Answering Common Questions I Get Asked as a Computer Science Major
ASCII your questions! I don't mind answering them... not one bit!
Hi everyone! My name is Chris and I am one of NYU’s Student Ambassadors working with our Office of Undergraduate Admissions. I am a junior in the College of Arts and Science joint majoring in computer science and economics. When answering phones at our admissions center, giving tours of NYU’s campus, or speaking on student panels, I am often asked questions about the computer science side of my major. Is the curriculum challenging? What kind of jobs do students land post graduation? Do computer science majors ever shower???
In this article, I have answered some of the most common questions I get asked. I hope this helps any current or future NYU violets with their computer science endeavors!
How hard are NYU computer science classes? How is the work-life balance?
From my experience, although computer science at NYU is certainly challenging, as long as you use your time wisely and the resources available to you, it is very manageable! Trust me, I have had plenty of long nights completing coding projects and have certainly been in lectures where I felt a little lost. But, as an NYU student, I have also had access to many tremendous academic resources. NYU has a large Academic Resource Center, where I can meet with tutors and get help with my computer science classes from upperclassmen students who have taken them before. Additionally, I utilize my computer science professor’s office hours often to ask questions and review content. In general, any professor or teaching assistant at NYU is required to hold at least 2-6 office hours a week, making them very accessible for students. If you’re like myself and hate asking questions in a large lecture hall of 100+ students, office hours are the perfect opportunity for you to get your questions answered.
In addition to using the resources NYU provides, I have found that time management skills also help to create a good work-life balance as a computer science student. Although it can be difficult, keeping up with the work and trying to avoid procrastination is key to allowing for time to relax, socialize, and have fun as a college student! I have been able to work two on campus jobs and get involved with a number of clubs on campus while completing my computer science degree. It is very possible to be highly involved on campus, have time for a social life, practice self care, and be a computer science major at NYU!
Do you need coding experience from high school to major in computer science?
Absolutely not! A number of students come to NYU and decide to major in computer science with little to no prior coding experience. For students who come in with no coding experience, a class called Introduction to Computer Programming (no prior experience) CSCI-UA 0002 is offered for them to take before starting the general computer science core requirements. If you are like me and come in with little coding experience, so a class that teaches the very basic skills may be a bit slow, you can take Introduction to Computer Programming (little prior experience) CSCI-UA 0003. After either of these classes, you are qualified to start the general computer science curriculum with Introduction to Computer Science CSCI-UA 0101.
If you are coming in with sufficient coding experience, you are strongly encouraged to take a placement exam where you can skip the Introduction to Computer Programming classes mentioned above. Even better, if you have taken AP Computer Science A (not to be confused with AP Computer Science Principles) and earned a score of 4 or 5 on the exam, you can skip both Introduction to Computer Programming and the first class in the computer science core requirements, Introduction to Computer Science. You are then eligible to enroll directly into the next computer science course in the curriculum, which is called Data Structures CSCI-UA 0102. If you are coming into NYU as a total coding rockstar and have already taken a college level class focused on data structures, you can place out of Data Structures and into the next course in the curriculum called Computer Systems Organization CSCI-UA 0201.
What coding languages does NYU teach?
Short answer: Python, Java, C, others based on what electives you take
Long answer: The computer science major at NYU is made up of two parts. You have your core requirements and then computer science electives. As mentioned above, you begin your first core requirement based on your previous level of coding experience. With no prior experience, you start with Introduction to Computer Science (either no or limited prior experience) which both are taught in Python. The next classes in the curriculum are Introduction to Computer Science and Data Structures which are taught in Java. After that, Computer Systems Organization and Operating Systems are taught in C. Although these two classes are in C (and maybe even assembly… which I know is scary…), they focus a lot more on concepts in computer science rather than straight-up coding. The remaining course, Basic Algorithms, generally allows for you to code in whatever is most comfortable for you. Some Basic Algorithms sections might even only require you to write pseudocode, because the algorithmic concepts are the focus as opposed to learning a specific coding syntax. No matter what languages these classes are taught in, the curriculum is designed to ensure that you are fluent in a certain language before being expected to complete higher-level assignments in that language.
What kind of internships and jobs do students land?
As silly as it sounds, some computer science students (like myself) don’t love coding. I mean I like coding, but I am not sure it is what I want to do for the rest of my life. A number of computer science students actually take on less technical roles as internships or full-time jobs. For example, I interned last summer in Product Management at an asset management company based in midtown Manhattan, which proved itself to be more of a financial role than anything else (you can read more about that experience in my other article!). Additionally, next summer I plan to intern at one of the larger banks in NYC with their “Global Markets” team for Sales and Trading. While both roles are not explicitly code-related, the recruiters I interviewed with for both jobs appreciated my computer science major and technical background.
Generally, NYU students with a degree in computer science have a number of options. Some students go on to become software developers or computer engineers at large tech companies or smaller startups. Others may dive into more applied fields, perhaps working in Cybersecurity or Artificial Intelligence for various firms or government agencies. Throughout the semester, NYU’s Wasserman Center for Career Development partners with a number of companies to host events where students can network and explore computer science-related career opportunities. I have had the opportunity to speak with representatives from companies like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft through NYU Wasserman events.
What is the difference between computer science at the College of Arts and Science and computer science at the Tandon School of Engineering?
This is a great question! I was asking the same when I was applying to NYU. I actually toured both the Manhattan and Tandon campuses prior to coming here!
Computer Science in CAS is housed in the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. Your classes will be located at NYU’s larger Manhattan campus and your curriculum will be more theoretical (as opposed to an applied approach). You will also take a number of humanities courses as a part of CAS’s College Core Curriculum, which are unrelated to the computer science major. Some of my favorite courses have actually been part of the core curriculum, one of them being a class I took last semester called “Egypt of The Pharaohs” which was obviously very unrelated to anything computer science. You may double or joint major with other subjects offered at CAS or pick up a minor at Tandon in something like Cybersecurity or Game Design. You will end up graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science from NYU.
Computer Science in Tandon is housed within our Tandon School of Engineering, located in the MetroTech area of Brooklyn. Your computer science classes and preferred housing will be on our smaller Brooklyn campus, however you will have access to resources at our Manhattan campus which you can take a free shuttle to and from. The curriculum is a more applied approach to learning, and permits specialization in a myriad of areas and inter-disciplinary study with other fields. The curriculum consists of more major-specific courses in computer science or an applied area in tech. You will end up graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from NYU.
From my experience, students who complete the computer science major either at CAS or Tandon have a pretty similar experience and land comparable jobs post graduation. You really can’t go wrong with either program 🙂