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Better CompSci education or better college experience?

  1. May 30, 2012 #1
    I've had a lot of trouble with this for the past month. I live in Indiana, and there are essentially two schools that I am going to choose from. Either Indiana University or Purdue. Purdue is known for Engineering and Agriculture, but it apparently has a pretty good Computer Science program. It is ranked around 20th in the nation. IU is ranked around 50th.
    I know that I want to do Computer Science in college. It would seem pretty clear that going to Purdue would be the better choice.

    Here is the problem. Some of you may think poorly of this. Everyone always says "Do what you love, follow your heart, do what makes you happy, the money will come." Things like that. The truth is, Computer Science isn't my passion. I find it interesting. I am good at math. I have all summer to practice programming, and I like the fact that programming is a creative activity. I also am interested in Theoretical aspects of CompSci. However, it is not my passion.
    I realize that the things that make me truly happy are playing music, listening to music, writing lyrics, learning philosophy, talking with friends, enjoying nature. I'm good at math, I think physics is really cool, I recognize the importance of science and engineering on society, but I realize I would not enjoy spending ten years to get a Ph.D in physics or computer science.

    The reason I want to major in CompSci is that it has a stable salary and good job prospects. It's also something I'm good at, and have moderate interest in. Going to college for Music, like some might suggest since I said I love music, is not something I want to do. I don't really believe getting graded in music is fair. Plus, the type of music I like and that I would like to make some day is nothing like the stuff they do at Music Schools.

    The fact is, I need to get an education and a job in a field that I'm good at, and Computer Science is something I know that I can do. They say money doesn't bring you happiness, but being financially secure is important if I want a balanced life of work and play.

    The reason I can't choose which college is this: Purdue is technically "better." But IU is a lot more liberal. Even though I said I don't want to do music, the campus will probably have a lot of musically inclined people that I can meet when I'm not doing CompSci homework, etc. The campus at IU is overall nicer, and they have certificate programs in the History and Philosphy of Science, which is extremely interesting to me.

    The hiring statistics for CompSci majors is very good at IU. They say that 90% of students are employed within 9 months of graduation, and the average starting salary for BS students is 55,000. They say that Google, Microsoft, and plenty of Silicon Valley companies hire IU grads.
    For some reason, even though I recognize I'd technically be fine at IU, I still get scared. I feel like I'll get screwed over because my Resume will say IU instead of Purdue. Apparently Google has its own day at Purdue. Things like that. And since Purdue is an engineering school, research and internships are a little easier to get.

    So any advice would help. And answer these three questions:

    Is a top 50 computer science school (IU) good?
    Does it matter that it is not ABET accredited? (I've heard that it doesn't matter too much with computer science)
    As long as I learn lots of languages and take important classes, and get some internships, does it really matter if I go to Purdue or IU?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 30, 2012 #2
    I don't think you will be necessarily bad off if you go to IU. Sure, you'll probably get more opportunities in Purdue (like research and stuff).

    One of the most important things during undergrad is that you feel happy and complete. If you feel unhappy, then you won't be able to study and you won't succeed. If you feel that IU would make you happier, then you should definitely go for it. And, top 50 isn't that bad at all.

    Also, why study computer science?? You seem to want to get a degree to get a decent job later. I'm not saying that computer science won't get you a good job, but there might be better opportunities for you. Did you think of studying computer engineering or software engineering??
  4. May 30, 2012 #3


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    Science Advisor

    Hey kepler94 and welcome to the forums.

    In terms of software development, the best advice I can give you is to build a portfolio of some kind that is related to the kind of dev work you are looking for.

    The portfolio can include stuff you work on at university and stuff you work on outside of university whether this includes open source projects where you are a contributor, or projects that you do as a hobby involving only yourself and maybe even a few friends.

    Anything relatively complex is better, and if you can work with more than one code-base or platform, then this is a good thing too. Also working in multi-contributor repositories also very good.

    The 90% figure tells me that people take IU grads seriously and that is a pretty impressive figure. It will ultimately be up to you to combine this with anything extra to make you competitive and in software development, this usually translates into projects.

    Also if you can find internships and network that will improve your chances a lot too. Also don't neglect good communication skills: I recommend you look at things like documented code properly, writing documentation for new code-bases that you develop (not just API specifications, but more 'down-to-earth' explanations), are comfortable with presenting power-point slides, and explain things in a way that is as simple as possible when it needs to be, and also using jargon and other vocabulary in a necessary fashion. Don't overlook the communication aspect.

    Good luck with your endeavors.
  5. May 30, 2012 #4
    Well IU doesn't actually have an engineering school. Awhile back, I was considering engineering, but I realized it isn't really my type of thing. I've never been much of a builder or tinkerer. There are, however, a lot of software engineering and related classes at IU. That was pretty much my plan. Software engineering is not the same as most other engineering disciplines, and most of the jobs that IU grads get are in Software Development. My brother didn't pick up programming until his sophomore year of college at IU, and he's doing fine, about to get an internship, and he said he will probably be a software developer. I'm almost a senior in HS so I've got a lot of time to focus on software engineering, which I can do at IU.

    @ chiro

    Thanks for the advice. I'll definitely make sure to learn a variety of programming languages and start building a portfolio. I'll also choose electives wisely.

    I'm glad to see that employers care more about the work and projects you do than the "prestige" of the university.
  6. May 30, 2012 #5
    I don't think you have to worry too much about your school being insufficiently prestigious. I go to a very small liberal arts college in the Midwest and our CS majors have been pretty successful.

    Also, if you're passionate about music, don't give that up! The nice think about a liberal education is you have lots of room to explore. I am a creative writing major, but I also took nearly enough credits to be a math major, and I got to take four terms of elective music lessons. I've really enjoyed the flexibility.
  7. Jun 1, 2012 #6
    I'm definitely not giving up music. I have been playing for 6 years, and don't plan on ever stopping. However, when it comes to what I want to study, it isn't music. I do, however, have recording equipment, instruments, lyrics, and song ideas, and friends that also want to make music. It's more of a personal thing to enjoy doing. Of course, if I were to get popular and make a significant amount of money off it, I would definitely consider "quitting my day job" to pursue it. Making it in music is really difficult.

    @ other people

    (even though people are most likely done looking at this thread) Ignore the question about ABET accreditation. Even though I heard it doesn't matter, I still felt worried. That was really the only thing holding me back from IU. But I just found out that Purdue is not accredited for CS. In fact, only four colleges in Indiana are, and they are all private or community-type colleges. I learned that accreditation in CS is just used to give credit to small colleges that people don't know much about, but IU is pretty well known, and so is Purdue, so ABET doesn't really care about accrediting them. Apparently MIT and other top 10 colleges aren't either.

    So, pretty much, I know I'm going to IU now.
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