For Freshmen. By Freshmen.
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Feb 12 2018
by David Massart

5 Ways to Become a Better Coder

By David Massart - Feb 12 2018

Do you ever tell yourself: "Huh, I really wish I was better at computer science"? If so, then this article will show you exactly how you can expand your knowledge in this field and make the most of all that you will learn.

1. Hackathons

Personally, I love hackathons because they allow you to learn, do stuff and meet new people. Everyone should be going to a hackathon, no matter what their experience levels are. These events aren't just about winning a prize and building the best and most innovative application. For instance, during my first hackathon I didn't even make anything, but that was okay! I was able to go to all the workshops, talk to recruiters, chat with students about their own projects and, most importantly, I was able to get free stickers.

All jokes aside, hackathons are a learning hub and they are one of the best ways to become a better computer scientist. What I like most about hackathons is that they force you out of your comfort zone. You have to be the one to approach people. You need initiative. And if you have that initiative, then those 24 hours spent at the hackathon will be so incredibly rewarding.

2. Mentors

One of the most important things in computer science is having a mentor. This is crucial, especially if you are in college. A mentor is a friend who has connections, is better than you in the field you want to study in and is brutally honest. A mentor can be a professor, an upperclassman or even a boss.

A good mentor will not get you a job but will guide you towards that path. A good mentor will not write a line of code for you but will help you with your projects. Thus, a good mentor is probably the most important resource that you need to become a better computer scientist and to even succeed in this field.

More importantly, never go up to a person and say "will you be my mentor?" This isn't a love declaration. You should know this person quite well, and over time, you will come to consider this person a mentor.

3. Learn Online 

Thanks to the invention of the internet, almost anything you want to find is a mere click of a mouse away. Resources like Codecademy or Udemy are fantastic websites to help enhance your coding skills. Not only are most of them free, but they are also incredibly good at teaching you a new language. For example, I learned HTML, CSS, Python and MySQL all on Codecademy. However, in the end, these websites will only show you the basics and it is ultimately your job to expand and create personal projects with them. There is no denying, though, that the internet is indeed a great place to start.

Additionally, if you do decide to study this field, you will quickly realize that computer scientists don't really know anything -- we have to look everything up. This is simply because of the amount of material we need to know and remember.

4. Clubs

I know I've already discussed clubs in my last article, 3 Extracurriculars Computer Scientists Should Participate In At Tufts University, but I cannot stress enough how important clubs are! The opportunity is right there and all you need to do is take advantage of it. Different universities have different clubs, but most universities will have clubs specific to the area of computer science that you want to study. As an example, Tufts University has a Machine Learning Club where we learn about AI, Deep Learning and all these big words. Tufts also has a club where you can learn how to make websites and apps for clients around Boston. Clubs are not only a great way to learn, but they are also a great way to make connections with people in the computer science departments.

5. Personal Projects

As a student applying for Software Engineering jobs, this section makes me laugh and cry. Apparently, recruiters don't find it sufficient to have a computer science degree to prove how passionate you are about the field. You also need nine apps, two hackathon awards and three internships at Google.

Alright, I'm kidding – but not entirely. Projects are incredibly important in order to cultivate your knowledge in computer science. You get to apply what you've learnt in the classroom to the real world. I love that about computer science. Yes, coding in a classroom environment can be fun, but creating websites, apps, software for others to use is what I really enjoy about the field.

A personal project can be anything you like! More importantly, if you are working on making a website, but you only know front-end and no back-end, that's completely fine – because you can look it up online! Furthermore, projects really show how interested you are in not only the whole field of Computer Science but also in specific subsets of the field, like Web Development, Compilers or Cyber Security!

To recap, if you are telling yourself, "Huh, I really wish I was better at Computer Science," then you are doing something wrong. The best advice I can give you is, go online, find some time and do something about it.

Lead Image Credit: Pexels via Negative Space

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David Massart - Tufts University

Hi! I'm a freshman at Tufts University who is currently thinking about majoring in Computer Science. I love to write and share my ideas with other students! Moreover, I love watching TV while snacking in my bed on the weekends!

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