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Ask Slashdot: What To Do Before College?

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the buy-a-house-with-the-tuition dept.

Education 335

First time accepted submitter MtownNaylor writes "I graduated high school two days ago and am currently enrolled to attend college for studying Computer Science. I spent last summer working as a contractor, programming in Java doing work for a single company. I am looking to further either my career, my education, or both this summer. The problem is that I have found it difficult to find summer employment or internships programming for a multitude of reasons (lack of opportunities, lack of experience, lack of degree.) So what is a high school graduate who wants to work as a programmer to do?"

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Open Source (5, Informative)

mrtwice99 (1435899) | about 2 years ago | (#40400933)

Pick an open source project that you find interesting and get involved in it. It will give you experience in coding, working with people, and look good to the type of employers you would probably want to get hired by.

Other option (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40401385)

Enjoy your summer, it will be one of your last. Travel, go camping, toss back a few beers, anything but work.

Re:Other option (1)

stanlyb (1839382) | about 2 years ago | (#40401677)

I second that.

Re:Open Source (3, Insightful)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about 2 years ago | (#40401633)

This. ----- And also there's more to learning than just your programming career. That's why colleges make you take "core" courses in history, language, et cetera. I'd spend the summer downloading some Teaching Company audios and educating yourself.

Also, for me, the most challenging course was Physics 101, 102, and 201. It might be worthwhile to get your college's textbook, or download one, and read through it one time. You don't have to understand everything... just give yourself a general overview of what you'll be learning over the next 2 years.

Oh and since you'll be meeting lots of girls, maybe a copy of "Mars and Venus on a Date" so you don't accidentally insult your potential future wife. ;-)

If Poor Acquire Capital, If Not ... (5, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | about 2 years ago | (#40400939)

Well, I can remember that summer and I spent it working in the fields, bailing hay, framing houses and working as a busboy/waiter/bartender at night. But that was just because that was the best way for me to earn extra cash before college. It was made clear to me that I was expected to pay for all of my schooling just like everyone else in my family and, growing up under the poverty line, that made sense. So if you have any legal way to acquire extra capital then that's what I would do. Bagging groceries isn't going to help your coding abilities but if it gives you enough breathing room to prevent a loan shark from taking advantage of you in college, I'd take that option.

Now had my family been able to pay my way through and acquiring capital was not an urgent necessity, there still wouldn't have been any internships or jobs available for a programmer at my location. In this situation and knowing what I know now, I would have opted for other paths:

1. Approach an entity that doesn't have a lot of money (e.g. school, library, city council, county park, church, whatever) and ask them if they need anything improved or fixed IT-wise. You can take an off-the-shelf route like just reskinning phpBB for a library forum or implement a server for voting on new books to acquire or an announcement system for school closings or even a static calendar page for events. Maybe you build it from the ground up like new reservation system for people who want to reserve a book at the library before they drive 40 minutes to pick it up. If the facility likes it, they'll use it. If they don't, well at least you learned something. The thing is, you'll build experience working with real-ish requirements and even if it amounts to nothing you'll learn why. Aim for something simple to ensure success and try not to reinvent the wheel. Now-a-days with Rails' scaffold system, you can stand up CRUD apps in no time. I remember a lot of broken processes as a kid that I saw at Boy Scouts, parks, libraries, etc where a simple registration form would have saved a couple people a lot of work.

2. Contribute to open source. I'd shy away from starting your own open source project. That is actually difficult to do unless you know someone demanding it and then you're kind of being held to get it done. Anyone can check in a project to sourceforge or github (and they often do) but without users it quickly withers and dies. I'd suggest looking into an active project and seeing if you can understand the source code. If you can contribute, that's great. That's experience and that's something you can put on your resume -- even if it goes defunct by the time you graduate.

3. Copy last year's course pages for the beginning CS and Math classes you intend to take and start working through them. Seriously, I wish I had thought of this way back then and if they're still up for your college, grab them and start looking at the problems so you don't get a wake up call. My college required me to take four semesters of calc as a CS major and that was a harsh reality indeed. If you start working on a project now and it's great by the time you get to the course, your professor might ask you to become a TA for some extra cash. Sure, it's brown nosing but it also feels really good to be prepared.

Those two suggestions are assuming you don't need capital and there's no paying gig. If you don't like them, hell, just enjoy your summer -- when you succeed you'll be working 9 to 5 and I sorta wish I had spent more time at the pool, hanging out with friends, playing music with crappy bands, playing baseball with pickup groups, etc. Don't forget to live a little.

Take a break (5, Informative)

buk110 (904868) | about 2 years ago | (#40400957)

I know you're looking for work stuff to do, but this is most likely the last real break you're going to have. Because it's classes & internships & part-time jobs & everything else. Take some down time to just a some girls/guys/whatever You're only young once

Re:Take a break (5, Funny)

Hatta (162192) | about 2 years ago | (#40401047)

Indeed. There's plenty of time to polish up your resume during college. Spend your last free summer buying cigarettes for slutty high school girls. Remember, if she smokes, she pokes.

