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A question for those of you that have CS degrees

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#1 ISDCaptain01   Members   

Posted 18 February 2013 - 05:12 PM

Did you have previous prgramming experience before starting college? If, so how much did it help? Would you have gotten the degree without the previous experience?

#2 frob   Moderators   

Posted 18 February 2013 - 06:32 PM

1) Yes, I started programming in BASIC just three months before my 6th birthday, over thirty years ago. That is very atypical.

2) Yes, when I attended school I was able to skip (test out) of nearly 18 months worth of classes, and I was able to study interesting stuff and easily slide over the stuff I already knew.

3) Most people start into their CS degree without any prior experience. What matters is that you have the right mindset and actually work hard at the subject. You get out of your education whatever you put in to it. I could have chosen to slack off and still earn my degree, but I would have gotten almost nothing out of those years. Instead I chose to work hard and seriously study the topics I wanted, and put it a reasonable effort on the topics I found distasteful.

Relative to the real work force, education is fairly easy. It doesn't take much effort to master the material and earn high grades (and scholarships). Most people don't learn this fact until after they finish school.

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#3 way2lazy2care   Members   


Posted 18 February 2013 - 06:36 PM

1. None except basic html and light use of mysql
2. It would have. I probably could have picked up another major with time saved. Math was probably equally important, but my degree was applied math and computer science, not just CS.
3. I did.

frob has most of the reasons I'd cover, so I'll refrain from adding anything other than the above.

#4 Bacterius   Members   

Posted 18 February 2013 - 07:19 PM

I haven't finished my degree yet but:


1. Yes, I started programming (in Pascal) when I was 11.


2. It helps me considerably in computer science and math (especially discrete math) classes. There are a lot of concepts I already know that others need time to assimilate. It gives me a lot of free to time to get ahead (or slack off tongue.png )


3. I think I wouldn't be in this course at all without the previous experience - after all, you need some sort of interest in the subject - but theoretically speaking, I suppose yes. Clearly people without prior experience are getting CS degrees, so why shouldn't I be able to?

“If I understand the standard right it is legal and safe to do this but the resulting value could be anything.”

#5 DevLiquidKnight   Members   


Posted 18 February 2013 - 07:29 PM

Yes tons of experience programming on my own before studying CS. Not only has it helped me, it made the curriculum seem a little boring (not hard enough). To be honest if you have lots of experience going in its best to double up on something like mathematics.

Edited by DevLiquidKnight, 18 February 2013 - 07:29 PM.

#6 ChaosEngine   Members   

Posted 18 February 2013 - 08:09 PM

1) Some. I dabbled in basic for a few years before college.

2) Hard to say. I found the programming parts of my CS degree pretty easy.

3) Probably. The harder parts were the maths, logic and language theory classes.

if you think programming is like sex, you probably haven't done much of either.-------------- - capn_midnight

#7 cowsarenotevil   Members   

Posted 18 February 2013 - 08:28 PM

I got my degree from Carnegie Mellon, which is a bit more discrete math and theory oriented than a lot of other CS programs, at least from what I hear. I'd been programming since pretty much forever before I started and I had pretty good experience with math too. The programming experience helped, but not overwhelmingly so. I know people who had never programmed before who managed to do fine, although they definitely had to do a bit more work. I think I'd have survived without previous programming experience; probably less so without previous math experience (most of the people I know who stopped doing computer science seemingly did so because of the math, not the programming, although I don't have enough data points to say that that's necessarily true in general).

-~-The Cow of Darkness-~-

#8 Sean T. McBeth   Members   

Posted 18 February 2013 - 10:24 PM

1) Yes, I had studied C and JavaScript before starting college in the distant future, the year 2000.

2) Considering there was almost no real programming instruction at my university, but more of a sink-or-swim attitude towards being able to apply the theory we learned into valid syntax, I would say it helped immensely. I just wasn't under the same amount of stress as my fellow students who had not started early, so I think I learned a lot of the theoretical stuff easier, knowing that implementation would not be an issue for me.

