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For CS Majors, How Important Is the "Where?" 991

An anonymous reader writes "I'm a high school senior who is trying to pick a college to attend. I've been accepted by two comparably selective schools. One is a highly regarded tech school, and the other is a highly regarded liberal arts institution. I prefer the liberal arts college, but the computer science program is small, graduating about a dozen students a year. The course load is heavily theory based; programming languages are taught in later years. How much would the tech school vs. non tech school matter? Are CS majors from non-tech school considered inferior? What would an HR department think? What would you think if you were hiring?"
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For CS Majors, How Important Is the "Where?"

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  • OH NOES! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Plazmid ( 1132467 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @05:33AM (#23087440)
    Never ever go to a liberal arts college, they make you write PAPERS about POEMS some DEAD GUY wrote.
    • by Daengbo ( 523424 ) <daengbo@g[ ] ['mai' in gap]> on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @05:40AM (#23087482) Homepage Journal
      I think a Lib. Arts degree has great merit, but the submitter has a much better chance of getting a good education at a highly-rated technical school. You learn a lot just by being around other people who know more than you do.

      In the L.A. school, you'll have to educate yourself. The tech school will let you bounce ideas off of other students as well as the more numerous professors.

      This from a Liberal Arts major ....
      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @07:32AM (#23088074)
        From a person (senior graduating in about 30 days) at an engineering school that you have almost certainly heard of:

        Give very, very serious thought to going to the liberal arts school. In my case, the school has forced enough computer science, math, bio, engineering, physics, etc. down my throat that I've actually soured somewhat on the idea of having anything to do with computer science after graduation. If it's a top ... say ... three or four engineering school, you have to have a very serious conversation with yourself about whether you are okay with staying up until 5:00AM to finish a problem set for a course you're not very interested in becoming a very common occurrence. Freshman and sophomore years in particular are always absolute killers at those places. I know quite a few people at the school I go to that confided in me that when they arrived they were extremely happy and healthy, and they now have very significant mental, cardiological, and neurological problems. I'm not kidding when I say "killer" -- you're literally shortening your lifespan.

        I know it sounds weird, but if you do CS 24/7 (perhaps literally 20/7 for long stretches) there's going to be a time when you long for a course that will teach you about poetry, or history, or something completely unrelated to what you spend the rest of your time on. And there will be a good chance you're not going to be able to fit such a course in your schedule.

        Also, keep in mind that many, many of the people at very good engineering schools are extremely socially maladapted. Sometimes staggeringly so. So you have to reconcile yourself with that, too.

        Some people absolutely thrive at those sorts of colleges. But most, from what I've seen, just leave technically more proficient (though not much more so than if they went to a liberal arts school) and quite a bit more hollow.

        Then again, if you do go to a technical school, I can tell you from quite a bit of anecdotal evidence that you're going to get preferential treatment in the hiring process with a huge name engineering school. I've personally had two interviewers confide in me post-selection that I was picked over (to me) obviously more qualified candidates because they didn't believe that someone from [X. State] could be better qualified than a person from [ABC] and that they had just assumed that I flubbed the interviews. So if you're truly unsure of your ability to make a name for yourself at a liberal arts college, you could at least leverage the branding power that the engineering school has.

        If you do wind up at the engineering school, see if you can get attached to a research project as soon as possible. At most of the interesting places to work, saying "I have [x] papers published in [journal A], [journal B], and [journal C]" has way more sway -- even if the topics aren't related to the job -- than saying "I can do pointer arithmetic really fast in my head." If you decide to go to grad school, publications in your name make them start salivating when they see your application packet, because doing original research and writing about it is generally what grad school is about.

        Christ, that was supposed to be a "I think liberal arts colleges are good" and turned into a novella. College really is what you a make of it, and you can do very well for yourself either place. Just make sure you find friends who are smarter than you and start hanging out with them. And then make sure you make friends who aren't technical majors at all, and hang out with them at least as often. To get perspective.

        • by Rary ( 566291 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @08:57AM (#23088802)

          This post raises a crucial point:

          There's more to life than technology.

          I'm Canadian, so it's possible that there are cultural differences here, but a friend of mine does a lot of hiring, and he's told me that part of what he looks for in a candidate is what knowledge, experience, and interests they have outside of computers. For example, if he were considering hiring me, and didn't know me, he would be impressed to learn that I have a pilot's license, as it shows two things: I'm a well-rounded individual with interests beyond just computers (ie. not obsessive and unbalanced); and I'm capable of learning and understanding concepts beyond just those involving bits.

          So, don't be a one-trick pony. For the sake of your resume, and for the sake of your own sanity, get an education that covers more than just technology.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by dekemoose ( 699264 )
            This can be true south of the border as well, depending on the employer. It seems to me that the small/medium companies are typically the ones looking for more rounded individuals while the large companies are looking for people who are going to be really good at their assigned job.
          • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @09:53AM (#23089560)
            Indeed. As an employer I've found that it's easier to train an arts student to program than it is to teach an engineer social skills.
            • by EggyToast ( 858951 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @11:15AM (#23090940) Homepage
              My father-in-law is an old-school CS guy at a big insurance company, and he says that when they're hiring new blood for coding jobs they typically just look for someone with a bachelor's degree and an ability to code *something*. The rest they learn on the job, and the less experience they have with full-on coding, the better, because they do what they're told :D
          • by emil ( 695 )
            Just a few thoughts:
            • - The most important thing that you will ever do is relate to other people. The methods that you use to do this will determine your success or failure in life. Don't skimp - the liberal arts institution is probably more use; history and literature will make you rounded in this area.
            • - Modern computer science instruction ignores some great authors. My favorite is Brian Kernighan. Reading some of the things that he wrote exposed me to great revelation, and I am still excited about it even n
            • by hal2814 ( 725639 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @01:04PM (#23092708)
              "- Computer science is changing very quickly. What is being taught now could be completely irrelevant in 15 years. Aggressive technical exposure might not be as valuable as you think."

              No it's not. Pick 10 random EWDs [] and see how many of them don't still apply today. If you're actually being taught computer science, the info you're learning should be useful for a very long time.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by SoupGuru ( 723634 )
            I might try to equate a person's goals in higher education to a person's goals in life.

