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Impressing Computer Science Admissions?

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Interview Discussion 30-01-2014
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    I was wondering about how to show a passion for Computer Science when applying to it as a degree course, and wondered how you all thought you could do this.

    So far I've thought of -
    1. Doing an EPQ in a subject relevant to CS.
    2. Maintaining a personal blog, which is regularly updated with content relevant to CS.
    3. Developing programs that you can show your admissions board.



    Any other ideas?
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    (Original post by c3ntury)
    Doing an EPQ in a subject relevant to CS.
    EPQ is a soft subject and admissions tutors know it.
    Extremely unlikely to impress anyone.

    Maintaining a personal blog, which is regularly updated with content relevant to CS.
    Well, you could do that anyway to gain some knowledge, but it's unlikely that it'll affect your chances directly. AFAIK admissions tutors are not supposed to look up anything about applicants from outside sources because that circumvents the personal statement character limit.

    Developing programs that you can show your admissions board.
    You won't get to show them your programs, but there will be a discussion about past work so this is the best thing to do. Coding some of the algorithms from the Decision and Further Pure maths modules would be a good first step, and writing games is always fun. Just have fun with it and learn what you can along the way, and you'll find that you have far more CS-ey stuff to talk about than if you set out with the aim of impressing people right off the bat.
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    Learn languages then include them in your PS.

    Watch some lectures,if like me you can't attend in person , watch some on iTunesU

    Do some work experience, I did some at a technicians place at a near by uni and we created this 3D interactive robot.

    Do some projects, for my UNIQ statement I'm writing about a stock system I created using Excel and Visual basic. I also made something similar in Java. I think the key is to BS abit, talk about how familar you are with particulr languages when you only know the basics.

    Write about how your A-Level subjects are relevent to CS.
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    (Original post by multiplexing-gamer)
    I think the key is to BS abit, talk about how familar you are with particulr languages when you only know the basics.
    No

    If you don't know what you're talking about, they'll see right through you
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    (Original post by multiplexing-gamer)
    I think the key is to BS abit, talk about how familar you are with particulr languages when you only know the basics.
    Are you serious?
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    It's all about solving problems. Show that you love to solve problems. Give real examples. Efficiency and elegance. Show a passion in striving to make an algorithm, a process or a system more efficient. Show how doing it elegantly gives you that warm feeling inside. As multiplexing-gamer said, BS. Same as anything in life. Do you think all the greats knew exactly what they were doing when they did it? No, they didn't; they BSed it. If you know exactly what you are doing, you are not progressing. The definition of progress and development is doing something you have not done (in the same way) before.

    Peace
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    read some of the classic books like turing omnibus to see what topics you really like to research more,

    read magazines for some current developments,
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    learn x86 assembly, end of
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    Don't read magazines (read blogs) and certainly don't learn assembly.
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    (Original post by SpamTheMan)
    Don't read magazines (read blogs) and certainly don't learn assembly.
    but it will most definately impress admissions
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    Doesn't matter what you write they will still accept you unless it is somewhere like Oxford.
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    (Original post by lubus)
    but it will most definately impress admissions
    Are you being sarcastic? The probability of actually using assembly language during first time or even second term is low. If you want to 'impress' tutors then spend the time actually getting the grades rather learning something now when it might not be helpful.

    However once you have finish college/high school then it might be good idea to read into your subject before you start. More work you do during the summer holidays the less you do during university. Some people would rather have free time during university then during summer....

    In terms of learning content during summer would mainly depend on the modules and choose university, but most university will cover some sort of discrete maths, so best bet is to start reading into set theory, functions, finite automata, and PMI.
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    (Original post by FinalMH)
    Are you being sarcastic? The probability of actually using assembly language during first time or even second term is low. If you want to 'impress' tutors then spend the time actually getting the grades rather learning something now when it might not be helpful.

    However once you have finish college/high school then it might be good idea to read into your subject before you start. More work you do during the summer holidays the less you do during university. Some people would rather have free time during university then during summer....