3) I probably wouldn't have gone into CS at all, probably would have done either Fine Art or some other form of Applied Mathematics instead. I went into CS thinking I'd do 3D programming, thinking it'd be a reasonable amalgamation of those two ideas. WRONG ON BOTH ACCOUNTS!

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#9 swiftcoder   Senior Moderators   

Posted 18 February 2013 - 10:26 PM

  • I'd been programming extensively for around 5 years, and had a solid mathematics background as well.
  • It definitely helped - most CS programs place very little emphasis on teaching programming, and you are expected to pick that up on the side.
  • If I hadn't started with a programming background, I might have had to actually study.

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#10 SuperVGA   Members   

Posted 19 February 2013 - 02:23 AM

  • When I started reading my degree at age 20, I already had 12 years experience in programming.
    (In GWBASIC, then QB, VB4 and VB6... -I think a lot of CS students start due to personal interest. Here in DK at least, kids have all the surplus to undertake long educations based on their hobbies, less on what pays off in the end.)
  • It did help. I understood some things better, and managed to teach programming to other students during team work.
  • - Would I've picked(started studying) the degree at all?
    I don't think I would've gained the same level of interest. Then it would've been due to playing computer games, or messing with electronics.
    - Would I have gotten the degree after picking the degree?
    Yes, -maybe I would even have been less arrogant and achieved higher grades.

Edited by SuperVGA, 19 February 2013 - 03:53 AM.

#11 Buster2000   Members   

Posted 19 February 2013 - 02:30 AM

I had been programming for around 15 years before starting my degree.  Started with a good old 48k speccy.  I think it helped a lot.  I don't think any of the concepts at degree level were completly new to me whilst others on my course seemed to think there was some kind of VooDoo going on every time a new concept was introduced.

#12 shay.yizhak   Members   


Posted 19 February 2013 - 03:25 AM

Did you have previous prgramming experience before starting college? If, so how much did it help? Would you have gotten the degree without the previous experience?


Yes. I also started programming with BASIC at the age of 6.

Before going to the university, I also studied CS at school, and self-taught - by reading books - various programming languages (C, C++, Pascal and so on) .

I would have gotten my degree even without the previous experience, but it did help a lot. Especially in the basic courses.

#13 Buster2000   Members   

Posted 19 February 2013 - 07:12 AM

I should add to my previous comment that although it did give me some kind of advantage, there were people on my degree who had never touched a programming language before they started who just naturally grasped the programming concepts.

#14 Orangeatang   Members   

Posted 19 February 2013 - 10:02 AM

1) Yeah, I'd been using BASIC for a while, and had some of the C++ fundamentals down before starting university


2) I was able to breeze through most of the programming courses in my first year


3) Yes, but the experience did help

#15 TheChubu   Members   

Posted 19 February 2013 - 06:41 PM

I'm still doing my degree but:


1) Barely. The only "programming" experience I had was a simple add/remove item script for TES 4 Oblivion.


2) How much that script helped me? I'd say about nothing. As for if that hindered my learning in any way. I'd say that learning to code wasn't difficult, I enjoy it. I had more troubles with non-programming courses (damn you mathematics! though I learned a lot after I did Algebra and Mathematical Analysis courses again :) ). Still, most of the programming is made in your own time.


Thing is, programming, before going to uni, was this arcane thing that seemed impossible. First, I had absolutely no idea where begin. Compiler? Source code? Never heard of them. Second, it seemed an impossible task. I was amazed by some of the scripting Oblivion's modders did.


Once I got my feet wet in uni, learning the basics properly (aka, this is an algorithm, this is a control structure, etc) it sunk it and I began to understand much better what programming was. Now I'm in my third year (actually fourth, as I said, had to do some courses again) and learning a lot, and I like it. Pretty happy with this "coding" stuff :)


3) It would have made 0 difference. As I mentioned, I already had no idea about programming.



