Creating a Computer Science School List

CollegeAdvisor Admissions Expert Amanda shares her insider knowledge on how to craft a school list that will best suit your computer science aspirations.

Date 08/12/2021
Duration 64:23

Webinar Transcription

2021-08-12 Creating a Computer Science School List

[00:00:00] Hi, everyone. Welcome to CollegeAdvisor’s webinar on Creating a Computer Science School List. To orient everyone with the webinar timing, we’ll start off with a presentation. Then answer your questions in a live Q and a on the sidebar. You can download our slides and you can start submitting your questions in the Q and a tab.

Now let’s meet our panelists. Thanks so much, McKenzie. Um, so hi everyone. My name is Amanda Horne and I am a senior advisor here at CollegeAdvisor, and I’m so excited to be presenting to you guys today about how to create a good school list of colleges that you’ll apply to, um, for the computer science major.

So I am a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of technology. I got my bachelor’s in electrical engineering and computer science, those combined major in 2020. And currently I’m finishing up my master’s degree at MIT.

So we’re going to do a quick poll just to see where everyone’s at. So where are you in the college application process? Haven’t started, I’m [00:01:00] researching schools. I’m working on my essays. I’m getting my application materials together or almost done, which will be shocking considering that the application open like a few days ago.

Okay. We’re getting in some responses and it’s looking like a few people haven’t started. The majority of people are researching schools, still. Um, a few people are working on their essay and then, uh, one person is almost done, which is shocking, but the majority are still researching schools

and we closed the policy. You can continue. So you might be wondering what exactly is a school list. When you hear a you’re either your guidance counselor or a CollegeAdvisor, um, or if you’re working with a, um, the advisor that you’re working with, they might mention a school list to you.

So essentially it’s a [00:02:00] list of colleges that you’re going to end up applying to. And the important thing about that list of colleges is that it contains schools that are a good fit for you. And what your interests are, right? It isn’t, what’s good for your neighbor. It doesn’t, what’s good for your classmate.

So it’s good for you. So even though you might hear, you know, uh, the, of Ivy league institutions, they might not always be the best at the major that you’re interested in or in a specific area or a specific passion that you’re, that you’re looking to dive more into. So, um, sometimes that school list that you ended up getting is ranked in the order of the colleges and based on how good of a fit they are, meaning the best fit colleges are at the top.

And the colleges that are the least of a best fit are at the bottom, but still it’s really important for the college list to be all of the colleges on there, to be a good fit for you. And most often that school list comes in the form of a document with a list of schools on it, or with a spreadsheet, which I’ll [00:03:00] go into a little bit more detail about later.

So you might be wondering what factors should I consider when I’m just starting to think about the schools that I’m going to want to apply for. So the first is what your academic and career interests are, right? You might be interested in computer science, you might be interested in electrical engineering.

You might be interested in a combination of majors, which is really good tip. Um, or you might see yourself going into the finance industry after graduation, or you might see yourself going into the big tech industry, or you might not necessarily know, and that’s okay. The academic interests and career opportunities can certainly be one of the biggest factors to creating your school list.

Another factor is the student culture and the vibe that you really get from the. At that university. And the way that you can figure this out is by speaking with students that are actual college students at that school. And if possible, which might be a little difficult in the pandemic visiting the college, that’s the best way you can get a sense of what the vibe is.

The cost [00:04:00] of attendance for some people is also a factor. Um, and the cost of attendance usually includes tuition room and board, which is your dorm that you’re staying in. And the meal plan that you have, the student fees, like let’s say, undergraduate student government fee, for instance, or, uh, also the textbooks that you might need for classes, traditions on campus.

The location, whether in sort of the geographic culture might also be a factor on the geographic culture being maybe if you’re at a college that’s in the Southern states of the United States might look different than if you’re in California, which might look different if you’re in central New York city.

Right? So geographic culture matters. And then, um, some other factors which are lower on the priority scale of all the factors, but they still play a big part is the size of the school, the size of what major you’re interested in. And the student to faculty ratio, a high student to faculty ratio means that for every one professor, there are a lot more students and thus you get less individual [00:05:00] attention from the professors and it might be a little bit harder than normal to establish a really good one-on-one relationship with them.

So a low student to faculty ratio is always a good thing. And then finally, depending on what you’re interested in athletics for our city sports, extracurricular activities and clubs that are available, Greek life like fraternities and sororities, and also nearby tourist attractions might be something you want to do.

So when it comes to specifically computer science, right? That was just generic. When you’re creating a college list for any given major, what do you want to consider for computer science? There are some specific things that I recommend that people actually will be on the lookout for when they’re exploring those colleges.

First is specific CS tracks that are available. If you were like me and you know that you want to major in computer science, there are a lot of different paths in computer science that you can end up taking. You can take an artificial intelligence path, a human computer interaction, or user-interface truck, a cybersecurity track.

Like I did a data science track, a [00:06:00] robotics track, right. And many, many more. So looking into those specific track tracks. Um, any special elective classes that are offered might also be something you want to consider. Like for instance, if you are really passionate about this one very specific thing, like, you know, nanotechnology and semiconductors, right?

That’s a very, very, very specific area outside of the electrical engineering and computer science domain. So look for special elective classes you might be answering. The size of the computer science department. So that’s not the size of the school, right? A small school might have a big computer science department or a big school might have a small computer science department.

So the size of the department, because that also affects how much of an individual relationship you’ll have with the faculty research opportunities that exist with CS faculty. If you’re into that, um, something in computer science, that’s actually more common than not is a possible one-year master’s program or a combined master’s and bachelor’s program that’s available where by the end of five years, you’ll have [00:07:00] both a ma a master’s and a bachelor’s degree.

I can be really valuable for industry. Um, if you’re looking to go down the graduate school route, um, the placement rates for the schools that you’re looking at, um, and what types of graduate school programs, uh, alumni from that school and that computer science department got placed in. And then if you’re not necessarily looking to go down the academia.

Internship opportunities and full-time job opportunities. And along with that, uh, something that I is always fun to sort of think about and look at is the average starting salaries that graduates have in computer science. Especially if you end up going down the big tech route, let’s starting salaries are usually very hot, so that can be something you can look forward to.