            Do you want to be defined by your job? Is a job going to be the most important part of your life?If your life is going to be centered on getting and keeping really good jobs, then the obvious choice is a tech school.

            Do you want a good job to pay the bills while you do other things, pursue other hobbies, travel, make music, paint, etc? Then you should be headed for a liberal arts school.

            My bias is towards trying to get t
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by bzipitidoo ( 647217 )

            This sort of woolly analysis is what drives me nuts about interviewing. You focus on IT, learn it, soak it up, live it, love it, and become above average and excellent at many different areas in IT, which is just what the job descriptions all say is wanted (well, we know what they say and what they really want don't usually match), and then you get this kind of subjective evaluation where the very things they said they wanted are now a mark against you!

            The people doing the hiring don't really have good r

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Clamps ( 1193685 )
          I have to say that this poster has hit the nail on the head. Having spent four years at a L.A. undergrad state college in central new york near a lake then a year and a half at a very highly regarded engineering school in western new york to get my masters degree I can relate to both situations a bit. If your a very social person I would look harder at the L.A. school, the social scene at a tech school can be very bleak, mostly becuase people are doing so much work, and many but not all people are a bit so
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          I think you make a good point, but I'll take it one step further. Let's face it, an IT job is the modern day equivalent of a janitor in the eyes of management. You can be very successful, but you'd have to put in un-Godly hours and sacrifice too much. You'd be successful careerwise, but unhappy in your life.

          Since the only reason you're working in the first place is to make money, you should think outside the "go to college, get a good job" box. Find something and start your own business. I think he/sh
          • by clary ( 141424 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @09:39AM (#23089306)

            I think you make a good point, but I'll take it one step further. Let's face it, an IT job is the modern day equivalent of a janitor in the eyes of management. You can be very successful, but you'd have to put in un-Godly hours and sacrifice too much. You'd be successful careerwise, but unhappy in your life.
            I see this kind of post on slashdot a lot, and it makes me wonder if I am an anomaly. I have a graduate degree in CS and close to 20 years of software development experience. Right now I work as a software developer in a small division of a medium-sized software company. Maybe it is because software is our product, but developers are pretty high on the totem pole here. I have the tools I need, work reasonable, flexible hours most of the time, and enjoy my work. My previous jobs have been varied, from huge companies to small ones, but I have enjoyed each in its own way. So what's the deal? Have I just been incredibly lucky or is slashdot full of whiners?

            Since the only reason you're working in the first place is to make money, you should think outside the "go to college, get a good job" box. Find something and start your own business. I think he/she should skip the CS degree, get a job in construction, and after a few years become a contractor. Essentially get into some field for a few years to learn the trade (and make it a trade that EVERYONE needs. Plumber, electrician, etc.) and work hard for a few years to gain knowledge into doing the job and keeping an eye on how to run a company of that type.

            Don't spend your life working for someone else. It's a horrible experience now, and it's only going to get worse as corporations expand their control. Start your own company and work it from a young age and you'll be much better off by the time you're 30.
            If the original submitter is the entrepreneurial type, then this could be partly good advice. But how can you be so goofy as to suggest he pick something so unrelated to what are his apparent interests? If he wanted to be in construction, plumbing, or electrical work, then he would already be in it. While those trades can result in a good living, they are also freaking hard work.

            Since this is slashdot, I feel justified in psychoanalyzing you just from this one post. ;-) I think you've got a chip on your shoulder from your own bad experiences in the IT world, and hate your own job. Not everyone works only to make money, and not everyone in IT hates his job.

            • by RoverDaddy ( 869116 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @10:38AM (#23090268) Homepage
              I think my subject spells it out. The term "IT" is often used as an umbrella term to describe any kind of job related to computer technology. On the other hand, sometimes it specifically means Network Management, or computer-related jobs that are not the core function of the company (for example setting up their public web presence). I work for a software company. I am in Development, not IT. There is an IT group that manages network infrastructure. There is a separate group that manages the company's public facade on the Internet. I have nothing to do with either.

              All that said, I'd still also say that the quality of either job, IT or CS, depends on the company. I believe the IT and Web people where I work are much happier than typical IT and Web people elsewhere.
        • by xstein ( 578798 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @09:28AM (#23089160)
          (I graduated from a top 5 US engineering college before going to UK law school and an overseas EMBA. I run a boutique media firm in Asia.)

          What you are describing is burnout. You should be glad that this is happening now, and not later when in the workplace.

          There is no harm in discovering you no longer wish to pursue a career in a particular industry. It is better you discover this sooner rather than later.

          Competitive programs in competitive schools are going to be, well, competitive. If you're afraid of competition, pick an easy program at an easy school ("Liberal Arts"). Having technical knowledge drilled into your head against your will isn't a bad thing either -- it is going to be much more difficult and unpleasant if you try and do it later in life.

          A technical degree from a technical institution is going to be worth more than a technical degree from a liberal arts college. You are going to be taught by and work with some brilliant minds. Late night 5am coding sessions are part of the deal -- and you are going to build great camaraderie with your peers in the process. This is all part of the experience.

          Perhaps I'm showing my age here, but I don't buy into the notion that one should use time at college to "explore" and "discover oneself". One should be doing exactly this before, during, and much after college. Similarly, your education does not stop once you leave university. You will be able to take all those extra arts classes you wanted to later in life too. It will be much more difficult to get a specific technical education later.

          There are perennial jokes about liberal arts degrees and they exist for a reason. As an employer, I would prefer a student that was able to thrive in a difficult and competitive environment over one that was mostly self taught if it better suited the position. Having said that, I cannot discourage you enough from choosing a school for CV purposes. Good networking, confidence, and social skills are going to get you much further in the workplace than your choice of university.

          A CS degree doesn't necessitate that you work in a CS field. It will create a solid foundation for you to further your education or begin your career.

          Late night coding sessions are all part of the experience. Don't choose the path of least resistance. Select the liberal arts college if there are other things about it that really appeal to you, but don't be afraid of the competition.

          I don't attach any weight to the previous poster's comments about psychological issues. If these problems exist, they will be exposed in a competitive workplace later on. A competitive college will do far more good for you than it will harm.

