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How do I become a competitive CS applicant in a short period of time??

I'm currently in my final year of A level and my final exams are this October, I have to start applying to Uni this may but I don't have many supercurriculars despite having so many extracurriculars.

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Subject: Career question for you


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Rafael’s Answer

Hi Tadisa! In order to become a competitive CS applicant in a short time, here are some tips. Try to focus on your academics and seek strong grades in your A level exams. Highlight any relevant extracurriculars related to computer science, like coding clubs or personal coding projects. i highly suggest to gain practical experience through internships or volunteer work in the field. You can start building a portfolio showcasing your coding projects, and consider taking online courses or certifications to enhance your skills. Also, participate in coding competitions and ask for strong letters of recommendation. Remember, it's about demonstrating your dedication and practical experience in CS, even if you don't have many super curriculars. Good luck with your applications!
Thank you comment icon Thank you for the advice! This is some of the best advice I've gotten thus far. I'll definitely work on building my portfolio more and I've been accepted into the Girls Who Code 6 week self paced program so that will probably help and I'm also going to be participating in the Kode With Klossy camp for the second time this year. Tadisa
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James Constantine’s Answer

Dear Tadisa,

Quick Guide to Becoming a Top-Notch Computer Science Applicant

If you're looking to transform yourself into a standout Computer Science (CS) applicant in a brief span, particularly as you approach the end of your A levels and prepare for university applications, here are several practical steps to boost your application:

1. Prioritize Your Studies:

Grades: Strive for academic excellence, particularly in pertinent subjects such as Mathematics and Computer Science.
Exam Preparation: Allocate ample time for your final exam preparation to secure the highest possible grades.

2. Bolster Your Profile:

Supercurricular Activities: Despite a lack of supercurriculars, endeavor to engage in activities that showcase your interest and proficiency in Computer Science. This could encompass online courses, coding tasks, or coding competition participation.
Extracurriculars: Emphasize your involvement in extracurricular activities, as they exhibit your leadership, teamwork, and time management capabilities.

3. Accumulate Relevant Experience:

Internships or Work Experience: Seek opportunities to intern or work in tech-oriented fields to acquire hands-on experience.
Projects: Embark on personal projects related to CS that demonstrate your creativity and problem-solving skills.

4. Build Connections:

Engage with Professionals: Participate in tech events, workshops, or seminars to connect with industry professionals.
University Visits: If feasible, tour universities that offer CS programs to understand their culture and establish relationships.

5. Craft Your Personal Statement and References:

Personal Statement: Develop an engaging personal statement that underscores your enthusiasm for CS and your suitability as a candidate.
References: Select referees who can vouch for your academic prowess and potential in the field.

6. Investigate Universities:

Shortlist Universities: Research various universities that offer CS programs and tailor your applications to each.
Entry Requirements: Understand the entry requirements of each university to ensure your qualifications align.

7. Get Ready for Interviews:

Practice Interview Skills: Prepare for potential interviews by rehearsing common CS-related interview questions.

By implementing these steps and dedicating concentrated effort to enrich your profile as a CS applicant, you can markedly enhance your competitiveness during the university application process.

Top 3 Credible Sources Used:

Harvard University - Admissions Office: Renowned for its prestigious Computer Science program, Harvard University's admissions office provides invaluable advice on what they seek in applicants and how students can fortify their applications.

IEEE Computer Society: As a professional organization committed to technology advancement, the IEEE Computer Society provides resources that guide you on forging a successful CS career and staying abreast of industry trends.

Coursera: As an online education platform offering numerous CS-related courses, Coursera can help you augment your knowledge and skills in the field, making you a more formidable applicant.

These sources were employed to deliver precise and trustworthy information on becoming a competitive CS applicant in a condensed timeframe.

Thank you comment icon Thanks for the answer and advice James! I hope you don't mind me asking how to best approach engaging with professionals in CS? I've tried on LinkedIn but I never get responses Otherwise thank you so much, this is a really insightful answer and I'll use every word to the best of my abilities. Tadisa
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Karin’s Answer

Hi Tadisa,

First of all, make sure that you maintain high marks for your upcoming exams!

Is any of your extracurriculars related to Computer Science? Even if it is not a formal activity, you can use it to show your interest and commitment.

Supercurricular activities are basically just activities that are related to your desired field of studies and that show that you invested some time to learn more about it. It can be reading some books or taking a course or getting a certificate. It's better to have 1 or 2 activities that count than many activities with little impact.

So, for computer science, YouTube has loads of free materials including complete courses. Also free is freecodecamp. You can download free e-books from pdfdrive (it's legal, they are older editions, but that doesn't matter here).

If you don't have much experience in computer stuff, get an overview what specialties fall under CS. Which ones are most interesting for you, and why?

I would also recommend that you start coding. Depending on your main interest you could start with Python or Java or C++. Start building a portfolio while you learn to document your progress.

If you have any coding group at your school or in your town, join them. If not, find YOUR people on social media. Twitter has groups for python, for data analysis, and many others. You can document your progress and ask for help.

I left a couple of suggestions for you below.

I hope this helps! Good luck with your exams and university!


Karin recommends the following next steps:
Thank you comment icon Thanks for the resources and advice. I can already code in Python, JavaScript, CSS, html but I've decided to learn C++ as well. Thanks a lot! Tadisa
Thank you comment icon Cool!! That's relevant for your application and makes you stand out! Karin P.
Thank you comment icon Udacity currently has 4 courses around AI, machine learning and data science that you can enroll in for free, if that's something you want to explore Karin P.
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Astrid’s Answer

CS is a growing field. New languages are something you should stay on top of for sure.

Create a portfolio that showcases the different languages you are proficient in as well as some that show case your willingness and ability to learn and execute new ones.

I suggest you look up Major League Hacking and join some of their events.

Best of luck!