So you might be wondering, okay. So once I figure out, you know, what I want in a college for computer science program, how can I learn more about what an actual CS program contains? How can I get the real story of what the CS experience will be like at this [00:08:00] college? So the first recommendation that I always have for students is attend the info sessions and tours at the computer science specific department level.

And these are separate. From just general admissions tours or general information sessions by an admissions officer for the whole university, it is specific to the computer science department. So attending those can give you a real in depth level that normal tour guides or normal admissions officers wouldn’t be able to give you.

Um, you can also email the department, the computer science department, administrators, and ask them to get in touch with students from that department. Um, they usually have a couple of students on the, in the back of their head that they know would be happy to speak to prospective students about what it’s like at the department.

Um, you can look up the information on the school’s computer science website, and again, separate from just the normal website. You want to find the computer science specific department website, and they often have information about different curriculum tracks, [00:09:00] different majors within the department, and a lot of information about the research opportunities.

Um, and then another thing which you could find online as well is the actual requirements for the major, because that’ll really give you a sense of what your learning experience will be like. Do you have to take a lot of capstone project based classes? Are there a lot more theoretical classes? Are there a combination of both, or do you have to write a thesis at the end of your bachelor’s degree?

Those are all things to consider when you’re trying to learn more about those particular schools. So, um, if you know that you’re generally interested in, interested in computer science, generally speaking, there are oftentimes a lot more majors that might be applicable to your interests than you think it isn’t just computer science.

Although that’s very common. There’s also computer engineering, which kind of, um, has both a software and a hardware component to it. There’s electrical engineering, which is purely hard. Um, and more about circuits and signals and systems. There’s robotics engineering, occasionally too, which, [00:10:00] uh, is involving mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and computer science altogether.

Um, sometimes business analytics is a really good applied computer science major, where you apply your CS skills, but in a business context, computational biology, another really good, uh, applied major where you apply your computer science skills, but in the biology domain. And then, you know, it really depends on the school that you’re looking for.

That’s something to ask the admissions officer, what specific major tracks for computer science do they have, and they might come back and tell you, you know, we only have computer science, that’s something to consider, or they might come back and tell you we have a nanotechnology major, or we have a cybersecurity major, right.

Something really specific. And that would be something to definitely keep in mind and write down.

Okay. So we’re going to do another quick poll. So, um, what grade will you be entering this fall? What made you choose MIT? For me, MIT was the, [00:11:00] uh, it really was the fact that I had very easy access to research opportunities, but also to computer science, teaching opportunities, abroad, that meant she actually provided for us.

So that was something I was really unique about the MIT experience, but ultimately I decided to go there because of those two things. Plus the really good relationships that when I talked to the students at, in the computer science department, um, the relationships that they told me, they were really able to form with professors that taught their classes.

A lot of my friends go there and they. They geek out over the school. Um, okay. So from the pole we have zero eighth grader. So that’s expected, um, for ninth graders. So starting early for 10th graders also starting early, uh, we have 14 11th graders. This is a good time to be starting and 15 12th graders. So this is right around the time when they’ll be making their [00:12:00] school is, and then two others.

So I’m assuming that’s parents or maybe people trying to transfer. Very cool. All right. So sort of related to that, you might be wondering what’s the best time to start my school list. And the honest answer is the earlier. Because the earlier you start looking at schools and evaluating them, the more data points you can get, I’ll, I’ll make a technical explanation for this.

Since I’m a computer science, major, myself, the more data points you have about what you like, what you don’t like, what you felt when you went to a certain school, what you really, really, really want, right? A professor that you spoke to, the more data points you have, the better it can inform what really is going to be that college of best fit.

Because I can tell you some of the schools that I visited weren’t necessarily a good fit, even though they had a really prestigious name to them. So ideally by your sophomore year, you’re starting [00:13:00] to visit colleges and T and make a list of when you, uh, have, when you visit those colleges, what things you noted when you visited, um, and keeping those notes will be really handy for you with.

But then it isn’t just, okay. In sophomore year, I’m going to come up with eight schools that I’m going to apply to, um, keep modifying it. Oftentimes schools are coming into, or, or colleges are having admissions officers come into high schools for college visits. Oftentimes they’re at college fairs nearby where you can go and talk about.

A variety of different admissions officers from different universities. Um, keep modifying your list as you get more data points. It’s kind of like, you’re trying to just, uh, get more and more accurate on what exactly you are looking for. And the college that is a best fit again for you. Everybody has a different college of best fit.

I can guarantee that. Um, so it’s all about what you will enjoy, what you are looking for and what you see out of the schools that you visit. But ideally [00:14:00] by the end of your, uh, by the beginning of September in your senior year, you should have that school list complete and you should know what colleges am I going to apply to.

And if applicable, which one do I really, really, really want to go to? Because if you really, really, really want to go to one school and they have early decision available, early decision is binding. So if you apply early decision somewhere, they know they’re going to get you. If they had. So it increases your chances, but again, only if you really, really, really know that you want to go to certain schools, should you apply early decision?

So you might be wondering as I get closer to applying, I might still have a really big college list. How can I narrow down the list that I’m applying to? So really think about which schools will actually help you with the educational goals you have. You have, remember everybody has different goals and what one person might be focusing on could be [00:15:00] completely different from what you were focusing on.

So really try to do some self-reflecting and think about what would make you happy for the next four years of your life. Um, remember that there it’s not all computer science aspects, right? There are non CS aspects to the schools. And know, let’s say you’re, you’re a really big sports fan, right? And you love seeing, you know, sports and you really want there to be a football game every single Saturday afternoon in the fall.

Right. If there are some schools on your list that don’t have that, that could be an easy way to sort of narrow down your list. Um, there isn’t one school that is best in all the majors, too. So really think about the colleges that you have on your list. Are you just putting them on there because of the prestigious name or are you putting in them on there because of the, of the fabulous student experience you will have in the department that you are applying for in this case, from what it sounds like, mostly computer science.

