- Give a couple of tips that will help students survive the first year of computer science.
Welcome to Ateneo! My name is Sacha Chua, and I'm glad I have this chance to share with you 7 tips that helped me survive computer science.
1. Don't be scared.
Some of your classmates may have learned to type before they could write, but don't let that intimidate you. You have something to contribute. You might see something that they miss. Everyone has something to contribute. You can do it. Don't be scared.
2. Talk to people.
The usual stereotype of a computer programmer is this lone hacker hunched over a computer terminal. Anyone who has worked on anything major will tell you that it's nearly impossible to do everything on your own. Talk to people. You'll learn a lot from them.
Feel free to bug classmates, friends, upperclassmen and even teachers. (In moderation, of course.) One of the things I liked most about Ateneo was its ultrasupportive computer science department. I was in the dept almost every week to ask all sorts of stuff not even related to the lesson. That's okay. =)
Share your knowledge with others. This helps you develop communication skills (important in the working world!), and it helps other people learn too. You don't know something until you can explain it to someone else.
By the way, use the next few days to find people who live near you - people you think you can get along with. You'll be doing a lot of team projects, and nothing beats face-to-face communication.
Bounce ideas off people. Learn from them. Share what you know with them. Talk to people.
3. Think outside the box.
First, learning doesn't stop when you leave the classroom. Use the Internet to find more information. Talk to your teachers, your classmates, and even students from other batches and other courses. Think outside the classroom.
Second, be creative. Computer science is a very creative field; it demands a lot of imagination. If you find yourself staring at a piece of code or you have a mental block when trying to solve a problem, try a different approach. If you're absolutely stuck, try something really weird. Think outside the box.
4. Practice, practice, practice.
Practice, practice, and practice. Then practice some more. Did I mention that you have to practice?
If you have a hard time doing something, first practice it with a friend. Get the hang of it. But don't stop there. Practice until you can do it on your own. From scratch. This will help you gain enough confidence to deal with tests, groupwork, and bigger projects.
Use what you know to help other people. This is a great way to practice. Volunteer for oprojects. Make up projects on your own. Write little programs to try out new concepts. Practice, practice, practice.
5. Pay attention to your other classes.
You may really like computer science, but you still need to pass your other subjects in order to stay in Ateneo! Math is a real killer. Study hard. Form study groups - those are quite useful. Try to find ways to apply computer science to your other subjects; that way, you hit two birds with one stone. For example, you can write programs to help you do your Math or Physics homework. You can write about technology and society in your literature classes. (You can even get away with doing that in Philosophy and Theology later on.)
6. Be different.
Computer science is a very popular field. Gazillions of people take up CS each year - and you don't even need a CS degree to do computer stuff. So what's going to make _you_ different from everyone else? Why should a company hire you instead of, say, someone from that Other School? You need to distinguish yourself. You need to excel.
College is the time to explore, to experiment. Find something you love doing and learn as much as you can about it. That way, when you graduate, you'll have strengths that set you apart from the other graduates, and you'll have an idea of what you want your career to be. Be different. Find something that sets you apart.
7. Have fun.
Above all, have fun. When you're having fun doing computer science, you'll find that all of this will come naturally. (Okay, you still need to work a bit, but it will be _fun._ )
If you really, absolutely don't like CS and you're only here because someone was holding a gun to your head when you filled out the registration forms, get out now before you waste four years of your life. If you're not really sure why you're here yet, find out - we have a bunch of IT talks scheduled to expose you to different areas in computer science. If you're enthusiastic about computer science and you can't wait for the first day of classes so you can get started, good for you. Try to get other people hooked. =)
If you want a copy of these tips (or if you just want to chat about CS and life in Ateneo), e-mail me at