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Computer Science Program at Pomona College?

donutheadmomdonutheadmom Registered User Posts: 16 New Member
edited February 2011 in Parents Forum
Hi. I am new to posting at CC. Please bear w/ me if I do anything incorrect. I wanted to ask parents if they have heard anything about the quality of the Computer Science Program at Pomona College in Claremont, CA. My son is interested in LAC's in CA, but also is very interested in C.S. Based on my research, except for Santa Clara University (and Stanford, but not sure if Stanford is a LAC), no LAC's in CA seem to jump out at me w/ strong C.S. programs. Any info about Pomona College's C.S. program, or of good C.S. programs of any LAC's in CA that you can offer is greatly appreciated!
Post edited by donutheadmom on
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Replies to: Computer Science Program at Pomona College?

  • ucsd_ucla_daducsd_ucla_dad Registered User Posts: 8,573 Senior Member
    I don't know about Pomona but Harvey Mudd College (one of the Claremont colleges along with Pomona) is pretty highly respected for CS.
  • moonchildmoonchild Registered User Posts: 3,296 Senior Member
    I second Harvey Mudd. While you can major at Pomona in CS, I believe the program is small and combined with Mudd's program.
  • donutheadmomdonutheadmom Registered User Posts: 16 New Member
    ucsd_ucla_dad & moonchild, thanks so much for your replies! We did visit Harvey Mudd. I know Harvey Mudd is categorized as a LAC, but it seemed to us that it was mostly a science/math college. Although my son is strongest in math & science, he also enjoys literature and philosophy, and other subjects extending beyond math & science. He also would like a small environment. Seems that this fits perfectly within the definition of a LAC. However, the challenge is that he would like to pursue Computer Science at a CA LAC. If you have any other ideas, I would love to hear from you!
  • fogcityfogcity Registered User Posts: 3,228 Senior Member
    If your son is sure that he wants to do Computer Science at a serious level -- as a career at a first-rate company then it is illogical for him to attend an LAC. He might get lucky, perhaps at a place like Williams and pull himself into the mainstream computer science after graduation or at a second job after he's earned his stripes at the first.

    Computer Science training required a stream of technical courses, professors with a keen (and continued) connection to the industry, and other students (kindred spirits) in the field.

    If he wants to dabble in computer science, then an LAC will do, but it's hard to understand in today's competitive landscape why anyone would want to dabble. The competition for jobs in computer science is international, and the competition (in India, in Russia, in Poland, etc.) doesn't dabble.
  • ucsd_ucla_daducsd_ucla_dad Registered User Posts: 8,573 Senior Member
    Since Mudd is part of the Claremont college system I believe he can take courses at some of the other colleges as well - About HMC

    Both of my kids were CS majors although at UCs. The major was a pretty rigorous one at both campuses and requires a lot of time to take all the courses (by this I mean time within the 4 year period) and the courses themselves take quite a bit of work and are challenging. They do take courses other than strictly CS/math/science/engineering (depending on interests - history, music, econ, etc. depending on interests and requirements) although not a huge number of them. Of course, one could take additional courses if one really wanted to but it could extend the time to get the degree depending on how much he wants to take.

    I suggest he (and you) check the sample course schedules for 4 years at a few of the campuses with higher end CS programs to get an idea of the number of GEs one can fit in. You can often find this online at the particular college -

    From Mudd - HMC CS: Sample Schedules
    From UCSD - UCSD Department of Computer Science and Engineering: BS Computer Science: Four-Year Plan
  • SuinSuin Registered User Posts: 182 Junior Member
    Harvey Mudd is considered a LAC but it is a technical school and you won't have any of the problems that fogcity mentioned with a CS degree from Mudd. Mudd students are required to take at least 10-11 humanities classes and are able to take at least 6 of them at any of the 4 other Claremont colleges with nearly zero restrictions. You can therefore get the technical aspect from Mudd and the literature and philosophy from Pomona, Claremont McKenna, and Scripps, all of which are great humanities schools. As long as he is certain he will want to major in CS and not switch to literature he'll be fine. Mudd itself has a great, though small, humanities department. If that isn't enough humanities for him, then as said above, Pomona has a CS department that allows students to take classes at Mudd.
  • ZetesisZetesis Registered User Posts: 1,855 Senior Member
    FWIW: My D and her fiance are both graduates of an LAC (relatively unknown on CC). She received several full tuition + stipend scholarships to excellent PhD programs, and her fiance got a great job as a software developer.
  • donutheadmomdonutheadmom Registered User Posts: 16 New Member
    Everyone, thank you so much for all your input! For a first-time poster at CC, I appreciate all this insight and experience. I think the views of fogcity and Zetesis address some of my questions, which is (1) If my son sticks with a major in CS at a LAC, would it hurt his chances of employment in the industry if he gets his undergrad degree at a LAC, which (excepting Harvey Mudd) would have limits in terms of the breadth of CS classes available than if he attended either a "science/math" college or a large college (such as one of the UC's. ucsd_ucla_dad, just a wild guess, but I'm guessing your kids went to UCLA and UCSD!), and (2) Same question, but instead of regarding a job after his undergrad, if he goes to graduate school.