Um, but really, you know, think about the overall experience you’re going to have because ultimately it [00:16:00] costs a lot, right? College in America is still, you know, a major problem today that gets mentioned in, in politics occasionally, too. Um, so if there is a cost difference to. Really think about, will you be getting more benefit out of the cost?

Because you could, if, if there is a college that has higher tuition, maybe they have a special program that they put students through and you can take advantage of that program and it would be worth the extra cost. But really evaluate sort of is the experience that I would get for four years at this university worth the amount that I would pay.

So those are kind of some, some tips and strategies that can help you narrow down your list because ideally the final list should be anywhere from eight to 12 schools. It really shouldn’t be more than 12 because at that point you are not necessarily knowing why you want to go to those schools because I haven’t met anybody.

Who’s able to give me off the top of their head, the re uh, [00:17:00] everything that they like about 13 or more schools. Um, so there’s also a really big importance on. Having different chances of admission in your college list. So the way I’ll talk about this a little bit later, but the way that we describe it is we have three different types of applicant statuses.

So the first is a safety school for an applicant. That means they are definitely going to get in. Um, the next is a target school, which means it’s a decent fit for your candidate profile. And the next is a reach, which means it’s not impossible, but it’s more difficult. So ideally two to four of the schools on your list should be safety schools, two to four should be target schools.

And two to four should be reached. Um, if you have all Ivy leagues on there and nothing else other than Ivy leaks, you might not end up getting into any college, which would be bad. So we always want our students to have options at the end of their senior year. And that’s why we encourage them [00:18:00] to really make sure that their college list is split up into these different categories.

So as I kind of said, right. Uh, reach target and safety are ways that we really categorize schools based on your candidate profile. So a safety school is one that you have a really high chance of being admitted to a target school is one that you have a decent chance of being admitted to, but you don’t have a really, really high one.

So you, you should, you should really think about the application carefully, right? You can’t just, it’s not just a walk in the park and then a reach school is a low chance of getting in, but it’s still possible. So I particularly got into, um, a couple of reach goals. I’ll go over a little bit more. What my college has looked like later, but reaches are still possible, right?

If anybody tells you, oh, don’t waste your time on that. You take that with a grain of salt, right? Because it’s still possible to get into the righteous. So it’s not impossible. Don’t lose hope on that. So, how do [00:19:00] you know whether it’s a school is actually considered a reach target or a safety school? And sometimes you hear people say safety school, or sometimes you hear them say like Lu school.

Um, so essentially it depends on your candidate profile and your candidate profile is everything that you will bring to the table for a college or. So it’s everything from your academic preparation to your leadership involvement, to your personality, to your interests, to, uh, oftentimes admissions officers are thinking about how will this student impact our campus, right?

So if it, with the student culture too, that’s everything that makes makes up your candidate profile. And you want to see where the various aspects of your candidate profile fall compared to the previously admitted class, oftentimes on the websites, you can find the admissions. For former years, like they’ll say last year we admitted 37% of all applicants.

Um, or last year we admitted 17%, right? Or last year you [00:20:00] can also see, uh, most often average GPA’s and test scores. So last year, you know, are the 25th percentile of the sat score was, you know, a 1450 and the 75th percentile was a 1590. Right? You can see something like that. And you can see where your test scores if applicable fall.

Now note, this year, most colleges are making test scores optional, or some schools are actually being test blind, which means they actually will not accept test scores. They just simply will not consider it. They’ll delete it from your application if you provide it to them. Um, so take, take test scores.

Don’t worry if you don’t necessarily have the best scores, cause most schools are, are not going to nest. The worrying about that too much. Um, and then another way that most schools are most high schools are able to help you out is you can go to your guidance counselor or some in some high schools, they call it a college counselor.

Um, or if you’re, if you’re one of the clients that works with CollegeAdvisor, you can talk to your advisor about [00:21:00] this. They can give you their assessment of what category a certain school falls into. And the important thing is if you think if you’re on the fence between, oh, is the school, you know, a target school or is this a safety school always go with the heart category?

So always err on the side of caution, um, if, if you’re debating, whether something’s a reach versus a target, always go with having it be a rich, if you’re debating, whether something’s a target versus a safety, always have it be a target. Um, always go with the harder category F and note. So now I’m gonna talk a little bit more about what my experience creating a school was like, uh, or a school list was like.

So I started in my sophomore year. And that really started with visiting colleges that were nearby and that involved attending a bunch of various college info sessions when they came to my high school attending info sessions at those colleges themselves, when I went to visit and then also doing tours.

And the important thing that [00:22:00] I am thinking to myself to this day is that I kept a spreadsheet of all the colleges I went to and visited, and I took notes throughout the visits. So I made it, I jotted down a list saying, you know, Friday night hockey games are really common thing for students to go to at Clarkson university or, uh, WPI has a specific robotics major or, um, stuff like that.

And essentially those really, really helped differentiate schools when it came down to where I wanted to go. Um, I also received an initial list from my guidance counselor at school, and those had way more than 12 schools on them. So those were all ones that I searched up online. I went to info sessions for, I visited when they came and visited my high school.

And ultimately I narrowed my list down to eight schools. Three of them were reached schools. Two of them were targets, and three of them were safeties. Now, eventually this spreadsheet that I used came in really, really handy [00:23:00] because I actually ended up adding other columns to them. And this is where you can really make this spreadsheet, your one gold document.

As I like to call it, it will have all the information on it if you want it to. So you could add other columns like application dates. And when you need to apply by what, which mode of application you’re going to do, like early decision versus early action versus regular decision, or in some colleges there’s round 1, 2, 3, right?

There are a lot of different modes of applying, but you can make note of that. You can make note of the cost of attendance, the status of your application, and then eventually when decisions comes out, um, if you ended up getting accepted, you can make note of the merit scholarships, the financial aid that you received, the major that you’re admitted to, whether you’re admitted to the honors program, right.

Um, how many students attend there, what the size of the department is, right? Anything that will be helpful for you when deciding where you want to go, you can have that spreadsheet be your all in one goal document and you’ll thank [00:24:00] yourself. So, so much later on, I know, I think myself, when it had all the information and really helped me make the decision for my team.

