Welcome to College Confidential!

The leading college-bound community on the web

Sign Up For Free

Join for FREE, and start talking with other members, weighing in on community polls, and more.

Also, by registering and logging in you'll see fewer ads and pesky welcome messages (like this one!)

As a CC member, you can:

Top Universities vs. Flagship Public Schools

disregardn4m3disregardn4m3 Posts: 69Registered User Junior Member
Hello I'm going to be a senior this upcoming year and I am looking to do a double major in Mathematics and Computer Science. I have been torn even after a lot of research between attending a top school such as Northwestern, Cornell, Rice and attending a major research public university such as UT Austin, UMich, UCLA. I have 2100+ SAT hopefully 2200+ by application time along with a 5 on Calc BC, 770 Math II, and by next year have completed an Independent Study Computer Science course and Calculus 3. I still cannot tell which direction to lean towards. I would hope to be able to get into a top private university, but I still cannot tell if I could and I also enjoy that massive amounts of research areas and opportunities for mathematics and computer science at a top rated public school such as UT Austin. I was hoping to move more towards the theoretical side of both mathematics and computer science and I cannot choose between the two because at the highest level they are so complementary. Does anyone with experience in this believe I would be better off attending a large public school? Does anyone have any ideas about an Honors program for math or computer science while still keeping a double major? Or would I be better off focusing solely on math or computer science or even computational mathematics? Thanks for anyone who can provide guidance.
Post edited by disregardn4m3 on
«13

Replies to: Top Universities vs. Flagship Public Schools

  • GLOBALTRAVELERGLOBALTRAVELER Posts: 2,856Registered User Senior Member
    I cannot speak on the academia/research differences between the "super top" private universities and the flagship state schools. Just keep in mind that there are some GREAT state flagship schools for CS (U-Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin).

    As for taking both Math & CS together, depending on your emphasis, you do not need to double major. In many schools, many of the upper-level Math and CS courses are cross-listed (meaning offered jointly by both departments), so those courses can in a way "double count". U-Illinois and Wisconsin (and U-Maryland and NYU in grad programs) basically have so many cross-listed Math/CS courses that one can fulfill requirements of both a Math and CS degree within the number of credits that it takes for one degree.

    Computational Mathematics (my undergrad major), without any electives gives you some of both areas BUT would fall short of fulfilling both degrees...but still could be your focus area.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Posts: 36,960Registered User Senior Member
    Those public schools you named are highly respected for CS and math, so you should not be disappointed if you go there. However, whichever is in-state may be a good deal cost-wise, but the out-of-state ones are likely to be expensive with little financial aid available.
  • disregardn4m3disregardn4m3 Posts: 69Registered User Junior Member
    Yeah I live in Pennsylvania and I really don't want to go to Penn State I'd prefer a university in more of a liberal city type setting and I'd really prefer one with more notoriety specifically for mathematics and computer science such as the major public universities I listed. I really want to get to the top level courses in both mathematics and computer science and I'm at an advantage coming in at the highest placement. I was also wondering if double majoring would still allow me to provide enough attention to both majors for honors type programs or to still stand out because there is significant overlap. If anyone has any experience or has any other universities which I should consider private or public it would be greatly appreciated.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Posts: 36,960Registered User Senior Member
    You may want to look at your cost constraints. If they are significant, being in PA is not a very good situation, as Penn State (though perfectly respectable for CS) has poor financial aid even for in-state residents. Out of state public universities mostly don't give much financial aid (UVA and UNC-CH are exceptions). Check the net price calculators of the various schools you are considering.
  • GLOBALTRAVELERGLOBALTRAVELER Posts: 2,856Registered User Senior Member
    Like I mentioned in the other thread...it's Computer Science. If there ever was a college major that you do not have to "break the bank" for...Computer Science would be that major.

    I see it year after year after year at my employer....

    The new grads from the so-called "Top" schools work right next to the new grads from "state flagship" schools work right next to the new grads from 3rd-tier schools work right next to the new grads from "2+2" students (community college for 2 years, university for 2 years). All of them on similar projects doing similar tasks.
  • simba9simba9 Posts: 1,034Registered User Senior Member
    I work in a department of about 100 programmers and IT-folk. We have people in little, teeny-tiny cubicles from Harvard, Stanford, Cal, UCLA, USC and a bunch of other colleges.

    The guy who runs the department went to San Jose State.

    It doesn't matter where you get your undergrad CS degree.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Posts: 36,960Registered User Senior Member
    simba9 wrote:
    The guy who runs the department went to San Jose State.

    It doesn't matter where you get your undergrad CS degree.

    Actually, it does matter. San Jose State has a good and reasonably complete CS department, while some other schools like Emory, Amherst, and Georgetown have CS departments that are either too small and limited or overly specialized without covering the usual core areas.
    simba9 wrote:
    I work in a department of about 100 programmers and IT-folk.

    Jobs in IT (managing computers and their software) are not the same as job in CS (designing computers and their software).
  • simba9simba9 Posts: 1,034Registered User Senior Member
    ucbalumnus, as I've said before, I can tell you don't work in the industry. Nobody with a CS degree from Emory, Amherst or Georgetown is going to have their resume tossed into the trash because those programs are considered weak. 99.9% of hiring managers aren't going to know or care.
    Jobs in IT (managing computers and their software) are not the same as job in CS (designing computers and their software).

    That's an artificial, academic definition that doesn't apply in the business world. It's very common to have the "IT Department" employ all the software developers in a company. On the other hand, sometimes the IT Department primarily refers to the database group - both database administrators and database developers who write SQL. In the real world, there are no hard and fast definitions about what IT is or isn't

    Your point about San Jose State was irrelevant. I never said it was a bad school. I was trying to illustrate that you don't have to go to a top private or state flagship to be successful, while going to a top private or state flagship doesn't mean you're going to have advantages in the workplace over anyone else.

