Having talked to many potential computer scientists since the fall, I’ve come to realize many share a concern over their qualifications when it comes to Computer Science. I don’t see it as much with other majors, since an Aerospace Engineering applicant knows that most other students won’t have worked with a space shuttle yet. But aspiring computer scientists realize that their peers may have already gotten acquainted with programming, and worrying about being left behind!
Professors here understand that they are dealing with students with diverse skill sets. Students that have already build their own miniature games or websites are in the same classes as students that have done no more than used Microsoft word. That’s okay- both will have to work hard, because a good education challenges you. And, as it takes many computer scientists to realize, your education isn’t in programming. Your education is in logic, problem solving, data structures, and so much more.
Imagine it like this- the computer and its circuitry is your canvas. Programming languages are your means of creating art on that computer. Some tools are easy to use and quick- like a set of markers, you can create art quickly and with ease. But for some jobs, you want more fine-grained control and are willing to spend more time in exchange for a more powerful piece of artwork and choose to paint. A high-level scripting language like Python is like the markers, while the low-level nitty-gritty C++ is like the paint. Either way, you need some artistic know-how and a deft hand to really make a piece of artwork, and you can learn to use the marker or the paint brush easily after you know how to create the artwork.
That “artistic know-how” is the problem solving and logical wizardry your computer science knowledge will give you. You can learn to use colored pencils later- let’s figure out how to make a skeleton sketch, plan the drawings layout, and then execute perfectly. And your pre-college programming friends are great at coloring within the line, it’s true, they have yet to study from the same master artists who are teaching your Data Structures course. You just need a coloring book and some practice!
In case I stepped too out on a limb with the metaphor (hey, I am no English major, but I have my fun), don’t be worried if you don’t know how to program. You will be taught, and you will be fine. I feel like most of my Comp Sci friends didn’t know how to code at first. You will fit right in, as long as you come eager to learn.