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Am I intelligent enough for Computer Science major?

  1. Apr 30, 2014 #1
    I've always had an inferiority complex. In high school, i felt very insecure about my looks and now i feel very insecure about my intelligence.

    When i was about 5 and learning to count, my parents told me that I sucked at math, so I am very insecure about my math ability, even though i know that I'm probably average at it.

    I told my classmate that i am going to major in computer science, and she told me that I shouldn't because I got a C in calculus (in which I started slacking towards the end). I also have very poor pre cal foundation.

    I have no clue about my abilities, but I'm guessing that i'm probably not very good at math or very intelligent. Now I feel very insecure about my ability to hack computer science major, ultimately fail in it. How much intelligence is needed to complete Computer Science major?

    My SAT in math was 540 but i barely studied for it. Is that good enough for Computer Science major?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 1, 2014 #2


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    It is absolutely good enough. The kind of math that is more germane to CS is called Discrete Math and it is quite a bit different from Calculus. You may find it clicks with you.

    You can do quite well in CS with a weak background in Calculus (although eventually you should shore up your Calculus abilities!)

    The fact you're asking all these questions indicates you are thinking your life choices through very carefully. That is a clear mark of intelligence. Forgot what other people say based on their various preconceptions. You are only responsible to yourself.
  4. May 1, 2014 #3

    Simon Bridge

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    It's impossible to judge properly from this forum.
    You need to ask a college - let them tell you if you are good enough or not.
    Most colleges will publish their entry requirements for various courses. Look and see.

    Note: afaict the SAT score bodes well.
    CompSci does not normally require calc, and any you may end up needing you can pick up when you need it.
  5. May 1, 2014 #4
    Oh thanks! :D Is calculus used in computer science major at all? Can you give some examples of situations of which calculus is used for programming/CS?
    Last edited: May 1, 2014
  6. May 1, 2014 #5


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    Sure it's used. Any computer program dealing with dynamics (that is the movement of machines or any body for that matter) will use calculus but often working out the equations is not the domain of the programmer. It depends a lot on your speciality. I know programmers who haven't cracked a math book in ages and others who are neck deep in the stuff. You have plenty of time to play to your strengths.
  7. May 1, 2014 #6
    I don't think it is your intelligence that you should be worried about, but rather your study habits. Twice in the OP you have stated that you've "slacked off" or were too lazy to study. This is something that absolutely needs to end. It might work in high school, but it won't fly in college at all.
  8. May 1, 2014 #7


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    So we are considering "computer science" now? What about Econs at UCB or Davis? That has gone out of style? Or what about Math/Applied Math/Statistics? That's old news by now? What's next in your "shopping list"?

    I can certainly understand the need to explore and find out about stuff. But at some point, I get the impression that this is like a kid in a candy store, where everything is fun and tasty, and there's a place that you think will cater to it. I get a sense of deja vu when I see someone going in several different directions and somehow seeking "validation" from other people for what he/she should do.


  9. May 1, 2014 #8


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    I would encourage you to just take a look your college's catalog and see what courses that CS majors are required to take. Then look up those courses in the catalog and read their descriptions. Do google searches of certain topics that catch your eye and read about them. Look up youtube videos of lectures. Look at the electives that CS majors are allowed to take and do the same with them. Then you can decide whether or not it seems interesting to you or if you are "intelligent" enough to do well in those types of classes.
  10. May 1, 2014 #9


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    Have you ever programmed? What sorts of languages do you know? Why do you want to do computer science?

    I would seriously suggest learning some C++ and code a few simple projects on your own before seriously considering computer science.
    Last edited: May 1, 2014
  11. May 1, 2014 #10
    Start learning programming ASAP, in C or C++, NOT Java or Python.

    Then, when you get to the following two topics:


    See how well you grasp them AFTER a sufficient amount of practice. Studies have shown that these two topics are good predictors of CS success. Don't be discouraged if you aren't comfortable with these topics right away--pointers took me a while.
  12. May 1, 2014 #11


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    It's not for nothing that languages like Basic and Pascal were invented. C and C++ are dangerous minefields for anyone not already quite disciplined and competent. Even pointers which aren't so difficult, when you start thinking about what const means, for example, can one return a constant pointer? It gets complicated pretty quickly.

    As for AnnoyingGRL, I think she needs to fill in the precalculus gaps, that math WILL be needed for sure.
  13. May 1, 2014 #12
    I was just tutoring a guy yesterday who is apparently struggling in calc 2, but he gets it pretty quickly, with just a few comments from me to get him unstuck. I see that just a small difference could take him from struggling to doing ok. I know professional mathematicians who got a C in calculus or even failed it. Doesn't always mean you're not smart. Just that you're not used to it.

    I think it was only somewhere in grad school that I got to the point where it felt like I could add it to my list of subjects that were easy enough that I felt like I was just born knowing it (it's not really a self-contained subject, so in broader sense, I think very few people understand it on an extremely deep level, even if they can do all the problems in a basic textbook without thinking). The first time I took it, I did okay, but it wasn't easy.
  14. May 1, 2014 #13
    Why does everybody act like learning C/C++ first is too hard? They were my first. Java/C# are too overhead-heavy to be good first languages, IMO, even if they seem easier once you know OOP basics.
  15. May 1, 2014 #14
    I see. I've read something similar before on another thread. Just out of curiosity: why C++ or C instead of java or python? i was planning to take C++ first anyways, but I'm just curious why C++ over Java or Python. Are those languages easier?
  16. May 1, 2014 #15


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    C++ forces you to encounter pointers and memory management head on. C++ is, in my opinion, a very difficult language to learn, but it teaches you a lot. I think it is the best language to learn first, since the transition to other languages will be simple. The transition from Java to C++ can be disastrous in terms of improper memory management (heartbleed anyone?).
  17. May 1, 2014 #16
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  18. May 1, 2014 #17


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    Perhaps it is true that hard is not the best word. Still, I think that the syntax of C++ is not as simple as many other languages.

    I don't think it is necessary at first to buy a book to learn C++. One can simply go to www.cplusplus.com to learn the fundamentals.
  19. May 2, 2014 #18
    I very much agree with this.
  20. May 2, 2014 #19
    Ditto. Mega-ditto.
  21. May 3, 2014 #20
    It sounds like you may be running into the stereotype that girls can't excel in STEM fields:


    I would not ask how much intelligence is needed for a CS degree. Rather, you should ask yourself whether you might enjoy CS as a career field.

    You should not be listening to people (including your parents) that you can't achieve a goal because you're not smart enough. When you listen to these people, it just sets you up for failure.

    You need to change your entire mode of thinking from, "am I smart enough to achieve this goal", to "how can I achieve this goal that I've set for myself", and then just do it.
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