April 6, 2021

The Programming Major Application: Admission 101

In a sea of computer science applications, how can yours stand out and win over admissions officers?

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“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

College applications are a formidable beast to conquer. With millions of students applying each year, there is an incredible amount of competition.

In a sea of applications, how can yours stand out and win over admissions officers?

The answer is experience, experience, and, of course, more experience.

Build a Portfolio of Code Projects

Laptop and large monitor on desk

Colleges often require a description of your skills and characteristics. They use these sections to determine if you fit into the expectations of their programs. In your applications, you’ll be requested to write a paragraph on accomplishments, another on your passions, and sometimes, you’ll need to verify all that information in the form of a resume.

It’s easier to write about programming accomplishments and passions when there’s tangible proof of them. After coding an array of apps, websites, or games, you’ll have concrete examples to draw from. Admissions officers search for applicants with contagious enthusiasm; if you reveal that you’ve already engaged in the coding field, you’ll stand out amongst the sea of college hopefuls.

Fortify Your Resume

A blank resume on a clipboard

Not all undergraduate admission programs require a resume. Many universities will consider that you are still young and might have only barely entered the professional world. If you’ve set your sights on Ivy Leagues, however, a resume is often required.

Regardless of your prospective list of colleges, it’s incredibly valuable to begin assembling a list of programming experiences. Similar to a portfolio, applying examples of work and volunteer experiences will give you a competitive advantage. Colleges want to admit students that exhibit potential. Presenting yourself as a determined self-starter with a list of accomplishments will make your potential apparent.

Take Extracurriculars

Two coworkers working together on a programming project

Universities search for individuals who will actively engage in campus life. To prove to your admissions officers that you’ll be an active member of their community, start finding ways to involve yourself outside of the bell schedule. Take advantage of the programs offered by your high school, join engineering clubs, and take after-school coding classes.

Plus, extracurricular experience is a great way to prove that you’ve developed a wide range of soft skills like leadership, communication, time management, and creativity.

Grades & SAT scores matter, but universities prefer applicants who excel both inside and outside the classroom.  If test taking isn’t your forte, you can significantly improve your admission chances by engaging in a myriad of activities.

Collect Programming Certifications

A graduate in cap and gown showing off certificate

College is difficult. You’ll likely find yourself challenged beyond what you’ve become used to in high school. Instead of homework and worksheets, your grades will mostly rely on projects, presentations, essays, and exams, especially when you reach upper-division courses. When admissions officers look over your applications, they evaluate your ability to succeed in a harsh college environment.

A collection of certificates will aid in simplifying your college experience. Instead of courses acting as your first exposure to concepts, you will already have a foundation of understanding to build upon. Admissions officers are fully aware of the value of such certifications and will have more confidence in an applicant that has already begun to understand the basics.

Computer Science is a highly competitive field - considered one of the most selective majors. To achieve enrollment in the field of your dreams, you’ll need to work hard at it. But, the effort is worth it.

Computer science jobs are in high demand, and attending college is one of the best ways to make valuable connections to jumpstart your career.

“And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)


Olivia has background in behavioral ecology and data analysis. She develops and implements SEO, CRO, social media strategy, and authors multi-disciplinary content for our blog, & our social media sites. She's contributed to many of the STEM tie-ins within our curriculum, authored our SEL course, and is a specialist in neurodiverse learning strategies.

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