So as far as my interest in computer science, I think that really played a corporate. Of me discovering what colleges were a really great fit for me. I knew that I wanted to major in computer science because of my involvement in first robotics. But as far as my, my college list, initially it started out with just schools that I knew had a good CS program.

But then as I went and visited those colleges, I realized that there were a lot of different aspects to computer science, right? There was security, there was machine learning, it was artificial intelligence. There was human computer interaction, right? There are all these different tracks. And eventually through my involvement with, with robotics, I began to sort of get a sense of what exactly within computer science I was interested in and what my goals were.

So my college lists eventually [00:25:00] ended up revolving around those interests and goals that I had. Um, when I visited schools, I wanted to make sure that the computer science was a good fit for me. And those specific goals that I ended up develop. And ultimately talking to faculty, talking to students about their experience.

And for me, what ended up being the most important thing was industry work experience and the opportunities for internships that that college had. So when I talked with the students, I made sure to ask them questions about what their experience finding internships was like. Cause I had heard people say that it’s often hard to find internships throughout college, which I can second that it’s a difficult thing to find internships throughout college, but by, by talking to the students and really hearing what their experience was like, I really got a good sense of what exactly would a day-to-day experience look like?

What would be in the back of my mind, what would be at the top of my mind every single [00:26:00] morning when I woke up. Right. Um, and that really helped me narrow down my list of schools based on my interest in computer science. So essentially we’re getting a little bit towards the end here, but if there was any last, uh, last minute advice I could give, I could give you guys, it would be to pay attention to which school or college within a university, your majors, or your interests or your passions, right.

Or whatever you’re going to want to focus on at that university. Make sure to pay attention, which school or college it’s in. Some computer science programs are in different schools than you might think. Right. Even though computer science sounds like it would be in the school of science because it’s computer science, some CS programs are in the school of engineering.

That’s how it is that I might take some are in the school of science, just like you would. Some schools, some colleges have a school of arts and science, [00:27:00] um, or in very rare cases. Some universities actually have a school of computer science, like Carnegie Mellon university, or Northeastern university, which are two schools.

I ended up applying to, um, don’t be afraid to reach out to professors in the computer science department. If you see a professor that’s working on research in an area that you’re really, really interested in, don’t be afraid to reach out to them. They would probably be more than happy to answer your questions.

And the worst thing that could happen is you don’t get a response from them. It would never hurt your application. Chances. If you reached out to a professor and they didn’t necessarily respond, um, talk to students that are majoring in computer science or a related major at the schools you’re considering because they will not be afraid to tell you the legitimate truth about the, the student experience there.

Sometimes if you’re going to admissions info sessions, they want to put on a good show cause they want to make their university seem like the place. All right. But sometimes they don’t necessarily tell you [00:28:00] everything about the student experience. They don’t necessarily tell you for instance, maybe how hard it is to get a job after graduating from a school, or, you know, how hard this one class is, or, you know, whatever else affects the student experience.

But students are never afraid of telling people the truth of what their student experience has been like. So talk to students that will be the most, you know, accurate source of truth that you can get. Um, and then finally, even if you’ve, even once you’re done applying to colleges, it might be so, so, so tempting to just throw all of your notes away, delete all of your files, right?

Cause it’s been so hard working on all those college essays, all those common apps. Right. But do not throw your notes that you’ve made about the schools you visited away. Because once you’re deciding, if you have a lot of schools that you get accepted to, right. Um, You’re going to have a hard decision, right?

Because ideally the schools that you applied to should be [00:29:00] great fits for you already. So you will find yourself going back and forth between a lot of different schools and those notes that you took when you first visited, when you ha, when you, hadn’t not necessarily known that you were going to be admitted, those are going to be super, super helpful.

So you’ll thank yourself later down the road. So do not throw your notes away.

Okay. So that is the end of the presentation part of the webinar. I hope you found this information helpful, and remember that you can download the slides from the link in the handouts tab, moving on to the live Q and a I’ll read through the questions you submitted in the Q and a tab, and then read them aloud before our panelists gives you an answer.

Uh, as a heads up, if your QA tab, isn’t letting you submit questions, just double check that you joined the webinar through your custom link in your email and not from the webinar landing page. If you join from like the website, um, it won’t allow you to use all the features on this site. So you have to join through the link in your email, [00:30:00] um, and then the webinar will be recorded and you can download the slides in the handouts tab.

Uh, just in case you missed anything or you have to leave early, or you just want to look over the information again. So I guess just to start us off before I start reading some of the students’ questions, um, honestly, I think it’d be good to know, like, um, what sort of field are you trying to go into?

What, um, what got you into computer science? How do you plan on using it? Yeah, so the, the field of computer science that I’m concentrating on is cybersecurity. And what got me into that was actually a freshmen level computer science class. It was an embedded systems class. So it was a combination of III and CS.

And that class is also the, who I have to give the credit to that made me be a combined electrical engineering and computer science major, as opposed to just computer science. But that really, we had one assignment where we were actually programming, what is called a Caesar cipher and a vineyard, a [00:31:00] cipher.

And they’re two different ways of encrypting data. And that just fascinated. And then I asked my professor because again, one thing I was focusing on is the ability to have a one-on-one relationship with that professor. And I asked him, I asked to meet with him, not because I had questions about the class, but because I knew that I loved something based on the assignment I just did.

And I wanted his perspective on what the next classes I should take would be. And he recommended the next class to be a computer systems class. And that class generally went, uh, it was a general overview. Also, probably the, one of the best professors I had, um, was an overview about operating systems, networking, distributed systems, and then security at the end.

And that is where I fell in love with cybersecurity. And then I did an internship doing some general hacking stuff. Um, I participated in a couple of capture the flag competitions, which were like hackathons, but for computer science. Um, and here I am today finishing up my master’s degree in cyberspace.

Wow. [00:32:00] I’d say a ITGs, um, for IB in high school. And it scared me out of anything computers related. It’s not my thing, but, um, w uh, you mentioned that there was like different, um, tracks for programs. So one student asks, uh, are those tracks within the one program of the computer science program college, or are those tracks pre does pre decided separate programs before getting into computer science college?

