Education - College
By: - at August 20, 2015

Top 15 Colleges for Learning Computer Science

If you're looking into what options you have for your major or minor, keeping in mind that you want to do something that remains useful in the future, you might have considered computer science. Information Technology is an active and continually growing industry that offers, besides just "working with computers," niches for almost all specific interests such as design, finances, or engineering. Computer science hasn't been just programming for a long time now.

So if you make the right choices now, you won't have such extreme worries about getting a job after graduation. Unemployment rates for graduates in computer sciences in the U.S. are and remain lower than other subjects due to niche they fill in the economy and general demand.

computer science

Besides picking a degree combination that has a future, having a famous and renowned alma mater mentioned in your job application could open some doors as well. If you're especially good in your field of study and play your cards right during your studies by working with companies and doing internships, you might not even need to apply but instead will already get a foot in the door. The following are 15 colleges for computer science that can definitely give your career a boost.

15)  University of Edinburgh, Scotland
At over 500 years old, University of Edinburgh is one of the longest standing on this list and a member of the ancient universities and Sutton Trust 13 groups. This means it's among the top seven oldest universities that teach in English. Its significance in various fields of research, along with its rankings on various lists, is very high.

University of Edinburgh
By Kim Traynor via Wikimedia Commons

The University of Edinburgh offers a wide selection of courses in seven department buildings located all across the capital of Scotland, so as with many European campuses, you can't really speak of it in terms of one single area. This does not mean you'll be running from one end of the city to the other to get to your courses, though. The School of Informatics is located near the central university campus.

As what is considered to be an elite university, the application process only allows roughly 2,700 applicants in total to enroll. If you manage to belong to one of these 2,700, you can count on getting expert and individual support in the form of personal tutors, who will guide you during your studies. You'll also be working on a more personal level since each professor has an average of only eight students to work with.

14)  University of California (UCLA)
Since it is the alma mater of several Medal of Science and Nobel Prize winners, UCLA has more than enough reasons to pride itself on its status as one of the best universities on an international level. When you decide to study there, then it's not because of the weather or what the university can already boast of, nor should it be simply the ability to brag about where you went to college. The top-notch computer science department should be the deciding factor. Even though the UCLA is more renowned for its Business School, its computer science department, a department of the Henry Samueli School, has faculty members who were awarded the National Medal of Sciences and the Fields Medal. So UCLA doesn't rely solely on the successful careers and reputations of its alumni, but strives to maintain and better its position in the academic world.

Henry Samueli School
By Minnaert via Wikimedia Commons

In other areas, such as medicine, UCLA also has a very good reputation. This is important to you. If you ever get a nasty zap during coursework with electronics, you are in the safe hands of the 2,000 physicians in the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. Even though it’s incredibly unlikely to happen, it's a comforting thought. On a serious note, should you have any regular health issues, this could be an argument in favor of choosing UCLA.

13)  University of Melbourne, Australia
The University of Melbourne is one of the universities that specifically emphasizes that the computer science major does not require extensive prior knowledge of informatics and computers. The program aims to build subject-relevant knowledge by starting from basics, like understanding the hardware your future tools may consist of. So even if you aren't the ultimate computer nerd and don't know a lick of Java or binary but are interested in computer science, you can apply. Those who already are familiar with computer science and its various fields of study, such as one or a few of the many programming languages, can take a proficiency test to skip the basics and start in the advanced courses.

University of Melbourne
By Graham Watson via Wikimedia Commons

In the research area, the University of Melbourne is closely associated with the National Information and Communications Technology Research Center, short NICTA, making the institution the leader among the research oriented and associated universities in Australia.

12)  The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong
Also known as HKUST, this university is one of the younger institutions of higher learning named here. It was established in 1991, so it doesn't have the same number of famous alumni to mention that some of the others do. However, HKUST has achieved several good rankings both in Asia and worldwide, so the placing on this list isn't undeserved. If you're from a Western country and looking for a change of scenery, HKUST is one of your options. Another advantage of HKUST is actually its age. Many older institutions have been forced to modernize at some point, but still have issues simply because of their architecture. With a relatively modern facility, HKUST can go through infrastructural changes much faster, making new additions available faster to you. In numbers, that also means that for every 10,000 students, there are 25,000 computers available.

Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
By Hkust pao via Wikimedia Commons

Notably, if you're unfamiliar with the Hong Kong school system, you'll have to adapt to the different study time organization. It isn't divided into the semester system Western countries are familiar with, but into four parts tied to the seasons. Also, some majors that usually have a three year period of study have an additional year at HKUST, though the Department of Computer Science and Engineering also lists three year programs.

11)  Princeton University
As one of the United States' big name universities, Princeton is a member of the Ivy League. It's up to you if you consider this fact important, though it’s relevant if you're trying to get a spot at Princeton with a scholarship. If you're not eligible for scholarships, you can also receive financial aid from the university in form of scholarships that aim to pay the difference between what you can afford and what's left of the semester costs.

