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Is going to a state university bad for your career prospects?

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Alright so the college application season is coming soon and I'll be applying to about 8 colleges, over half of which are technology-oriented in some way. The thing is though, I don't think my stats are good enough to get into them (some of them include CMU and RPI). From what I know as well as my counselor's advice, I'll only be able to get into my state university, which isn't really that great.

Will that screw me over though? I want to major in computer engineering or computer science, maybe electrical engineering but will the state university be good enough? It's not in any top 10 list or whatever and I'm worried that if I do choose to major in engineering, when I graduate I will have bad employment opportunities because employers will see that i went to a crappy school, then think that I'm a bad choice or high risk and refuse to hire me.

Is that really the case though, or am I just delusional?
I really need a reality view into the college -> career process. I have close to no REAL real world experience and I'm interested in knowing how this all works together.

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No, you are not screwed. Read FAQ 71: "Am I Screwed?" at http://sloperama.com/advice/m71.htm and read the Breaking In FAQs (scroll up and look for the small blue "View Forum FAQ" link above).

Moved to Breaking In, BTW.

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To expand on what Tom's FAQ says:

Any university is better than no university. As long as the university is accredited. A person with a bachelors degree in just about anything is a far more attractive employee than one without.

A degree isn't just about the college you go to, but is also a certification to the employer that YOU are capable of sticking with something is both boring and stressful long enough to have acquired said degree. It is also, generally, an indication of what sort of foreknowledge you may have about the field you're entering (a BS in CS "should" know certain things).

Finally, if you end up deciding to go for your masters, go for your PhD (you don't HAVE to get your PhD, but going for it makes getting your masters that much easier). At which point you'll typically transfer to and apply at another college entirely.

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I addition to the good advice Washu gives:

(and to be explicit) it won't screw you over. The choice of college provides you with 3 things:

1. An actual education.

Good teachers make it easier to learn. A better school teaches you more of the 'right' things. A better school has better facilities/equipment to work with. You can help this out by programming on your own, getting extra help to compensate for the teachers and the such.

In turn, this impacts your interview process by making you actually know stuff you're talking about. Not as necessary as you might think, but better jobs tend to have more in-depth interviews.

2. Contacts.

A good portion of the jobs people get are found via other people. Your buddy knows a place that is hiring, puts in a good word and boom, job for you. If your college buddies aren't very skilled, they're less likely to be in a hiring position, or in a position to recommend you effectively.

3. Reputation.

If you and another candidate come in with similar experience and skills (which is likely right out of college), then the manager is pretty much always going to pick the one who went to Stanford over Podunk U. Which leads to a problem. Podunk U guy will either not get the job, or get the job that Stanford guy didn't want (worse job -> worse growth potential/fun/pay/benefits), or get paid a bit less than Stanford guy (which leads to less pay at future jobs as well, since pay tends to be precentage/incremental).


These are certainly not insurmountable. Plenty of jobs exist (and stats show that many more will in ~5 years), and at least in my experience there are tons of barely competent programmers around. If you know how to construct programs and have any sort of degree, you'll find something.

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Quote:
Original post by Ntvu
Will that screw me over though? I want to major in computer engineering or computer science, maybe electrical engineering but will the state university be good enough? It's not in any top 10 list or whatever and I'm worried that if I do choose to major in engineering, when I graduate I will have bad employment opportunities because employers will see that i went to a crappy school, then think that I'm a bad choice or high risk and refuse to hire me.
Several points.

First, add another voice to the "the school doesn't matter".

In many cases I would rather have the person who worked their way through a state school than the person who went to an ivy league school on their parents' bankroll.


On school applications: Apply to the schools you can reasonably afford and hope to attend. Also apply to some 'dream schools', which may be ideal because of a name, or ideal because they offer some other feature. Common features include national rankings, family ties, cost, program emphasis, location, religious leanings, military leanings, other demographic preferences, or anything else imaginable.

When you eventually get your acceptance letters, use a decision grid (and all the helpful advice you can find) to figure out which of those options are best for you.



On degree:

When going through a stack of job applicants you don't care what school they attended. It is more like a check box: "Does this person have a Computer Science degree? Y/N."

Game programmers have degrees in Computer Science. (Except for a few extremely rare exceptions, but it does not apply to you.) That is "Computer Science". The degree is not "Computer Programming", or "Computer Technology" or "Computer Systems" or "Software Engineering" or "Information Systems" or any other degree.

Computer Engineering is a very different degree from Computer Science. I've worked at two hardware companies who demanded either Computer Science or Electrical Engineering depending on which side of the hardware you were on. They avoided "Computer Engineering" as it was seen as a mixed, less specialized degree.

Go for Computer Engineering if you want to develop microcontrollers. Go for Electrical Engineering if you want to build hardware. Get a Computer Science degree if you want to make human-usable software.



All of these are covered in sites liked to in the forum FAQ.

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I am currently in a school that many would consider "second-rate", but speaking with prospective employers, I do not feel like it will be a disadvantage.

Honestly, no matter where you go, it is what you make of it. Lay low and observe your classmates for the first couple semesters. You will see people who are there to be there, and then people who are there to learn the trade. Make acquaintances with the ones putting in the effort. Discuss what's going on in class, meet them in the lab to duo some homework, get a few people involved in a side project. Find some upperclassmen in your program and inquire about what's coming up in the curriculum, which instructors are best for each subject, and if there's a common meeting place (lab) that they go to do their work.

The same goes for your instructors. Find the ones that you feel you learn the most from. Sign up for their classes in the future. Establish communication with them, do a little extra on their projects, and you have somewhat of a mentor in the field.

I'm in Game Dev, so it's easy to spot the workers. When the instructor says "the rest of the time is yours" and 90% of the class fires up Steam to play TF2, the 10% hacking away at Visual Studio are the ones I ally with.

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