Help my Cousin Get Back into a Computer Science Major
May 10, 2015 8:49 PM   Subscribe

My cousin is a bright student and worked so hard to get to where he is, but a recent family emergence ( a death in the family) and his grades started getting really bad towards the end of the semester, he was put in probation but one thing led to another and he was dismissed from school for one full semester, he took the semester off and after much grief he was ready and more focused that before to go back and complete his undergraduate in computer science.The computer science department at his school won't let him continue and asked him to change to another major outside of engineering.

He was thinking about going into university studies, getting really good grades get a higher gpa and change into a computer science major. All he really wants to do is complete a computer science major, he came to me for guidence but I can't think of anyway to advice him. I need help to guide him to the right direction.
posted by dolilmao to Education (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Best answer: I had a similar experience following my grandfather's death during my sophomore year of college, but this was a long while back (most likely longer than your nephew has been alive) and Computer Science (actually Computer Engineering in my case) programs were less oversupplied with applicants.

I did have to do some work to be allowed to continue in the program, though. Things that I think your nephew should be pursuing:
  1. If he has distinguished himself in any of his classwork so far, go to the instructor, explain the situation without downplaying or sugar-coating the academic deficit, and ask whether that instructor would be willing to write a letter of recommendation to the department vouching for the student's ability to work up to (and preferably beyond) expected standards under normal circumstances.
  2. Don't just go in and talk to whoever's behind the counter working the department on a given day. Make an appointment with an academic counselor or advisor, go prepared to lay out his best case, and in the event of a refusal ask under what circumstances he could be readmitted to the program -- a permanent refusal is unlikely but he may have to demonstrate adequate performance for several terms before they'll take him back, and he may have to be undeclared as far as a major is concerned during that time.
  3. In the case of an absolute refusal to have him back, he has two other options: attempt transfer to another school, or switch majors (if allowed) and finish. The last is not as bad as you would think, given that companies recruiting CompSci and CompEng grads are not as focussed on the name of the degree as you would think, as long as the student has a transcript showing the desired coursework and (most importantly by a long shot) can discuss fundamentals and project work during the interview process.

posted by Nerd of the North at 9:17 PM on May 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Get a medical diagnosis such as depression. Then do the above with the added benefit that the school is legally required to make reasonable accommodations for the condition. In other words, make it so not letting him continue would be discrimination.
posted by sninctown at 9:43 PM on May 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Is there a dean? Usually this is what deans deal with - have him make an appointment with the dean, if he hasn't already, and bring the diagnosis from the doctor and whatever documentation necessary.
posted by Toddles at 10:00 PM on May 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Is transferring to a different university a viable option ?
posted by k5.user at 6:41 AM on May 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Here's a different question: what was his ORIGINAL career plan?

Because if he just wants to code, then a CS degree is NO LONGER NEEDED. People now wants certifications, from Java Developer to PHP/Struts to Ruby on Rails and so on and so forth. In fact, if he had completed two years worth his foundations should be pretty solid.

If his mind is set on a CS degree, he should consider a different school, as schools have long memories, and this school is clearly NOT about to give him a second chance, no matter what. Getting his GPA up is unlikely to change their mind "much" unless the administration / dean changes or he wants to go through some sort of appeal process.
posted by kschang at 8:53 AM on May 11, 2015


No (programming) job I've ever had has even given a *whif* that they give a shit about certifications. It has literally never even been mentioned. They want people who know CS-type stuff (algorithms, data structures, etc) and experience programming.
posted by RustyBrooks at 9:08 AM on May 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I agree with RustyBrooks. No one in the industry cares about certifications, a degree isn't needed but does help a great deal. This is specific to programming - Network Engineers, Sys Admins, Security all like certifications but from relevant places like Microsoft, Cisco etc etc.
posted by chr at 9:37 AM on May 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thirding RustyBrooks and chr.

He should definitely get the computer science degree if he wants to be a developer. Employers absolutely prefer job applicants who have one. Certifications not so much.

I would be nervous about his plan of switching majors unless the computer science department tells him that he will be able to switch back into the cs department with good grades. Unfortunately transferring to another school might be his best option.
posted by meta87 at 10:07 AM on May 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


It doesn't have to be CS, but it helps. I've programmed more or less my whole career, but my degree is in electrical engineering. There are plenty of other engineers, mathematicians, etc who work as programmers. But it should probably be closely related.
posted by RustyBrooks at 10:15 AM on May 11, 2015


Not any kind of engineering? Given that constraint, physics and math are almost as good, especially when you demonstrate cross-disciplinary work on projects or research. Companies love seeing that you can apply computer science to their specific class of problems, not just code a binary tree. The right kind of internship will be key. However, that will mean taking CS classes. Can he really get those courses, or will the CS department prevent that? If they're going to be that harsh, changing schools is almost certainly the better choice.
posted by wnissen at 10:37 AM on May 11, 2015


He should work with an academic advisor at his school to look at his options. For instance, can he do a medical retroactive withdrawal for the bad semesters? Can he take specified classes with a specified GPA and then re-apply to computer science?
posted by Squeak Attack at 1:30 PM on May 11, 2015


If the computer science department is turning away students, some other department on campus is cheerfully accepting everyone they turn away. Math? Applied Math? Information Science? Any of these would be a better stopgap choice than University Studies.
posted by yarntheory at 7:05 PM on May 11, 2015


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