Dec29-04, 02:57 AM
So. I'm a high school senior going through this whole college application process right now. Despite my good performance this past school year (3.9 GPA with almost all AP/PostAP Classes) , I was deferred from the local state school (University of Maryland: Baltimore County, a relatively easy-to-get-into school with a great CS/Physics department). That was quite a shock because it is the easiest school on my list to get into. Anyway. After spending many hours reading this forum, and getting advice from several relatives in the tech industry, I've realized that unless you are really, really good, a recent CS grad's employment options are slim. I have narrowed what I want to do in life down to a few areas.
The first area is that of software development. I have taken three years of computer science at my high school already (I dropped my foreign language) and I am currently working on a large scale web application with my Post-AP CS class. Outside of school I am working on an application for doctors to keep track of patients with diabetes. Though I'm not finished it yet I did get a contract ($300-500 per doc). The money is certainly nice, but I really dont want to be sitting in a dank basement writing relatively simple backend and SQL for a living, regardless of the money. I have dabbled a little into graphics programming and wrote a relatively simple 3D engine. I decided that graphics is where I really want to go with computer science. I would like to work at some place like Nvidia for example, working on the technology behind their graphics cards. I think that would be a perfect blending of my interests in physics, math, and software design. However, what are the chances of getting a job there? Slim I'm sure. The chances of computer game companies going under is very, very real, so I don't think that is an option either.
My second idea for a career is that of a scientist. I imagined it being like working in a nice bubble of job security without all the vagaries of the "real world." I imagined it being like a perpetual, and really fun, physics lab like I have in school (Except not quite as simple). However, the other day one of my friends completely popped my bubble my saying it really involves begging for funding and dealing with disgruntled administrators. Perhaps its somewhere in between... I must say though that I do have an overwhelming desire to know. I mean to be neither pompus nor pretentious with that statement, but I everytime I go to a bookstore I feel an insatiable urge to buy every book in the math section. My desk in front of me is littered with almost 2 dozen Computer Science and math books. I'm like a little rodent with these things: one I found on the floor at school covered with gum (and this was an expensive calculus book) , some my cousin wrote, and others I just sank lots of money into. I'm not as prolific a reader as I hope to be, but I often sit at my desk for hours doing things such as finding ways to project 3d onto 2d or trying to find a way to implement a simple physics engine into my graphics engine. I love working with numbers and the exhilaration of finding a new formula or equation that WORKS (I try to have a Ti-83 in my pocket whenever possible, just incase I have to crunch some serious numbers for a random reason). My dream would be to make a career out of consitantly knowing more and more each day. Perhaps then I can find the meaning of life. And by find meaning of life I mean find some interesting purpose to my life.
My third idea for a future career is that of some sort of engineer. I'd like to think that EE or CE are cool majors. But when I see just the NAMES of certain topics in EE, I think to myself "what the HELL is that?!" and become quickly discouraged. In conclusion, I think things like circuts and currents and all that business are cool, but I'm put off by the work necessary to get that degree. From what I've heard and saw in the required class list, EE/CE seem like the hardest majors possible. I enjoy studying and working, but I do value my free time, at least to a certain extent. Not to mention that I have heard many stories of engineers just not being able to get jobs at all. Smart people too. My mom knows a fellow who get a masters or PhD in CE and now sells insurance. One of my uncles who graduated from Yale with an engineering degree has been unable to find a job for years. He has essentially given up and now gives all his attention to politics. These are some major turn-offs for me in this field.
My fourth, final, and perhaps most financially lucrative plan is to pursue a dual major in both CS and Business. One of my uncles owns an extremely successful business in New York based around a piece of software that graphs the projected future prices of stock options using Monte Carlo simulations. That, I have to admit, seems like an incredibly interesting field to go into. Most people tell me that the CS market is oversaturated but people with a business background are sought after. I don't know how much truth is behind that but I find it at least somewhat believeable. The only thing I'm not too excited about in this career path is that I won't get as much science as I would hope, as I would be taking business classes and such.
This turned out to be a lot longer than I had expected. My number one fear for all but the 4th thing I mentioned is that I'm simply not smart enough to be a physicist or an engineer. I have come a long way in the past 4 years. I was placed in a remedial math class freshman year, and ended up skipping a year of math later and I am now getting As in calculus. I'm taking three math classes this year and enjoy them tremendously, but these are all either high school or early college level math classes. I forsee myself later in my educational career finally just keeling over braindead from too many years of intense, perhaps even fruitless study. So in conclusion I don't know what to think and this is a lot to read. (Woo! Took me a lonnggg time to write too). If you made it down this far, thank you!
If any of you have any comments I would truly appreciate it. Thanks!
- Bill VB
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