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How to Survive Computer Science in College

You just started college and chose Computer Science as your course, because you’ve always wanted to be a programmer. You just spent hours and hours trying to finish every project. You’ve also had breakdowns in between your breaks, contemplating on whether you should continue along the path or just abandon everything.

Well, worry no more, fellow soldier! You’re not alone in this journey. There are THOUSANDS out there who are like you and here are some tips on how to ACTUALLY survive a Computer Science course:

Finish the home works you have from your minor subjects during lunch/breaks/vacant hours

Having a course in college relating to the IT biz isn’t all about programming. You will have a LOT of minor subjects (i.e. Political Science, Psychology, Theology, Math, Foreign languages, etc) from your first year until your last year and you should also prepare for this.

Finishing all of your pending homeworks and projects in your minor subjects as soon as possible will yield positive results in the long run. If you do this, you can focus more time on other important things, like reviewing a codebase, finishing up a project, studying a new programming language or anything that is related to you accomplishing a task for your major subjects.

Learn on your own — not everything can be taught in college

You shouldn’t always rely on the handouts given to you by your professors. Don’t always expect college to have everything handed to you on a silver platter and don’t always expect that everything on these handouts will be on your exams. You never know what college will give you. That’s why you should always, ALWAYS, be independent on your own and search up anything on Google if you’re not sure of anything or need help. Come on, it’s free.

In this day and age, in the rise of the digital industry, anything can be searched up on Google or any other search engine. There are literally MILLIONS of articles and websites out there for you to use as a computer science student.

  • Stack Overflow — a website where the developers reside, the God-given gift for all programmers. Stack Overflow is basically a Q and A site where programmers or enthusiasts can ask questions about anything related to tech and professionals would jump in and answer their questions. Easy peasy.
  • Github — another God-given gift for programmers. Github is where you can share your projects and make others collaborate with you. You also have the option to collaborate with others!

Learning on your own can also be applied not just on your programming subjects but also on your minor subjects. You don’t understand what your professor is teaching about Trigonometry? You can ask Youtube for tutorials! You’re falling behind on your Spanish? You can always rely on Duolingo to help you out!

Avoid procrastination

Procrastination has always been the number one enemy of all mankind ever since the beginning of time. If you hear the devil whispering to your ear that you should procrastinate, DON’T LISTEN TO IT. Because once you’ve listened to it, you’ve fallen down into your own trap.

Having me-time is not bad. In fact, it’s advocated. Without it, you will always have a burnout along the way. But before relaxing, you should always finish your tasks. Your future self will thank you for that.

Try using the Pomodoro technique when you want to finish something. I’ve been using this technique for years now and it’s always worked for me because it’s really effective. Pomodoro technique is a time management method wherein you have 25 minutes (this is called a Pomodoro timer), to study or finish a task. This means no cellphone, no TV, no distractions. And in between those Pomodoro cycles, give yourself a 5 minute break. This means you can do ANYTHING to take your mind off of what you’re focusing on. You can watch movies, exercise, eat, get some bathroom breaks, basically anything that isn’t related to what you were doing. And once you’ve finished 4 Pomodoro cycles, give yourself a 10 minute break. Easy, isn’t it?

Get an 7–8hr sleep every night

In college, I know not sleeping for days can’t be helped. There will always be a day or even a week wherein you can’t have 7–8 hours sleep, especially when exams are coming up and homeworks and projects are piling up.

Even if it can’t be avoided, try to get some shut-eye because it’s really unhealthy to not sleep for days. Lack of sleep may also backfire on you because it affects your memory and you may not be able to perform well on your exams.

Take notes

College isn’t high school. With that said, you might want to actually take down everything your professor is discussing (except their whole caboodle of nonsense when they talk about their whole life experience, of course). You may never know when it’s gonna pop up on quizzes or exams. Here are some of my tips on note-taking that might help you:

  • If your professor is making a PowerPoint presentation, just jot down all of the main points. Don’t copy the whole presentation as it’s time consuming and you probably won’t have time anyway. You can fill in the gaps when you review your notes later.
  • If your professor isn’t doing a presentation and just talking, be sure to just list down all of the important ones. When you hear phrases like “The reason why…”, “This is how you do it…”, list it all down as these are important factors. This technique will also teach you how to be an active listener.
  • Always be consistent in the format of your notes so it’s easier to take a look at when you’re reviewing it.