Alexander Hall
Alexander Hall

An argument for Princeton is that it's rather small when it comes to the number of students, being just shy of 7,000, and thus allowing a better student to professor ratio. However, compared to the over 10,000 students attending some other universities on this list, this fact also narrows down the number of accepted applications. Still, applying here is worth a try. Unlike some universities offering computer sciences, Princeton has their PC's working with all the well-known operating systems, which is an important fact if you want to be versatile.

10)  University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Partially due to Hong Kong being a former British colony, the University of Hong Kong is an international institution that teaches in English, and only in language studies are other languages spoken. Still, Chinese language courses are available, which is important for any international student who wants to grab the opportunity to get a hold on the growing Asian economy. Like HKUST, the University of Hong Kong has switched to offering four year courses, though that doesn't mean that you'll have more time to take in the same workload as anyone dealing with a three year standard period. The university receives a lot of government funding, more than most other internationally renowned public institutions, enabling a lot of research in various fields. Students of the university are well-cared for due to a range of student services like sports, health, and counseling, along with several student accommodations, some of which have specific limitations such as being male or female only.

Eliot Hall and Meng Wah Complex
Eliot Hall and Meng Wah Complex

The University of Hong Kong is known for identifying the virus that caused the SARS outbreak.

9)  Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich), Switzerland
As it is the case with many European universities, ETH Zurich was also forced to divide its campus in order to expand. The campus is divided into two, with the main area located in central Zurich and the newer still-expanding campus is just outside the city, in Hönggerberg. (Don't worry; you don't need to be able to pronounce that to apply.) If you want to apply for student accommodations, if you're interested in ecological sustainability and supporting it or both, you should take a closer look at Hönggerberg. Generally, ETH places great weight on implementing and working on new and better concepts in sustainability, so this is a topic in the majority of studies. Accordingly, it's the leading research center for questions on sustainability, energy resources and climate in Switzerland and Europe. The student accommodations and the growing Hönggerberg campus, also called Science City, are prime examples of the results.

ETH Zurich

Of further note for students interested in computer science is the Swiss National Supercomputing Center, which is located at the ETH and occasionally works with CERN. Even though there aren't as many undergraduate research projects as at other universities, you could get a small job at the center and get a closer look.

8)  National University of Singapore (NUS), Singapore
The National University of Singapore combines the British university teaching system of small groups with the American point system, which may make adapting to your new surroundings a bit easier. Besides its great reputation in Asia, you'll be studying under an international faculty and with international classmates.

National University of Singapore

NUS has multiple programs within its Department of Computer Science, the main Computer Science Program, the Turing Program, the Von Neumann, the Computational Biology Program, the Communication and Media Program, and the Computer Engineering Program. Depending on your specific interest, you can either receive permission to join a program after your first or second semester, as is the case with the Turing and Von Neumann programs or start directly, as is the case with the Computational Biology Program.

7) University of California (Berkeley, UCB)
Berkeley is particularly interesting in the area of computer sciences, because of its involvement in the early stages of several technologies such as the Berkeley Software Distribution that eased the way for operational systems like Mac OS X. When you become a student at Berkeley with a major or minor in computer science, you also have the possibility to join the eXperimental Computing Facility. Despite the name that suggests involvement of lecturers and professors, the XCF is actually a student based group that can count the development of open source programs such as GIMP to their achievements.

University of California
By brainchildvn via Wikimedia Commons

6)  Harvard University
In the following, are two universities that are located in cities called Cambridge, even though they are in two different countries. The first is Harvard, the oldest university in the USA. What once began as a college to educate the future clergy is now a well-established institution of higher learning that aims to make higher education possible for everyone. Although the numbers vary with each year, Harvard doesn't demand schooling payments from you if your family income is below a certain level within a year. If your household income is above this limit, it still might fall into a margin area where a certain percentage between 0 and 10 percent is asked to be paid.

Sever Hall
Sever Hall
By Daderot via Wikimedia Commons

If you're one of the people who regularly criticize the Microsoft operational systems and the software the company produces, you can follow in Bill Gate's footsteps by attending Harvard and learn how to improve or create a better system.

5)  University of Cambridge, UK
The second university located in Cambridge is the University of Cambridge itself, classically just called Cambridge. To avoid confusion, the University of Cambridge consists of 31 colleges that are independent from each other and make their own decisions. They are not only independent from the university administration, but also from the faculties. For computer sciences, you have to refer to the three or four year Computer Science Tripos course.

King's College Cambridge
King's College Cambridge
By Andrew Dunn via Wikimedia Commons

Cambridge has one of the longest-standing computer science programs, even if the department has undergone a name change or two over the course of the past 76 years. It also aims to offer you the newest technology; the department moved out of the more historical buildings of Cambridge to a modern setting on the West Cambridge campus. Cambridge also makes sure to inform you of your future job prospect: it holds annual recruitment fairs, where companies apparently compete for a spot to attend and meet the year's graduates.

4)  Carnegie Mellon University
Europeans reading this list should be aware that this Carnegie Mellon is not to be confused with the Carnegie Mellon in Portugal, but refers to the university located in Pittsburgh, Penn. Like Princeton, it's a private university and on the smaller side of the scale when it comes to the number of students attending. The university is a combination of seven colleges, of which, for you, the School of Computer Science should be of central interest. This school is further split up into smaller institutes and departments, which is where you can decide how to set your focus.