Re:Take a break (4, Insightful)

localman57 (1340533) | about 2 years ago | (#40401061)

Yeah. And get outside. During college I hit the books all year long. Then, over a couple of summers I worked on the landscaping crew for a big company in my town. Those were the best summers I ever had, even though I got a couple of internships the next two summers. Driving a giant riding mower across acres of grass at 15mph, the smell of fresh cut lawn and sunshine. Those were the days...

Re:Take a break (1)

yincrash (854885) | about 2 years ago | (#40401227)

Agreed. If you do need the money, just do something part time for the cash. Otherwise, enjoy yourself.

Re:Take a break (1)

Bigby (659157) | about 2 years ago | (#40401425)

Make a mobile app that helps people relax

Re:Take a break (1)

0100010001010011 (652467) | about 2 years ago | (#40401549)

Yep. Have a life. From here on out it's going to be summer internships then a career.

Re:Take a break (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40401555)

Go to a temp agency. You will find a variety of tasks need doing. You will see many different places and experience many different people. You will also get some money. While in college, the skills at the temp agency may help find you a part-time job to help pay for that degree.

Contribute (2)

Sav1or (2600417) | about 2 years ago | (#40400961)

Contribute to an open source project? It'll keep you sharp, let's you work with other people, and it won't look bad on a resume' if you contribute a lot and do good.

Find an open source project and contribute (1)

adlib24 (739952) | about 2 years ago | (#40400967)

The great thing about coding is you can create your own experience. I would find an open source project and contribute, and start building ups portfolio of published code.

Re:Find an open source project and contribute (1)

Shavano (2541114) | about 2 years ago | (#40401685)

The great thing about coding is you can create your own experience. I would find an open source project and contribute, and start building ups portfolio of published code.

But that experience mostly consists of staring at a computer screen for hours at a time, binging on chips and soda and getting fat.

Have some fun (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40400969)

This is probably the only time in your life you can have some fun, guilt free. Don't forget to take advantage of this.

Just have some fun... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40400975)

lots of opportunities for this during the next four years of your life. Spend the 2-3 months you have doing whatever you want if you can manage it. Life is about to change.

Start getting ahead (2)

jdog90000 (2604783) | about 2 years ago | (#40400977)

I'm doing the same thing as you, minus being able to get a job beforehand. What I'm going to do this summer is start learning. There's so much on the internet to learn that you can be way ahead of everyone and make college a lot easier. Of course since you said you have a job programming java, you're clearly ahead of me, but there's always more to learn and it's a great opportunity i you can get your hands on an internship.

good luck (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40400981)

As a college Computer Programming undergrad, who has already applied for several internships, I say good luck.


travischristal (1645641) | about 2 years ago | (#40400989)

It will indirectly help your programming career.

Re:WWOOF (1)

Shoe Puppet (1557239) | about 2 years ago | (#40401105)

This. There will be more than enough programming in your life to come, so you should get other kinds of life experience.

Also, employers like to see these things on resumes.

Re:WWOOF (2)

Shavano (2541114) | about 2 years ago | (#40401709)

Girlfriend highly recommended. By the time you get out of college, most of the good ones will be taken and you'll have to wait for them to divorce the losers they married the first time.

Take a vacation... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40400991)

...if you can, and see the world; there's lots of time for work later.

I'll mentor for free (1)

zidium (2550286) | about 2 years ago | (#40400995)

I'll mentor you for free. Just skype me at (

Enjoy your summer... (2)

mschiller (764721) | about 2 years ago | (#40401001)

If you don't need the money, enjoy your summer! Spend time doing hobbies, volunteer opportunities, working on open source projects [programming]. Worry about education and internships when you get to college.

It'll be A LOT easier to get employed after your sophomore year. You should try after Freshmen year, but no guarantee it'll happen.

Maybe take a general ed class that will transfer at your local community college if you must do "something productive"

Enjoy yourself, forget about school (5, Insightful)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about 2 years ago | (#40401009)

This summer marks the end of your childhood.

Re:Enjoy yourself, forget about school (4, Insightful)

WillAdams (45638) | about 2 years ago | (#40401067)


I've always regretted that I spent that summer after graduating from high school working --- I'd considered hiking the Appalachian Trail --- which I've finally begun, but I'm reduced to doing it in sections, which is far more expensive and lacks the sense of achievement of doing it all at once.

Re:Enjoy yourself, forget about school (2)

WillAdams (45638) | about 2 years ago | (#40401417)

Perfect reading material for this summer would be a copy of Dr. Donald Ervin Knuth's _The Art of Computer Programming_

Re:Enjoy yourself, forget about school (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40401415)

I've always regretted working rather than enjoying my summer as a late teen.

Re:Enjoy yourself, forget about school (1)

justin.foell (1492271) | about 2 years ago | (#40401443)

Also agreed... spend your summer enriching yourself with something that may not be related to your career. I marched in a Drum & Bugle Corps [] for 4 years when I was 18-21. My fellow classmates scolded me for not getting an internship, citing that I would not easily find a job without one. They were wrong. Enrichment in other areas will make you a well-rounded person. Plus you'll likely meet other people interested in your field that may offer you a new perspective.

