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Projects for personal statement CS

As part of my personal statement, I was thinking about doing a programming project, but I am not sure what level of complexity I should do it to. Would more complexity even give me an edge over other applicants? Or is it just the idea of going out there and programming something because you like doing it and because it will provide you some utility, and not just because it is hard and you want to look clever?

If anyone has any ideas please let me know! :smile:
Reply 1
Original post by Hsutherland
As part of my personal statement, I was thinking about doing a programming project, but I am not sure what level of complexity I should do it to. Would more complexity even give me an edge over other applicants? Or is it just the idea of going out there and programming something because you like doing it and because it will provide you some utility, and not just because it is hard and you want to look clever?

If anyone has any ideas please let me know! :smile:

As impressive as you think you could do while still being able to clearly and correctly describe it in an interview.

I made a Mandelbrot Set viewer which was mentioned in my personal statement and thankfully revised the algorithm as I was asked about it in my Oxford interview.
Reply 2
Original post by cdo256
As impressive as you think you could do while still being able to clearly and correctly describe it in an interview.

I made a Mandelbrot Set viewer which was mentioned in my personal statement and thankfully revised the algorithm as I was asked about it in my Oxford interview.

Would you recommend doing something mathematical like you did, or would it be just as good to build a web application, or a simple AI
Reply 3
πŸ‘‹ Hey, I recently sent off a CS personal statement.

I've never considered myself particularly mathematical and that's reflected in my projects. Instead of complex algorithms, I explored topics outside of my A-level syllabus such as token authentication and asynchronous operations (not that my specific topics matter more than others).

The point of a personal project is to demonstrate that you are able to independently self-study and put your knowledge to practical use, and whilst that's incredibly important for a CS degree, being able to conclude from your projects is almost more important than the project itself.

Don't forget about wider reading too!
Reply 4
Original post by zaykenyon
πŸ‘‹ Hey, I recently sent off a CS personal statement.

I've never considered myself particularly mathematical and that's reflected in my projects. Instead of complex algorithms, I explored topics outside of my A-level syllabus such as token authentication and asynchronous operations (not that my specific topics matter more than others).

The point of a personal project is to demonstrate that you are able to independently self-study and put your knowledge to practical use, and whilst that's incredibly important for a CS degree, being able to conclude from your projects is almost more important than the project itself.

Don't forget about wider reading too!

Cheers, do you have any recommendations for CS books or other further reading sources?
Reply 5
Original post by Hsutherland
Cheers, do you have any recommendations for CS books or other further reading sources?

Sure thing!

For each of the universities I was interested in I looked at their CS super-curricular reading list (some are particularly tricky to find and may be under "preparation for this degree") and picked a few books I was interested in. From there I whittled the list down into a more manageable number and bought second hand copies.

You probably won't read the whole thing and that's okay. Personally I bought Alan Clements "The Principles of Computer Hardware" knowing I would never be able to read all 700 pages over the summer, so I only talked a specific chapter in my personal statement. You don't want to read the whole thing anyway, it takes time away from learning about other aspects of the field.

For some other general advice, interesting universities may also offer a MOOC or other form of online course which you should enrol in. They're self-guided and can be listed in your UCAS. Stretch yourself and don't pay for a certificate, you won't need it.
Reply 6
Original post by zaykenyon
Sure thing!

For each of the universities I was interested in I looked at their CS super-curricular reading list (some are particularly tricky to find and may be under "preparation for this degree") and picked a few books I was interested in. From there I whittled the list down into a more manageable number and bought second hand copies.

You probably won't read the whole thing and that's okay. Personally I bought Alan Clements "The Principles of Computer Hardware" knowing I would never be able to read all 700 pages over the summer, so I only talked a specific chapter in my personal statement. You don't want to read the whole thing anyway, it takes time away from learning about other aspects of the field.

For some other general advice, interesting universities may also offer a MOOC or other form of online course which you should enrol in. They're self-guided and can be listed in your UCAS. Stretch yourself and don't pay for a certificate, you won't need it.

Thanks for the help:smile:
Reply 7
Original post by Hsutherland
As part of my personal statement, I was thinking about doing a programming project, but I am not sure what level of complexity I should do it to. Would more complexity even give me an edge over other applicants? Or is it just the idea of going out there and programming something because you like doing it and because it will provide you some utility, and not just because it is hard and you want to look clever?

If anyone has any ideas please let me know! :smile:

I did a project for the company I did my work experience with about 7 months after my work experience. I created real time automation with the integration of a stock ticker bot using the Yahoo Finance API. It checks the stock price of a given market share every half an hour and if a significant change is detected in the market price, an email is sent out to the users who signed up for a mailing list informing them that there has been a change in their stock value.

I also did a bunch of my own projects following the completion of a game development course such as a two player space game, snakes and noughts and crosses in PyGame and Java.

During my interview for Imperial, the exact words my interviewer used was "You mentioned that you created real time automation with the integration of a stock ticker bot using the Yahoo Finance API in your personal statement. Now, I have absolutely no clue how you managed to do it so if you could explain the process and the approach you took for solving the problem."

To answer the question, I first mentioned that this was a project for industry, which meant that the requirements for the end client would be far more stringent in comparison to some of the other projects I have done for myself or my NEA (I talked a bit about my NEA here, which I will not mention here because I don't want to be called out for malpractice). I then went into detail about the process and we spent a good 15 minutes talking about this project, which in the context of a half an hour interview, is quite a long time. My interviewer seemed to be really interested in my application (they might have done this for everyone but obviously I wouldn't know) and the interview ran over by 10 minutes.

I think the interview went well (other than maybe one slightly shaky Maths question, which I eventually got) and it must have done because 6 days ago, I got my offer from Imperial at A*AAA and grade 2 in STEP II (this is their standard offer so I am chuffed with it because I thought that they were going to give me a higher STEP requirement after messing up the Maths question at the end or were going to reject me). Imperial has the most competitive Computer Science course in the country with just a 5% acceptance rate so I was really happy with it.

So I'd definitely recommend doing a project that not everyone does, for example a chess AI. There are SO MANY people that do this or make an offline chess platform. At my in-person interview, in my group of ~ 15 people, 3 people made their own chess AI (which I did in year 11) and one person made their own Discord Chess Bot using the discord API and you type the chess notation into the message box and send it to play against it.
Reply 8
Original post by Hsutherland
As part of my personal statement, I was thinking about doing a programming project, but I am not sure what level of complexity I should do it to. Would more complexity even give me an edge over other applicants? Or is it just the idea of going out there and programming something because you like doing it and because it will provide you some utility, and not just because it is hard and you want to look clever?

If anyone has any ideas please let me know! :smile:

I'd say do something that will make you stand out that no one will have done or very few people have done (as in my case). You are not trying to show off that you are extremely clever because that is the purpose of your grades and your admissions test but rather, you are trying to show that you are passionate about Computer Science.

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