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Ask Slashdot: What To Do Before College? 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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Ask Slashdot: What To Do Before College?

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  • by GodfatherofSoul ( 174979 ) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @01:47PM (#40401009)

    This summer marks the end of your childhood.

  • by guises ( 2423402 ) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @01:48PM (#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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 21, 2012 @01:48PM (#40401029)

    Go out and get laid FFS.

  • by AnotherShep ( 599837 ) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @01:49PM (#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:Take a break (Score:5, Insightful)

    by localman57 ( 1340533 ) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @01:50PM (#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...
  • by WillAdams ( 45638 ) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @01:50PM (#40401067) Homepage


    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.

  • It's June... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bughunter ( 10093 ) <bughunter@earthli[ ]net ['nk.' in gap]> on Thursday June 21, 2012 @01:57PM (#40401217) Journal

    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.

  • by garcia ( 6573 ) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @01:58PM (#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.

  • by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @02:05PM (#40401377) Homepage

    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.

  • Other option (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 21, 2012 @02:06PM (#40401385)

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

  • by HockeyPuck ( 141947 ) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @02:10PM (#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..."

  • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @02:14PM (#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:Open Source (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @02:20PM (#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. ;-)

  • by jd ( 1658 ) <{moc.oohay} {ta} {kapimi}> on Thursday June 21, 2012 @02:21PM (#40401641) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • Re:Take a break (Score:5, Insightful)

    by houghi ( 78078 ) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @02:25PM (#40401723)

    I would say that you should visit other countries. And I am not talking about Canada or Mexico. I mean seriously travel.

    My experience is that people who have traveled and seen other countries are better able to handle unexpected situations and stress. Things that will be helpful when you are in a working environment and other situations later in life.

    And it is so much fun at the same time. If possible take a year and work in another country at any odd job for a few weeks before going on the road again.

  • Re:Other option (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @02:26PM (#40401745) Homepage Journal

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

    Yep..go out, have fun with friends...get laid.

    It won't be long before you won't be able to screw highschool girls anymore...get'em while they're still tight!


  • Re:Other option (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @02:30PM (#40401815)

    >>>Enjoy your summer, it will be one of your last.

    Not likely. He can expect to be laid-off at least once in his career. I've experienced two summer (and three winter) vacations since I graduated college.

  • Seize the Summer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tverbeek ( 457094 ) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @02:40PM (#40401961) Homepage

    Don't "further your career or education". Go do something else!

    The summer I graduated from high school my parents lined up a job for me, working with computers for a small business, giving me a great opportunity to start building professional credentials. I appreciated it, but I turned it down. Instead a friend and I got on a plane, and set off on a 6-week tour of England, Wales, and Scotland, camping at caravan parks in a 1.5-man tent, and getting from place to place by bicycle and by train. It was an extraordinary experience. Some bad, some good, but I wouldn't trade it for anything.

    There will be another summer next year, which you can spend working on cool programming projects or whatever, and there will be year after year and decade after decade in which you can do that sort of thing as much as you please. You have a whole lifetime of formal education and career ahead of you. But you will never have another entire summer in which you have entirely closed the book on one phase of your life, but the next phase is patiently waiting for you unopened, a few months off in the future. You have the freedom to do damn near anything you are capable of doing. This is a once-in-a-lifetime window of opportunity. Do something worthy of that.

  • Re:Other option (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tverbeek ( 457094 ) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @02:46PM (#40402065) Homepage

    I've had those "vacations" too, but they aren't the same. A high school grad who's been accepted at a college knows how long he has for it, and what he'll be doing when it's over. He doesn't have to spend time every day looking for work, not knowing if he has a week or a year left, fearing what will become of him, etc.

  • Re:WWOOF (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 6ULDV8 ( 226100 ) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @02:46PM (#40402069)

    > you'll have to wait for them to divorce the losers they married the first time.

    And by then, they're used and out of warranty.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 21, 2012 @02:57PM (#40402241)

    My current yearly income is 35 times larger than that crappy store job, and I wonder how much more -advanced in my career I would be if my GPA was closer to 4.0.

    Not much. When's the last time an interview gave two shits about your college GPA? Your first job after college?

    Employers stop caring about that shit about the time you've got 2 years of industry experience. Then "college GPA" stops being a measure of anything useful, and "having a college degree" simply shows you can focus on something over a couple years and succeed at it.