Carnegie Mellon University
By -cpt- via Wikimedia Commons

Carnegie Mellon prides itself on being one of the leading institutions in this field, regularly employing award-winning professors and lecturers in order to uphold its reputation. Furthermore, Carnegie Mellon has four campuses outside of Pittsburgh, one of which is in Silicon Valley, where you can pursue a master's degree in software engineering in the future. Until then, if doesn't know this university when you tell him where you are applying, you can let him know that it's the university that used the smile emoticon for the first time. :-)

3)  University of Oxford, UK
It's unclear when the University of Oxford was founded, though it's definitely the oldest university on this list. Estimates and regularly quoted ages are usually around 900 years. The application system is a little different from most colleges: instead of applying directly to the university administration itself, you need apply to one of the 38 colleges and six Private Halls; the choice of which is relevant to your major, as that some colleges admit more computer science majors than others. Each major has its own selection process. For computer science, the Mathematical Institute is the responsible administrative body, and it demands certain grades in mathematics, a math admissions test, and an interview conducted either personally or via video conference. The yearly fees are between about $5,630 and $14,470. The fees depending a great deal on the year you're starting in and the annual income of your household. This doesn't mean that Oxford is an elite university in the sense of being only open to the wealthy. For the less fortunate, Oxford offers scholarships and also refers potential students to scholarships that are not offered by Oxford itself.

Old Clarendon Building
Old Clarendon Building
By Tony Hisgett via Wikimedia Commons

Once you get in, you won't only be attending a historically and architecturally beautiful university. You'll have Britain's second largest library at your fingertips, a fact which, as many college students with less elaborate university libraries will assure you, is a gift. If you want to know what you can boast about when you attend, then you could name the most notable graduates relevant to the major you're particularly interested in: Stephen Hawking.

2)  Stanford University
Actually, the full name of Stanford is Leland Stanford Junior University, and it's also referred to as The Farm. But, since the first is a mouthful and the university has a very respectable academic standing, people thankfully immediately know what you're talking about when you simply refer to the university as Stanford. In the field of computer sciences, Stanford is a very good choice, based on how many Turing Award winners it has taught and on its regional and economical closeness to Silicon Valley. As a financially well-off university, due to donations and support from the industry, it can afford to not only encourage student start-ups with the StartX program, but since 2008, it doesn't require tuition fees from new undergraduate students whose parents earn less than $100,000 annually.

By Jawed via Wikimedia Commons

Another supportive initiative of Stanford is the Undergraduate Advising and Research program, which allows you to apply the theory you're learning during your coursework. Like with many programs of this type, you won't get to start off on your own immediately, but will be doing minor assistant jobs in the presence of professors, lecturers, and seniors. This is where everyone starts, and most importantly, it will help you understand your course material on a different level.

In recent news, researchers of Stanford built the first working computer based on carbon nanotubes. This is a step towards replacing silicon, which slowly but surely has been reaching its limits when it comes to increasing the performance of computers. Even though the carbon nanotube processor is currently only capable of arranging numbers, it's a show of what you can do with Stanford’s backing.

1)  Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
MIT is a private university. It is especially interesting in the area of computer sciences because it is the founding organization and home of World Wide Web Consortium, a standardizing committee for the Internet. This is relevant for anyone considering a major in computer science because MIT runs the Undergrad Research Opportunities Program, which aims to incorporate members of lower semesters into scientific research fields. Further relevance in the IT field can be found in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

By DrKenneth via Wikimedia Commons

MIT also works intensively with other companies and groups. Recently, students of MIT were allowed to experiment in microgravity with the backing and support of NASA. Because MIT works closely with industry giants, it encourages the pressure of friendly competition between students and aims to help students develop the ability to solve problems with their own ideas, rather than just teaching set and already existing knowledge. Accordingly, expectations are high, but MIT's philosophy also includes the sharing of knowledge. This is proven by its membership in the Open Course Ware project, which makes course content accessible to the general public. So even if you don't get in, you can benefit from the university's course offerings.

If you do become a student of MIT, you can also attend some courses at the nearby Harvard University and, if you're female, at the Wellesley College too.

Final Words
When you look into what the general consensus for the best colleges for studying computer science is, you will find diverging opinions on the ranking itself. Decide for yourself what is important to you besides having a degree from an alma mater that will impress potential employers and relations. There's always something that will help you narrow down your choices. It could be that you want to study specifically under a renowned professor who is widely published or, if you already know that you want to study abroad for a semester, you want a college that has exchange partners of equal quality in a country you prefer.

Don't focus too much on how popular a college is or if it can boast a 99 percent success rates among its alumni. College is a new and important phase in your life, so also consider your own happiness. You'll be spending a great deal of time on your campus and if you aren't enjoying some of it, it will reflect on your studies. In conclusion, weigh all your options and make sure to check out the colleges you're considering. And most importantly, enjoy yourself!





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