          You will never again in your lifetime be in such close proximity to so many people your own age. The same is true of everyone else, and they will be looking to maximise use of their time and their own experience. Any experience is a good experience -- at either university -- and the only thing you should avoid is wasting your time. Lab time at 5am is not time wasted, nor is time looking at the sky with hippies -- but playstation in your room is. You will get as much out of college as you want to.

          Best of luck to you!
          • by BadERA ( 107121 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @10:53AM (#23090540) Homepage
            As someone who burned out in the months leading up to the dot com bomb, with the deal being sealed by a post-9/11 layoff, I'd like to interject here. I am now happily back to being fullsteam ahead in software, running local tech events, bringing in tons of consulting work on top of my day job, giving presentations on tech subjects. Sometimes burnout is just a signal to take a step back, re-examine your situation, and figure out what needs tweaking -- not necessarily a wholesale jump into another job.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Lab time at 5am is not time wasted, nor is time looking at the sky with hippies -- but playstation in your room is.

            Why is playing video games a waste of time but looking at the sky with hippies isn't? I'm assuming you mean play video games by yourself because playing Halo2 with my roommates was one of the most enjoyable experiences I remember. Regardless, I would even argue playing video game by yourself isn't a waste your time. I am into video game development, and a lot of the ideas I get when I create video games come from all the games I've played in the past.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Stradivarius ( 7490 )
          As another person who attended a top engineering school, I had a different experience than the parent post. I attended Carnegie Mellon for Computer Engineering (the degree title is Electrical & Computer, but you can tailor your courses to your desired focus).

          First, there are some folks who will stay up to 5 AM (or pull an "all-nighter") to finish problem sets, but you do not have to be one of them. For the vast majority of cases, this is not necessary unless you procrastinate too much in starting assig
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by dheltzel ( 558802 )
          Pansy. In my day we did CS 24/7 and liked it. You youngsters are too soft, you need that to toughen you up.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          As a guy who owns a company that hires CS majors, has a CS and other degrees, and as one who has worked in the field before starting said company, I offer the following for entry levels or wants to join the ranks of geeks like myself:

          1) Resumes are looked at by a scoring program in most large corporations before a human ever sees them. Whatever you put in a resume has to make it past these.

          2) HR cares in so much as it is a real college and you actually got the degree you said you earned.

          Now here is the rub
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by superflippy ( 442879 )
          Also, take a look at the required classes outside your major at both schools. My husband, a physics major, transferred from a small liberal arts college to a large state university. The small school had a reasonable number of non-physics classes required of physics majors, enough so he could take classes that just interested him or that were relevant to his major but not required into his schedule.

          The state university had a ridiculous number of required classes outside his major. They prop up a lot of the d
      • by dhavleak ( 912889 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @08:20AM (#23088432)

        I'd say the 'where' is very important - but not for the usual reasons. Its possible to be just as successful either way -- but there's a reason you hear of more success stories from the big-name schools.

        What it comes down to is standards. Its very difficult to maintain high standards in isolation. In a recognized/sought-after school you will usually face much more competition, more motivated and focused classmates. They are your competition for good grades (especially when graded on a curve) and at job fairs on campus. The result is that you get pushed harder (and you in turn are one of the people pushing your classmates to excell as well). Bottom line: if you want an A in Compilers in the big tech school you'll have to really know your shit inside out. If you want to get an A in the Liberal Arts school its a lot easier. At the end of it, you'll have much more airtight concepts if you've gone through the grind at the big school.

        A long-term perk of the big school is that you'll make close friends from among this pool of competitors -- they help you keep your standards high even after school (as will your colleagues at work, etc. etc.)

        Of course, all this advice is based on certain assumptions about your goals and career ambitions, and might not apply if the assumptions are invalid.

      • by EastCoastSurfer ( 310758 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @08:25AM (#23088482)
        You learn a lot just by being around other people who know more than you do.

        You're assuming that people at a liberal arts school don't know more than he does. It could be argued that by going to a LA school he is more likely will run into people who know things that he's not even aware he doesn't know.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by metlin ( 258108 )

        Secondly, pedigree matters. No matter what people say, it is very important, especially down the line if you wish to go to business school, or pursue higher education.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by FooAtWFU ( 699187 )
        I say to go for the liberal arts, but if you do, definitely go for summer internships. I have a BS in CS from a decent-but-small liberal-artsy university (Wake Forest University), and it's all well and good, but I landed my first job out from school largely because of internships with IBM, as well as ample web development work on the side during the school year. (Also, the money came in handy paying for school.)

        Grandparent is right in that you need to teach yourself lots of stuff at the liberal arts school

      • by Tablizer ( 95088 )
        I think a Lib. Arts degree has great merit, but the submitter has a much better chance of getting a good education at a highly-rated technical school. You learn a lot just by being around other people who know more than you do.

        Except people skills. People skills are more important than ever in an outsource-happy world. If you are so annoying that people only want to contact you via email, you might as well be in Bangalore.

        There are a handful of techies who are so smart in a given area that they are indisp
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by sporkmonger ( 922923 )

        If you manage to get to the interview stage, it really doesn't matter whether you went to a technical school or a liberal arts school. You'll have to stand on your own personal merits, not your school's.

        But in order to get to the interview stage, you have to make your resume stand out. And I'm a lot more likely to take notice of someone with a resume that says they went to MIT or Stanford or RIT (because I'm biased - it's where I went). Any time you have a job posted on Dice/Monster/CareerBuilder you

    • Re:OH NOES! (Score:4, Funny)

      by Plazmid ( 1132467 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @05:44AM (#23087510)
      Although you might develop some 1337 Markov Chain skills at liberal arts colleges, given the amount of papers you have to write. In fact, I used Mark V. Shaney to write my English papers for me in highschool. They never caught on that my papers were algorithmically generated, and I received A's on all of them.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ronbo142 ( 942105 )
      Recommend that you look more into a Business Degree vice a CS Degree if you want to be eventually become an executive. Having a GEEK engineer degree is admirable but be the person who leads the Geeks is paid more.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by pyite ( 140350 )
        Recommend that you look more into a Business Degree vice a CS Degree if you want to be eventually become an executive. Having a GEEK engineer degree is admirable but be the person who leads the Geeks is paid more.

