Should I transfer to complete my cs degree?
February 13, 2011 2:08 AM   Subscribe

UT Austin vs. UT Dallas computer science.

Hello, I am currently a college freshman attending the University of Texas at Dallas majoring in computer science. While the campus leaves a whole helluva lot to be desired in a lot of ways, the one thing I really do like about the school is the classes along with the professors. I have the full ride AES honors scholarship which includes full tuition, $1500 for room and board, along with $2000 for books and supplies. Anyway, I was wondering if from a purely professional standpoint, not taking into account all the fun I could potentially be having (or loneliness and alienation I could also potentially be experiencing) at UT Austin, if transferring there to complete my computer science degree would make sense, or if once I get my foot in the door with my first job it will even matter. Thanks.
posted by bookman117 to Education (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The best thing to do is call a prof at the other place and ask if you can sit in on some classes. Explain your situation, why you are thinking of transferring, and if you could meet up. I predict she/he will be happy to have you come over. The admissions office might even spring for a room for the night.
posted by parmanparman at 2:24 AM on February 13, 2011

No doubt about it. Go to UT-Austin for computer science.

P.S. I graduated from UTCS.
posted by jchaw at 3:48 AM on February 13, 2011

Some recent highlights...

a) The Bill and Melinda Gates Computer Science Complex and Dell Computer Science Building is scheduled to open next year.

b) In 2010, four faculty members became ACM fellows.

c) A faculty member won the Turing award in 2007.

d) All major high-tech companies actively recruit from our department twice a year, e.g., Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, MSFT, etc.

e) The department is rich and brings in more than enough research dollars to not be bothered by other riff-raffs in the UT system.
posted by jchaw at 3:56 AM on February 13, 2011

Dallas=not such a great or diverse place to live
Austn=fantastic place to live, very diverse

Remember: you become like your environment
posted by Murray M at 4:23 AM on February 13, 2011

Among academic computer scientists, Austin has a better reputation. If you are considering grad school, transferring (and doing as well there) would help.
posted by procrastination at 7:03 AM on February 13, 2011

Outside of Texas, UT Austin has a much better reputation than UT Dallas. Depending on what you're want to do after you graduate, this may or may not matter. If you want to work for one of the "big name" companies like Apple, Microsoft or Pixar, or if you want to go into algorithmic trading the name on your degree definitely matters. However, if you're looking to go straight to graduate school then you should probably keep your scholarship for undergrad and get a prestigious name on your graduate degree.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 7:08 AM on February 13, 2011

I'm not a Texan or a computer science major or even a college student. But University of Texas at Austin has more name recognition nationally, if that matters to you. Which, frankly, it should. Whether or not it is good that schools become known by their name and not by the strength of their curriculum or your experience there, it remains a fact that when potential employers screen resumes, the names of schools with which they are familiar get better treatment that the schools that have no brand name.
posted by dfriedman at 7:48 AM on February 13, 2011

Definitely apply. You can make your decision later.

If you are even thinking about going to UT Austin in the fall, apply for scholarships by 1 March. There's another deadline on 1 April, but you'll miss an opportunity to get some of the scholarships. Depending on whether you get scholarships or how much financial aid you get, that might affect your decision later.

Apply for admission to the Turing Scholars and Dean's Scholars programs (although I know DS is pretty challenging to get into as a transfer student, and I bet TS is too).

I got my undergraduate degree from UT Austin, and it has a great reputation nationally, and within science/engineering fields, internationally as well. UT Dallas doesn't have nearly that reputation. If you want to go to grad school, I'd say going to UT Austin is a no-brainer (I'd disagree with martinX's bellbottoms on this). The same goes for working at high-profile programming firms, as described earlier. The potentially increased costs might affect your decision otherwise, but you don't yet know exactly how much UT Austin costs, since you might be eligible for scholarships there. When you do, calculate how much additionally your cost of education will be for each year, and the whole three years, and also consider whether you will have to take out loans for that.
posted by grouse at 8:50 AM on February 13, 2011

I don't know much about either of the cities, but Austin has TACC.

