On behalf of the imagination, welcome to your first year of IT School. Your initial IT instructors will cover the ins-and-outs of the personal computer and other electronics. They’ll introduce you to computer programming, and cover requirements such as calculus and physics. But before you take off, let’s go over what to expect in your new environment. One soon-to-graduate IT student (Annelise Wittenberg) and one former IT student (Alexander Hovis) will help you along the way. Bon voyage!
Professors will treat you like a beginner.
Depending on your skillset, this may inspire feelings of relief or disappointment, but either way, it is the convenient truth. To them, you’re a newbie. Assuming you’re starting at the beginning of an IT education program, you can assume your instructors will approach you accordingly.
“My IT professors did not expect me to know anything on my first day,” said Wittenberg, a 4th-year Computer Science and Engineering student at Ohio State University (OSU). “My first class was an introduction to Java course, and they started from the very bottom.”
Hovis had a similar experience at ITT Tech. “They really expected us to not know a whole lot other than how to turn a PC on and how to use one,” he said.
Your classmates will be diverse.
Not every IT student is a Mark Zuckerberg clone. Your classmates will come from all walks of life.
“Each class had its group of students who fit the common IT stereotype, but also students who were very social,” said Wittenberg of her IT classes at Ohio State. “Generally, everyone in class is friendly and willing to help.”
But it will be raining men.
Yes, you will likely be surrounded by guys. Despite the push to “get women into STEM,” male students still dominate the IT classroom.
“Generally my IT classes were around 40 people, [and] of these 40, roughly 1-5 would be girls,” said Wittenberg. “It’s usually not something people make a stink about though. It took me a few weeks to notice the ratio was that skewed.”
You’ll get hands-on assignments and written tests on theory.
Classes at ITT Tech are about 3 hours long, and during each 3-hour period, students spend the first hour learning from a book or the instructor’s prepared lecture, then another hour and 30 minutes doing hands-on tasks in a lab, and then the final 30 minutes taking a test over the material learned that day, explained Hovis, a recent graduate of ITT Technical Institute.
“Most of the hands-on work with my first class was following a book with pictures,” he said. “Or as I like to call it, Monkey see, Monkey do.”
For Wittenberg, most of her computer science assignments required hands-on programming or tracing through algorithms. She said a lot of tests had questions about theory – in other words, not only how an algorithm works, but also why it works.
Although much of what you learn will apply to practical life, according to Wittenberg, exams will still come in the standard written format that every public school-raised student knows and tolerates. Prepare for scantrons!
You’ll learn math and science fundamentals that you WILL use in later years.
Advanced IT courses will likely require you to apply previously acquired college knowledge, such as calculus and statistics. Wittenberg recommends that students actually care about all of those required math/science classes, because certain teachers will expect you to have those skills. If you’re into video game development, for example, you may someday have to manipulate calculus to code functions for a video game’s physics engine.
You will doubt that you chose the right program.
“There’s essentially six different ways at OSU you can obtain a Computer Science, IT, or computing-related degree based on what you ultimately want to do with your career – which is something I wish I had known coming into the school.”
According to Wittenberg, knowing about these different approaches to the field can help new IT students explore all of their options before they officially declare any one major related to IT.
Internships will help you decide what you really want to do.
How can you find out which career path is right for you? Test different paths by taking internships. At Cubic Transportation Systems, for example, they promote their Software Engineering Internship in which students assist in preparation of software design, unit testing, and problem analysis. Internships like this present the perfect opportunity for an IT student to discover the real world of IT and make educated decisions about their IT specialty.
The importance of interning will be pounded into your brain.
Experience is golden for any IT graduate on the job hunt. IT instructors know this, and many of them will make it their everlasting duty to make sure their students intern.
“Try to get at least two [internships] for sure, but three would be incredibly helpful. I know many students who do web development part-time, and that has really helped them strengthen their skills.”