        The problem is that you'll get much more respect from those below you if you actually have a technical background. Leaders with business degrees and nothing else are typically scorned upon by those who've invested time in significantly difficult fields. Former president of Goldman Sachs and current
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DigDuality ( 918867 )

      Never ever go to a liberal arts college, they make you write PAPERS about POEMS some DEAD GUY wrote.

      where people have labeled you funny, you make a good point. But the point you make is why I'd encourage him to go. Look, unless you're going to MIT, I'd say stay away from tech schools all together and find a well balanced school that offers a decent program in computer science, CIS, telecom, whatever. I made the mistake of going to a tech school where they give you chump work for academics, arts, etc

  • depends... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @05:38AM (#23087464)
    do you want to go to school with a bunch of geeks or a bunch of hippies?

    that is the dilemma you are facing. it's a double-edged sword.
    • by gbjbaanb ( 229885 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @07:01AM (#23087894)
      liberal art school... full of, well, girls. All of which have their heads filled with romance, poetry, and a total lack of understanding about anything real world. Go there :-)
      • Re:depends... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Homr Zodyssey ( 905161 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @08:27AM (#23088492) Journal
        There's actually a serious point here.

        I graduated with a CS degree from a Liberal Arts college. Perhaps at a tech school you are surrounded by people who know about the subjects you wish to learn about. The key to a Liberal Arts college is surrounding yourself with a variety of people. You're going to learn a lot more partying with a history or philosophy major than you are partying with another programmer.

        Also, you are forced to take classes you wouldn't have wanted to, and *gasp* you'll actually learn about new things! Perhaps when you're 40, you'll decide that you don't want to be a programmer anymore. Instead, you want to become a writer, or open your own restaurant. You're going to have a wider variety of knowledge and contacts in a wider variety of fields if you went to a Liberal Arts college.

        Admittedly, I've not tried for a job at Google or Sun. However, I've had no trouble finding good work, and interviewers are usually impressed by the college I graduated from.
    • by vain gloria ( 831093 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @07:35AM (#23088094) Homepage

      do you want to go to school with a bunch of geeks or a bunch of hippies?

      that is the dilemma you are facing. it's a double-edged sword.

      Either way the smell is going to be terrible.
  • Have Fun (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RockDude ( 815358 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @05:38AM (#23087466)
    You're better off going to the arts college. you'll have more fun, also the course (from your admittedly short description) sounds good. No harm in getting the theory under your belt. Programming is kinda like music, once you understand the theory of how music works, its easier to pick up a musical instrument... Ultimately if you get a good degree it really doesn't matter, especially when you have a few years experience under your belt. Finally the small size of the faculty sounds good as you'll get more personal attention... Good Luck
    • Re:Have Fun (Score:4, Insightful)

      by c ( 8461 ) <> on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @06:49AM (#23087824)
      > Programming is kinda like music, once you understand the theory of how
      > music works, its easier to pick up a musical instrument

      Math is kinda like music. Programming is a lot like designing and building musical instruments. Theory is necessary to do it well, but theory alone will give you a violin which implodes when you tighten the strings.

    • Emphasis on Fun (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dsginter ( 104154 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @07:08AM (#23087934)
      I don't think that you've emphasized the *fun* part enough.

      Don't get me wrong - half of college is about working your ass off, sleeping in the lab and submitting term papers 38 seconds before the deadline after having worked on them for three days straight (what smells like coffee and bacon?).

      But the other half of it is meeting people and becoming an adult (if one is so fortunate as to be attending college immediately after high school in the conventional manner). If you have time, join any and every student organization that interests you - even if it doesn't fit your major. Talk to people. Make weekly attempts to eat the entire two pound burrito (goals are important). Wear sunscreen. Et cetera.

      When you look back on college and don't chuckle out loud, then you didn't do it properly. You only get one chance.
  • Well... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @05:38AM (#23087470)
    The women will be hotter at a liberal arts college.
  • by Thanshin ( 1188877 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @05:38AM (#23087474)
    I'd choose the college with the most beautiful women.

    However, in my country, right now, there's no chance of not finding a nice job with any kind of CS higher education.

    Also, take into account the importance of your choice of college will fade after some years. At 45, your rank (?) won't really depend on your college but on your skill and abilities.
  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @05:40AM (#23087478) Journal

    One is a highly regarded tech school, and the other is a highly regarded liberal arts institution.
    A highly regarded school is a highly regarded school. On top of that, I interview people to work for my tech company and I don't care if you're from MIT or middle of nowhere college, it all depends on what comes out of your mouth during the interview. And I haven't met a company that's any different.

    I think you need to ask yourself if you want to go to a school where they force you into requirements like taking one anthropology course or two upper division reading courses. You're other choice (the tech school) is having all your courses picked for you but never accidentally stumbling onto something you love or have never experienced.

    Me, I opted for the liberal arts college and will never regret it. Sure, my coworkers who went to a tech school get to brag about how intensive their CS coursework was but I've learned what they know (if not more) a couple years into my job.

    Do what you want to do, what you think will be fun and exciting. The place ain't gonna matter, what you put into it will and will be evident to anybody that talks to you.
    • by auric_dude ( 610172 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @05:51AM (#23087534)
      I wouild suggest a liberal arts college and hope that you come out the other end as a Renaissance humanist polymath something like []
    • by teslar ( 706653 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @06:10AM (#23087622)

      I interview people to work for my tech company and I don't care if you're from MIT or middle of nowhere college, it all depends on what comes out of your mouth during the interview. And I haven't met a company that's any different.
      But would he even be selected for the interview if he's from middle-of-nowhere-college while most of the other candidates come from MIT, CALTECH or similar?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by The Dobber ( 576407 )
        A company interested in hiring the most qualified individual isn't going to focus on the institutes name, but rather the person themself.
        • by Peter Mork ( 951443 ) <> on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @07:55AM (#23088200) Homepage

          As the GP mentioned, you only get to make a good impression once you have the interview. Getting to the interview is based first (and foremost) on networking (who you know). If you don't have connections, then you need to rely on your resume; fresh out of college, the school's reputation is one of the few hooks you have to land that interview. Companies tend to get many more applicants than they can reasonably interview, so some amount of cheap (however unfair) filtering is necessary.