  • by spire3661 ( 1038968 ) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @02:58PM (#40402249) Journal
    My wife is an executive level recruiter. Shes looked up a GPA once in 10 years.
  • Re:Other option (Score:5, Insightful)

    by chrismcb ( 983081 ) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @03:07PM (#40402349) Homepage
    There is a difference between a summer vacation after high school with little or no responsibilities, and being laid off with a mortgage payment and possibly a wife and children.
    Enjoy your summer. You will have more than enough time to further your education and career as you grow older. But you won't have too many carefree summers in your lifetime.
    If you don't want to enjoy your summer, then open source, or your own project is your best bet. Get some experience coding.
  • by ArundelCastle ( 1581543 ) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @03:22PM (#40402533)

    Yep, I worked for 5 years after high school, mainly in a grocery store. Best decision I ever made, before going to college.
    There just aren't a lot of employers who want to hire a high school grad for anything approaching a complex task. Ten years from now OP will probably understand why... nah, he's a smart kid.. probably 5 years. :-) Need to see your current self in the rear view mirror first.

    Something to be said for knowing what you want to do with your life, there's also something to be said for letting yourself change minds. If you're still a programmer in 20 years, good on ya. Probably set for bigger and better things though.

  • by SirGarlon ( 845873 ) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @03:23PM (#40402551)

    As difficult as it may be to believe this, if you're poor and expecting to finance your education through a combination of grants, scholarships, and loans, working a summer job may be the worst decision you can make.

    Things may have changed since my college days, and they may differ from state to state, but here is how my financial aid worked out.

    New York State calculated financial aid eligibility taking the minimum income of the past 3 years. My sophomore year in high school I only got a part-time job and made about $800 all summer. I managed to save about half of it. My junior and senior years I worked almost full time in the summer and part-time during the year, and made about $3000-$4000 (this was at a time when minimum wage was $3.50/hr).

    Freshman year in college, my aid paid for everything except books and activity fees (yes aid was more generous and costs were lower back then).

    Sophomore year, my aid was reduced by $800 because of the earnings I'd made 3 years previously years and I had to take a student loan for that amount.

    Junior year, my aid was reduced by about another $2200. I caught on to the pattern at that point. I was faced with the choice of quitting my part-time job right away and taking out a loan to pay expenses, or having to take an even bigger loan the next year. Remember, if I had not earned any money at all and just leeched off my parents, I would have come out of college debt-free.

    So, my advice is, understand what your financial aid picture is going to be and how your earnings will affect it, before you rush out and get a job.

  • Re:Take a break (Score:5, Insightful)

    by localman57 ( 1340533 ) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @04:01PM (#40403095)

    I worked on the landscaping crew

    By the way, I would also add that when you take a job like this, you sometimes end up working next to people who are doing it to scrape a living, rather than saving for college books or earning movie money. Act accordingly, and be respectful of other people. Don't act like your job is trivial, or a joke, or whatever. I enjoyed the novelty of doing it for 10 weeks over two summers, but I feel for people who end up, for whatever reason, do it for a living. Be humble, and keep this in mind, or face a lot of animosity.

  • Re:Other option (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ffflala ( 793437 ) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @04:30PM (#40403431)

    Yep..go out, have fun with friends...get laid.

    Don't just think of this as advice to screw around, either. Socializing is an important skill, and as a skill it is something that will improve with practice. Being able to socialize successfully and with ease will serve you well in your future career; it might be the very thing that land you a job. It's a skill that is often lacking in CS students. So go out, have fun with people, and don't think of it as being irresponsible or lazy; think of it as spending your summer "working" on an important skill.

    And enjoy it.

  • Re:Other option (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ffflala ( 793437 ) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @11:06PM (#40407173)
    How would you know that it's useless to you? If you think that socializing = "chatting about pointless things", it doesn't sound like it's a skill you've ever bothered to pick up.

    At some point most people will need to work on teams -- that is, you need to be able to function with other people. Since team work often involves people on the same peer level interacting with one another, being able to socialize can mean the difference between an efficient, successful team, and an inefficient failing team.

    Let me put it in a way you might understand... okay, here's one. Think of socializing --and the benefits skill in it brings-- as a combination of the Speechcraft/Mercantile/Speech skills found in Oblivion and Skyrim.

Neutrinos have bad breadth.