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#16 Michael Tanczos   Staff Emeritus   

Posted 19 February 2013 - 07:11 PM

I had some friends go in it on pretty much ground zero and graduate just fine.   I had been programming since I was old enough to know how to type on a keyboard.. which kind of made me a class tutor of sorts.   But don't fret too much.. one of the things a CS degree teaches you is the importance of being able to stick with tough challenges until they are solved.   I will admit though that most of the hardest programming challenges I tackled in college were self-inflicted and a result of finding cool outside projects to do with friends.  Oh, and my CS degree is from Penn State University for reference.


It's funny how some of you have been around so damn long that you've managed to go from wet behind the ears beginners to industry professionals.. what a difference 14 years makes.  lol

Edited by Michael Tanczos, 19 February 2013 - 07:12 PM.

#17 Bubsy   Members   


Posted 20 February 2013 - 09:51 AM

Yes, since I was 8 years old I had programmed in Basic. It helped me a lot during the first year of the course, especially on the logic, data structures and algorithm classes. 


The previous programming experience has helped me to focus myself on the theoretical side of things and had given me knowledge to debate with me teachers, which was something that someone without any kind of experience couldn't doBut still, I would have gotten the degree even without prior experience and I´ve know many good programmers that had gotten into uni without any kind of programming experience.


#18 BCullis   Members   

Posted 21 February 2013 - 04:57 PM

(1)Did you have previous programming experience before starting college?

(2)If, so how much did it help?

(3)Would you have gotten the degree without the previous experience?

1: Yes, tried teaching myself various languages on and off starting a few years before going in for the degree

2: It made the first half of a few courses' coursework quick and easy, but quickly highlighted ways I had mis-trained myself.  Bad practices from shoddy tutorials, hubris that needed to be scoured away, adhering to certain languages out of favoritism...one of the best things I learned in the program was how to pick up new languages and be open to new paradigms and styles.


Also, personal research made me familiar with a lot of varied concepts that cropped up in electives and random scenarios throughout the degree.  This is just another reason why "just doing the coursework" with no side projects or personal interests will make you a mediocre programmer at best.


3: If you mean "would I have survived/passed my classes" then yes.  Most college undergrad programs assume their students know absolutely nothing coming in, and there are plenty of resources to help you through.  I'm objectively on the more-intelligent end of the human spectrum (not genius, just clever) so that helped me too.  If you pick things up quickly, take that as an extra boost for your confidence in making it through.


If you mean "would I have even decided to go into CS if I hadn't done programming before-hand" I'd say probably not.  My self instruction attempts told me it was something I was interested in, but bad at teaching myself with no foundating.  I wanted to get the formal education environment to really succeed at learning it. 

Interestingly, I took an elective as a freshman in high school where we did programming in Turbo Pascal, and I hated it then.  I came back to programming about 8 years later when I got interested in gamedev, and that was the "prior programming" that eventually got me to get the degree.

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#19 Promit   Senior Moderators   

Posted 21 February 2013 - 05:20 PM

I had about five years of experience going in. It was a large help in my first two years, and fell off sharply after that. It's been almost zero advantage in graduate studies, which have a lot of math and not very much programming.

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#20 Nypyren   Members   

Posted 21 February 2013 - 05:49 PM

I started learning BASIC from my dad when I was around 5-6 years old. During high school I started "teaching" myself C and the very simplest parts of C++ (classes and virtual methods). My final year of high school I learned some x86 assembly. I was able to test through a lot of college, but not quite as much as frob did.

Previous experience helped immensely. Most of my first two years were very easy, but I still picked up new details that I hadn't learned before. The remainig two years were much more advanced and much more interesting because the material was all new (databases, networks, operating system architecture, parser and compiler theory, distributed components, etc).

Skipping courses at my college was kind of a bad idea though since we weren't allowed to fill "core requirements" with classes categorized as "elective", so I had to take dull differential equations instead of something fun.

Edited by Nypyren, 21 February 2013 - 05:55 PM.

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