          Once you're in the interview, your resume serves largely to help the interviewer frame his questions.

    • by testadicazzo ( 567430 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @06:24AM (#23087690) Homepage
      I'm glad to see the highly modded posts leaning towards the liberal arts school.

      Me I opted for the tech school, and I regret it. Your college experience is partly about your career options, and partly about an important stage in your personal development, and I'm thoroughly of the opinion that the liberal arts school will serve you better in the latter regard. You'll be exposed to more diverse ways of thinking, you'll probably come out better adjusted, and your chances of getting some good experiences with wine, women, and song (figuratively speaking) will be much higher.

      If it is me doing the hiring (and sometimes it is), all other things being equal I take the liberal arts guy. My experience with tech school graduates has left me soured on them (even being one myself). Their personal shortcomings (read 'huge ego problems') often outweigh any technical benefits they have to offer. Anyway, when I'm hiring I ask people to send me a portfolio, and that matters more than anything else they have to send.

      As for the career stuff, you won't suffer having gone to a liberal arts school. If you do some creative work while you're in school, that'll count much more than the name of the school you attended. Sometimes the big-name tech school helps you get an interview, but I don't think it does much more than that.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by gclef ( 96311 )
      As someone who's done a bunch of interviewing of candidates over the past 3 or 4 years, I'll second the "it doesn't really matter" vote.

      In fact, I'd go a bit farther and argue that the program that's heavier on theory is a better bet (assuming they do eventually get out of the theory and into practice). The theory will give you the grounding in the field, making learning a new language a matter of syntax & the libs, rather than trying to learn whole paradigms.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by moosesocks ( 264553 )

      A highly regarded school is a highly regarded school. On top of that, I interview people to work for my tech company and I don't care if you're from MIT or middle of nowhere college, it all depends on what comes out of your mouth during the interview. And I haven't met a company that's any different.

      I admire you for your nobility, but in my experience, the real world isn't quite so idealistic, especially when judging straight-out-of-college applicants.

      Right now, the current generation (and their parents) are being taught to buy into the "big names," regardless of any other factors. The rankings craze is at least partially to blame, and MIT arguably markets itself better than Apple (no small feat!)

      In reality, a college education is almost entirely what you make of it. The legacy-admitted grade-inflated Ivy grad might get the better job straight out of school, but the hardworking state-school grad will almost certainly end up being more successful in the long run, once he's had a chance to prove himself.

  • by Anml4ixoye ( 264762 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @05:40AM (#23087486) Homepage
    Yes, at first, where you went may matter to some people. And some programs are going to be able to offer opportunities you might not get anywhere else.

    But a healthy presence in open source projects to gain experience, as well as being active in your local tech community can go a long way. Having the degree is fine - having it with experience is even better.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by fermion ( 181285 )
      I used to think that going to a certain school was only important to an athlete due to the fact that some schools have historical been more likely to have students move to the pros. If one goes to the wrong school, the chances of making it to the pros goes from about 1% to nil.

      Then I heard an interview with Bill Gates in which he implied MS hired all the top graduates from certain colleges. They were trying to establish relationships with other schools, but these were the only ones that had acceptable

  • by BadAnalogyGuy ( 945258 ) <> on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @05:44AM (#23087508)
    First, HR departments don't care where your degree is from.

    Once you understand that, you need to understand yourself and your goals. What do you want to do with your degree? Do you want to be a sysadmin (face it, you can go to Devry and do that job competently), programmer, manager, researcher? These are things that should influence your decision. If you want to work in a research department (say PARC or MSR), you will need postgraduate degrees, and the best thing in that case is to choose the tech school. Other than that, you would probably have more fun at the liberal arts college.

    You should also think about what kind of college experience you want. Do you want to go to a large school with many opportunities to meet a very diverse set of people? Do you want to go to a small school and be more than just another face in the crowd? Do you want to be involved in fraternities? Which school will give you the school experience you want?

    Where are the schools located? Do you want to live in a small college town? How about a big city? Do you want the college to be your primary connection to the world, or do you want to explore outside the gates? How much cold weather can you stand? How much crime can you stand? Which school has the best location for you?

    There are a great many factors in choosing a school. Do not limit your choices because you heard that one program is better than another. If you really don't know what you want to do yet, don't make the choice on program reputation alone. If you know you want the best program, then maybe that is the best choice, but in the end the "better" program is not going to prepare you much better than the "worser" program.
  • Not very (Score:4, Informative)

    by Narmacil ( 1189367 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @05:47AM (#23087522)
    I'm a second year ME major at Virginia Tech, and about half of my friends are CS majors. From what I've seen here it does not really matter where you go, but what projects you've worked on and completed. Also whether or not you have a 3.0 or higher GPA. You really have to be careful when you're going for a CS degree straight out of high school, because most people who are 'good' with computers and like video games and web design don't really want to do CS. Of course if you're all into algorithms, complex math and finding the most efficient sorting method, then by all means go for it. When trying to get jobs typically there will be a short technical part of the interview and then a general interview, and as long as you nail the general stuff in your classes you should be Ok for the technical part, and the rest rides on your personality. This of course is based on what I've gleaned from working on our annual engineering expo (job fair). You might want to go with the liberal arts school just so you can get a more rounded education, as smaller departments generally mean alot more individual attention, check into the school's hire rate out of college from their CS department, as that is normally the best indicator of whether or not its a school you want to go to if you're focused on getting a job. Don't forget to enjoy life along the way, if either of the school's campuses are miserable, you'll be living there for the next 4 years :D Good luck with your decision
  • by matt4077 ( 581118 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @05:52AM (#23087536) Homepage
    I'd probably go for the liberal arts college. You'll meet some interesting people, have a good life for a while and probably get a better education if the groups are small anyway. You can always go to MIT for your masters. I'd also not discount the value of theory. I've always prefered hiring the math student with some programming knowledge over the CS student who took all the Java classes.
  • by BBCWatcher ( 900486 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @06:02AM (#23087574)

    First of all, I suspect you'll get a fair number of comments arguing against attending a liberal arts college. You're asking a Slashdot audience, so approach such comments with caution.