Here's a tip: you have the rest of your life to work. Do something you may never have a chance to do again (or until you're retired).

Re:Enjoy yourself, forget about school (1)

LordNimon (85072) | about 2 years ago | (#40401451)

Agree. I got about $700 for my graduation, and I spent it all on gas and food hanging out at our vacation house all summer long. Granted, not everyone has a vacation home, but the sentiment is still valid.

Re:Enjoy yourself, forget about school (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40401545)

Exactly. Hang out with friends. Go to the beach. Get laid. Slack off. Lounge around. Hit the local arcade. Go to the theater in the middle of the day. Go to some parties. Go for a road trip.

You have the next 50 years of your life to not do that stuff.

Android SDK! (4, Informative)

cplusplus (782679) | about 2 years ago | (#40401017)

Why not work on an Android App of some kind? Download the Android SDK [] ! It's free, the Eclipse development environment is free, and the SDK even has a really nice emulator so you can run your Apps even if you don't have an Android phone.

What to do before college? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40401023)

two chicks at the same time, dude

learn a productive trade. (-1)

Thud457 (234763) | about 2 years ago | (#40401669)

two chicks at the same time, dude

I know college costs have gotten out of hand with republican legislatures cutting support for education and loose lending rules, but I doubt this guy has a million dollars [] .

Actually, this is a good time for this young feller to be seriously contemplating the philosophical underpinnings of that movie.

Enjoy your time off (5, Insightful)

guises (2423402) | about 2 years ago | (#40401025)

I would suggest relaxing. You're not going to have many more summers like this and you might as well enjoy it. This is especially true since you just graduated - most of your high school friends are probably still around, you may not get the chance to see them again.

Re:Enjoy your time off (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 2 years ago | (#40401341)

I second this. If your life follows a common trajectory, you'll be very busy with school, and then with establishing your career, and then with kids, and then with paying for their college.

The next time you have a big break could very well be when you retire.

If you can afford to, enjoy your summer and build good memories.

Or if you really want to work (2)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | about 2 years ago | (#40401561)

Take any job. You aren't going to get a job doing what you want probably and that's ok. So if you want money, and work experience, take it where you can get it.

I did work summer after high school as a surveyor's assistant. Actually was a good job and I'd consider going in to surveying if I ever get sick of IT. Minimum wage stuff but hey, the work wasn't bad, it was a job, it was outside, and since I was living with my parents minimum wage meant plenty of toys.

It can help too because it is work experience. Something I can say, as someone who hires university students, is we'd like someone who this isn't their first job. We don't require it, but if it is down to you and someone with similar skills but work experience, we'll probably take them. Reason is some people have difficulty adjusting to the idea of regular work. So if a student has already had a job, they've overcome that. We'll take someone with more computer skills with no work experience, of course, just saying that if it comes down to a deciding factor, that's the side it'll come down on.

Then, in terms of getting in to IT/programming work, well look around on campus. Most universities hire a lot of student workers. The jobs are generally very flexible with regards to class time and you can often find ones that will let you do a whole lot if you show you are competent. I'll give students as much as they want and can handle.

Only thing I'll warn you is don't think you know everything, and don't think you'll get a senior level position. You'll get a student position, which generally don't pay that much (that's why universities like them), you'll be the low man on the totem poll, and the people you work for probably will know more than you. Just don't think you are going to come in and be top of the heap (we had a grad student that asked for a job, wanted to be an IT manager for a year until he graduated).

At any rate I'd say the parent's advice of "enjoy the summer" is a good one. You won't screw yourself or anything. But if you want a job, just be ok with a regular minimum wage job. In terms of more relevant work experience, look at it in university.

OMG does this really need explaining? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40401029)

Go out and get laid FFS.

Build something (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40401035)

If i were in your position i'd start working on a nice mobile application. Get the bulk of the app done before school starts and hopefully it won't take to much time from your studies to maintain and expand on it. Additionally when it comes to get a job next summer you can point back to the app you built the summer previous.

Join the Military (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | about 2 years ago | (#40401041)

Spend 4 years in the National Guard or one of the major branches. Learn some discipline and responsibility. Not only will you be a better student, but you'll be more likely to get a job.

Re:Join the Military (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40401195)

Excellent! I was trying to think of a way to get a little over-achieving snot like that out of our profession so he wouldn't compete with the rest of us. Getting him killed in the military is perfect!

Re:Join the Military (1)

bkmoore (1910118) | about 2 years ago | (#40401275)

The military's not for everyone, but it definitely helped me in college later on. Talk to some vets and be realistic about your expectations. The recruiting posters are just to get you in the door. If you're looking for leadership, consider the Army or Marines. The Navy probably has the best technical opportunities for junior enlisted, especially in subsurface or in air traffic control. The Air Force, probably not so much, they seem to have more of a motherhood mentality towards their young ones. On a personal level- if the opportunity presented itself, I wouldn't reenlist. But I do not regret having served.

