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

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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
Unlike our competitors, our core program focuses on a small ratio for custom learning and individualized curriculum. Our kids learn through immersion by skipping boring curriculum and going right to building custom apps that they design themselves, with help from our coaches. With over 1,000+ Code Coaches around the country, we have the technical expertise to cover most any area you can think of. Headquartered in Silicon Valley and teaching since 2014, we've gotten pretty good with building unique apps with our students that help them stand apart from the rest. Not near one of our schools? We can even do it over Zoom. Try us out with a free trial whenever you're ready.

How Collegewise Can Help Your College Application

Collegewise was founded by Kevin McMullin in 1999 and has since helped over 28,000 students gain acceptance to great schools where they can thrive. Kevin realized that for too many families, the college admissions process was overwhelming and ultimately unsuccessful so he set out on a mission to address common pain points and create a more joyful experience for students and parents. Whether your teenager is trying to map out a plan for a school like MIT, simply exploring their path and figuring out what might be the right type of school and major for them, or somewhere in between, we'll pair them with a trustworthy expert who has helped countless students in similar situations.

Our expert counselors provide 1-1 strategic college application guidance for every step of the admissions process. Our programs often include, but are not limited to;

Interested to learn more? Visit our Collegewise website, check out our free college resources, or schedule a free consultation.

A Letter from Our CEOs

Hi Parents!

These days, computer science is a hot major. 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? That's a different story.

With college acceptance, 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 theCoderSchool calls a “Coder Story” - a profile that shows a student’s real passion for all things coding.

To help build your own unique story, we’ve put our heads together to come up with some options to consider. While theCoderSchool can help guide students through their stories, Collegewise can help nuture those stories and use them as input while guiding college applications.

Whether yours will pursue computer science in college or not, we both 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!

Good Luck!

-Hansel Lynn
Founder/CEO, theCoderSchool

-Anjali Bhatia
CEO, Collegewise

Questions to Get Started

What’s a Coder Story?

A Coder Story is the CS-specific version of your story, and 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 the "Best" 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 tCS + CW Help?

theCoderSchool and Collegewise are two different companies with complementary expertise that partnered together to help guide aspiring Computer Science majors. theCoderSchool can help students build their Coder Story and develop custom app(s) with direct guidance from expert Code Coaches. Collegewise can help students determine their best strategy for applying to college, and help them tell their best story in their application to maximize their chances at acceptance. Together, we hope to help more students achieve their dream of majoring in Computer Science in college. Programs offered separately.

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 offered at theCoderSchool, others are here as suggestions for something you can try on your own.

Remember, this isn't a checklist, it's a starting point. It’s up to the students to do the work! We at theCoderSchool and Collegewise are happy to help both teach a student how to code as well as help them develop their unique Coder Story along with a strong college application. We hope this guide was helpful and wish you the best of luck. We'll be here if you need us!

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