July 28th, 2013, 08:54 AM

Comp Sci Uni Prerequisites Mature Student
Hello everyone. I am considering studying programming at the university level. Addressing any (or all) of my four concerns would be greatly appreciated. I am based in Canada and happen to be a mature student.
1)I took Math all through High School but I didn't always get the best grades in it; depending on the year my grade fluctuated significantly. However, I passed math every year. My math grade during my final year of High School is the weakest and my guess is that it will not be good enough for admittance to Computer Science or Information technology degree. So I suppose it might be a good idea to take a High School level math and science courses at a Community College just to meet the prerequisites of Computer Science or Information Technology at university. Does the plan seem sound and has anybody had a similar situation like this?
2) I technically have a math credit in college for a stats course. To be specific, stats for Anthro/Soc studies. As I recall, there were a few labs with a specific stat program and there could have been some formulae. I received a mediocre grade. I am wondering if anyone knows if a Computer Science/Information Technology degree would possibly accept this.
3) I am willing to relearn the High School math and take the math/science necessary to have a degree in programming. Is the math for a programming degree challenging?
4) I am a mature student; could this somehow minimize or remove my need to take High School Level math?
Wow, I said a mouthful. I don't expect one person to have all the answers but let's see how the crowd does answering the question. Thanks again.
July 28th, 2013, 03:12 PM

The short answer would be to check the prospectus of whatever courses you're interested in, and see what each lists as prerequisites. If you're still in doubt, then ask the college directly.
But in general, there are many areas which are not maths heavy. If you can manage a logical thought process, you should be OK.
Maths heavy disciplines include
 numerical analysis
 statistical analysis
 cryptography
 computer graphics (especially 3D graphics)
 simulations and modelling
Things like databases and most things "web" oriented are going to be much easier on the maths front.
July 28th, 2013, 10:03 PM

First just let me dissuade you of this "studying programming" idea. For one thing, none of the universities actually do a very good job of it; and for another, there's no degrees issued in "programmer" that I am aware of. Now, you can take college/university level programming courses, but you won't find a lot of those and you will likely have difficulty converting that training into a worthwhile career. There are too many highly qualified "programmers" in China and India willing to work for $4K a year or less. If your interest is merely to learn how to write code as a hobby, then please do signup, it can be fun and doesn't require much in the way of prerequisites.
If what you are interested in is more along the lines of computer/computational science (CS) or engineering (CE), then here's my responses to your four basic questions:
1. Take one of the college entrance exams and see where they rate you in the math department. Generally low scores in math is not too big a deal provided you are capable of thinking logically. Lots of folks who do poorly in high school calculus and algebra actually do well in formal logic (rarely taught in k12). If you can get through logic and algebra 101 at the college level, you have a fighting chance in CS/CE and a follow on career. You don't have to be a math wiz in most CS/CE specialties.
2. Take at least two more classes in statistics! Particularly Bayesian statistics (actually quite simple). Statistics and logic are just good knowledge for any citizen of the world to know and they are used extensively in CS/CE.
3. Yes. If you prefer not be challenged, don't bother with CS/CE. Not because it's math intensive, but because it is challenging in its own right regardless of what you think of the supporting course work. CS/CE careers are no piece of cake either. If you don't like to be challenged, consider doing something less challenging than any of the sciences or engineering disciplines.
4. No. If you don't have at least a high school level understanding of algebra, you will probably fail early in CS/CE. You don't have to be a genius at it. If you passed a couple of algebra courses in high school you shouldn't have much trouble passing a college level algebra class.
Now after saying all of that, I have to admit that I am a high school dropout who has been working as a software engineer for 23 years. I have taken a lot of college level courses over the years and I read ACM, IEEE and other technical material every day. I also work with masters and phd level folks on a daily basis. My math skills suck by comparison to many of the folks I work with, so it's a daily challenge for me and as a result, I probably have higher than average skills in math today (compared to what would have been my graduating class anyway).
The cool thing is that math gets really interesting when you can apply it to realworld problems that affect your career performance. Trust me, if you have what it takes to be a good computing engineer or scientist, you'll eventually come to appreciate the beauty of formal logic and Bayes' theorem.
BTW: I worked in construction for 20 years before converting my electronics hobby into a software engineering career. All of my college level course work has been as a "mature student". I firmly believe in lifetime learning. If you are not currently a student of something, you should be. It will help extend and improve your life in many ways.
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