    In terms of learning content during summer would mainly depend on the modules and choose university, but most university will cover some sort of discrete maths, so best bet is to start reading into set theory, functions, finite automata, and PMI.
    I'm a first year undergrad at UCL for Computer Science and we did assembly language through the first term. Although a lot of universities don't go into it, most of the good departments do expose their undergrads to lower level programming as the students get a better understanding on what goes on under the bonnet.

    I have talked to a few of the admission tutors and most of them express that grades don't really matter as long as you get decent grades in important subject like Mathematics. So the point where you said getting grades rather than learning new things might not be as useful is not entirely true since doing anything outside of your studies help not only to the admission but to your potential future employers.

    Although I do agree that looking into topics like set theory and various literatures on algorithms such as trivial searching and sorting algorithms along side with some exposure to algorithm analysis (notably the use of big 'O') during your free time will help considerably if you want a career in the field related to Computer Science.
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    (Original post by FinalMH)
    Are you being sarcastic? The probability of actually using assembly language during first time or even second term is low.
    You say that, but I was subjected to it in my first semester of my first year

    --

    Overall, I'd say just be HONEST. If you're making up a pack of lies, they'll see right through it and if you get an interview/informal chat, and they start talking about specific parts of your personal statement, you'll have shot yourself in the foot (really).
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    (Original post by hleong)
    I'm a first year undergrad at UCL for Computer Science and we did assembly language through the first term. Although a lot of universities don't go into it, most of the good departments do expose their undergrads to lower level programming as the students get a better understanding on what goes on under the bonnet.

    I have talked to a few of the admission tutors and most of them express that grades don't really matter as long as you get decent grades in important subject like Mathematics. So the point where you said getting grades rather than learning new things might not be as useful is not entirely true since doing anything outside of your studies help not only to the admission but to your potential future employers.

    Although I do agree that looking into topics like set theory and various literatures on algorithms such as trivial searching and sorting algorithms along side with some exposure to algorithm analysis (notably the use of big 'O') during your free time will help considerably if you want a career in the field related to Computer Science.
    "good departments" What is this suppose to mean? So your saying any department that doesn't cover it isn't classed as good department by your standards?

    In terms of looking "under the bonnet' most universities cover Computer architecture rather than whole module dedicated to assembly language.:eek: Wait so when did you ask admission tutors this year? last year?

    I think you missed my point. "However once you have finish college/high school then it might be good idea to read into your subject before you start." This statement clearly states that you can start learning things once you finished college. Most students finish their exams at the end of June/July giving them 2 months of learning. Which of course would not affect their A level performance, which you seem to imply will impress the admission tutor and impress future employers. :s

    Why learn more stuff about the topic when you already have a lot to remember with A levels, it wouldn't be practical. :laugh: So studying new content during my A level exams will impress employers? Either you are being naive and think A levels are extremely easy or you just extremely smart (in terms of sitting exams).
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    (Original post by c3ntury)
    I was wondering about how to show a passion for Computer Science when applying to it as a degree course, and wondered how you all thought you could do this.
    In order to show passion you need to actually be passionate. Do things you enjoy -- then talk about them.

    (Original post by c3ntury)
    So far I've thought of -
    1. Doing an EPQ in a subject relevant to CS.
    2. Maintaining a personal blog, which is regularly updated with content relevant to CS.
    3. Developing programs that you can show your admissions board.
    1. Doing an EPQ is certainly a good idea. But do it in something interesting.
    2. I suspect a blog won't impress admissions tutors very much: we'd prefer to see you doing things rather than just talking.
    3. Developing programs is certainly good. But you need to be able to talk about what you've done convincingly -- what were the most interesting/challenging parts of the program?


    (Original post by c3ntury)
    Any other ideas?
    The page http://www.cs.ox.ac.uk/admissions/ug...ience_about%3F gives some useful pointers, and links to a page giving some suggested reading.