Re:Join the Military - NOT (4, Insightful)

tlambert (566799) | about 2 years ago | (#40401551)

The parent poster suggests you join the National Guard.

I have a friend with a masters in CS, was a highly respected engineer at Apple. He was a recreational helicopter pilot who always wanted to be a rescue pilot working for LifeFlight or a similar air ambulance organization. So he joined the National Guard to get flight hours and get rescue training for domestic disasters, which he felt was an OK trade for boot camp plus one weekend a month and two weeks a year.

He's in Afghanistan now.

-- Terry

Re:Join the Military - NOT (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40401647)

So he wanted to be trained and paid and give nothing in return? There's a group for people like that. It's called everyone, and we meet at the bar after work to discuss how life didn't work out like we wanted.

Re:Join the Military (1, Insightful)

jd (1658) | about 2 years ago | (#40401641)

Worst possible path. Discipline is the enemy of creativity. Think of it in terms of engineering. If you want to build a bridge, reliably, with very specific parameters, according to a pre-existing template, then discipline is essential. The Romans were brilliant at discipline, which is why they could engineer structures of fixed design in no time flat. There's a surfeit of such engineers - India and Asia are packed with them. The world doesn't need any more regimented engineers.

If you want to build something new, something that never existed before, to solve a problem for which pre-existing templates are inadequate or useless, then you do NOT want discipline. You want childlike creativity, something that military training WILL kill.

This is especially true if you want to be in the scientific computing field, where all the Really Interesting Work takes place.

Either take the summer off, or... (3, Insightful)

AnotherShep (599837) | about 2 years ago | (#40401051)

if you have an itch, scratch it. Work on a personal project - something that bugs you or that you can improve. Personal accomplishments like that can make a huge difference come job interview time.

Re:Either take the summer off, or... (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about 2 years ago | (#40401167)

Agreed. Work on something that you can show off in an interview (or to link to on a resume). It would be impressive to have a project with you on your smartphone that you could show off, or something you could pull up on the interviewer's computer.

It could do a lot to make up for the typical sparse resume you have when you are first starting out.

Even if it isn't something that you can show off, it will give you something interesting to talk about.

New Zealand (3, Interesting)

terbeaux (2579575) | about 2 years ago | (#40401055)

Get a working holiday visa. []

Go to New Zealand.

Enjoy the best year of your life.

Go home.

Start your career.

Re:New Zealand (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40401345)

Don't forget, prostitution is legal in New Zealand!

Enjoy your summer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40401059)

You've got the whole rest of your life to work for somebody else! Landing internships will be much easier once you have a couple of years of college under your belt. The bigger companies all have official programs where they recruit students and pay them competitive wages for summer work. That'll help a lot to pay for school or at least get you some spending money.

At your age and point in your education, the easiest way to find an internship is to know somebody who works for a smaller business that is looking for an intern. You're generally not going to find this stuff listed in the online job classifieds. If this isn't an option (and maybe even if it is), working on something non-paid can still be a great way to learn new stuff. Two great ideas: write your own app or contribute to an open source project you find interesting.


Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40401075)

Work as a Hand in a CNC machine shop. Lots of programming there. and you get to experiece an alternate reality of programming by turning or milling out large pieces of metal. and now a days especially in the midwest, a Well qualified CNC progammer that knows the fanuc"G"code has been few and far between.

Write a game (2)

geekd (14774) | about 2 years ago | (#40401083)

Write something. Participate in the Liberated Pixel Cup [] or write a game on your own. I just wrote one and it was fun: []

The best programmers learn on their own. They tinker at home. Don't rely on school to teach you everything, or even most things.

Or you could just party and drink and get laid. :)

learn a language (recommend: Chinese) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40401093)

One common flaw of tech people is failure to be well rounded.

This might seem like flame bait to some, but the simple reality is that the USA, which long dominated the technology landscape ever since the early days of Silicon Valley, is becoming less important over time. More and more both hardware and software design work is being moved to India and China, with the USA fulfilling roles in marketing and branding. Being able to speak a language that lets you communicate with other people in their own native language can be a KEY asset, and can position you as a liaison between those two worlds.

Duplicate existing work. Intern for 'free'*. (1)

DirkDaring (91233) | about 2 years ago | (#40401101)

Pick a project. Look at a website, find something cool. Now duplicate it in your own work. Try and make it better. You will gain a ton of knowledge, and you can show your code to the next employer.

If your parents did their finances well they will be paying you to internship for free somewhere. If not... take a job selling coffee / delivering pizzas in the evenings.

And you need to be spending 1 hour a day, every single day weekends included, filling out grant applications.

Just my $.02 and what my kids will be doing once they graduate high school.

open source (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about 2 years ago | (#40401125)

Get involved with an open source project. Go for fame rather than money. When you're looking for a job or internship, it certainly can't hurt for you to have your name attached to a few successful projects.