So I guess, um, like, do you, or do you go in as a computer science major and then you like break off into, um, more niche subjects? Or can you pick the niche subjects from the beginning? Okay. So I think there’s four situations you could find yourself in the first is that a college has just one general computer science major.

And within that major, there are multiple tracks, right. And those would determine the electives that you can. Then the next [00:33:00] situation would be you find yourself actually wanting to do a double major, which is a cross between multiple departments. So for instance, if you’re interested in robotics and they don’t necessarily have robotics, but they have, let’s say an ECS major and a mechanical engineering major, it’s a combination of those could give you what you want to focus on robotics.

So that’s another situation. Another one is where there isn’t necessarily a specific tracks, but you’re actually able to, by your junior or senior year decide what you want your capstone to be on. So you can focus your capstone on one of those areas, or you can decide what your elective classes are without a track.

Um, and then the final one in very rare cases. Um, I know brown university has this. You can make your own major, you can design your own major and you have to get approval from the department. And sometimes even from the. The school or in rare case is actually the provost, which is, uh, for the whole university, whoever [00:34:00] the person who’s in charge of Mac is in charge of academics.

But in rare cases, you could actually make your own major. You could decide all the classes that you’re going to take. You can decide whether you’re going to do capstone or a thesis or none of them. Um, so those are kind of four different ways that you could figure out what tracks and how specific do you want to get.

Okay. So the next question, um, I know like with COVID and everything, this is a bit more difficult, but one student asks, um, because of COVID college visits are a bit more difficult to organize. Uh, do you have any suggestions about how to explore a school’s environment, uh, slash culture virtually? That’s a really good question.

So I think it really depends on what the university has available to them. Some universities, for instance, just have a session where it’s a panelist. Talking, right. You can, you can get a really good sense of the student vibe there. Um, [00:35:00] if you’re looking for the specific feel of campus, obviously there’s no way to get a feel of what the campus is physically feeling like, but a really good alternative.

If you want to see what the campus is like, and you could obviously go on their website and see images that are on their website, but what I would, what I would recommend and what I’ve been recommended to, um, what I’ve been recommending, sorry to my advisees that I’m working with your CollegeAdvisor is go on Google maps, go on the satellite part of Google.

And then search the college and you go into the walking mode of Google, satellite maps, and then you can sort of double click right in front of the walking person that you see on the screen. And it’ll be the closest you can get to quote unquote, walking on campus. So you can see all the buildings. You can have a 360 degrees perspective.

You can turn the screen around. Right. Um, and you might not necessarily know where to go. But you can get a feel for what the actual buildings are like and [00:36:00] where the trees are and walking paths, right? Any, anything that kind of contributes to the physical feel of campus, but then, um, sort of for the, for the social vibe, talk to students, right?

Reach out to students on LinkedIn, if you know, students that are graduate from your high school, reach out to them, um, reaching out to the admissions office or the department and asking them to put you in touch with students who you can talk to. Or in some cases, universities like MIT have a shadow, a student program that you can actually be paired up with a student and have a scheduled time to talk with them.

Um, so that can give you a sense of what the social vibe is like. Info sessions can give you a sense of the academics that are offered, plus the website, and then the physical field, the closest you can get to it is Google maps, satellite mode. When I was touring schools, I was able to tour Cornell. So I got to speak to students on campus.

But after I got admitted, just to get a better idea about programs, I just reached out on Instagram, just like, Hey, can you tell me, like you just type in [00:37:00] like the name of the school you’re looking for. See who’s pops up in and then message them. Some may not respond, but most students are pretty nice. And then also watching YouTube videos on like Dan, the lights can be good.

Yeah. Yeah. That day in life. That’s a good suggestion too. Or some universities have a student blog sometimes where students can actually be themselves. So reading the book, but yeah. Uh, okay. A lot of students ask about mic, so, um, okay. I guess just to start it off, uh, if you were to be, if you were to be asked to use three adjectives to describe MIT, what would you say?

Um, passion, community and opportunity. Uh, those are the three words that I’ve used. Um, everybody at MIT is passionate about something, right? It could be playing the piano. It could be, you know, building a robot. It could be starting up their own company, right. It could be traveling abroad. Um, everyone’s passionate about something at MIT and that [00:38:00] passion is contagious.

Um, the community is really important too. Everyone’s there for you and you’re there for everyone. That’s the only way I can describe it. There’s, it’s, it’s hard to, to put it in words, but you know, there will be hard times at MIT. There are, there were moments where I, I was, you know, on the verge of breaking down because an assignment was so hard or because I had such a hard decision or because something personal happened or whatever it was, and my friends were there for me.

And I can’t tell you how many times I was there for people when they had those similar moments. Um, so just like you’ll, your friends will be there for you when you get that job offer. When you get accepted to that grad school, when you finally finished that class and, you know, got, got a, a, B instead of a C, right.

Whatever it is, right. The community is just there for each other. Um, and then opportunity, there really are so many different opportunities at MIT, whether it’s traveling globally. Like I took advantage of doing research, getting assistance with your career. Um, you know, [00:39:00] really having access to really grow whatever skills you’re actually focusing on, whether that’s leadership, there are tons of leadership programs, whether that, you know, music skills, there’s a symphony orchestra, there is music.

Um, there’s an Emerson program where you can actually take advantage of getting private lessons from music, faculty, um, whatever it is you want to focus on. There’s so many opportunities to build your skills around that. So passion, community, and opportunity. We love a passionate school. Um, okay, so flirty Lordy.

I just had the question. Wow. Okay. Um, okay. So one student is asking if, uh, MIT has early decision that’s, um, if it’s binding and all early decision is binding, but does MIT have early action, which is non-binding. So MIT has early action. That is nonbinding, and my team does not have any bias. Type of application that you can add to do early action or regular action, but neither are binding.

[00:40:00] That is good. Not too many high profile schools have the, um, okay. I remember what question. Uh, so you were saying there’s a lot of community at MIT. Um, would you say that it’s like a cut throat culture? Cause I know a lot of big name schools, may students may be worried about that. No, definitely not. I think that’s, that’s really a rumor that’s out there because the reality is that, you know, at a certain point, right, the admissions committee is looking for people who can handle the academics, but people who will really contribute to the school body, right.