    Picking up some other points in this thread:
    • There's little point in learning lots of languages: it's better to learn one language in a reasonable amount of depth, and then do interesting things with it. I see lots of UCAS forms where people claim to know lots of languages; but then in interview they're unable to talk about an interesting program they've written.
    • Don't BS, particularly about knowing languages: you're setting yourself up for an awkward question about an obscure corner of the language.
    • Knowing assembly won't impress me much: quit being masochistic, and learn a high-level language, where you can concentrate on the main ideas of the program rather than low-level details; this will make you a more productive coder.


    The page http://www.cs.ox.ac.uk/admissions/ug...rases_to_avoid talks about things not to say in an application.
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    Just be honest and show a genuine interest, relate the subjects youre studying to CS, read some good books based on it or whatever.
    If youre looking to apply for 2013 entry youre not gonna be amazing in any language by then, assuming youre looking at writing your personal statement now. Theres no point saying ive been learning C++ for a month and frankly I dont know a thing about it apart from copying and reproducing stuff when told by this book; a small child could do that.
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    Knowing assembly won't impress me much: quit being masochistic, and learn a high-level language, where you can concentrate on the main ideas of the program rather than low-level details; this will make you a more productive coder.
    Reading what you've said, there is a bit of confusion in my head as my son told me that the code written in assembly is usually faster than the one produced by a compiler. Which is the case or are there some particularities?

    Best,
    Adriana
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    (Original post by FinalMH)
    "good departments" What is this suppose to mean? So your saying any department that doesn't cover it isn't classed as good department by your standards?

    In terms of looking "under the bonnet' most universities cover Computer architecture rather than whole module dedicated to assembly language.:eek: Wait so when did you ask admission tutors this year? last year?

    I think you missed my point. "However once you have finish college/high school then it might be good idea to read into your subject before you start." This statement clearly states that you can start learning things once you finished college. Most students finish their exams at the end of June/July giving them 2 months of learning. Which of course would not affect their A level performance, which you seem to imply will impress the admission tutor and impress future employers. :s

    Why learn more stuff about the topic when you already have a lot to remember with A levels, it wouldn't be practical. :laugh: So studying new content during my A level exams will impress employers? Either you are being naive and think A levels are extremely easy or you just extremely smart (in terms of sitting exams).
    "Good departments" being the ones who want their students to understand how everything works rather than just being specific, i.e. just introducing the students into programming games, etc. Which may not be a bad approach for certain people, but it's always good to know about what you're dealing with in depth.

    And in order to understand how codes are directed down to machine codes you would have to get through assembly codes first, that is not to say you have a whole module on assembly codes but get exposed to it.

    I talked to the admission tutors this year when I was helping out with the open day, and they were reflecting the views from academics staffs from the department.

    One of the concern that a lot professors from my department (which I'm certain would reflect many universities) is that the students are just trained to study their A-Level rather than having a flexible mind. Which means just targeting your A-Level is a good approach, but not enough. On top of that you are competing with many students, many of whom are international students which are much more knowledgeable than just text-book knowledge.

    Knowledge and work outside your academic studies is always a good sign to employers or your admission tutor (If you're solely thinking about your near future) as it demonstrates you have interests and experience outside your comfort zone.

    And if you're just reading during your summer break, that's after you got accepted, by then wouldn't it be too late? Unless you mean the summer before.

    I have done A-Levels and I wasn't "extremely smart", I did what I had to do. You will inevitably have enough time to do more if you organise your time efficiently.

    If you don't want to take my opinion, that's fine, but I'm merely reflecting what I experienced through and what I have heard from many people who process students' applications. But if you do follow what I have suggested it could only benefit you and will definitely help you in the future.

    That is unless you think anything more in the discipline is too much work. In which case maybe you're in the wrong field.
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    (Original post by hypercaine.)
    Just be honest and show a genuine interest, relate the subjects youre studying to CS, read some good books based on it or whatever.
    If youre looking to apply for 2013 entry youre not gonna be amazing in any language by then, assuming youre looking at writing your personal statement now. Theres no point saying ive been learning C++ for a month and frankly I dont know a thing about it apart from copying and reproducing stuff when told by this book; a small child could do that.
    http://www.slideshare.net/olvemaudal/deep-c

    This is a presentation in understanding the language.

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