The situations are not exactly parallel, but after dot com bust, I was out of work for two years. I spent that time writing a CMS and putting together an internet hosting service -- small potatoes, maxed out at ten clients -- got a backpack, stuffed it with a good selection of tools and did piecemeal small business system and network support. When the economy improved and companies started interviewing again, I could show that I hadn't spent two years on the couch watching the sci-fi channel -- I had actually accomplished something, because "I feel the need to be useful". It put me ahead of the pack.

Showing commitment to your vocation, even (especially?) when you're not getting paid to do so, may put you ahead of the pack at a crucial time.

Have Fun (but seriously) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40401149)

I'm in the same situation as you, in my experience CS/computerknowledgeingeneral is way more useful in combination with other passions than it is alone. Go do fun stuff find out what you love. I'm into music so I'm doing a bunch of shows this summer with a funk metal band, and I'm doing all the technical work recording the album. More on the computer science side, I love game design so I've been working on a small project that was inspired by a variety of different things. I also have a job designing a website and some web apps, and I've realized that I really enjoy the variety of tools (and unique ways you can use them) in web design. It's like a puzzle--and it turns out the person I'm designing the site for is a teacher at my college, I'm going to be an RA for her class freshmen year. I didn't seek out any of these things individually, I got into all them by being friendly with a lot of different people--and talking to a lot of different people that I'd never met before. Going out to town or wherever and meeting/hanging out with people is far more productive than it sounds, at least if you're spending time with a variety of different people and are open to meeting new people.

Get Laid (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40401157)

Get laid as much as humanly possible during your free time, because once you start your CS program you will never find enough time or worthy candidates (at least, hanging around the CS labs).

Enjoy your last summer ever? (1)

Sebastopol (189276) | about 2 years ago | (#40401165)

If you can afford it, enjoy your last summer to yourself. Unless you become a teacher (or filthy rich), you won't have the same rhythm in your life anymore, so make the most of it.

Maybe I'm just being to nostalgic, I worked 6 days a week my Final Summer fixing bicycles to make extra money for school. And I ended up with way more spare cash than most of my college friends, but that summer my core highschool friends did a ton of fun once-in-a-lifetime stuff that I had to miss out on.

Sit Down and Consider (1)

rsmith84 (2540216) | about 2 years ago | (#40401199)

is the ROI of college actually going to benefit you? If you've got a good skillset you could use those traditional years building something useful and putting experience on paper instead of throwing dollars at a piece of paper that says "Hey! I know things... in theory".

Re:Sit Down and Consider (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40401455)

College is what you make of it.

But so is not going to college, and it's free.

It's June... (4, Insightful)

bughunter (10093) | about 2 years ago | (#40401217)

I have bad news and good news for you.

The bad: if you haven't already found an internship by June, you're not going to find one. Most internship programs start screening and interviewing applicants around January, or even earlier. I've been in aerospace and commercial engineering work for 30 years and I've never seen a summer internship program that didn't already have their candidates in for interviews by March or April at the latest. And by the time the term ends, lodging and all the other logistics are already worked out.

The good news is that most intern programs are looking for college students, not HS Grads, so you have four or five more chances to qualify. Join the ACM and IEEE chapters at your school and let them know you want to apply for summer internships.

At this point I recommend two things, not mutually exclusive, both of which have essentially been mentioned before:

1) Find a project to work on... either FOSS or just a homebrew thing. Something small enough that you can finish so as to demonstrate your development skills. But also push the envelope and pick a project that will force you to learn something new... one or two minor things. And then document what you learned by writing a report; 2 or 3 pages will suffice.

2) Have fun. You're an entering freshman. You have no idea how little free time you're going to have come fall. I recommend you blow off some steam and go do some fun things you've always wanted to do. It's going to be at least four years before you have a chance to do that again. You will not be criticized for doing that.

Google Summer of Code (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40401223)

First of all, I'll second "open source". Speaking as an employer, having someone come in with an open source project they did is more impressive than a couple years experience as a drone. It doesn't even have to be a good project, or one that's nicely finished, just something you were passionate about. Passion is often the distinguishing feature between two candidates.

Google Summer of Code is another option and probably a little nicer on your wallet!

Read (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40401231)

Read math books appropriate to your level, Algorithm Design Manual by Skienna, or start on Cormen, et al.

If you're dead set on something hands-on, three months is really only enough time to make an app. Think one up, write it, and release it.
For work, do something social. You're not going to make much money writing software for someone else at your level, so have some fun and meet people. Wait to be stuck in a cubicle talking only with nerds until your job offers work out to an annual salary at least $3k times your age.


A lot of people saying enjoy the summer... (5, Insightful)

garcia (6573) | about 2 years ago | (#40401235)

I agree, I really do, but many aren't providing any reasons why:

1. No employer is going to care what you did the summer before you went to UG

2. The work leading up to the degree you learn at the end of your UG work may not challenge you at all. Working to "get ahead" may leave you frustrated and bewildered as to why you worked so hard.

3. School is just school. Just do it, enjoy it while you're there, get good grades, and get a job after you're done (or go on to advanced studies, whatever).

