I was unsure where to post this question; let me know whether it merits its own thread. I also apologize if this post is a bit messy.

If I had to title this post, I might name it, "Optimizing College Activities for a Future Programmer".

I'm a college student at an American school. It's quite a lot of work -- more than I can do in the time given, and I have a study routine that's more efficient than a lot of people I know. I was handling it relatively well last year and still getting enough sleep, exercise, socializing, etc. -- basically all the things I would consider essential for keeping me sane.

I do not do drugs. I do not watch television or movies. I am vegetarian. My room is not decorated and I do not buy expensive items. My socializing thus far has consisted of talking with people over meals while walking around campus. I am not in a relationship. I spend most of my time studying and doing school assignments. I have a relatively good GPA and have worked hard to maintain it. But the work is getting harder and I'm thinking I'll need to start putting less work into my classes and accept a lower GPA, because I cannot compromise the essentials (meditation, sleep, etc.). It's been too stressful to do as much coursework as I've been doing and to skip the essentials.

I plan to pursue a career in software engineering / outside academia. I'm double-majoring in math and CS. I do not plan to get a master's degree or a PhD (at least, not any time soon). I understand that CS students' grades don't matter much, though I do think I can benefit from doing as well as I can in my classes. (But I'm also willing to work less in college to be happy.) I also have a great coding job that I've been neglecting because of my studies, but I don't want to neglect it any longer.

Some questions:

  1. Should I let my grades drop a bit and instead work my coding job and ensure I'm doing the "life essentials" on a daily basis? I will be replacing some of my academic work with programming, which is in my estimation pretty valuable. I'm on a scholarship and it requires that I maintain at least a 2.0 GPA, but I'm quite confident my GPA isn't in danger of dropping that low.

  2. Should I put more emphasis on socializing and forming a network? I don't use Facebook much, and my interests don't intersect with most of my peers' (see the partying / drinking / buying expensive food stuff above). I'd rather spend time with people who are doing interesting things and who I can relate more with (is this bad?), but I'm having trouble finding such people on my campus. How do other "rationalists" form social networks in these kinds of environments, or do they?.. I don't want to miss out on something essential (like developing social skills and / or a network) if it is actually essential. (To be fair, I am a bit awkward and often find I don't have anything to say to my peers, but I think this is again because my interests differ from others'... But maybe I'm wrong.)

  3. How should one pursue the development of social skills? How much time should one put into it, vs. into coding, studying, etc.? Based on what I've read, being friendly and someone people can get along with and want to spend time with can work wonders in all sorts of circumstances. Relative to my peers, I've put less time into meeting and hanging out with people, and I think I'm less socially adept. I'd love to improve. Any suggestions?

  4. On a related note, how can I find people with whom I'm compatible? I frequently run into people I don't want to spend time with, but rarely do I meet people whose presence electrifies me.

  5. Any other general advice? e.g., I haven't read anything outside of class since the summer, and I'm thinking it would be good to read during the semester.

Showing 3 of 5 replies (Click to show all)

How many hours is your coding job? If it's 10+ and they'll allow you to reduce them, you could go for that - you'll still get to list having x months of experience there on your CV, will still get that experience and network from it, but will have a bit more time.

Don't cut into the basic time you need for the essentials of life - being stressed or sleep deprived etc. will only make you less productive and exacerbate the problem. You also don't mention any hobbies - do you get regular exercise? I know this means more time spent, but if you don't get much al... (read more)

1WalterL5yCould you join a fraternity? Best decision I made while in college.
2Nornagest5yA high GPA is somewhat helpful when you're looking for your first full-time programming job, but probably not as helpful as how prestigious a school you went to, and definitely not as helpful as industry experience or actual nuts-and-bolts engineering skill. This latter is not to be underestimated; a lot of new CS grads can't quickly write accurate pseudocode, for example, and you will be asked to do that at some point during any half-decent interview. If you can't do it, that's going to be a deal-breaker, but having a 3.2 instead of a 3.5 GPA almost certainly won't be. After a couple years of full-time experience, almost no one will ask about your GPA (they will, however, ask where you went to school and what degree you got), meaning that GPA is important to your long-term career prospects almost entirely insofar as it affects your standing right out of college. It'll also affect your prospects for grad school, if you're interested in going that direction at some point.

Open thread, Dec. 15 - Dec. 21, 2014

by Gondolinian 1 min read15th Dec 2014309 comments


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