    If there's anything that drives me nuts on these threads, it's that so many people don't understand how different the business world is from the academic world.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Posts: 36,960Registered User Senior Member
    simba9 wrote:
    I can tell you don't work in the industry.

    Incorrect.
    simba9 wrote:
    Nobody with a CS degree from Emory, Amherst or Georgetown is going to have their resume tossed into the trash because those programs are considered weak.

    That may not happen, but the new graduate may find that those schools are not recruiting targets, and that substantial self-study may be needed to pass technical questions at interviews and do work on the job to make up for gaps in the curricula. Of course, that can be done by someone who is motivated (and often is by career changers), but someone who is interested in CS to begin with should consider going to a school with a more complete CS department.
    simba9 wrote:
    That's an artificial, academic definition that doesn't apply in the business world.

    It has been a rather clear cut distinction at private sector computer industry companies that I have worked at, except for very small companies where one of the software people does the IT stuff on the side.
  • DarthpwnerDarthpwner Posts: 998Registered User Member
    For research, I would especially recommend one of the top 3 UC's (Berkeley, LA, SD). Lots of opportunities to explore your interests in CS and work with some of the best professors in the field.
  • GLOBALTRAVELERGLOBALTRAVELER Posts: 2,856Registered User Senior Member
    That may not happen, but the new graduate may find that those schools are not recruiting targets, and that substantial self-study may be needed to pass technical questions at interviews and do work on the job to make up for gaps in the curricula. Of course, that can be done by someone who is motivated (and often is by career changers), but someone who is interested in CS to begin with should consider going to a school with a more complete CS department.

    Self-Study is going to be required regardless. Hell, schools are now just getting around to offering data warehousing courses or data analytics courses. Not long ago, schools would teach some glossy database course and barely touch on SQL...where the industry needed folks who could performance tune SQL statements. Well, the only ways to get that proficient with SQL was either learn on the job or have that practice server at home in the basement and shut yourself at home for a couple of weeks.

    That is the main reason why the SoftE/I.T. industry is not like the Business/Accounting/Finance industry. Only a few "think tank" companies and maybe the Google/Facebook are hiring folks based on mostly academics and "target schools". The rest of the companies want "hit the ground running" folks.

    For certain CS/SoftE technical areas, you can take a "2+2" grad who started at a community college and finished at an ONLINE CS PROGRAM and after 5-7 years (with a couple of job/employer hops) will make the same as the GaTech/Carneigie Mellon/UIUC grad.

    I know damn well I can be their academic advisor and tell them what to take.

    I have said it before and will say it again. Use those "top" schools for majors like Business, Accounting, Finance, Law and Medicine where those industries get more into all of that "school brand name" stuff. Computer Science, especially software engineering is NOT the industry to expect rewards for your school name. You are gonna be mad.

    I know I would be if I spent $160K-$200K for and undergrad CS degree and on my first day at work, I am alongside some grad who started at Anne Arundel Community College and finished their degree at University of Maryland-UNIVERSITY COLLEGE (the online school, not College Park).

    I see it everyday here at NSA.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Posts: 36,960Registered User Senior Member
    Self-Study is going to be required regardless.

    Yes, but the less complete your school's CS course offerings are, the more you will need to self-study in your first job or few for subjects that may have been a normal part of everyone else's schooling. Of course, at a school with more complete CS offerings, you still have to choose carefully.
  • simba9simba9 Posts: 1,034Registered User Senior Member
    You can only take so many classes in college. Outside of the particular languages taught, most CS programs generally cover the same core material. As long as you're in a program that offers that, you're going to be in good shape.

    A lot of higher level undergraduate CS classes are very theoretical.
    As GLOBALTRAVELER was suggesting, computer and software companies are more interested in practical knowledge, not theoretical knowledge. It's long been a complaint of companies needing CS grads that universities train their students for graduate school, not the workforce.

    That's why I don't think it's absolutely necessary to enroll in a CS program that has a wide variety of upper-level undergraduate classes. Employers are going to be interested in how well you know this or that language and operating system, and what kind of data structures you might use to solve a particular problem. They likely won't care how much you know about the theory of computation.

    I was looking at the CS programs at Emory, Georgetown and Amherst, which are some examples ucbalumnus gave as weak programs. As far as I'm concerned, those look perfectly fine for undergraduate study. The only possible issue was Amherst didn't seem to offer a database class. While that's one of those very nice to have classes, and most programmers will eventually deal with databases, there are plenty of entry-level jobs that don't require knowledge of databases.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Posts: 36,960Registered User Senior Member
    The bigger issue at Amherst is the infrequent offering of most of the CS courses beyond the introductory level (e.g. once every two years). The catalog is probably more of a wish list.

    Emory also has the infrequent offering issue to a lesser extent.

    Georgetown appears to be more specialized in terms of preparing for certain types of work (information warfare, data mining, security). Great if that is what you are into, but maybe not so great in other contexts.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Posts: 36,960Registered User Senior Member
    What it comes down to is, if a high school senior asked you about choosing a school to major in CS, would you suggest that s/he look for one with the more complete CS offerings?

    Note that this is different from whether you care about someone's school (or whether they went to college at all, or majored in CS in college) when deciding whether to hire someone. If someone know his/her stuff, it does not matter to me whether s/he learned it in school or on his/her own -- but if a student were choosing schools to major in CS, I would suggest that s/he choose one with a more complete set of CS course offerings.
«13
Sign In or Register to comment.