A Brief Guide to Getting into College as a Computer Science Major

NYU, MIT, or BC? NYU, MIT, or Boston College? Maybe none of them, considering their lower and lower acceptance rates!
These days, getting into college is a new level of insanity. From a perfect gpa to top test scores, the number of highly qualified applicants seems to grow in leaps and bounds, pushing acceptance rates lower and lower. For example, New York University's acceptance rate for the class of 2008 hovered around an acceptable 36%. In 2023, it dropped to only 8%! Over in the Boston area, it was easier to get into MIT (currently one of the hardest schools to get into at around 4% acceptance) for the class of 2008, than it is to get into Boston College today. That's not a knock against BC, but it definitely shows a trend, doesn't it?

Building Your "Story"

While there's no easy nor guaranteed way to get accepted into any school's computer science program, there are some things you can do to differentiate yourself. Most important is always your gpa/grades and test scores - the top quantifiable numbers are what gets you in the door. Once you're there, you need what many folks refer to as a "story". Who is the authentic you, what have you done in high school that reflects your genuine interests and passion? If you want to study CS, have you done coding contests, taught others to code, or taken years of coding lessons to show your exploration and progression? Elements like these all contribute to a story that college admissions officers look for, a story that greatly helps admissions chances when it aligns with a student's desired area of study.

How theCoderSchool Can Help Your College Application

Custom Code Coaching at theCoderSchool We teach kids with a custom curriculum, spanning from learning to code to explaining tech and even helping with Coder Stories
At theCoderSchool, we're not experts in college admissions, but we ARE experts in teaching kids to code. Unlike our competitors, our core program focuses on a small ratio for custom learning and individualized curriculum. With a personal Code Coach to guide them, kids are more engaged in learning the things that appeal to them most at the level they're most comfortable with. Best of all, the flexibility in our mentor-mentee model allows us to guide students in their Coder Story too. Not near one of our schools? We can even do it over Zoom. If you're curious about us, drop us your info and we'll set up a free trial.

We've taught many tens of thousands of students how to code, including some of whom have gone on to top schools like MIT and Stanford. With over 1,000+ Code Coaches and staff around the country, we've learned a few things since we started way back in 2014. That's why we wrote this guide on ways you can help yourself get into college as a computer science (or engineering) major. After all, learning to code isn't enough - kids need a story that matches their passion for coding, and that's what allows them to stand out from the sea of applicants.

We hope this letter from our CEO and our brief guide to building your "Coder Story" will help you stand out amongst the many other applicants to computer science programs as you go through your college application journey. Good luck!

A Letter from Our CEO

Hey Parents!

Maybe I’m biased, but I say CS is one of the best degrees to pursue. Studies have shown it to have one of the best returns and highest salaries of all majors. With artificial intelligence (AI) coming, there’ll be an even greater need for good coders to build and manage it. But getting into a college for CS? Now that’s a whole ‘nother story!

When I founded theCoderSchool way back in 2014, I never thought college applications would get this crazy - especially for computer science. Did anyone?! Since then I’ve gone through the college process twice with my own kids (and one more soon), and it’s an experience to behold (and not in a good way, either!).

One thing I learned is it’s about the gpa and test scores first, but the student’s “story” is a close second. Those who want to study computer science should have what we call a “Coder Story” - a profile that shows a student’s real passion for all things coding.

To help build your story, we’ve put together some options to consider. Remember that there is no single “best story,” your student's best story is the one that fits them most. A story they write about their authentic selves, not a story we parents and teachers dictate to them.

Whether yours will pursue computer science in college or not, we wish all our students the greatest success on their college application journey and beyond. (And to the parents - we wish you the least amount of stress as you guide them!)

Happy Coding!
-Hansel Lynn
Founder/CEO, theCoderSchool

Questions to Get Started

What’s a Coder Story?