Don’t try to memorize the syntaxes, understand them

Syntaxes aren’t meant to be memorized. What you will be doing is just understand how a certain element works and the concepts behind it and why it exists in the first place. With that said, why would you even memorize when you can just search ’em on Google? If you are learning a new codebase and you saw a syntax that you haven’t seen before, Google it!

Don’t pressure yourself to learn math

There are a lot of misconceptions in the IT biz that a programmer should be good at Math. It’s probably because programming involves having to use your logical thinking and problem solving skills which are the same skills that you should use in solving Math.

Absolutely not true.

You can suck at Math (I sure as hell was) but good in programming. I mean, I have never opened a Math book in years. The last time I’ve even touched my Math books was before my final exam in Calculus when I was in college, to which I don’t want to go back to.

Sure, you’re in college and of course, you HAVE to study Math in order to pass but don’t pressure yourself too much in learning it in order to become The Greatest Programmer Of All Time. Don’t listen to them gatekeepers, hun.

Make small projects

Making projects in your free time is a great way to familiarize yourself with the concepts of programming and also to be confident at it. Also, make sure to develop small projects that you can actually use at school, at home or at your work. This will motivate you to finish it and to use it on a daily basis.

Here’s a list I’ve come up with that is suited for college students to program:

To-do list — listing down all of what you’ll be doing throughout the day is a great way to save up your precious time. You can build a to-do list app and list down your activities, such as: do homework in English, go to the library and read Calculus, study JavaScript, etc.

Expense tracker — if you want to be frugal in order to save money (you know, because of college debt and all), then building this app can help you out. Basically, you can put all of your expenses here and track it on a daily, monthly or yearly basis.

Scheduler — you can build out a calendar and schedule all of the upcoming holidays, events at your school or schedule of your upcoming exams and quizzes.

Calculator (this app speaks for itself and you know you need this)

E-commerce websites — the e-commerce industry is booming especially in this day and age. You can develop websites for businessmen who are just starting up just so they can make their businesses more well-known.

Web scrapers — data extraction is currently trending nowadays as it’s really useful for gathering data from websites all across the internet. People pay real money for web scrapers. For example, you can create a bot where a user can input a location and the bot will return all of the open restaurants that are close to them. You can also create a web app where it returns all of the jobs vacancy for a certain job position, like web developer, customer service representative, etc.

Web scrapers are free and you can do a LOT with them. Just determine what data you want to extract, do some research on what languages and programs you want to use and then you can get to coding and voila, PROFIT!

Business web apps — you can also create web apps for businesses like a time management tool, wherein the employees of a certain business can input the times when they logged in and out. You can also create a leave tracker where the employees can input their leave dates on the apps. Also, creating an inventory management tool is in high demand because the majority of businesses need it.

Watch tutorials

Youtube is currently the number one platform for tutorials for different topics and I highly recommend watching them if you’re struggling to understand a certain topic. There are a lot of Youtubers who post programming tutorials. List below is my highly recommended Youtubers that posts tutorials that can help you:

  • Traversy Media — Traversy Media is my go-to channel on Youtube when it comes to programming. Basically, it’s a channel that posts programming tutorials of all the latest web technologies. When I was in college, this channel helped me get through it all (thanks, Brad).
  • Dev Ed — the name of the Youtuber who handles this channel is Ed (well, duh). If you liked fun and not-so-serious tutorials, you will surely enjoy this channel’s content. Ed posts several videos about web development, web design and anything front-end development, basically.
  • Programming with Mosh — This channel is another favorite of mine because Mosh (the Youtuber who manages this channel) makes his tutorials easy to learn and is really suited for beginners. He provides hours-long videos of him discussing programming topics in great detail. I really admire his dedication for that.
  • CS Dojo — if you want to get in depth with all of the computer science concepts, this is the channel where you can run to. The Youtuber behind it is YK Sugi. YK also posts about tips and tricks on how to solve certain programming problems that companies give in the job interviews.

Befriend everyone — even professors

Of course, there will be restrictions for this. Befriend people who are actually genuine and you know can help you in your time of need. And yeah, this includes your professors, too. This is not only because you need them because you want to ace your tests, aka be “the teacher’s pet”, no.

The reason for this is because professors can help you out in the long run, even after college. If you want to enter another university for your master’s and need a recommendation letter from a professor, you can turn to them for that. If you need some life advice because you don’t know which career path to take, or don’t know which state/country to move to, you can ask your professors for that.

Hi, I’m Esther Margarette Abella (nickname Maggie). I’m a web developer, graphics designer, and an animator. Website: