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Non-CS Background Applying for Fall 2018


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Hello. I graduated from a private liberal arts school with a BA in Psychology (minor in Studio Art) in 2015. Afterwards I changed gears in what I wanted to do and started taking courses half-time at my community college. I fell in love with the Computer Science department and now want to earn a degree to do work in the field. My coursework will include at minimum:

  • Calculus I
  • Java Programming (two semesters)
  • Data Structures and Algorithms
  • Discrete Mathematics
  • Elementary Computer Organization
  • Networking Fundamentals
  • Mobile Games
  • PERL Programming
  • Internet Programming

I will be completing a Certificate of Achievement in Programming (an AS requires me to take too many non relevant classes). In addition to the courses I've already planned, I will have room for 2-6 of the following in the next year: Calculus II and III, C++ Programming, Intro to Operating Systems, Cloud Programming, and Computer Security.

I've discussed my plans with my current professors and they agree that an MS will be a better move for me than pursuing a second Bachelors. I'm taking many of the courses that are listed as prerequisites for MS programs and my community college has a reputation for having a strong program for the major. I believe for most programs I will have the majority of its foundational prerequisites (possibly will need to take a couple higher math with conditional enrollment, like Linear Algebra and Differential Equations). In some cases, I may have all the necessary coursework, but those are rare.

My undergraduate GPA was 3.54. So far I have a 3.90 in the CS coursework I've taken (I took a couple non CS classes at community college in 2007 and 2012 and that's bringing my entire community college GPA down to 3.45).

My GRE was a combined 320 (161 Quantitative and 159 Verbal), but I hadn't studied as much as I wanted to and would like to bump my score up with a more strategic study plan this summer. My goal is 330 with a lot of studying.

My question is what expectations should I hold for myself? I clearly realize I should not anticipate getting into a Top 10 school without a stronger science background. I plan to cast a wide net, but do you have any recommendations for schools that would be a realistic goal for me? Any suggestions which classes would be best for me to focus on out of the courses I'm considering for the next year?

Edited by pclaradactyl
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@pclaradactyl Your selection of coursework sounds like a good mix. I think that, given you do well in those (and make sure you continue to do so), the next important step would be to do some notable projects that flex your new Computer Science muscles. The easiest way to show your skills is to create some codes that use a mix of algorithms/data structures and also your software engineering knowledge. I would recommend doing projects that are algorithmically challenging since those will likely be most impressive.

In terms of coursework, I think you have plenty of the bases covered for most programs you will apply for. I am going to be going to UIUC as a thesis Masters student having only taken one CS course, a data structures/algorithms course, and having studied Aerospace Engineering in my undergrad which largely covers unrelated topics relative to CS. If I can find success without nearly as much CS coursework as you, you can surely find success as well.

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