    I've interviewed and hired some employees, and I have also interviewed dozens of students applying to one of America's most elite universities for admission (or much more often rejection). (I also had a similar decision to make at age 17.) Above all else I look for candidates who can learn quickly and who can communicate well. That second attribute is arguably less common among graduates from technical institutions, but communication starts with your resume (or a campus recruiting event, or whatever), not with the mere identity of your college, so I keep an open mind and would invite you to an interview if the signs are otherwise positive. I also look for inquisitiveness: are you a person who is inherently curious about the world? I look for other attributes, too, but those three are priorities.

    But even before you get to an interview or apply for a job, do you know what you want to do when you grow up? A lot of prospective college students are not sure, and many or most change their minds. Some colleges provide more options than others if you do change your mind. I would recommend using college as a vehicle to explore your curiosities. That journey of exploration builds confidence, and confident, thoughtful people often interview better. If you are already sure about your path, great, go chase your dream. If you are not, then go explore what fascinates you to build your dream.

    Good luck.

  • by Captain Chad ( 102831 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @06:14AM (#23087644) Homepage

    I went to the best tech school that accepted me (Rensselaer). I have this piece of wisdom to pass on: choose a school that's near a beach--Miami, California, whatever. The climate should be temperate all year round.

    I went into the Air Force after I graduated, and since then, only one employer was impressed by the fact that I graduated from Rensselaer.

    I would, however, suggest that you try to get a technical/engineering school that meets the above requirement of beach-i-ness.

    To some it may seem like this post is meant to be funny. It's not. If I could do it all over again, I would choose the best technicial university that's near a beach in a temperate zone.

  • Value of a BA (Score:3, Interesting)

    by magarity ( 164372 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @06:17AM (#23087658)
    Are CS majors from non-tech school considered inferior
    It's getting so that any bachelor's degree is about worthless except as a stepping stone to a master's degree, mainly thanks to absurd grade inflation. If you show up to class 90% of the time and are sober, you'll get straight A's in most bachelor's programs these days (if you don't show up or aren't sober, you'll only get a B+). So I advise going to whatever school has the most interesting non-CS bachelor's program that you're interested in just for fun and then spend another year and a half or two getting an MS in CS from a serious CS school. The difference in starting salaries and opportunities between an MS and a BS make this more than worthwhile. I advise this as someone who has a BA in non-CS from a state school and an MS in IT from a prestigious private school - salaries and opportunities are a LOT better with an MS.
  • by EvlG ( 24576 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @06:19AM (#23087674)
    Since you will be coming right out of school, you may not have much practical experience when it comes time to see a full-time job. This is to be expected, but there are a couple of things you can do to make yourself stand out:

    1) Seek a good internship/coop that allows you to develop practical experience. Many of these are one or two-semester gigs (or one or two summers). When I was in school, I had a 3.5 yr coop which was basically a long-term relationship with a local employer. That was hugely valuable, as by the time I graduated I had a ton of experience (even leading small projects). I would have gotten a full-time offer had that department not been closed down shortly after I left.

    2) Work on some interesting hobby projects. School projects are often an interesting spring board, but consider ways to apply what you are learning to scratching some itch.

    Personally, I don't give the candidate's school a whole lot of weight. Maybe it gets my attention when looking at a sea of applicants, but I consider each applicant on his/her own merit as demonstrated by the resume, cover letter, and other submitted materials. The most crucial aspect of the whole process is actually the on-site interview. Everything else is just a screening mechanism.

    What I look for most is what Joel Spolsky from Joel on Software refers to as "Smart and Gets Things Done." For me, that means someone who is interested in programming because they think it's cool and provides an outlet for creative problem solving, and someone who has demonstrated an ability to tackle problems in the past.

    Therefore, I would recommend that you choose a college based on the total experience you will get. Consider everything college offers: learning about a lot of topics, meeting new people, exposure to new ideas, a new level of freedom and independence, moving to a new place to be exposed to new culture, etc... Many of the classes that had the most impact on me and were most memorable were far outside the CS curriculum. Consider what opportunities are available there with each school. Think about what it will be like to live in each of the cities the colleges are located in. Think about what there could be to explore and discover there. Choose the school that is best for you on all of those fronts - don't limit yourself to just choosing a CS program.

    In a few years where you got your CS degree won't matter so much, but the memories and experiences you got while in school will last your entire lifetime. Many of those experience will be unrelated to what happened in the classroom.
  • by Colin Smith ( 2679 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @06:27AM (#23087716)
    Far more important than the where, is the who...

    University is about "networking"; building contacts who will help progress your career. The actual degree or even qualification itself are almost completely irrelevant. At Uni you are creating your "old boy's network". People who will later give you work contracts, quash driving offences, introduce you to politicians etc.

    With that in mind you should take a look at the type of people going to each institution. Are they middle class, working class, wealthy etc. What are the entrance fees?

  • by ILongForDarkness ( 1134931 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @06:34AM (#23087752)
    Unless you have a minor that the arts college really attracts you to, I'd suggest the Tech college. Several reasons:

    1) Some companies look for someone from a good tech college. If they are doing resume mining you can be sure they aren't looking for U of Nowhere. Also for example my current employer has half its staff from the same school. They see the school name and have an idea of what someone graduating from there should know.

    2) If you get a more specialized interest as you go through school you'll be more likely to find courses/research supervisors for your interest. If you are in a small faculty you might get lucky. But if you are in a large one you'll almost certainly have someone in any niche you are thinking about.

    3) You'll get a wider peer group from which to use for future job info, business partners etc. Plus in a small school you might date the one girl in your program and have it not work out. At a big school you can choose between several geek girls, or go to another department.

    4) You also can be more selective with your friends/project team mates, you don't have much choice with a small program because either you will clump up with a couple people and do projects together, or some other group with form and force you into a group by default. You don't want to be forced to work with people you can't stand. It happens enough in the real world why experience more of it than you have too? ;)

  • What is your goal? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tarwn ( 458323 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @06:43AM (#23087794) Homepage
    It seems as if your decided on CS for a degree. While many people have posted on the additional experiences and opportunities that you could have by going to a school that will likely focus more heavily on required classes from outside your chosen degree path, I have yet to see any posts on another important factor: How broad is their CS program?

