You know IT is the field for you, but there are so many information technology and computer science programs to choose from. How can you decide which one is the best? With opportunities spanning the country, honing in on the right program entails assessing your goals, researching an array of target schools, and balancing the information you discover with the realities of your pocketbook. Although the process of choosing among your list of top computer science programs can seem daunting, as long as you begin your research early and give it the attention it requires, it is possible to make sense of all the choices available.
Planning for College
For those choosing computer science, the college planning process should begin as early as high school. Technical, engineering, and math-based computer programs can be competitive. Thus, it’s key that you plan your high school courses accordingly, by loading up on math, science, and computer classes that might help you to prepare for college-level work. In addition, you may need (or want) to take the SAT Subject Test in math to help enhance your application. But don’t worry—if you did not take prerequisite courses in high school, a few classes at your local community college can help bring you up to speed.
Assembling a List of the Best Computer Science Programs
Whether you are choosing computer science programs that are two-years or four-years, when it comes to finding the best computer science programs to apply to, it is about selecting ones that will allow you to balance your personal commitments with your academic aspirations.
As you assemble a list of undergraduate computer science programs, the name of the game is research. Just like with any other discipline, each IT program will have its own particular emphases, strengths, and weaknesses. If you already know that you want to continue through grad school, explore the graduate placement rates for the schools in which you are interested. Most schools will have information about their programs on their websites, but you can also ask the admissions office specific questions.
It’s also wise to look into available concentrations within each program. This is especially essential if you already have a well-defined idea of what you want to do. However, choosing computer science programs with depth and breadth is a good idea for any student who is applying to schools. A flexible environment will provide a solid foundation in the basics, while also giving you time to explore and discover your passions.
Next Comes Grad School
With computer science programs at the graduate-level, specialization is at the forefront. Master’s and doctoral programs in computer science are extremely intensive and highly specialized. While assessing the reputation of top computer science programs is not without value, it’s even more important that you pinpoint the graduate CS and IT programs with the philosophical bent and academic offerings that align with your interests. In particular, explore the research being conducted by the computer science and IT faculty members—as a graduate student, you may even be given an opportunity to participate in their research as a way to finance your education.
Whether you go for a master’s or doctorate degree, you will likely need to take both the GRE and GRE Subject Test in computer science in order to apply for grad school. Be sure to identify each and every program requirement as early as possible. Also, keep in mind that there are combined BA/MS computer science programs available. In many cases, you may also apply directly to a PhD computer science program without first earning a master’s degree.
Taking the First Step
Are you ready to get started? Begin evaluating schools to find out which offer the best computer science programs for your particular situation and career goals. Take the first step in your research today by exploring the IT and computer science schools featured on our site.