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Computer Science Degree from a Liberal Arts College

nsrsfamilynsrsfamily Registered User Posts: 5 New Member
My son would do anything to attend a tech school like Michigan Tech, but I'm concerned his GPA and ACT will keep him from achieving that dream. He currently has a 3.1 GPA and just got a (yikes) 17 on his ACT. He attends a rigorous college prep private catholic high school so he has that going for him-and is probably the hardest working student when it comes to school, but he just doesn't test well-never has. He has many learning deficits that were discovered-but none were severe enough for him to be classified in any category but his school created a 504 for him to ensure he received some accommodations-which is great. He will take the ACT as many times as possible and is being tutored for it as well so I hope that score improves significantly. Anyways----with those scores and grades a liberal arts college might be his only way to go to start off but I'm concerned that many liberal arts schools don't have a killer computer science program. He likes a small school (less than 5,000 preferably) and in the midwest area (Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri) or Florida. I have spent HOURS upon HOURS researching the best small liberal arts colleges for computer science and never get anything. Any suggestions would be appreciated!
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Replies to: Computer Science Degree from a Liberal Arts College

  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 59,272 Senior Member
    https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/discussion/comment/19190340/#Comment_19190340 may be of interest. Check college web sites for updates, or for colleges not listed.
  • TooOld4SchoolTooOld4School Registered User Posts: 2,381 Senior Member
    edited March 18
    Your son can have additional time to complete the ACT since he has learning disabilities. Raising his ACT composite into the high 20's should be sufficient for Michigan Tech or MSU. Is that realistic?
  • MamaBear16MamaBear16 Registered User Posts: 1,021 Senior Member
    edited March 18
    Anyways----with those scores and grades a liberal arts college might be his only way to go to start off but I'm concerned that many liberal arts schools don't have a killer computer science program.

    I'm really not sure I understand why you think that getting into a LAC will be easy or that it would be his only option. Frankly, top LACs are just as hard to get into as top universities, and many state directionals are much easier admits. Probably the best LAC for CS would be Harvey Mudd, which is super selective in terms of admittance. Are you confusing liberal arts colleges with community college?
  • Snowball CitySnowball City Registered User Posts: 1,041 Senior Member
    edited March 18
    How much programming experience does he have right now? Which languages?

    If his ACT come up to the low to mid twenties, take a look at Simpson College near Des Moines
    http://simpson.edu/computer-science/
  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 Registered User Posts: 28,253 Senior Member
    @MamaBear16 : OP didn't say top lac, just lac.
    For kids who need more support, these are much better than directionals because they offer a lot of personal attention, there's no falling through the cracks.

    @nsrsfamily
    Is he willing to prep for tests/act?
    There are lots more possibilities if he can bring his act to 20-23.
    He could also apply to test optional colleges. For these, curriculum rigor is paramount, so make sure he takes honors and AP classes in the classes he can handle. He's at a rigorous prep school so as you say he has that going for him, but make sure he takes as much English and math as possible, plus philosophy if possible.
  • Gator88NEGator88NE Registered User Posts: 5,060 Senior Member
    A none/less selective LAC, is fine, as long as it offers a CS program.

    There is also nothing wrong with attending a local CC (or a LAC) for two years, and then transferring into a university, like Michigan Tech. In fact, by transferring, he can get into schools his test scores would never allow. Michigan also has other directional schools (like Eastern Michigan University) that are less selective than Michigan Tech, and that offer CS programs.

    Try using College Navigator to find likely schools that offer CS. Select your state, then under programs, select CS, and the select public or private(LAC) and search.

    https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/

    You mentioned Florida, so he's a listing of public 4 year universities that offer CS:

    https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?s=FL&p=11&ct=2&ic=1&pg=1

    Florida Institute of Technology (FIT), may be the type of school you're looking for, but it would require he score a bit better on the ACT (low 20's). Other privates to consider, include Barry, Eckerd, Florida Southern, Rollins, Jacksonville University, and Stetson.
  • momreadsmomreads Registered User Posts: 3,217 Senior Member
    First, have your son also take the SAT. Some students do better on that than the ACT.

    Second, a community college is a good alternative. Your son can get his general education classes done. He also may find it opens new doors to other schools.

    Third, my nephew graduated from a liberal arts school in Virginia with a degree in computer science. He was an okay test taker (compared to his kid brothers who were exceptional). He has done just fine in terms of landing a very nice job with a Northern Virginia company.
  • wis75wis75 Registered User Posts: 11,764 Senior Member
    edited March 20
    Discuss options with your son's guidance counselor. In your case I would advise you, not just your son, discuss colleges that would be appropriate for your son given his abilities. At some point he will need to be able to keep up with the work. This means figuring out if he is able to get the job done in a timely manner once he finishes college.