    I went to a college that had a smaller CS program, but it was decently broad in nature. By the time I got to the 400-level classes there were 15 or less people in each class, but the classes also represented a great number of sub-fields in CS; from advanced classes in AI, Distributed Computing, and Signal Processing to a number of more esoteric courses they were trying out in web and 3D modeling. Not to mention the ability to pick up business classes or additional math or science classes (or even Liberal Arts courses) that could allow you to pick up a minor or further explore another interest.

    If your primary goal is a CS degree, I agree that it rarely matters to an interviewer where you received that degree (though it does matter on occasion). However, the breadth of courses available from the institution and the number of classes they will _allow_ you to take from your major (as opposed to required credits from other branches and required elective credits from other branches) are going to have an impact on the level of knowledge you attain and the number of sub-fields you will get to explore. Additionally, you should look into how much the school supports internships. One of the things that helped me best during my college education was the fact that I was working for pay on real projects, which then gave me a different perspective on the course material.

    Also, if you are considering a highly recommended liberal arts school and a highly recommended tech school, why not look at one or two state colleges that have good CS departments? The price range (even out of state) may be in the same range you are looking at for that liberal arts college, the fact that it is a state school will likely have brought in students for a wide variety of degrees, but (if you use CS program quality as criteria) there will also be a greater breadth of CS classes available, allowing you to learn about multiple sub-fields to better determine where you would like to go in CS.
  • by DieByWire ( 744043 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @07:02AM (#23087900)

    Maybe the story of an invention will shed a little light.

    Once upon a time there was an invention.

    The inventors showed it to a scientist. He said, "Cool, why does it work?"

    Then they showed it to a engineer. He said, "Cool, how does it work?"

    Then they showed it to a business major. He said, "Cool, how much can we sell it for?"

    Then they showed it to a liberal arts major. She said, "Cool..."

    "You want fries with that?"

  • considered inferior? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gbjbaanb ( 229885 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @07:07AM (#23087924)

    Are CS majors from non-tech school considered inferior? What would an HR department think? What would you think if you were hiring?"
    you're almost right.

    Are CS majors considered inferior? Yes.

    Once you've joined a company, worked there for a while, you too will have the same low opinion of graduates. That will be doubly true of the graduates who think they know everything and should be hired as principal engineers immediately.

    A good attitude is the best thing to have, as an inexperienced job-seeker (to be), you only need 2 things: enthusiasm and a willingness to learn, and good communication ability.

    Umm.. The 3 things you need are enthusiasm, willingness to learn, good communication ability and some technical skills of any sort.

    Bu**er. The 4 things you need are... I'll start again. Fortunately you no longer need a fanatical devotion to Bill Gates.

  • Think long term (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jrumney ( 197329 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @07:12AM (#23087968)

    Long term, your liberal arts college is probably going to give you a broader education, and set you up for a quicker career path to management, starting your own business or other broadening out from plain development, if that is what you want. It'll also offer more opportunities for liasing with hot chicks during your college years, which is not to be underestimated.

    Short term, you might find that the initial job offers immediately after graduating offer better salaries, or are more forthcoming from the tech focused school, but that's more difficult to predict, and it could just as easily swing the other way.

  • Hiring programmers, as in pure straight up programmers, is unlike hiring sysadmins or networking guys or tech support or any of these other jobs in that your entire work product can be sent easily by email.

    So although I may give a cursory glance at your past, your school is not going to be particularly interesting to me. I might be impressed if DURING college you've done done some interesting things, like say functional/logic programming, neural nets, cluster programming, and so on, the stuff you don't typically encounter in normal boring programming.

    But in the end, you write code for a living. So your REAL resume is far more about your code than it is about your degree.

    You learn a LOT more about a programmer by simply asking them to send you 5,000 lines of their best code than you will from a resume.

    If you can't put together 5,000 lines of stuff only you wrote at all, or you can't because "I wrote it at the company and they won't let me" that says a lot too (mostly that you don't do any programming at all outside of work, but also that perhaps you don't have any experience working in an enlightened programming culture).

    This is why experience on an Open Source project is so valuable. It's a repository you can point to and say "I wrote that" and I can look at the repository logs and verify it.

    I get to see what your coding is like. Are you clean, do you comment and document well, do you just cut and paste a lot, are you a leader or a plodder (both of which can be useful).

    An Open Source project is job experience with unlimited disclosure.

    I don't care if you went to MIT and did computation physics of compressible fluids. If the other guy can show me 10k of well built, maintainable and innovative code, he wins.

    Unless he's an asshole to work with. But then the job is his to lose at that point, not yours to win.
  • My take (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MattW ( 97290 ) <> on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @08:11AM (#23088322) Homepage
    I'm doing the interviewing and hiring decisions for my group currently. I pay almost no attention to where a degree comes from unless it's someplace extraordinary - MIT, RPI, etc. I pay some attention to what the degree is in; I have a bias in favor for math degrees and ee degrees over cs degrees. I'm also perfectly fine hiring people without a degree. On the other hand, I'm technical, and I conduct a technical interview, so I don't worry too much about degrees because I'm more confident I can directly evaluate ability.
  • by abbamouse ( 469716 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @08:13AM (#23088354) Homepage
    As a professor, I doubt you'll regret going the liberal arts route. For one thing, the probability that you will change your major is about 60-70%. A liberal arts education not only exposes you to many different interests and opportunities, but it gives you skills that even many good research universities fail to impart: strong writing, strong argumentation and speaking, strong critical thinking skills. The ability to approach a problem from many different perspectives is handy. You'll need job experience to make the big bucks anyway, so you might as well maximize the value of your education while getting your degree.
  • Depends (Score:3, Informative)

    by hey! ( 33014 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @08:32AM (#23088536) Homepage Journal
    If you can get into a prestigious program it will make a big difference in your first couple of jobs, and it will probably continue to open doors for you over the rest of your career. On the other hand, after you've had a couple of jobs, your accomplishments should be opening doors for you.

    You will probably learn more CS, just by osmosis, if you go to a top flight CS program. However, if you are really suited for a career that a CS degree prepares you for, it probably does not matter because you'll learn anyway. There may be educational opportunities at more balanced institutions that you come to appreciate later.

