11 May 2017

The all important education

0 Comment

Okay, so you say you are in high school and you have some experience with programming. You’ve perhaps taken a few classes and explored the internet in the evenings on the PC you got for Christmas. On the other hand, you might be a genius with computers, having hand-built one out of paper-clips as an assignment in Kindergarten. In either case, you already know you love computers and want to start a glorious career in the field. What’s the best course of action?

It is important to remember that you cannot predict exactly where you will wind up in 10 years. The computer field is changing so quickly that it is almost impossible to predict what’s going to happen with any certainty. When I began 35 years ago we used paper tape to load the computer and had to hand enter the boot code every time we turned on the system! No one would have predicted the days of cheap 4gb memory chips, smart phones, and intelligent watches.

The idea at the start of your long, wonderful career is to make sure you have a broad knowledge base to build upon. That’s why your school demands you take a variety of courses on lots of subjects – you cannot predict exactly what you might need.

Lets say you are a senior in high school and it’s time to figure out what to do next.

That’s simple. Generally, the best course of action is to go to college. I would recommend a good junior college to begin with, as they are an inexpensive way to get the basics taken care of. I don’t see the need to pay university rates for the lower level college courses.

Check out what scholarships and grants are available. You almost certainly can earn one or more of these if you make the attempt. You’d be surprised at how much of this money goes uncollected each year because people don’t even bother to try. My sister paid for virtually all of her college with several grants, scholarships and educational contests.

Don’t be one of those who think that scholarships are somehow beneath them. I know of several people who have said they would not accept this kind of money for some reason. Scholarships and grants are given out by companies (and the government) to encourage students to finish their education. You have to understand that educated, productive citizens are far more valuable to society than ignorant ones. Thus, companies give money so there will be an educated work force in the future.

Other investments? Buy a good dictionary. You cannot do well in any field if you do not understand the terminology. I cannot stress this enough: look up every single word that you have the slightest doubt about in the dictionary until you are sure you completely understand it.

Take as many courses as you can at a time while you are attending college. When I went to school I took between 14 and 18 units each semester. Be sure to factor in lab and homework time – check with your counselors for advice on that. A four-hour class could easily become 10 hours after homework and labs.

Another piece of advice is to stay ethical. Don’t cheat and don’t try to do anything that would get you in any kind of trouble regarding your education. Get your schooling honestly and fully and you will prosper later in life; do otherwise and you will fail in the long run. Remember you are preparing for your whole future, not just your first big job.

Once you get to college I would heartily recommend getting a job. I know it seems completely unreasonable to expect someone to actually work 20 to 40 hours on top of a full school load, but I’ve got to tell you that life is not reasonable or fair. It doesn’t really matter what the job is – just working will help improve your situation.

How so? You are not just getting an education, you are defining your own work ethics, moral values and patterns of life. If you get in the habit now of working hard and pushing yourself, you will stay in that habit in life. And that will give you an edge over everyone else who took it easy.

In addition, remember that your parents are probably working very hard, and a large portion of their incomes are being used to get you through college. I have no doubts that they have hopes and dreams of their own. They have almost certainly put some of those goals on hold so you can get started in life. By being employed, even a little bit, and picking up some of the costs, you will help out the people who have given so much to you. Believe it or not, this means a lot to most parents.

On top of that, it’s a good idea to look around the school and see if you can become an aid or assistant of some kind. When I was in college I took on the position of Computer Lab Assistant for twelve hours a week. I even got paid for it! This serves to give a little experience and, better still, gives you a reference which is related to your chosen field. Believe me, I was sure to list the computer science department head on every job application. Since I had helped him with his students and I did a reasonably good job, he was able to vouch for my skills and capabilities. That counts for a lot on the first or second job.

Yes, I know this sounds like a lot of work. I remember when I went to college I also worked a full-time job and spent hour upon hour in the computer lab helping other students. This experience, as well as the contacts I made, was of immense value when I had to get my first real computer job.

Spend some time looking over the major certifications as well. Look at the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer, Microsoft Certified Developer and Network+, as well as the Certified Internet Webmaster and similar testing programs. Why? Well, you should be taking courses in those areas, so you may as well pass a few tests and also become certified at the same time.

Be sure you don’t waste those summer vacations or long breaks. I hate to tell you the news but in real life there is nothing like this at all. You work virtually every week day and, if you are in a typical computer department, you also work many weekends and some holidays. That’s just the way it is.

So I would recommend filling that summer vacation with summer courses, perhaps a summer job to earn money for the next semester, and possibly polishing your applications for your next scholarships and grants.

But wait, isn’t college supposed to be fun? What about the toga parties and drinking and … yeah, some people do spend much of their college having a good time. What a waste. Here’s some advice, you are young and just starting out. Use that youth and build the foundation for the rest of your life. There will be plenty of time for fun later.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x