    Moonchild, ucsd_ucla_dad, and Suin, thanks for all the input about the Harvey Mudd/Pomona/Claremont Colleges CS program and Humanities classes! It seems like exacly what my son would love, with HM providing the CS expertise, and the other consortium colleges providing the Humanities! Does anyone know if the CS classes at HM (and maybe the math classes too?) are killer-hard? My son is bright, but he is not driven. I heard the engineering classes at HM are killer-hard. I guess it would safe to assume the CS classes (and math) at HM likewise would be extremely challenging.

    Zetesis, do you mind if I ask if your daughter's LAC was in Ca? Also, did this LAC have an exceptionally great science program, like some of the LACs (mostly outside of CA) may have?
  • ZetesisZetesis Registered User Posts: 1,855 Senior Member
    ^^^

    While we live in SoCal, D went to school in the midwest. I'm not sure whether the school had an "exceptionally great science program." She got a BA; but they also offer a BS and a BCS (her fiance got the BCS; this degree is accredited by the ABET). Grads from the department place in the 96th percentile on the CS specific GRE; students have gone onto top programs in CS (MIT, Stanford); they have been hired by major firms (Google, MS, IBM, and non-computer specific firms). [Disclaimer: my D is not at either MIT or Stanford; and future SIL doesn't work for any of these firms; but they are at very good places.]
  • UrooglaUroogla Registered User Posts: 1,431 Senior Member
    FWIW I have a friend at Harvey Mudd. The intro course crushed her love for computer science, and she has been frustrated with her limited ability to take courses at other schools because of scheduling issues. She is, however, strongly interested in theatre in addition to mathematics, so she's been unhappy with the opportunities offered her at a primarily math/science school. I don't think her experience is typical, but it may be that your child is not perfectly suited for HM if his interests outside CS are strong enough (and if he's not highly motivated, I'd imagine the courses might be too much; they have a reputation for being difficult and time consuming for everyone). Keep in mind, of course, that this is based on what I've heard from friends and not personal experience.
  • ucsd_ucla_daducsd_ucla_dad Registered User Posts: 8,573 Senior Member
    Does anyone know if the CS classes at HM (and maybe the math classes too?) are killer-hard? My son is bright, but he is not driven. I heard the engineering classes at HM are killer-hard. I guess it would safe to assume the CS classes (and math) at HM likewise would be extremely challenging.
    I don't know the specifics but since HM has a high threshold for those admitted (i.e. they have a very high average SAT/ACT and stats) and since CS in general is known to be a difficult major, then I think the assumption that the CS/math/etc. courses at HM would be very challenging is a valid one. The same is generally true at any school with a highly ranked CS program including where my kids have attended. At these UCs roughly 30-35% will likely end up switching majors out of CS and into another major - often outside of engineering/CS altogether. The CS major requires a lot of difficult work, for example sometimes needing to do a program that'll take 25 or more hours in a week to complete in addition to the HW in the same course plus other difficult courses and it's not rote work - it requires analytical thinking, initiative in learning what they don't actually teach, etc. and it's fairly exacting and objective and perhaps not quite as easy to hammer out like a typical paper one writes based on reading material. Some people go into it because they like playing video games or social networking or something and they quickly find out that CS is completely different. They might decide they don't really like it because it isn't what they thought it was going to be, they're not willing to do the amount of work required (especially when many in other majors have so much free time), or they can't actually comprehend the subject matter of CS and higher level math well enough to do the work. Some colleges, the UCs included, tend to have 'weeder' classes up front where people figure out quickly whether they should be in it or not at that U and should either switch to another major or go to a U with a less intensive program.

    But of course, there are many students who can meet the challenge and enjoy it. For these students they can reap some rewards if finding a pretty good job marketplace (even now) and among the higher starting salaries of the majors.
  • CountingDownCountingDown Registered User Posts: 13,034 Senior Member
    OP, whether or not a CS program at an LAC would be right for your son depends on the background he brings to the table. S1 is a math/CS guy and was told by a well-regarded west coast LAC that they would not be able to keep him busy for four years. He's unusual, to be sure, but not THAT unique. S1 also wanted the humanities emphasis, which was why we visited the school. Ultimately found that a research university with very strong humanities offered more depth, though he is hitting its limits to some extent there as well.

