Computer Science at Warwick: The Golden Open Days
Following my previous post on open-days à la Disney, here’s a special (… and relatively normal) edition for my fellow Computer Science students.
On open days, one can start to unravel the mysteries of university life. How exciting! I was so intrigued that I’ve been to two open days at the Department of Computer Science (DCS) at Warwick. Here’s what I have to say based on my experience…
Life in DCS
Here’s the key thing about studying at university. It’s not just about absorbing information from books. Not to be too dramatic, but my department is my home base; an oasis in the chaos that is university life.
I know that computer scientists are champions of logical thinking and analysis, but here’s something that I urge you to do:
Consider how it feels to be in the department.
At the beginning of my university search, I was attracted to new, shiny high-tech equipment like a moth to a flame.
How powerful are the processors? RAM? Graphics cards?
When comparing top universities these really aren’t the main concerns, because you can trust that the computers do the job (or they wouldn’t be top departments).
It’s the little – often intangible – things that really make a difference. That means teaching quality, in particular. Having completed my first year, I can confirm that I’m more affected by the fact that we have a microwave and a cute little common room than the fact that we have powerful computers.
It’s critical to understand the course structure – not every Computer Science degree is exactly the same! And there’s even subtext.
It indicates the department’s attitude towards research and teaching.
A department such as DCS actively encourages interdisciplinary research. As such, there’s this notion that learning ‘beyond’ Computer Science can be beneficial to a student who has a wide range of interests (like me!). As such, we have the option to take modules in Economics, Business, Philosophy or even something ‘unusual’ like Design.
Different universities offer various degrees of specialisation at different times. Why? This is a good thing to ask the staff. For example, in DCS there is a lot of emphasis on covering all the ‘basics’ in the first and second years, with the option to specialise a lot in the third year. This is through optional modules and also having different streams.
Talking to current students and staff
This is potentially the most valuable part of an open day.
Want to know what it’s actually like to do the degree? Talk to the students! We’ve lived through at least a year of it – and have survived to tell the tale. I’ll be around on both of these open days, so if we manage to find each other, I’d love to have a chat!
It’s always a good idea to talk to staff members as well, even if it isn’t particularly in the form of a question. I distinctly remember having a lovely chat with one of the lecturers about my university choices, which helped me decide between two of them.
(And plus, it turns out that this lecturer is an actual legend – 11/10 for both educational quality and entertainment).
Overall, a lot of valuable information comes from people, so make sure you don’t miss out on this great resource. You may be talking to your future course mates and lecturers. If not, then it’s not necessarily a waste. I was particularly inspired by talking to a lecturer at another university (that I didn’t end up choosing), which really gave me a lot to think about.
Student and staff demos
This is very inspiring, and one of my favourite parts of the open day. We get to see what Computer Scientists can actually do.
Third-year students demonstrate their projects – whether that is a game, swarm robots or a drone… It’s proof that students actually learn something on the course! Even now, the memory of seeing these projects keeps me going.
Staff demos are a great insight into research in DCS. This may seem irrelevant to the fresh-eyed undergraduate, but particularly in the third year, you’ll need to find a supervisor whose research interests ideally align with yours. Computer Science departments at different universities have their own research strengths – which ones interest you?
Remember, on open days you can be as nosy as you want! Don’t hold back!
Hope to see you there!