Is Computer Science the Best Major For You?

Rubin Caco

In the digital age, computer science has emerged as a field of endless possibilities. It has become one of the most in-demand skills in the ever-growing tech sector, with seemingly endless opportunities to excel. With nearly every aspect of society being in some way tied to technology, computer science has steadily become one of the most lucrative fields one can study. However, there is more to choosing one's major than simply how in-demand it is in the market. Trends change with time, and the answer to whether computer science may be the best major for you may be more complex than it seems. 

What is Computer Science? 

Computer science is the study of computation. In a broader sense, it's the study and processing of information with many disciplines specializing in the different aspects of information computing. These disciplines include computation theory, information theory, and hardware and software design. It's a vast field that encompasses everything from the processing of raw information to how programs and hardware interact with each other. 

Computer Science in the College Landscape

Technology has improved exponentially over the past 30 years, and the more technology has become part of our everyday lives, the more people are choosing to pursue computer science as their occupation. In the past ten years alone, the number of computer science majors has increased by 277% from 19.5 thousand graduates receiving their master's degrees in 2011 to 54.1 thousand in 2021. Computer science is a trending, in-demand field with applications in nearly every vertical of the economy. As a result, CS has expanded into one of the most sought-after fields of study on college campuses across the US. 

As of 2024, 21.2% of computer scientists are women, and 78.8% are men. However, despite the growing popularity of computer science, it only accounted for 4.06% of all degrees earned in 2018, and the demand for computer-skilled professionals in technology continues to grow in today's job market

Is Computer Science Right for You?

Given the data and the popularity of computer science as a major and in the workforce, it may be tempting to pursue it as a study on those aspects alone. However, college applicants need to consider that computer science is still a rigorous course, and the work opportunities outside of university are highly competitive, especially in the higher echelon of the tech sector with FAANG companies like Apple, Amazon, and Google. 

In a recent podcast episode, we interviewed one of our Graduate Coaches, Elena Li, a computer science major from Cornell who landed her dream job as a software engineer at Amazon. Elena describes her experience with computer science and her prospects during and after her studies at Cornell. "Parents want their students to pursue computer science in college because they think that it has a straightforward career path. I'm here to say that it doesn't. Because the market right now is so volatile, start dates can be delayed by six months, and a lot of people I know were laid off as soon as they were hired, and then they couldn't find another job for a year or two... I think that what matters most that sometimes people forget about is whether they like the field, see a future in it... whether you like this industry or not.”

The reasons why one might consider studying computer science can vary from person to person, but students should not go into CS thinking that it will be an easy career path. Students must be passionate about computer science to succeed and stand out. Otherwise, they will be outshined and outperformed by their peers both in higher education and the workforce. 

Strategies for Success in Computer Science

Like many majors offered at the top US colleges, computer science is still a competitive field that requires dedication and rigor from those who wish to pursue it. It is a highly technical field, and even though there is a growing demand for computer science majors in the workforce, colleges still have a limited number of students they can admit per year. 

High school students looking to apply to the top schools will compete with all their peers in the same class regardless of their field of study. That said, there are still actionable steps students can take to enhance their chances of acceptance into their top-choice schools and succeed in computer science as their chosen field. 

     1. Practical Knowledge and Personal Projects

Because a fair amount of computer science is practical, pursuing knowledge outside the classroom will give students hands-on experience to better learn and excel in their field. Students can gain this experience by working with development tools such as VS Code or Github or exploring other technical programs they find interesting. 

Large communities of people work in tech and development, both online and on campus. Reaching out to these communities as learning from peers or getting involved in extracurricular projects is another great way to get hands-on experience. 

     2. Extracurricular Activities and Achievements

Keeping in line with personal projects and practical knowledge, students seeking to excel in their studies should participate in extracurricular activities and strive for achievements. Much of a student's learning happens outside of the classroom, and seeking new opportunities is a great way to get ahead—especially for students applying to Ivy League universities. 

Computer science clubs, web development clubs, robotics, and even game development clubs are becoming more popular as computer science continues to grow, and participating in these clubs will give students hands-on experience and a chance to socialize with other students in the same field. CoderDojo and Girls Who Code are also nationwide clubs that students can join—among many others available at a quick Google search, along with InGenius Prep's Candidacy Building program that focuses on  building strong student profiles for college admissions

There are also countless hackathons, awards, and achievements students can strive for. USA Computing Olympiad, the Cutler-Bell Prize, and the Botball are just some of the different activities students can participate in. 

     3. Internships and Opportunities

Internships are one of the best ways for students to get their foot in the door and practice their skills in a working environment. Having an internship and work experience is a significant component to elevate one's chance at getting stable employment, so students who have done internships not only set themselves up for success in the job market but can gain the attention of college admissions officers when applying for schools. 

LinkedIn and Indeed are two of the most noteworthy job posting websites, with thousands of job listings for all experience levels. Students can sort by field, location, and experience level to find internships to benefit their studies. Students may also find internship opportunities by speaking with their teachers, counselors, and professors to see if they know of any available positions. 

Leveraging social connections is especially beneficial when looking for positions since not every job gets posted online—many are opened and filled internally and within recruiting networks. 

Other opportunities include coding boot camps, local companies and startups, and university partnerships, which offer programs for high school students to learn and work on summer projects. InGenius Prep’s Academic Mentorship Program also offers students real-life experiences with university professors around the world.

Strategic Planning

Choosing a major field of study is a nuanced decision that requires careful consideration—of one's skills, goals, and personal interests. For computer science, the field is lucrative and growing every day, but it is also becoming increasingly competitive, with the number of students pursuing that field steadily increasing. 

While the field offers vast opportunities, to get accepted into the top US schools, a strategic approach to planning for college admissions is essential to increase one's chances of admittance.InGenius Prep's team of former college admissions officers can guide aspiring computer science students, helping them showcase their passion through extracurriculars and achievements and giving them their best chance at getting into their dream school. Schedule a free call with one of our counselors today to learn more about our programs!

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