Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
Computer Science

Academics

FAQ

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  • Do Wheaton Computer Science majors get jobs?
    You think?! Evidence: In a recent year, 100% of our graduates had jobs in hand before the graduation ceremony. Even through recent years of a bad economy, all of our graduates landed jobs.
  • What makes Wheaton's Computer Science program unique?
    Good question! Our strengths include small class sizes with high levels of professor-student interaction, opportunities to create Independent Study courses (see below), an emphasis on writing and oral presentation skills, strong connections with other disciplines, and many opportunities for students to be involved in active research. In addition, we have a very progressive suite of courses, including project-centric courses and other "blended-learning" (or flipped classrooms) involving MOOCs.
  • Do I need to have taken computer classes before coming to Wheaton?

    Absolutely not! One of the biggest misconceptions about Computer Science is that you need to have experience from high school in order to start in college; on the contrary, our first Computer Science course, offered every semester, does not assume previous programming experience. What does help is a background in studies that stress:

    • creativity
    • problem-solving
    • the ability to express ideas and concepts

    Courses that would "fit the bill" include a background of three to four years of Mathematics (up to but not necessarily including Calculus) and a rich background in Science.

  • I understand many Computer Science majors at Wheaton take an Independent Study. What is an Independent Study, and what types of Independent Studies do students take?

    An Independent Study (course number COMP 399) or Independent Research (Comp 499) is a course between one professor and one to three students. As the title suggests, Independent Studies require students to assume a greater responsibility for a review of the literature and planning. Rather than meeting in the classroom, the students often meet with a professor in their office and work together at the white board on the current set of issues. The intent is to emulate a professional working climate. Here is a sample of recent Independent Studies that students have pursued: Data Science, LeapMotion Play, Basic Parallel Programming, Flash Game Design, iPhone Programming, Experiments in Gene Regulation, GIS Visualization, Systems Engineering in Genomics, Java and Security, Neural Networks, Advanced Object-Oriented Programming, Advanced Computer Graphics, Web Programming and E-Commerce, Networked Game Applications, and System Administration. Almost every Computer Science graduate takes advantage of this opportunity and takes at least one Independent Study as part of their major program.

  • What is the typical class size?
    Wheaton classes in general have a 12:1 student:faculty ratio. Computer Science classes are typically in the range of six to twenty students per class. Translation: your professors know you, your current successes and problems, and how best to move you to the next level. If you like to be lost in a crowd, Wheaton's Computer Science program is probably not the place for you; on the other hand, if you think that individual attention and a close-knit community atmosphere is appealing, you will like it here at Wheaton.
  • Do you have teaching assistants?
    Yes, and they help courses in many ways, although they do not lecture as would graduate students in a large university. Typically, three to five students a year are paid to work as teaching and lab assistants and system administrators. For example, upper-level students often attend first and second year labs to aid the professor in giving individual help to the beginning students. These assistants are also available for tutoring help through the Collaborative Learning Center. Other student helpers work to keep our lab of Linux servers ready for student research projects and classes.
  • What are the major's requirements?
    You can check out theĀ Computer Science requirements in the Wheaton course catalog.
  • Can I minor in Computer Science at Wheaton?
    But of course! Wheaton is proud of our liberal arts strengths and Computer Science is closely connected to the Sciences, Humanities, and Social Science disciplines. A number of students minor in Computer Science, pairing it with a range of majors from Art to Physics, Economics to Theatre, Biology to Psychology, French to Spanish. We do not think we have ever found a course of study that is not enriched with the kind of background our minor provides.
  • What if I am not planning to major or minor in Computer Science; should I still take a course or two?
    In short, yes! Consider how you will convince a potential employer how you are different than the applicants represented by the pile of resumes on the desk. Everyone is a computer user, yet few truly understand the nature of the software that makes computers do what they do. You may not be hired as a programmer; however, you will almost certainly work with programmers or their products in your career, and thus a semester or two of exposure can make all the difference in getting hired. An ability to "script," (to "program," to "code") makes you an asset in interdisciplinary groups that increasingly rely on computing to retrieve and analyze the information that is needed. In many of the Sciences and areas of Mathematics it is inevitable that writing small programs yourself will be part of your job; and while you could learn the skills you need as you go, learning the discipline from a perspective of good design and careful planning will help to ensure that what you write will be better-designed, more reliable, and easier to maintain.
  • Would this major be good for me if I want to study web design?
    That depends. If you want to be a graphics designer, then a focus on Studio and/or Graphical Arts may be a more appropriate choice, possibly coupled with a Computer Science minor. Wheaton also has a new major in Film and New Media. However, if you want to be a force behind the software that drives highly interactive sites, then a deep knowledge of computing systems and the know-how of writing software is what you will need. In that case, a degree in Computer Science would be a wise move, possibly with an Art minor. Note also that Wheaton allows students to craft their own majors, and a few students have recently crafted 'Art-Computer Science' majors that combine their passion for graphical design and programming.
  • What programming languages do you teach?
    Our initial course uses Python. The next two courses are in C++. Subsequent courses cover other languages including Java. We offer half-credit courses to encourage you to broaden your suite of programming languages, including Javascript, PHP, and Ruby.
  • What type of research/internship opportunities are there?

    Wheaton has an excellent center, the Filene Center's Career Services, to help students find internships. Each faculty member also has an active research program and students are regularly paid to work during the summers, January break, and/or during the semester. You can learn more about potential research opportunities in the fields of:

    Computational Linguistics

    Computer Graphics

    Genomics

    Robotics

    Digital Humanities

  • What do students usually do when they graduate?
    The majority of graduates are working in various aspects of the field as software engineers and other systems-related positions. Graduates have left for jobs at Apple, Microsoft, Raytheon, Mitre, Yahoo, Amazon, and various start-ups. A number of our recent graduates have completed or are presently working on their Ph.D.s in Computer Science and others currently in industry are applying to graduate programs. Two graduates recently finished their Ph.D.s and are new professors.

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