The student body at that school. And it’s not going to be a thousand different students that all want to major in CS that get admitted. Everybody has different interests, different passion. They want to do different things after they graduate. Right. So not everyone is going for that software engineering job.

Right now everyone’s going for grad school placement with this professor right now. Everyone’s trying to get, um, funding from, you know, venture [00:41:00] capitalists for their, for their startup company. Everybody has different interests. So there isn’t really any competition between students when it comes to opportunities afterward.

And that would be the only reason that students would be competing. There’s no class ranking at MIT. There’s no, Loudy, there’s nothing like that. Um, you know, everybody has a degree from MIT in whatever their major was. Um, and that’s what, that’s what you get on your diploma. Um, and you know, it’s, it’s really about the community and supporting one another because you cannot get through MIT alone.

So no, it’s not a cutthroat, you know, school at all because so many people want to do different things. So they’re not competing for opportunities afterward. Uh, okay. So, you know, high school students, um, are looking to apply. So, um, one student asks, um, how much of a computer science background do you need to be able to get into somewhere like MIT or just, what is like, what are they looking for in the application process in general [00:42:00] for computer science students?

So there are people at MIT in the computer science department that I’ve never coded before they came to MIT. And there are computer science students that I might achieve who have created their own companies, developed a whole application, made an app that’s on the app store, right. Hacked a website and got money for it.

Like, you know, there, there are students with some so much experience and then no experience, right. I would probably fall in the middle of that spectrum. Like I had coded before coming to MIT, but I hadn’t done anything fancy at that point. Um, so you don’t need to have. In computer science to be admitted into the major, um, what they really want to see when you’re applying to computer science programs is why you want to do that, right?

They, if you are really just fascinated by how computers work, even if you don’t know how they work, right. That’s totally fine. Right. If you see yourself or if you have like a personal connection to computer science, somehow, maybe your dad was a software engineer, or, you know, maybe, you know, your [00:43:00] neighbor went through surgery with, you know, uh, the assistance of robotic surgery in a hospital, right?

Whatever your motivation is, they really just want to make sure that you are yourself. So be yourself when you’re applying to colleges, be your true, authentic self, and make sure to really craft a narrative in your profile, um, about what were you involved in and what was the purpose behind what you were involved in, right?

You don’t just want to be involved in the a hundred different clubs and say I’m in a hundred clubs, right? Nor do you just want to be the president of a club. You’re the president of a club. You would want to be the president of the robotics club because I was inspired by robotics and what we were able to achieve with putting mechanical engineering and code together and the competition that we were able to do.

And I want them to inspire students that was younger than me to realize how cool robotics was, something like that. Right. That has a purpose to it. Um, so don’t just make your activities random that you’re involved in, have purpose behind them. [00:44:00] I guess, going off of that, uh, one student asked what should I add in my portfolio for computer science?

So like, um, their activities lists and, uh, supplements, I’m assuming. And then another student says, um, I’ve heard MIT focuses on competition awards, national or international Olympics is. So as far as what to put in your profile, I think that if you’ve done independent passion projects, let’s say you cut it up your own website, or let’s say you just made, I don’t know, pretend your parents needed help with let’s say there was something really random, like your parents needed help with their taxes.

Right? So you cut it up a program that determine how much tax they pay. Right. Something like that. That’s just a small, independent passion project. Submit the code, push it on, get hub. Right. Um, and then what happens is if you submit a portfolio, the admissions committee actually doesn’t look at it with most schools.

They usually hand it off to a professor. That’s an expert in that area. And the professor evaluates it and tells the [00:45:00] admissions. What he, or she thinks of it. Um, so that, that is something that I would recommend if you have the chance to do for sure. For those of you who are sophomores and juniors, definitely try to find opportunities to do projects.

It could be with the team, right? It could be at a local hackathon for high school students, right. It could be on your own. It could be watching YouTube videos and learning a new language or a lot of opportunities, but really showing that you want to explore, because ultimately they want to know that you’re serious about majoring, majoring in computer science.

And the more that you know, and the more that you try out to, the more that you can learn early on what it is that you’re interested in. Um, and then as far as the other question about, you know, international awards, right, there’s only one gold medal. Right for each competition. And there are approximately 1100 students per graduating class that I might take.

So obviously not everybody has a gold metal from an international competition or from Intel national science fair or Dean’s list winner for first [00:46:00] robotics are all of those national awards, right? There are people on our first-generation college students at MIT that didn’t necessarily have a lot of opportunities growing up there, students that come from elite, private schools, right.

Prep academies that had so many opportunities, right. There really are a variety of people that get admitted into Ivy leagues, MIT, Stanford, Carnegie, Mellon, computer science, right? Like all these, you know, elite schools and what the admissions committees are really evaluating is what do you have access to?

And what did you seek out on your own? Right. It’s different if you had, if your school offered 17 different AP classes and you took two, versus your school offered no AP classes. And you self studied for two on your own, right? Those are two completely different situations. So that’s why it’s important to really craft your story around.

Who are you, where are you from? What is, you know, what, what are you going through day to day, right? What’s your situation like? [00:47:00] And then what did you do? What did you achieve? What were you involved with? What did you accomplish? Right. Um, because you, the, the golden rule of college admissions is never assume that admission officer knows your situation.

You got to make it obvious to them, tell them what exactly did you have access to? And what does that actually, did you not have access to because they want to know how far you’re willing to push yourself, to really figure out what you’re passionate about and seek out opportunities. So seek out, don’t just take advantage of the ones that you have, but no, you don’t need to be a gold medalist.

Cause there are 99% of students who are not gold medalists. I love the. That is a really good way to put that into perspective because you know, a lot of kids get worried about, um, what awards and stuff they need. And then, um, or like what test scores and you, with all these schools saying, you need a 1600 to get in, but it’s also good to remember.

Those are averages. So that means people go in with [00:48:00] lower scores, higher scores, everything is different for everyone. I’m going to do a quick little ad and then we’ll get back to, um, the Q and a. So once we work one-on-one with one of our, um, w with an advisor, from our team of over 155 advisors and admissions officers sign up for a free consultation with us, um, Okay.

Yeah. Sorry, sign up for a free consultation with us by going to and clicking the green chat button in the bottom right. Of the screen from there. Right. Just right in consultation and a live team member will get back to you to help coordinate your free consultation with us now, back to the Q and a.

Okay. So I guess going on that note, um, what, uh, which colleges did you apply to and why? And like, yeah. Yeah. So the final list that I got down to, I was actually already in college, in my senior. [00:49:00] So I went to college, really dropped out of high school in my junior year. Cause it wasn’t challenging enough.

Right. I didn’t just say, okay, my high school’s offering me this. I dropped out. I went to college to challenge myself. That’s the, that’s the philosophy and mindset you should have. Um, so I was already at Clarksville, um, through the Clarkson school. That’s the early college program that they, that they have up there.

So I was taking college classes and everything. Um, but the eight schools that I applied to from there, obviously I had the opportunity to stay at Clarkson university, but the eight schools that I applied from there were Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute was stir Polytechnic Institute, uh, Rochester Institute of technology, university of Rochester and my T Northeastern university.

And course. So those were the eight schools that I applied to and I ended up coming down to Northeastern university, MIT and Cornell. Um, I kind of rolled Cornell out because of the fact that it was in Ethica, which isn’t [00:50:00] necessarily a city and having been up at Clarkson university in Potsdam, New York with like a total population of 4,000 students.

Um, you know, I think I, I had identified for myself that I wanted to be at a city. And the thing that made I think was the hardest part of the decision for me between MIT and Northeastern was that Northeastern had a fabulous co-op program. And I was focused on getting internships and industry experience.

Before I graduated, Northeastern has a program where they actually require that you do internships before you graduate. Like you can’t graduate without internships. So that gives you industry experience before you start your full time. But ultimately when I visited MIT, I learned that there were internship opportunities.

And I think the global travel opportunities that my team had was the thing that sold me on MIT. Oh, wow. I go to Cornell. So that hurt my feelings. So I guess going on that note with regards to location, um, especially with the tech industry, you know, everybody wants to be in silicone [00:51:00] valley, but, um, would it be better to attend a college in a techie area, like in the bay area or Seattle, or does location not matter as much when it comes to internships jobs during college location doesn’t necessarily matter if you’re aiming for those startup companies in Silicon valley or big tech companies and, and like the bay area or Seattle or Chicago or New York or Boston, um, regardless of what college you go to, if you end up getting an internship offer, they will provide relocation packages.

So for instance, the internships that I had with big tech companies, they would pay for one flight from my college to their internship site and white one flight from their internship internship site, back to my college. Um, and they would help you out with housing and provide you with like a stipend for housing, or sometimes they’d even give you free corporate housing to, um, so location should not be a concern as far as getting access to computer science opportunities.

Um, if the school is, [00:52:00] you know, a school that recruiters are attracted to, to recruit from, they will make, they will pay the money to your school’s career for a department and they will pay the money to come to your career for, to recruit students like yourself. That’s a good to know. Um, there are some questions you see in like the Q and a box that you want to like type an answer or answer quickly.

You can, um, Okay. So one student asks, um, is computer science hard to do at sports? Um, I think that is really a question about time management. Right? I think that I always looking back, I, I think that it really depends on what the grading procedures. In your first semester, like for instance, MIT has a pass, no record I’m in the first semester.

So you can a, B or C. It just shows up as a pass on your transcript. Nobody knows the actual grade you got, and if you fail a class, it never shows up. It’s like, you never took it. Um, so with that, I knew that I could try to [00:53:00] get involved in a lot more clubs and really try to find my social circles in freshman year because of that.

Um, but I think that really taking the first semester and see how much time you need to spend on that. Is a really good thing to do. And then it’s all up to, what do you want to concentrate on? Right. If, you know, if what gets you up in the morning is being able to, you know, be so close to your teammates on a varsity athletics team, or being able to just be, get the, the adrenaline rush, right.

When you’re, you’re competing, then w for sure, right. Compete on a varsity sports team, get involved in a club team, get involved in, in intermurals. Right. But if you’re interested in something else, right. Be open to additional opportunities that might come your way, because you never know when a professor is going to say, Hey, I have one research spot open, and we’re looking for an undergraduate to help us with our machine learning research, contact me if you’re interested.

You never know if they’ll make that announcement after the last lecture of the class, or, you know, in, in the middle of class or something like that. Um, keep your, keep your options open, [00:54:00] but pursue your passions. Right? It’s all about figuring out as I, as I like to say, it’s about getting more data points, the more data points you know about what you do, and don’t like the better you can make sure that all the opportunities you pursue or ones that you’re going to enjoy.

Okay. So these are going to be two questions from the pre panel that I think a lot of people might want to know. Um, so for one, what are the best and worst parts of being a computer science major? And then the other question was what’s it like working in a male dominated field and how do you navigate that?

So what, uh, I’ll start with the first question, which is, what’s the hardest part about computer science, right? The best and worst. Oh, the best numbers. I think I’ll, I’ll just be upfront with the worst part. It’s when your code doesn’t work, because nobody knows how to debug your code and you have to do a bunch of print statements.

And eventually you realized that it was one little thing or it was an aliasing issue, or, you know, [00:55:00] um, but it, you should look up some YouTube videos on, on the, the most common bugs that are experienced and picture yourself spending like maybe two to three days stuck on that one bug. And then you finally realize it.

Um, that’s probably the worst part, but, but, um, I’d say the best part of a computer science major is really that everywhere you go computer sciences there, right. Everywhere you go, companies are using technology right. Everywhere you go. There are electronic screens flashing. Right? How does light transfer.

You know, uh, a battery powered source to a big screen in the middle of a highway that has an advertisement on it. Right? You might be wondering that yourself, right. Major in electrical engineering and computer science. If you’re curious about that, um, you know, there, it really is everywhere. So with the, with the skills that you will get out of a computer science program, you will be able to solve problems that everybody needs solved.

And that’s going to be something that, you know, just, just personally, you’ll [00:56:00] be able to look back on yourself after your career and know that you had a huge impact really on the whole world. Um, that’s the best part of it for me. And then what was the other question? What’s it like working in a male dominated field and how do you navigate that?

So that’s a really good question. So I’ll be honest and say that in most of the companies that I’ve been been interning at, you know, it is male dominate. But I think that from, from a female engineering perspective, it brings the female engineers closer. There, there are so many different clubs like society of women, engineers, or women in computer science or women in business.

Right. Um, and at any company that you go to, for sure, there, um, female employee resource groups, right. Where there a women’s network events that get put on. And I think that it really, you know, you can, you can look at it as a glass, half full or glass, half empty. And I, I choose to look at it as a glass half full, which is that it brings me closer to other women [00:57:00] in stem, but I will say that there will probably be, be times, you know, unless, you know, it changes overnight, which I don’t think it’s going to change overnight.

There might be times when you’re the only female in the classroom. Right. Um, but it’s feeling confident in yourself making sure to. Not making sure to know that you are, you’re no different just because of that, your female versus male, um, and really surrounding yourself with people who support you is the most important thing to do.

Um, and there are opportunities to do that wherever you go, whether it be in college, whether it be in, um, out in industry, whether it be in academia as a professor someday, um, you know, you use it to your advantage, right. And use it to form more individual connections with students. Okay. Uh, okay. I guess, going on a lighter note, you mentioned a lot of different tracks and stuff, um, that students can choose from.

Uh, but if a college doesn’t provide [00:58:00] a video game design or development as a major, what majors the best substitute to help me go into the video games. Um, so I think that that’s a little bit too individual of a question right there. So I would, I would really just want to talk to this person, whoever asked it, um, it sort of get, get more information about it.

Um, that’s something that you might be able to look up online. Um, software development could be, be closely related, but again, I’m not sure which aspect of the video game development process interests you. So it would really depend, I guess, on that note, one of the students asked if we would like to contact you for more personal questions, uh, what email works best for you and if that’s okay.

Um, so that is something that if you end up working with, you can feel free to contact me once you have, once you’re assigned an advisor, um, But as far as if you aren’t necessarily working with CollegeAdvisor, [00:59:00] um, I’m, I’m not necessarily giving my individual email out to everybody. So, um, but if you do work with CollegeAdvisor, feel free to ask your advisor, um, and they can reach out to me.

And I’m happy to set up a video chat with you to talk about your, your situation and answer any questions that you have. Okay. So going on again with majors, um, okay. One student ask, how can we know which tracks we’re interested in? Like how do, how do you sort of pick your field? Um, try out projects, see what you like and see what you don’t like.

Watch videos on YouTube. See if something fascinates you. Um, and based on that, try out an elective class, right? Try out an intro class that covers a very broad range of topics. That’s what I did in my, in my freshman year, I took an intro to electrical engineering and computer science via embedded systems.

It was wiring breadboards up. It was doing a lot of different assignments, such as, you know, HTTP protocol, which is networking, um, [01:00:00] security with Caesar ciphers, mid-year ciphers, um, physical sensors, like ultrasonic sensors and, um, LEDs that we wired up. So there, it was such a broad exposure. So start with those broad classes and see which parts you like and talk to the professors because they’re humans, right.

Even though they have a PhD, they are humans and humans love to help other humans. So talk to your professor, if something in his or her class actually fascinates you. And they, they’re usually more than willing to talk with you about it. Because most often, if they’re teaching something, they like to teach that subject.

So they would be happy to talk about it. Um, going on that note, one of the students did ask, um, I’m really, I really want to reach out to professors. What would be the ideal way to achieve this. So I think that researching professors online on college websites can really help and also reaching out to department administrators.

So you might see a generic [01:01:00] email like ECS [email protected], right? Something like that. You could reach out to that generic email and say, Hey, I’m interested in this very specific subject. Um, are there any professors that I might be able to speak to, or are there information sessions that your department offers where I can learn more about what your department, you know, uh, what it would be like being a student in your department, something like that.

Um, and usually there’s a central admin that actually works in the computer science department or whichever department that major falls into. And they could more than more often than not put you in touch with either a student or professor or. Okay. So I guess to close us off since we are coming up on time, um, why should someone go into computer science and then another student asks, how do we know if we have a strong candidate profile for computer science?

Um, why should you go into computer science? If it fascinates [01:02:00] you, if you want to have a huge impact on the world, and if you really want to be able to apply your skills in so many different domains, that’s what computer sciences is the right fit for. Um, based off of my experience. And then what was the other question?

Um, uh, uh, what it had to do with candidate profile. Oh my goodness. Okay. Um, just. Oh candidate profile. And what makes it strong for computer science? Yeah. Um, you know, I think that that is something that you, it really depends on your individual situation. So that’s something where I might recommend talking to.

If you’re a client with CollegeAdvisor, feel free to reach out to me, um, reach out to your advisor and your advisor can connect you with me, or really talk with your advisor about what he or she thinks your candidate profile is like. And that can sort of start the conversation on how to identify what schools are right fit and your college lists.[01:03:00]

Um, but then if you’re not necessarily a client client with CollegeAdvisor, a I I’d encourage you to join. Um, but the, also your guns, counselor and college counselor too, can give you that perspective. Um, because they know they they’ve been through the process. They have to write a letter of recommendation in your application and they can sort of give you a helpful perspective.

Okay, so that is the end of our webinar. Um, thank you to our panelists and thank you everyone for coming out tonight. Um, okay. So, okay. Uh, this is the rest of our August series, so there’s going to be a few more, um, panels on schools specifically, and then different aspects of the college application. And then next month we will be doing a lot more on college application stuff.

So check out those, um, you can also find, um, more webinars on our website for, um, different topics. Um, [01:04:00] I’m pretty sure there is an MIT panel if y’all want it to know more about MIT. And then, um, also YouTube is a great resource in case you just need more ideas about the schools. Uh, and also Google. We always recommend Google for, um, specific questions or the school’s website.

So again, thank you to our panelists and thank you everyone for coming.