But, if you like your classes and feel like you're learning and you have a full scholarship, I don't see why you should transfer. Are you interested in grad school?
posted by demiurge at 9:05 AM on February 13, 2011

Austin is a great and all, but calculate how much debt you'll be in before you make your decision. Plenty of people with engineering and computer science degrees have great jobs, even the ones from less prestigious schools. But go ahead and apply and see if you can get any good scholarships (and apply asap).
If you stay in Dallas, try to get an internship at one of the many big companies there like cisco, TI, raytheon, etc.
posted by Neekee at 9:08 AM on February 13, 2011

A lot of this depends on how much you can afford to spend. And by afford, I mean without selling yourself into debt slavery. If in-state Texas tuition is reasonable, and you can afford the extra costs - by all means, go. UT Austin has a great reputation as a CS school - probably not quite as much as some of the super academic powerhouses, but definitely in their league. And Austin itself is a nice town. But even if you stay at UT-Dallas, don't feel like you'll never have a good job. I went to a pedestrian state school that no one outside the NYC metro area has probably heard of, and I now work for a company that would've never bothered recruiting at my school (although my employer is not one of the holy grail companies that many undergrads aspire to).
posted by Calloused_Foot at 9:27 AM on February 13, 2011

Hey there, I'm a UTD alum, with an almost-CS degree (took too many electives, ended up with a BA in something else, but I was about 80% of the way there when I went off the rails), who went there because I got the full ride. A very close friend is a UT Austin CS alumn who had to pay his own way. I graduated about three years before him. Our mutually chosen field is software development.

We've talked about it, and we both agree that more important than which school we went to was whether or not we graduated debt-free. I've been able to take riskier opportunities (startups, going independent, etc) because I haven't had any student loan burden, and as a result have advanced farther in my chosen area of specialization. In our experience, the most important thing is the first two jobs you get after you graduate (the first one that you take for a year or two, then the second one that lasts longer and teaches you how to really do software). Since we're not in a very academic end of IT and tend to work for smaller companies, the existence of the degree is more important than the reputation of the degree, and everything else comes down to what you did with that degree and how well you interview.

On the social side, as you know, UTD is a much different school than UT Austin. Richardson is kind of a shithole in the middle of a blasted suburban wasteland, and Austin is a great town to live and have fun in. Austin is full of young, full-time students, and UTD is half-full of older commuter students (or at least it was when I was there). If you're interested in the college experience, Austin is the place to be. If you're just interested in an education, the smaller class sizes at UTD mean a much more personal learning experience.

Electives-wise, UTD was a mixed bag. I definitely wasn't able to get the diversity of education that I would have been able to at UT Austin, but those classes that I did take were much smaller and much more personal, with profs that I could sit down and talk to and really develop a relationship; their personal recommendations were a lot more influential than a prestigious degree, in my opinion.

So, 10+ years down the road, how are we doing? We're both still working in software, and about 9 months ago I hired my friend as a consultant to work for me. Go to Austin if you feel you need the full college experience and want the social life that comes with it (and it is really important for some people, and if it is for you, roll with that), but from the perspective of a career in industry, that full-ride scholarship is more important than which school you got your BS from.
posted by hackwolf at 9:35 AM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

All things being equal, I'd say UT Austin, but things aren't equal. That scholarship could be the difference between working a part time job to pay for school, and having all that time free to put into something else. If employability was the only consideration, then you could put it into extracirriculars that will help you build a network (ACM student leadership, etc), independent research projects, etc. After graduation, less debt will mean more flexibility, but if you aren't planning on co-founding a startup right off the bat, some debt is probably quite managable on whatever salary you are likely to get as a studious CS grad.

When it comes down to it, its a budgeting problem. Money substitutes for time, but you only have so much time, and you'll have even less of it once you start working.
posted by Good Brain at 10:28 AM on February 13, 2011

Would it hurt me if I applied to UT Austin and decided against going there right now in terms for applying again? As in, if I applied for this fall, got in, and ended up turning them down, how much (if at all) would that count against me if maybe I wanted to transfer there for the last two years or something?
posted by bookman117 at 12:54 PM on February 13, 2011

Would it hurt me if I applied to UT Austin and decided against going there right now in terms for applying again? As in, if I applied for this fall, got in, and ended up turning them down, how much (if at all) would that count against me if maybe I wanted to transfer there for the last two years or something?

That would definitely be a question to ask someone at the admissions department.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 4:29 PM on February 13, 2011

It's common for UT Austin students to save money by taking a lot of their earlier courses at ACC. Transferring from UTD should not be a problem. It makes no difference at all once you graduate; you get the same diploma as the people who were there the whole time. I can't say for sure that having been previously accepted won't count against you if you re-apply, but I would be very surprised if it were an issue.
posted by shponglespore at 3:43 PM on February 14, 2011

I wanted to let you know that my good friend actually graduated in two years. He did not cut any corners and did excellent work. I believe he was self-funded and packed as many classes into his schedule as possible. He also lived very frugally during that period.
posted by jchaw at 10:32 PM on February 15, 2011

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