    There are two, really important questions you have to ask, especially if you are choosing a school based on a CS program. First, are you absolutely certain that CS is what you want to pursue? It may not be what you expect. Choose an institution that will give you options for a second choice. Second, will you finish a degree in the institution you have chosen, whether or not it is a CS degree?

    In the end, if you are planning a career that requires a CS degree, it's more important that you have a degree than a CS degree; it's more important that you have a CS degree at all than you have one from a prestigious program.

    The vocational value of a CS degree from a prestigious program marginal, especially if you know how to write a good application letter and give a good interview. The educational value of a prestigious degree is marginal, if you have a talent and interest for the field. It's not that these things aren't useful, it's that they're mainly useful if you don't have personal qualities that would even the playing field if you went to a less prestigious place. The irony is that in the words of the song, if you can make it there, you'll make it anywhere. And you will. And sometimes you can't make it there for reasons that have nothing to do with your talent.

    In the end, the most important thing is that you get the degree. If you come from a family that doesn't have a lot of money or has some other kind of instability that means you don't have bottomless support for your education, it's probably a bad idea to go to an expensive program famous for its pressure cooker atmosphere.

    Anybody can have a bad quarter (which is a bad year if the quarter is the last half of an academic quarter and the first half of the next). It could be an existential crisis, or it could be a physical health issue, or it can be an unexpected financial problem. If you don't have a family support cushion, and you don't have any financial slack, you can be screwed. Don't forget that sometimes institutions are more generous with freshman financial aid packages to attract the students they want.

    I'm not discouraging your from applying or going to a prestigious program. I just want you to consider that the value of prestige has its limits, and that practical matters like cost can leave you in debt without any offsetting prestige. In the end the best advice is to choose a school you think you will be most happy at, and you'll get the most out of it. Don't sacrifice anything for prestige. Ultimately the only prestige that is worthwhile is the prestige you earn through your own distinctive accomplishments.
  • Why not do BOTH? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Meoward ( 665631 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @10:10AM (#23089828)

    I got my undergraduate degree from a liberal arts college (CS major, math minor), but then, after a small hiatus, received an MS from a well-known technical school.

    A few random observations from a veteran of industry:

    • The best new grads took roughly the same path; they never stopped at their bachelor's degree. This is generally because they'd have to be more motivated to take this path, and are thus more interested in the subject matter, not just the money. (Again, before anyone flames me, that's a generalization.) I can tell who was only interested in the cash, and "served their four years", by the software they design -- and I'd love to smack these people for making my life miserable on a daily basis. But I digress.
    • Some grad programs' admissions committees actually value a liberal arts education over one that is purely technical. They like the idea that you managed to learn how to think critically in a variety of subject matter, vs. learning how to put Tab A into Slot A.
    • You can (usually) make up your technical shortcomings in a good master's program. Just choose that next program carefully, e.g. don't pick one that's extra-heavy on theory if you're more interested in, say, networking protocols or systems programming.
    • The LA college will have a far better student/teacher ratio in all likelihood. Your professors will probably be far more approachable and accessible. (I count one of mine as a family friend today, and it's been almost 20 years since I received my B.Sc.) Believe me, it's a lot more rewarding to sit in a class of 20 with a caring instructor than a class of 300 and an underpaid T.A.
    • If you go this route, don't bother applying to the top-rated graduate programs unless you already know you'll stick around for the Ph.D. and have a thesis adviser lined up. Chances are you won't get in. But it's also not the end of the world, not by a long shot.

    Good luck!

  • One word: Internship (Score:3, Informative)

    by Chris Snook ( 872473 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @01:52PM (#23093358)
    Think of your education like a computer. You can buy computers, even somewhat customized ones, from OEMs, with everything integrated at the factory. The components have been tested to work with each other fairly well, and as long as you're comfortable with their options, things will generally work well, or be supported if they don't. The tradeoff is that you won't have all the options you might otherwise have, unless you add in extra components which aren't supported, in which case you might have been better off just putting one together yourself.

    Think of the liberal arts program as a barebones system, that you need to complete on your own with more applied experience, like an internship. In the long term, the theory they teach there is much more important than tools like programming languages, since those skills are mostly picked up on the job, and often not carried from one job to the next. On the other hand, the big engineering program probably has much better connections to industry and will get your career up and running more easily, just as an OEM computer works as soon as you turn it on.

    If you choose the liberal arts program, you will need to augment it somehow with practical experience, or go to grad school at a big engineering program and get it there. If you want to take a DIY approach to your career, go to the liberal arts school and seek out internships to get experience. If you just want to focus on the tech, go to the big school which probably has a better equipped career center for the skills you'll be developing.
  • by tytso ( 63275 ) * on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @04:26PM (#23095270) Homepage
    I went to school at MIT, and yeah, I had a 4.0 (A's are worth 4 points at MIT) GPA --- but I also had a minor in economics, and took classes such as Law for the IT Manager from the MIT Sloan School. I also was an officer at the MIT Gilbert and Sullivan Players, the MIT Student Information Processing Bureau (the MIT computer club), the MIT Lecture Series Committee (which shows 35mm movies to subsidize lectures by people like Leonard Nimoy, Dr. Ruth, Jacques Costeau, etc.) and the MIT Episcopal Chaplaincy.

    What I found that was important --- studying with lots of smart people really challenges you, and makes you put in the extra effort so you can minor in student activities _and_ still hold down a good GPA. Learning computer science architectural lessons from older systems like Multics is very valuable; much more so than learning the syntax of C or Java. Learning how to schedule workers for the refreshment committees, disassembling and cleaning a soda machine, and figuring profit margins on soda and popcorn, does teach you many valuable lessons in the real world. So does taking classes in economics and law; just as much so as learning how to build a computer using a breadboard, wires, and 74xx TTL chips.

    The important thing to remember is that you can get a very broad based education at a technical school, but you have to reach out for it. I would be very dubious about a school (liberals arts or not) that concentrated more on math theory than CS architecture. Learning on the past mistakes and success of real-life operating systems is valuable. I'm not so convinced about learning about type theory and type functions. Most good technical schools will have clases in IP law, negotiating, economics, and those are very much good things to learn. In particular, if you don't know how to read a balance sheet and a profit and loss statement before you leave college, do take the time to find out. It's useful in so many different contexts....

User hostile.