    The rigor of his HS does not mean lower grades are more acceptable to colleges. In some states the public schools can be much better than private, college prep schools- even in small towns. Students are expected to do well in their school. In college he will also face tests and needs to do well even with any accommodations. His GC should be able to have suggestions. The community college route sounds the most viable at this point. Perhaps his school (or the local CC) can offer testing for interest and aptitude to give other options as well.

    It would be nice for you to know if his grades reflect poor test results but that he does well on assignments.

  • mom23travelersmom23travelers Registered User Posts: 348 Member
    If you are open to a Christian (protestant) college you could check in to Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI. It has a small but mighty Computer Science department with great personalized attention from faculty. Your son would easily get admitted but would also have a rigorous curriculum and good potential job placement. The down side for a CS person is they take liberal arts very seriously so there is a much higher number of core classes required than is the norm for CS degrees. But if your kid likes learning in other areas as well it would be a good fit. They also have a great academic support system open to all students whether they have an official label or not.
  • MastadonMastadon Registered User Posts: 1,262 Senior Member
    Do you know if he is an "abstract" thinker or a "concrete" thinker? CS programs vary in their mix of "theory" vs. "application". LACS tend more to the former, tech schools to the latter. Finding a good match to his learning style could make his experience more pleasant...
  • kac425kac425 Registered User Posts: 219 Junior Member
    Go to niche, put in CS and his scores and you can then narrow further by region if you want.

    there are schools that he will get into. they may not be some wildly prestigious program, they probably wont be michigan tech, but he can certainly go to a 4 year school for computer science if thats what he wants to do. they exist. not everyone gets a perfect standard score. more than likely, it will be the type of schools that you dont find sub-boards for here, but that doesnt mean he cant get a solid education in his chosen field.

    carefully check the transfer paths if thats something he is considering--either from CC's or "lower tier" U's so that you both dont waste time, energy or money. for some majors, it can be very tough to transfer in, others its easy--it all depends, but do your homework.

    since his score is on the low side and he has a 504, think about applying for accomodations for testing. it takes a bit of time, so dont wait if you think he can benefit from them--speak to guidance asap and start the process.

    hopefully you got the report with the act that can help you see where he scored low (SAT has one, i assume the ACT does to) and see if there is any value in prepping.

    good luck--test scores dont make the man!

  • megan12megan12 Registered User Posts: 627 Member
    Ditto to what Mastadon said. CS is a huge field - what is he interested in within that field?

    My son was also a CS major, and he attended a small LAC. It wasn't his first choice (or his second), and we were very concerned about them being able to provide the education he would need in that field. At first, he was interested in creating computer games (what computer geek isn't? LOL!), but then he realized that he was more passionate about psychology/neuroscience and research. He received a double major, and because he has the CS background, he's very marketable in research labs.

    He ultimately had a very good education in CS (theoretical as Mastadon mentioned) and is using it to his advantage now. His friend, who was also a CS major is now working at Amazon with a starting salary of $95,000.

    The CS department at this LAC was not large, and it was not one of the college's strongest. But it gave my son the background he needed to advance in his career. So I guess my message to you is don't overthink it. I know exactly how you're feeling because I was there, but everything worked out fine.

    That being said, I would consider Mastadon's advice about concrete/application thinking vs. abstract/theoretical.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 59,272 Senior Member
    Mastodon wrote:
    Do you know if he is an "abstract" thinker or a "concrete" thinker? CS programs vary in their mix of "theory" vs. "application". LACS tend more to the former, tech schools to the latter. Finding a good match to his learning style could make his experience more pleasant...

    The strongest CS departments will have plenty of both.
  • HannaHanna Registered User Posts: 13,905 Senior Member
    Go to fairtest.org and look at the list of schools that don't require the ACT or SAT. If he is socially ready for the experience of going away to a four-year school, there are lots of them that don't ask for the score.
  • MastadonMastadon Registered User Posts: 1,262 Senior Member
    @ucbalumnus - Given the high demand for CS these days, a 3.1 GPA and a 17 ACT isunlikely to get an applicant into one of the "strongest CS departments" that you are probably thinking about - and even if they could, it may not be a good fit.

    Food for thought - a team of hard working students from Mass Bay Community College recently placed ahead of two teams from Middlebury College and two teams from Wellesley College in a regional programming contest...

    http://www.massbay.edu/Press-Releases/MassBay-Students-Place-3rd-at-National-Consortium-for-Computing-Sciences-in-Colleges-for-the-Northeastern-Region.aspx

    https://cs.hamilton.edu/ccscne/

    Here are some colleges involved in the CCSC Midwest Region
    https://www.ccsc.org/midwest/conference/past-conferences.php

    http://www.ccsc.org/regions/calendar/student-contests/
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