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Computer Science at Yale: What It’s *Really* Like | Major Spotlight

In recent years, the popularity of computer science at Yale, and at universities around the world, has skyrocketed. Computer science majors at Yale go on to join large technology corporations, begin their own startups, or take any number of other interesting and impactful paths. The booming job market and expanse of opportunities has compelled many incoming Yale students to consider studying computer science. But what does majoring in computer science actually entail? 

First, and perhaps most obvious, studying computer science requires writing thousands of lines of code. Some have compared programming to learning a language, and perhaps the greatest commonality between mastering both skills is practice. From introductory courses all the way to the highest-level electives, majoring in computer science requires writing code. Over the course of my Yale career, I’ve written code that renders animations, breaks encrypted messages, wins PacMan, and helps a robot simulation survive a zombie apocalypse. But all these interesting projects came after years of practice. The core computer science courses at Yale, while perhaps not super flashy, teach the tools necessary to excel with the more interesting projects later down the line.

Although the hundreds of hours of coding can sometimes seem arduous, they help form the computer science community at Yale. Especially for students who attend office hours, collaboration is a prerequisite for excelling in many computer science courses. Back in the pre-COVID days, I used to spend more hours than I’d like to admit at 17 Hillhouse, working with ULAs and fellow students on assignments. Though stressful at times, all my fondest computer science memories come from the community built at office hours and the friends I made along the way. I fondly recall interacting with the large mass of students who would attend the problem set walkthroughs for the core Algorithms course. I remember the excitement I felt when, working with friends, I was able to understand the difficult problem sets from Systems Programming. As computer science grows at Yale, the community around the major grows with it. Collaboration is a huge aspect of the coursework, and something I’ve loved experiencing while at Yale. 

Through the friends I’ve made in computer science, I’ve gotten insight into the different paths that students can take within the major. Over the summers, I’ve had friends study abroad building mobile apps and work for nonprofits, startups, and large technology corporations. The perks of working for tech companies are indisputable: free meals, swag, and a cushy paycheck are par for the course. Walking through campus, it’s common to see computer science students wearing backpacks with company logos embroidered on them. Perhaps one of the reasons many students decide to study computer science in the first place, the post-graduate and internship opportunities associated with knowing how to code cannot be denied. 

It’s difficult to summarize four years of studying computer science into a few paragraphs. The experience has been exhilarating but also exhausting. The highs of figuring out how to solve a hard problem and getting an exciting job are juxtaposed with the lows of the long hours spend learning and working on problem sets. But overall, studying computer science has been a joy and I cannot imagine doing anything differently. The friends I’ve made and the memories we’ve created are indispensable. If you’re considering computer science, I would urge you to try out an introductory class and see how you like it. The major isn’t for everyone — you’ll have to love coding to make it through. However, an analytical mind and a fascination with understanding technology are the only prerequisites needed for majoring in computer science. 

Sara Lewis is a senior at Yale studying computer science. On campus, you can find her teaching middle schoolers how to code, dancing with friends, or studying in Bass Library.
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