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What programming should I know before college?

I'm 17 years old and I'm new at computer science and programming, but I was fascinated about computers and making program's things since my childhood. Now I'm a junior high school student going to pass her BAC exam this year, and I have decided to choose studying computer science and programming next year at the university since I'm interested in and have good grades at math and physiques.

Should I have a good level at programming and start learning programming languages before I attend the university in order to get things ups there? Or is it okay if I just learn the basics?

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marked as duplicate by Karl Bielefeldt, unholysampler, Robert Harvey, chrisaycock, Walter Feb 22 '12 at 1:00

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

Have you tried asking a professor or tutor from the university you're planning to attend? – Andres F. Feb 21 '12 at 21:22
@MarkTrapp: Wouldn't this question be more "Should I learn..." then "What should I learn...:? – Dynamic Feb 21 '12 at 21:32
@Jae "Should I learn..." is completely answered by "What should I learn...": a possible answer (provided by a number of people in the linked question) can be "you don't need to know anything going in." – user8 Feb 21 '12 at 21:34

5 Answers 5

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I was in your exact position before going to college. I had no programming experience, but decided to do Computer Science anyway. At least at my college, my Intro to Programming class was more than enough to get me ready for the more advanced topics. It's like most things: you get what you put into it. The guys that skipped, slept in, or didn't care about class failed, and ended up changing majors. Those of us that worked hard did well. :) Good luck, though. I can promise you, programming is one of the most fun things you will do, if you enjoy logic, computers, math, or even just puzzles.

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Thank you for answering my question :), it was really helpful to hear it from someone who was in my exact position before. I do enjoy computer very much and have no problems in learning new things about it, and I am sure I will enjoy programming and do well if I work hard and do my best :). Thanks again. – xXSarahXx Feb 22 '12 at 16:40

Knowing some programming would help, but almost every university or college course will start with teaching enough programming that you don't need to start with it. At least, in the US courses I have seen, in Australia, and in the UK. Other parts of the world might differ.

Your best bet is to ask the universities that you are interested in and see what they recommend - they will be able to give more specific, and locally focused, advice.

After all, knowing how to program Ruby and then finding all the teaching in the course was C would give you some advantage, but not nearly as much as learning C would have done.

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If you want to get ahead in class.

Just learning the basics can give you a huge jump-start in class, and can give you a variety of options of what you can do before school.

My advice to you would be to, if you know what University you are going to, find out language you will be taught. Then pick up a book, or even watch a YouTube tutorial, and get started.

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First, I think this is going to depend on the university to some degree. If it's a university that's going to teach a lot of theory, the programming language of the courses is borderline unimportant as you're going to be learning more abstract concepts like data structures and algorithms (this will look familiar to you as a student of math). If, on the other hand, you're going to more of a trade school, I would suggest doing some tutorials on the language(s) in question and perhaps buy some books to work through.

Anecdotally, I did my undergrad work at Carnegie Mellon University, which is considered to be a rigorous institution, and I did not have any C/C++ experience when I went (that was the language of instruction at the time). This was not a significant barrier in the slightest. There was a track for students with C/C++ and another for students who had not done this before. I think you'll find the same to be the case at most institutions. If you have experience, great, they'll speed you along and cater to you. If not, they'll teach you.

I also would offer a piece of advice. Don't sweat a programming language. At a good school, you're going to learn mathematical and logical concepts, which you'll eventually narrow into focusing on specific programming concepts. Don't get me wrong -- you'll write code. But, you're not going to be learning how to crank out production software at a university like this -- you're going to learn to think like a Computer Scientist. These are similar, but not at all the same. That is to say, applied knowledge (specific languages) is not important in this context.

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No. You are actually better off not to have programmed before if you go to a top institution. They will teach you the best ways to do things, and if you muck around before then there's just that much you will have to unlearn, or that many bad habits you will pick up. If you go to a top institution, content-wise the only difference will be in the first month or two of work anyway, then it will be new to everyone.

Practice makes permanent, only perfect practice makes perfect. Go to a good school and the only way you'll know to write is the right way.

You can walk into an MIT or Stanford with a good attitude, work ethic, and zero experience and do just fine.

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I can't condone advise to remain ignorant. Get out there and learn what you can. I also have qualms with "practice makes permanent". What, is your mind etched in stone? But your last statement is true enough. – Philip Feb 22 '12 at 18:50

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