    Keep in mind that HMC's program requires a lot of math -- for everyone. If he is not strong in math, this can really bite him in the tail. The CS program is heavily algorithm-driven, as any good program should be. There are some LACs out there that offer a 3/2 CS program -- Reed offers one with three years there, and two at UW-Seattle.

    S1 has a couple of friends at Mudd in CS and they are pretty happy, though they say it is MUCH harder than one would expect. S was accepted to Mudd, visited three times, talked to profs and had it at the top of his list until the very end of April. His options were UChicago, Mudd, MIT and a full ride in CS/Math at UMD.

    Feel free to PM me.
  • donutheadmomdonutheadmom Registered User Posts: 16 New Member
    ucsd_ucla_dad and Uroogla, the information you convey based on your kids' experience or the experience of a friend is so invaluable to me. This is what I want, to find out the experiences of kids who did, are doing, or tried to do a CS major. I had no idea that roughly 35% of students who major in CS at the UC's switch majors b/c of the difficulty and time-consuming nature of the major. And I read stories about HM and Cal Tech classes (not just CS, but math and engineering too) that have crushed the confidence of some kids. If my kid was bright AND very driven, I wouldn't worry about him applying to a place like HM, Cal Tech, etc. Thanks so much for all this information!

    ucsd_ucla_dad, were your kids very motivated in high school? Or did they change during the course of their time at college?

    CountingDown, do you mind my asking what LAC told you and your son that they would not be able to keep him busy, or if not, where was it located? (It may be one he is looking at.) Also, may I ask whether the research university w/ strong humanities was located in CA or West Coast, and if so, may I have the name? I scanned posts on other threads here at CC about colleges with 3/2 CS programs (Oxy offers this too, with Cal Tech), and it seems there are significant downsides for my son, given his personality in doing 3 years at one college, and then 2 at a different one.

    Zetesis, your D's college sounds like a great one for a CS major. What state was it located in? Did she have some difficulty adjusting to the climate (I assume the winters were a lot colder than SoCal's)? Would she go there again? Would she recommend the college to a friend?
  • colorado_momcolorado_mom Registered User Posts: 8,652 Senior Member
    "My son is bright, but he is not driven." -

    If that's true, you really should consider striking Mudd off the list. Especially if he is not certain that he would major in CS (or Engineering or math/science). Mudd requires a lot of Humanities classes, but it has the technical intensity of a CalTech or MIT.

    Mudd is a great school, but ALL of the students work reallllly hard. I think 27% of the admitted students were valedicorians. Also tons of NMF. These kids are already used to working hard and still have to kick it up a notch for college.

    Maybe there is a way your son could do a CS program this summer to validate his interests. Then you'll know whether to lean more toward his LAC preference or CS.
  • ucsd_ucla_daducsd_ucla_dad Registered User Posts: 8,573 Senior Member
    There are the 3/2 programs (3 at the LAC, 2 at the more engineering oriented college) but if you add that up it amounts to 5 years and the cost increases accordingly of course, in both the extra year of tuition/housing as well as the year of lost income from the delay into the workplace. One could also do the equivalent at a flagship state U generally.

    Has your S completely discounted places like the UCs (assuming you're in state)? Due to their size they offer a lot of majors, a lot of courses, other opportunities, and can be less expensive on top of that. If one decides they don't like a particular major there are lots of others all across the board they could switch to. Of course it may not be for everyone.

    It's not always easy to predict how one will perform in college or in a more rigorous setting. They might not seem as driven at the HS level but sometimes it's because they're bright enough they don't really 'need' to be or it can be a maturity thing. This can change quickly once they're in college and see the pace and perhaps realize that they're now more in the driver's seat for how their life will turn out. It can go the other way too of course, with them getting derailed by partying, slacking, overwhelmed, etc.

    Make sure you think about matches not just from the perspective of what he'd find appealing but also as far as likelihood of getting an admission offer - 'reaches', 'matches', and 'safeties'. You can generally ballpark this by comparing your S's SAT/ACT scores and GPA against the average and 25/75 percentile of those who were admitted at a particular school and that can be gleaned from the college's website keeping in mind that sometimes for engineering/CS some colleges have a higher threshold for admission than the college of letters and sciences. It can also give you an idea of the cohort of students (aka 'competition' and setting of the pace for courses) he'll be surrounded by. For example, here's UCLA's - Profile of Admitted Freshmen, Fall 2009 - UCLA Undergraduate Admissions

    I'm happy to give you more details on CS that I might think I know if you'd like to PM me (PM = 'private message' on CC - click the name and select the option but you'd need to have allowed yourself to be PM'd as well).
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