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Pursuing the most competitive Computer Science programs? Go beyond “computer nerd!”

I attended a webinar that focused on applying to the highly-selective computer science programs many students dream about. My advice? Develop a balanced list! CS is often the most selective major at a college.

Take the highest levels of math and science courses, even if they are not offered at your high school. Take AP Calc BC at the minimum, and consider Multivariable Calculus and Linear Algebra. Get A’s in the most rigorous courses…and not just in math and science:

Surprise: while it’s important to focus on math science and coding languages, top programs look for students who are strong readers and writers as well. A computer science student who creates a blog definitely attracts attention. Start developing your application as early as 8th grade!

Reach for admission to competitive summer programs:


Kaggle Data Science

Apply to summer programs like these and others:

Upon reflection, students may find that their interests are more interdisciplinary than “pure” computer science. Computer Science combines with any subject–interdisciplinary crossover. Create something to show your broader range. A CS/Psychology student created an app that addressed mental health, a CS/Biology student developed one to trace women’s health-related symptoms.

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign now offers “CS-X” degree combined programs:

Options for during the school year?

Create your own Hack-a-thon at your school or library.

Look for Hack-a-thons in your area.

Contribute to an open source project. Just Google “open source.”

Create a mobile or web app.

Good luck!


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