A Coder Story helps answer “who are you?”, a common question for any college application. It’s made up of all the things a student has done that shows their unique interest in coding, and helps to bolster their chances of acceptance into a CS program. When a college admissions officer knows a student wants to study something in particular, what they want to see is the interest from that student in exploring that topic throughout high school. For CS Majors, that's a Coder Story!

What’s in My Story?

Importantly, there is no “best story.” Each student has their own story; it’s this uniqueness that helps them stand out from a field of other college applicants. Equally important, a student’s story shouldn’t be forced - colleges are looking for a student’s genuine passion, not what their parents asked (or paid for) them to do. Our list of story elements isn't meant to be a checklist. If it were that easy, the acceptance rates wouldn't be so low! Please use our list as inspiration to dig deeper into whatever aspects of coding is most interesting. The best part is coding can be social, technical, research-oriented, or many other things - it's up to you to find out what aspect(s) of software engineering drives you the most.

How Do I Build a Story?

There’s no better way than to try! Just like the younger days when kids tried different activities to see what fits, students should try different aspects of coding to see what they gravitate to. Some kids are competition- focused, others might be web-focused or even game-focused. The key is to show a progression as they continue to code. This progression can get deeper (start with our coding contests, then join more contests) or wider (do many things to show you're exploring), as long as there's more added to the story as you advance in your coding.

How Can theCoderSchool Help?

Our jam is teaching kids to code, that's what we do with thousands of kids across the country every week, and have done with many tens of thousands of kids since 2014. We teach in a very custom format, and small-ratio, allowing us to individualize the content, including using the lesson to help with building a Coder Story. It's important to understand we aren't experts in college admissions, but we do know what is possible in the world of coding. Some of our suggested options are a part of our program, while others are just suggestions that are driven by the student themselves outside of our school.

What Does It Cost?

If you're currently a student, we can help you build out a story as part of our standard Code Coaching program. Our Code Coaching progam is flexible enough to teach coding as well as provide story guidance. However, note that you may be asked to go to private lessons or a different student pairing, depending on your needs. Private lessons or additional support hours may require additional charges. If you're not a current student, consider joining us! We have locations around the country, and prefer the more intimate setting of an in-person session. However, if you're not near a location, we can provide our services remotely too.

Coder Story Elements

theCoderSchool's Coder Story Our Coder Story poster from our schools
So what chapters will make up your story? That's up to you! We've come up with a list below as a starting point. Remember, your goal is two-fold. First, do the things that are uniquely you, and authentically interesting to you. Don't do it because it's on a website, and don't do it because someone said you have to. Although feel free to try anything and everything to see what it is that drives you - you never know until you try. Second, embellish and expand on the story. Our suggested elements are just a starting point - don't just check off the list, use it as a starting point to dig deeper. The deeper you get, the more you show college admissions officers who you are, the better the chances of acceptance.

Our suggestions below are in a general progression of skill level and age, though they aren't strict nor exact. Some are programs that we offer within our schools, others are here merely as suggestions for something you can try. In any case, if you are a student with us, we're more than happy to help find your story as you learn to code.

Remember, this isn't a checklist, it's a starting point. It’s up to the students to do the work! We at theCoderSchool are happy to help both teach a student how to code as well as help them develop their unique Coder Story through various extracurricular activies related to coding. If you have a college counselor, we're happy to connect with them as well to make sure your Coder Story is in sync with your application. If you're ready to give us a try, drop us your info to get a free in-person (or online) trial. If you're not ready, that's ok too! We hope this guide was helpful and wish you the best of luck developing your own Coder Story. We'll be here if you need us!

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What is theCoderSchool? We are an after-school drop-off (and virtual) program for kids learning to code - a coding school! There's after-school kung fu. There's after-school music lessons, sports, art, tutoring, Chinese, you name it, it's out there. But coding classes for kids? We're among the first of many, and the largest in Silicon Valley with more locations on the way around the country. The future will be ever more dependent on technology so let's get our young generation ready. Learn to Code, Change the World®. Check out our Carrollwood, Westerville, and Folsom location or all locations.

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