As for this summer, enjoy it. If that means writing code for fun or screwing around w/friends, do it. You'll be able to do that stuff in college too but in a much different way--especially if you want to do extremely well.

Good luck.

Re:A lot of people saying enjoy the summer... (4, Insightful)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 2 years ago | (#40401377)

Another good answer: Something other than coding.

You're going to have many many summers to code. If all you've ever done is coding, you're going to find yourself to be an exceptionally boring person. You may also find that your first love isn't coding at all, but actually something completely different. It's far cheaper to make that discovery now than 3 years into your CS major.

Anything (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40401265)

Anything that pays enough to help pay the cost of college.

Furthering your career (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40401267)

I am looking to further either my career, my education, or both this summer.

Well, I can't give you any advice for this summer, but I highly suggest you complement your CS degree with some kind of management, business, or finance degree. Because that's going to be the only way you'll be able to further your career once you get a few years out of college. And strongly consider getting an MBA at some point within the first decade after graduating college.

I know you said you wanted to work as a programmer, but you'll earn a better living in management or finance. You can always program as a hobby on the side while making at least 3X what your friends that went to work as programmers make.

Get experience. (1)

lattyware (934246) | about 2 years ago | (#40401269)

Get experience. Internships and jobs are not the only way. Open source software, personal projects (the two can overlap a lot), do whatever you want. Just write code if you want to get good at it. Get on StackOverflow and ask/answer questions (once you have the relevant knowledge).

If you can talk about programming well, show you truly understand it, then people will know you are capable. To be honest, you'll learn more doing that than doing your degree, if you do it right. The internet is a great resource.

I did this before I went to Uni, and - I don't want to brag, but to show I am not just saying it with nothing to back myself up - I am 2 years in, having gotten firsts both years, and have an internship at IBM for the summer. With no prior experience working for a company (not even non-relevant experience). If you can learn and show you are capable, it's not a barrier.

Have fun, study fun things (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 2 years ago | (#40401279)

Have some fun with your last summer before college. Spend time with your friends, especially those who you will not be seeing in college. You should also study fun things, things that schools do not teach you. Read books (not just programming books), study interesting approaches to programming (Forth comes to mind -- not commonly taught in schools, not strictly applicable to most careers, but definitely an interesting language that is worth studying, if you have time). College should be about having your mind opened; if you want a head start, spend some time opening your mind before you arrive.

Volunteer (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40401289)

If you can't find a paying gig, volunteer. Find a church group that needs a quick web-app to organize their fundraisers, find a local group of girl scouts that want a decent looking web page to advertise their cookies...

Point is, find a technology solution to solve some groups needs. This develops problem solving skills, not just in writing code, but in automating processes. When I interview applicants, those that have had some volunteer experience greatly out-weigh those that have no experience and, sometimes, even those that have had working experience.

Build Something. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40401297)

Make an android app of your own, or a web app.

Try to scope it as "proof of concept" so you can build it in a month. If you actually finish in a month you can polish it. If not, you have two more months to get something shippable. You will do your education well to just try, but you will further your career by actually building something. Doesn't have to make money, but obviously having a stream of income (even if not full-time) is not "furthering" your career, it is actually a career.

Try to really manage the project, give yourself targets and status tracking, use an agile methodology or even a tool like basecamp or Jira if you can get a free trial.

On top of all that, however, I'd recommend developing *yourself* in a different dimension entirely from your education/career. Take lessons on a musical instrument, work on cars, plant a garden, bicycle, volunteer, or something ... not to look good on a resume, just to build you, yourself, as a person. The network effects of connecting with people with shared interest that aren't related to programming will also be useful. (And college chicks love a guy who can play a guitar even if it's a lame-ass 3-chord thing.)

fuck that (0)

j00r0m4nc3r (959816) | about 2 years ago | (#40401307)

smoke weed, get drunk, play video games, go to the beach, skateboard, whatever
you've got like 50 years left to do that work shit..

Have a Life (1)

Blackhawk5367 (1955620) | about 2 years ago | (#40401309)

Hang out with your friends, especially if most of your friends are going to a different college. However do try to work some odd programming jobs here but don't forget about a social life and having fun. Unless you are having to pay for the entirety of school and you are going to an expensive out of state school you don't need to work a full time job. Especially as a computer science major, if you are in a city like Austin you will be next summer be able to find $20+ hour internship.

and you need college because...? (0)

holophrastic (221104) | about 2 years ago | (#40401319)

Start your own business. You're in an industry where the clients know nothing about the fabrication -- like many but not most industries. What's impressive about the programming industry is that the clients actually know that they don't know anything about programming.

So it's easy to get started. You'll obviously be limitted in the beginning, mostly due to lack of infrastructure. But that's ok, since you'll still be making a nice $20K in year one. Within three years you'll have found yourself with enough infrastructure to react in professional business ways, and you'll be at the $50K level. Beyond that, the projects you select, the clients you foster, the talent that you develop, and a little bit of luck will take you as high as you want.

