Thanks to all of you who came down to the university’s open days last week, hope you found them useful. For those of you who couldn’t make it, don’t worry! To address several commonly-asked questions asked about the Computer Science department at Warwick, I’ve created this general Q&A to help you out. (This actually will be split into a two-part series, just to make it a bit more readable)
How is the first-year organised?
More detail on the course structure can be found through the department’s website (see link below), but essentially the goal of first year is to establish the core knowledge and skills you’ll need before diving into more advanced content. For this reason the optional module pool isn’t as broad unlike later years, so often people tend to choose similar options! Despite this though, I’ve found it rewarding linking concepts from different modules together – such as connecting ideas from maths to applications like databases or password hashing.
Which languages have you learnt?
To teach you the fundamentals, Java is used extensively throughout the programming and algorithm modules, along with C and Assembly during our computer architecture module. Plus since Linux is the OS used for the department machines, Bash is used frequently for writing terminal commands. However learning these languages specifically wasn’t the main focus this year, rather it was more about understanding the concepts behind them. In order to make it easier and faster for us to pick up new programming languages!
Alongside the main languages, I’ve also learnt how to effectively use a number of system tools, such as using SSH, Git, LaTeX and several different web-based languages!
What’s the gender ratio like?
Sadly within my year there is still a bit of gender imbalance with the majority of students being male. However please understand that this isn’t something that’s unique to Warwick and is getting better!
I’ve already got some programming experience already. Will it be too easy?
Despite the course teaching you how to program from scratch, this certainly doesn’t mean that the whole first year is a “walk in the park” if you have some experience already! Even if you find the first several programming lectures a bit simplistic to start with, the difficulty does ramp up as soon as the coursework period is in full flow. Plus the lab extension work, coursework assignments and module competitions really allow you to put your existing skills to the test and improve your designing ability.
However the degree certainty doesn’t just cover the ability to program (Computer Science is so much more than that!) but addresses a wider range of important skills. For instance this includes mathematical skills, explaining theoretical concepts, lab problem solving, delivering effective presentations, essay writing and project planning.
I’ve never programmed before or don’t have a lot of experience. Will I be disadvantaged?
No! As the course assumes no prior computing knowledge nor background to start, all you need is to meet the entry requirements and have a genuine interest in technology. Personally the only experience I had was playing around a little bit in my spare time, since I had no computing-specific qualifications.
However please don’t compare yourself to your course-mates in a self-critical way. Despite finding several of the lab sessions a bit of a struggle at first (particularly stressing about those who were able to either finish early or do some REALLY amazing things) this got better over time as I became more confident with both the work and my own ability.
What makes the CS department at Warwick special?
While other universities may say something similar, Warwick really does have a good balance between both theory and practice, along with the software and hardware aspects too. However the course here tries to address each dimension really well in their own right too – for most modules, the theory is rigorous and interesting but the practical side is both challenging and fun.
Plus no matter which CS degree you choose, the flexibility with optional modules here is also beneficial. The department gives you the ability to choose from a range of Computer Science and interdisciplinary modules from other departments. So if you have other interests in areas such as linguistics, natural sciences or psychology, there are alternative routes you can take!
Despite the department not being the largest compared to others, this really does create an informal and relaxing atmosphere to work in – the majority of the academic staff, support staff, technicians and students are very friendly and approachable if you have any questions.
Hope this helps and as always, please feel free to send me any questions online or privately. I will try my best to answer them for you!
Stay tuned for Part 2!
Structure of all offered CS degrees: https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/sci/dcs/teaching/courses/