Advice for CS Students
Welcome! The department faculty would like to share a few thoughts and tips with you. Our department has over 500 students in our various programs, and we hope that each of you has a successful and rewarding experience here at UNCG.
The departmental office is in room 167 Petty. Andi Smith is the departmental administrative associate, and Dr. Stephen Tate is the Department Head.
Everyone in the department is concerned with your success, and we want you to feel welcome. In particular, feel free to visit with us if you are having any sort of academic problems or if you have problems or questions about University regulations. We don’t always have solutions, but someone in the department can usually point you in the right direction. You are welcome in the Department Head’s office any time, but it’s a good idea to call ahead and make sure he is available before making a special trip. Approvals for special substitutions and/or program waivers are sent through the either the Director of Undergraduate Studies or the Director of Graduate Studies (see the Faculty Listing), but your first stop should almost always be your individual advisor.
We also welcome your comments about any aspects of our programs and instruction.
You can find more information about the department and faculty on the department’s home page, and information about individual faculty including their e-mail addresses and links to individual web pages is available through the Faculty and Staff Listing.
What we expect from you.
Most of our graduates will tell you that our degrees are valuable, and like many things of value, they are not easy to come by. A certain amount of commitment on your part is necessary if you are going to benefit from your time here. Here are a few recommendations from the faculty.
- Attend Class. Poor class attendance is the single most important cause of failure among our students.
- Study. This may seem obvious, but surveys show that today’s college students spend very little time studying outside of the classroom. The conventional wisdom that you should spend at least two hours outside of class for every hour in class, so expect to spend about 6 hours per week outside of class studying and preparing for a typical 3 hour class — some will require more, and some less, but this is a good average rule-of-thumb. We deal in difficult concepts, and most of us have to think about things several times before we really understand them.
- Use the Faculty. Very few students take advantage of the fact that the faculty really care about their students and enjoy working with them. Sometimes a few minutes with an expert can save hours in struggling with a difficult idea, but it’s important to make contact in a timely way. If you wait until you’re hopelessly behind, an office visit with your instructor will probably not be productive and can be frustrating for both of you. Take the time to get to know your advisor.
- Use the Tutors. The Department hires students who have shown an aptitude for both the material and communicating concepts as tutors, and they are available in the Petty 211 computer lab. These tutors are particularly valuable for students in the introductory courses, and student-to-student advice adds an extra dimension to advice you get from faculty.
- Make use of UNCG Computer Resources. Every UNCG student automatically has access to computer accounts. Take the time to activate your account and learn how to use UNCG services. Surely all of you have extensive experience with e-mail and browsing the web, but even if you have your own personal e-mail account you must use your UNCG account. Official announcements from both the university and the department are sent to your UNCG e-mail address, so if you don’t intend on logging in regularly you should at least take the time to set up your account to automatically forward your mail to an account that you do check regularly.
- Plan Your Program. Since almost every advanced course in the computer science has serious prerequisites, it is very important to complete the beginning courses early. It is especially important to complete the calculus sequence and the beginning programming courses as soon as possible. Your advisor can anticipate prerequisite problems and help you map out a plan of study.
- Keep Your Records in Order. If for some reason, you have to stop attending a class, work with your instructor and either withdraw or arrange for an Incomplete. If you take an Incomplete, get it resolved promptly. Not taking care of these things can leave you with entries on your transcript that make you look bad. Also, make sure that you have financial aid forms on file with the Financial Aid Office. There are many scholarship opportunities available, but most require that you have a complete financial aid package.
Planning for Life After College.
Those of us who specialize in the computer science are lucky in the sense that we get to work in areas which are intellectually exciting and of professional importance. While you are enjoying learning some beautiful subjects, you should keep in mind the fact that you are also building a professional resume. In the course of our discussions with our Industry Advisory Board and prospective employers who visit our department, we hear a number of thoughts about the things that employers look for in our graduates. Here are a few characteristics we hear mentioned often.
- Good Grades. It is very important that you bear down and do your best in all of your courses. Some companies have a policy of not offering good positions to anyone with less than a 3.00 GPA. We have concrete examples of cases in which students who did very well in our department missed out on opportunities because of poor overall performance.
- Technical Competence. All of our graduates will have proven that they can succeed in some pretty tough courses. UNCG is very supportive of students participating in faculty research projects. This is an excellent way to deepen your knowledge of a subject that interests you, and there are occasionally opportunities for paid research assistant positions, either through a faculty member’s funded research project or through funding opportunities with the University Research, Scholarship and Creativity Office. Several of our students and faculty have worked together in research projects, with results leading to scientific publications, and in some cases the specialized knowledge gained has led directly to job opportunities.
- Communication Skills. Nothing you do counts unless you can communicate it to others. Businesses today must have people who can write well and give presentations to colleagues and customers. Recruiters look for evidence that you can do these things. Including courses in speech and writing in your electives will help here, as will doing special projects and reports when you have the opportunity.
- Breadth. If you have any special aspirations for employment, it is a good idea to take some courses that demonstrate your interest. For example, there are many opportunities for our majors in the financial world with banks, insurance companies, and investment firms. If you think you might be interested in such, take some courses in economics, finance, accounting, or general business. Take your foreign language requirements seriously to increase your potential for international opportunities.
- Leadership and Participation. If the stuff above isn’t enough, most employers want evidence that you will really be a contributing member of their organization. The best way to demonstrate this potential is to contribute to the quality of life here at UNCG. Get involved in student organizations. The department has student chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), as well as the honorary society, Upsilon Pi Epsilon. These groups are constantly seeking people to help with their activities. Attend special events on campus, especially in the department. You’ll meet some interesting people, both faculty and students.
There are a lot of words above, but in a nutshell, we’re glad you’re here and hope that you will get involved and feel like a member of the department. Your best guarantee for future success is to make a serious commitment to your work here at UNCG, and to take full advantage of the resources we have to offer. Best wishes for a successful year.
— the Computer Science Department