That's what I did, and I wound up dropping out of university after 18 months. Should have done it earlier.

After five years, I was making the equivalent of $80K (as a business owner, you pay way less tax). Now, at 33 years old, I've got a nice new large house, a sportscar, the equivalent of $120K - $200K depending on the year and the number of vacations I take. Life is incredibly smooth, I can't get fired, it's unlikely that I'd lose all of my clients in the same month. I've been through multiple economic down-turns with little effect (things are smoothed out over multiple clients).

What I don't have is paint on the walls, and it's killing me. But I just don't want to spend time painting when I can go out and have fun. And I don't believe it paying someone else to do something that I can do that easily. It's a major problem in my life. It's almost as big as last week's major life problem when I had two fun things to do in one night, and it took five days for me to find a neighbour able to take my show tickets.

Major life problems take on a whole new meaning when you set your hours -- and I don't just mean work hours; I mean sleep hours too.

MIT (4, Interesting)

Lumpy (12016) | about 2 years ago | (#40401323)

MIT open courseware. Take all the courses now. That way you can get ahead of the curve by leaning from the TOP professors instead of the second tier ones you will have elsewhere. IF you do good enough you could test out of many classes for course credit so you can be further ahead of the game.

Right now is the best time to be a teen before college. You have world class undergrad and graduate level stuff available to you for free. Eat all of it and ask for more.

Re:MIT (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | about 2 years ago | (#40401581)

I've been out of school for a looong time now, and I took their 6002x course recently, and was pretty amazed at how many of the basics I'd forgotten over the years.

Their courses are pretty handy for established professionals to go back and brush up on the long-forgotten basics of yore.

plenty here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40401327)

Start up your own company (1)

Elgon (234306) | about 2 years ago | (#40401329)

Really, do it now. Do it tomorrow! You're young with no wife, no kids and no major debts (mortgage and college.)

You will almost certainly fail (~90%) but there is a small chance you might succeed modestly (~9%) or even succeed wildly and become pretty wealthy (1%) but in almost any of these cases, you will equip yourself more fully for life during and beyond college than any of your peers.

Best of luck.


Re:Start up your own company (1)

bman49er (2518184) | about 2 years ago | (#40401453)

You're young with no wife, no kids

Take advantage of this very fact as much as you possibly can.

Re:Start up your own company (1)

dav1dc (2662425) | about 2 years ago | (#40401583)

+1 Now is the time to take risks... using your time, rather than your $$$. ^_^ I started as a web designer/web developer working out of my parent's basement at age 15 simply because that was better than a "McJob" at the time! I trolled message boards looking for people desperate to hire cheap scripting/development help - and my contracts slowly got bigger and more lucrative as time passed. These days there are entire websites dedicated to connecting contracts and contractors (see By the time my "last summer" before University had come to an end, I actually had to delay moving into residence so that I could wrap up a sizeable contract (and get paid for it!)

Re:Start up your own company (1)

james_van (2241758) | about 2 years ago | (#40401637)

youll learn an incredible amount about business (and life), and the experience looks good on a resume. if you succeed- hey youve got a successful business! if you fail- oh well, youre young enough to bounce back and theres some great lessons you can learn even from failing a business

Contribute to Open Source (1)

balbus000 (1793324) | about 2 years ago | (#40401337)

Find a project that you interests you, maybe even software you use already, and try to fix some bugs.

Looks great on résumés as well as being a good learning experience.

Don't expect a job-- work for free (1)

nine-times (778537) | about 2 years ago | (#40401355)

It seems that others are saying similar things, but my general thought here is, don't expect a real programming job. People complain about CS graduates lacking experience, so a high school kid? Forget about it.

If you need the money, find the best-paying job you can get, even if it's working as a waiter. These jobs offer good experience too. There are many jobs that require some kind of customer-service and communication skills, and something like waiting tables provides experience for that.

If you want to gain experience as a programmer, then just come up with something that will help you learn, even if it's not a paying gig. Get involved in an open-source project. Or invent your own project for yourself. I don't know what your programming level is, but you could do something like writing your own blog software from scratch. There are tutorials to get you started, and then you can pick apart other open source projects to see how they do things. If you're more advanced, maybe think of a feature you'd like to see in Firefox and figure out if you can implement it.

Just experiment, try things, and play around. Even if you don't create anything very good, the attempt is a good experience.

Relax for the summer.... (1)

bman49er (2518184) | about 2 years ago | (#40401379)

Take this time for relaxing and adventures. Take this time while you don't have any obligations. Looks like you've already got some work experience before college and A LOT of college grads don't have that when the first get out. However, once you're in the school year and are still having trouble finding an internship or a part time job in your field, go to your instructors and seek research work. It probably won't pay well (or at all), but it looks good on a resume. Don't over work yourself while in school (24 hours a week max). I made the mistake working too much and not having much fun in college. Don't do the same. College can be the most fun in your adult life and can pave the way to more fun later if you do it right.

College goer x2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40401427)

This year will be my 4th years in college...

