharing, etc., in an operating system, etc.

If you see a curriculum that is chock full of "C++", "Java", this language, that language, doing this thing in C, doing that thing in Java, using this library, etc., then go somewhere else.

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Ok that makes me a bit less concerned. The curriculum for my college rarely mentions any languages / libraries at all in the course description, it's mostly just concepts that are being taught. I had to really dig deep into course weekly schedules etc. to find what language was being used. Perhaps I'll look into "testing out" of the first year or two of Computer Programming, as I already basically took them in 10th grade...

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You may be proficient with some programming languages already and understand the major topics of programming--and that's great--but it's highly doubtful that you know everything that would be taught over a four or five year computer science program.

First, you may find that the material is covered with more rigor than you're used to. Besides, it appears your school offers accelerated introductory course sequences for AP students and students with prior programming exposure. I know my school let me skip the lowest-level introductory class. I didn't have to take any tests--my advisor just gave me a list of topics asking if I knew them. When I said I knew them all, she moved me up a class.

There are a lot of very interesting classes that you'll have an opportunity to take. I'd be extremely impressed (and probably skeptical as well [smile]) if you honestly couldn't find enough classes to keep you busy with mostly new content for the final three years of your degree.

But even if you really did know everything the program had to offer, it'd still be in your interest to complete it. First, it would give you a lot of practice. It's an opportunity to meet a lot of people with similar interests and to team up if you so desire. You'll get to work with faculty (professors always like it when students come visit them during office hours--don't be shy!) who are often very intelligent and accomplished people. They're very human, as well--that was surprising for me to learn. [smile] If you plan on going to graduate school, this part's pretty important. Finally, even if this may not be completely fair, if you don't have the degree, most employers aren't going to consider you whether you have the skill, talent, and knowledge anyway.

As a final point, your extensive prior programming experience will make the degree easier for you than for other students who don't have any prior experience. I'd recommend looking into doing a dual major. One good combination is computer science and math. The subjects complement each other quite well, and the math degree will open up a lot of extra opportunities.

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