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Applying for Computing Science next year but I hardly have any programming experience

So far, I'd like to apply for Edinburgh, St Andrew's and (this is a big reach!) Oxford. My grades are good (straight A1's at National 5, so far predicted A's at 6 Highers) and I have some extracurriculars (Starting a non-profit, representing UK abroad for debating,), however nothing particularly computing science related (excluding the Young STEM Leader award I'm completing, for which I will be running a girl's coding club.)
I find computing at school really easy, everything I learn I pick up really quickly, we code in Python. However, I've got pretty much no coding experience outside of this. I'm really panicking! I sat the UKMT Senior Maths Challenge this year, which I hoped would be good for my application, but hardly answered any questions. Think I ended up answering 11? I was looking into the British Informatics Olympiad but I just don't understand how I would do any of the questions, I don't have enough programming knowledge, and, with revision and a lot of other extracurricular pressure, I don't know when I would have time to teach myself enough to participate this year, and by next year it will be too late as uni applications will be over by the time I'm participating.

What do I do? Where should I start? Has anyone else been in this position? I'm now worried I won't be accepted to ANY university with this massive gap in my application.
(edited 1 year ago)
I'm also planning to apply for YYGS in Science and Technology.
You've got a whole year - decide what language you want to learn, do a bit of Googling for free courses, and get on with it. You don't need to do fancy organised activities (and having learned something _without_ it being something that someone else organised for you is, if anything, more impressive).
Original post by skylark2
You've got a whole year - decide what language you want to learn, do a bit of Googling for free courses, and get on with it. You don't need to do fancy organised activities (and having learned something _without_ it being something that someone else organised for you is, if anything, more impressive).

I'm just worried about time organisation. I've got a massive workload this year and don't know when I'll fit it all in. I guess I just need to schedule my days more thoroughly. Will this be enough to get me into top unis though?
Original post by rose.clm
I'm just worried about time organisation. I've got a massive workload this year and don't know when I'll fit it all in. I guess I just need to schedule my days more thoroughly. Will this be enough to get me into top unis though?


If you've got a massive workload to the point where you don't have time for the one thing you actually want to study at university, ditch some of the workload. UK universities do not care about DofE, volunteering and so on, not if you're applying for CS.

Will it be enough to get you into top unis? It'll be enough to make you a realistic candidate. One thing you need to realise is that top unis are oversubscribed, often several times oversubscribed, with candidates who have done enough to get in. They don't all get in, not because they didn't do enough, but because there aren't enough places for all of them. At that point, one of the selection criteria is going to be whether it looks like you're actually interested in the subject, and if little or nothing you have done out of school is related to it, that's not the impression you will give.
Drop some of your extra-curricular activities and spend the time on both super-curricular activities, to show your enthusiasm for the course, and making sure your actual grades are as high as possible.
Original post by skylark2
If you've got a massive workload to the point where you don't have time for the one thing you actually want to study at university, ditch some of the workload. UK universities do not care about DofE, volunteering and so on, not if you're applying for CS.

Will it be enough to get you into top unis? It'll be enough to make you a realistic candidate. One thing you need to realise is that top unis are oversubscribed, often several times oversubscribed, with candidates who have done enough to get in. They don't all get in, not because they didn't do enough, but because there aren't enough places for all of them. At that point, one of the selection criteria is going to be whether it looks like you're actually interested in the subject, and if little or nothing you have done out of school is related to it, that's not the impression you will give.


That's part of the problem - I really would drop some extracurriculars but I'm committed to them now. I've received funding for the non-profit and am just going to try and make it as computing related as possible e.g. coding a website/app for it. As for DofE, my volunteering is that and the girl's computing club and I think I'll just make my skill coding? Sport I should be doing anyway so that doesn't take up too much time. I'm going to scale back debating - though the last topic I debated was cyber security, is that relevant enough to use on my PS?
Original post by rose.clm
That's part of the problem - I really would drop some extracurriculars but I'm committed to them now. I've received funding for the non-profit and am just going to try and make it as computing related as possible e.g. coding a website/app for it. As for DofE, my volunteering is that and the girl's computing club and I think I'll just make my skill coding? Sport I should be doing anyway so that doesn't take up too much time. I'm going to scale back debating - though the last topic I debated was cyber security, is that relevant enough to use on my PS?


It's all about demonstrating your interest in the subject. Universities don't care whether you debated cybersecurity, or whether you are really good at debating - they care whether you found cybersecurity interesting, and which aspects of it in particular, and what you then did as a result.

Writing a website/app sounds like a good idea - can you combine multiple things? Maybe do it in a different language rather than Python, learn the language while doing it, and have that be your DoE skill? Three for the price of one :smile: and if you're using the things you learned when you were researching cybersecurity for your debating to make sure your website/app is secure, even better, that would be loads of relevant supercurriculars :smile:
Original post by skylark2
It's all about demonstrating your interest in the subject. Universities don't care whether you debated cybersecurity, or whether you are really good at debating - they care whether you found cybersecurity interesting, and which aspects of it in particular, and what you then did as a result.

Writing a website/app sounds like a good idea - can you combine multiple things? Maybe do it in a different language rather than Python, learn the language while doing it, and have that be your DoE skill? Three for the price of one :smile: and if you're using the things you learned when you were researching cybersecurity for your debating to make sure your website/app is secure, even better, that would be loads of relevant supercurriculars :smile:


Thank you so much for your advice, that's made me feel a lot better! I think I'm going to read more into cyber security intersections with quantum computing, I'm really interested in quantum and take your advice about the security of the website and stuff!

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