Disclaimer: this article is not aimed to those of you who already made the decision. If you feel like you will be better off dropping out just read it and keep that in mind.
Yes. I was one of those guys who liked to advise you to get the degree and work afterwards. During the last year I have been thinking about this a lot and I’d like to share my thoughts after much reflection.
There are two very different groups of people that drop out, the talented/skilled ones and the ones who just don’t wanna make the cut.
About the former group, I basically ended up thinking that no matter if you can prove yourself as a great developer without a BS, I will get mine just for the sake of getting the most of my education. There are tens of topics that I’m sure I wouldn’t be very well-versed (if not completely ignorant) if I hadn’t gone through the dullest lectures I could ever have thought of. If I were to list the topics that I wouldn’t have studied on my own to the depth I do at college (compilers, language theory, statistics, programmable devices… and a bunch more) I’d be writing the longest post of the internet so I better stick to the ones that I mentioned. I’ve met some brilliant people that either have a very promising future (@pasku1) or they are already well respected within coworkers in this vast field that CS is and still lack the BS. A lot of people think that learning such diverse stuff is not strictly necessary to work as a software engineer, however I haven’t found a single person that can really argue that learning such topics is just a waste of time and it doesn’t help at all when it comes to actual work. If you don’t feel that way, I’d love to grab a coffee and have a pacific argument with you or you can just drop off a comment below 🙂
The second group is dramatically different from the first one, still they share some characteristics that you would easily notice by taking a quick glance at this list.
There’s several things that I noticed about people who dropped out of CS after having spent very few time in college:
- They were convinced they were amazing at math and sciences. I’m not saying they they were bad at math, but people never take into account that maybe being the best at a high school that didn’t have a particularly good math and science curriculum probably contributed to their lack of preparation for science and engineering at a university level. Doing well on the math SATs means nothing, that shit is algebra/precalc. If anything, getting a 4 or 5 on the AP Calc II test is a better indicator as to how you’ll do in science and engineering when you reach university.
- They didn’t realize that it meant endless hours in the lab. For things like CS, bugs don’t magically go away when you want them to go away, you could be hunting down a semicolon for hours. Most people can’t deal with that, that’s fine, but that probably means CS isn’t for you.
- Lack of a support group. You’re less likely to drop out if you have friends you can suffer with together, science and engineering are majors that have pretty steep learning curves and sometimes the professor makes no sense. Usually group collaboration helps out in these situations. Plus being alone and hungry in a cold lab with no windows is very demoralizing. Go find a friend! Don’t be put off by the asshole nerd that probably wants to shoot everyone from the clocktower anyways, they’re usually never helpful.
- You didn’t ask for help. We have TAs for a reason, professors have office hours, who the fuck cares if you go every week to every session. You might be making fun of the Melvin who goes to every one of these, but at least that guy is going to pass. Trying to look hardcore by not asking for help will just end up fucking yourself over. Moreover, sometimes the TA or the professor is a pushover, beg them to hint at what’s on the test, sometimes they cave, it doesn’t hurt to ask. The worst they can do is just say ‘no’.
- Lack of a network. That guy with the heavy accent, I bet all the upperclassmen know about him and how to deal with/avoid him. BE FRIEND WITH UPPERCLASSMEN, they are willing to lend/pass down books, they know who to take and who not to take, they’ve walked through the shit the hard way. There’s no reason for you to trailblaze a new path if they can already tell you, “That guy is an dick who fails everyone, wait a semester, the spring quarter guy is easy.”
*There are a few people who make it through science and engineering without needing help, friends, and can roll into tests and blow everyone away without having gone to a single lecture, these people probably don’t actually have to be in university. Most of us are not these people. *
PD: I know how weird it is to write this as the first article of the blog but whatever. If you wanna know more about me just click on the tabs above or just ask me on twitter (@elobatoss)