I recommend "projects", look on craigslist to see if anyone needs something designed (small business) or check at temp agencies.

Try not to work out of your field if you can afford to, because all the employers I've interviewed with, thier eyes just sorta glossed over "blah blah summer job";
if you have to pickup html/web design for coding...its related and almost always in demand

Speaking of cats "getting your tongue..." (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 2 years ago | (#40401463)

What should a future programmer do over the summer before college?

Take a manual labor job, lose weight and get in shape. You'll be surprised how much easier it is to get pussy. You may not even have to work at it. And we didn't have cougar match up sites on top of it.

Take advice from those before you.... (5, Insightful)

HockeyPuck (141947) | about 2 years ago | (#40401491)

My father told me once, "You've got 40 years of working ahead of you, enjoy your youth. It's the one thing that we always wish we had more of."

My favorite summer was between high school and college, before everyone went off in different directions. Have some fun, travel, chase girls, go camping... whatever floats your boat. Spending your summer writing code, is not something that you'll look back at and say,

"Man... I wish I had spent July and August writing code instead of that time at the lake with my best friends and that blonde girl from two cabins away..."

Travel, Read, Have Fun (1)

damm0 (14229) | about 2 years ago | (#40401497)

You're booked into college?

Go have fun, make friends, party it up, live your fantasy. You'll never get to do it again, and your summer internship will do nothing for you long term!

Work for startups! (1)

Nexion (1064) | about 2 years ago | (#40401515)

Take terrible pay to get an opportunity at a startup. The startup will eventually fail (most likely), but you will have the start of a resume. Since you pay tax it can be confirmed that you work there. The fact they are no longer in business means there is no one for them to contact to confirm details. I'm not say'n to lie on your resume, but use of colorful wording can be contradicted by someone at the company who wont be as colorful describing your time there. Eventually try to find a job that pays somewhat decently and stay there for a few years. Once you have a few years there start looking for a higher paying job elsewhere. You'll have the work history to be marketable, but the security of an existing job while you hunt. Don't jump on the highest pay job offered, but instead research the company and make sure you want to work there. Essentially move through unstable low pay jobs to build your work history and target long term, stable and well compensating jobs as your end goal.

Good luck out there, and remember... have fun with it.


Go for a hike (1)

gatzke (2977) | about 2 years ago | (#40401563)

After HS a buddy and I went camping in the mountains for a couple of weeks. It was awesome.

The summer my brother graduated from HS and I graduated from undergrad (before grad school) we hiked on the Appalachian Trail for a month. It was a life changing experience for me.

Camping does not cost much and you get some fresh air. Backpacking pushes your body and gives you time to think / reflect.

And you can meet some interesting folks...

How much will college cost? (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 2 years ago | (#40401571)

A serious thing to consider is, how much does college cost and is there anything you can do beforehand to get out in three years (or less) instead of four.

College is fun but life and freedom REALLY begin after college. If you set yourself up for a life with less debt you have a lot more options once you are out of college and really free.

So while taking the summer off might be fun, it's even more fun to position yourself for some serious freedom in your twenties.

take it easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40401591)

Come on man, hang out at the lake and try to get laid. If you don't need the money, no need to work

Party, be young (1)

farmy4700 (719453) | about 2 years ago | (#40401593)

party be young and carefree while you can.

Don't take CS take a tech school / IT class load (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 2 years ago | (#40401611)

Don't take CS take a tech school / IT class load it will give the skills needed for the job.

check out the college?? (3, Informative)

RobertLTux (260313) | about 2 years ago | (#40401617)

If at all possible work out a map of your school with all the needed "waypoints" so that you do not waste time getting from class A to Class B. Bonus points if you can actually see some/all of your teachers.

oh and a bit of a tip as soon as you get your school email address start signing up for the various company school programs
DreamSpark is a keyword for the M$ stuff.

Don't work for free (1)

Shavano (2541114) | about 2 years ago | (#40401643)

I know I am going to catch a lot of mod-downs for this but, NEVER GIVE YOUR WORK AWAY FOR FREE.

Working for free establishes the value of the kind of labor you engage in at zero, which means you and others have a more difficult time finding (paying) employment doing that kind of work. It doesn't just hurt you, it also hurts every other person who does that kind of work by increasing supply at zero dollar cost. Not only does it do so for all your potential employers, it also does the same thing in your own mind. The more you work for free, the more convinced you will become that there is no monetary value in your work.

You can do development on your own time and money and then sell the product to anybody willing to pay for it. That puts you in a better position because you can show the prospective clients that it works, but only deliver it if they agree to your terms.

This is not to say that you shouldn't contribute to FOSS software. There are ways of getting paid to develop FOSS and if you want to do that, that's a great idea.


Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40401675)


Prepare for college (4, Funny)

bmacs27 (1314285) | about 2 years ago | (#40401681)

Build your drug and alcohol tolerance.

Get a job (1)

0racle (667029) | about 2 years ago | (#40401703)

No, your part-time jobs will not all be in front of a computer. You might have to lower yourself and do something else.
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