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I don't know if I should take the entrance exam this year, or should I pause and try for the next on

Discussion in 'Careers, Employment and Professional Development' started by bb gun, Mar 4, 2020.

  1. bb gun


    Joined: Jul 29, 2015

    Posts: 19

    Hi, all.

    Forgive me for such a long post, I tried to make it as short as possible by removing any unnecessary details, and leaving only the things needed. It would really mean so much to me if you would be able to read all of it to better understand my position.

    Ok, here's the thing. After graduating from high school a couple of years ago, I never knew what I wanted to do in my life, so I worked a couple of jobs here and there, but nothing ever really interested me in building my career on that. I was living paycheck after paycheck without any purpose or goal. Well, a couple of years later I think I have finally found what I wanted to do in my life.

    During my teens, I always loved doing some tweaking and modifications on video games whether through mods, trainers, cheat engine, etc... This got me interested in learning a couple of programming languages and creating some small applications, and this is something that I really liked to do. It was something that got me started into learning more about computer science. Unfortunately, programming was just a hobby of mine at that time, so I never bothered to go too deep into that, like create a complex app or project. It was just some small video games and chat applications that I and my friends used.

    Fast forward to today, I'm preparing myself for the college entrance exam (which starts July 1st), but I'm having an anxiety problem that makes me kinda worried if I should even try this year.

    The college I would like to go to (College A) is about software engineering, and according to many students, it has the best program for Computer Science out of all universities in the city I live in. The entrance exam for that college is only 10 math-based questions from a random selection of topics listed here(https://pastebin.com/jqT2Lebt).

    Unfortunately, during school, I never paid much attention to math so my memory of it is really, really weak. Since a lot of years have passed after I graduated high school, all the remaining knowledge aside from the basics has basically vanished.

    Because of my poor math skills, I do not believe that the time I have left (around 3.5-4 months) would be enough for me to study all of those topics to score enough points on the test and get accepted. So my next choice is to take the entrance exam for another college (College B) that has a similar program, although many people say that it is a weaker version of the previous one I mentioned.

    The entrance exam for College B is a math-based one as well, but it is a lot easier compared to the first one, and I believe I would be able to pass it to get accepted. But here's where my problem lies.

    I have two choices, I can either go to the college that has a weaker software engineering program, or I could pause one more year, study math really well so that I would be able to go to the College A, the one I was initially planning to enter.

    Both choices have their ups and downs, on the one hand I would love to enter the college I want to go to, but on the other hand, I'm not really sure if I sacrificing yet another year, just for studying math and a slightly better program would be worth it.

    Unfortunately, my anxiety kicks in whenever I make any of these two choices. If I decide to pause this year, I have this feeling of worry/unease that I'm making a really bad decision, and that the waiting yet another year to enter college would not be worth it, that sacrificing yet another year just for math and for College A are not that worth it, and that I should simply go with College B. But if I decide to study for this year, then I get the same feelings that make think that it would be better to wait just one more year because math is quite helpful in Computer Science field, that my portfolio would look better if my employer sees that I graduated from College A, etc...

    So this is why I'm asking for your help because unfortunately, I can't seem to make up my mind on my own.

    One more thing that I would like to add is, I'm 23 years old. If I pass the exam, I would start my first year at 24 (or 25 if I pause this year). Is this too old? Should I even bother trying, despite knowing that the majority of students are 5-6 years younger than me, or should I go back to working full-time?

    Thanks in forward, and I apologize for my bad English. I was really tired when I wrote this.
  2. LeMson


    Joined: Mar 21, 2012

    Posts: 2,983

    Study and go for A, give it your all
  3. Hades


    Joined: Oct 19, 2002

    Posts: 23,948

    Location: Surrey and London

    Or option C: Find a maths tutor to help you pass the test for college A. I've engaged several tutors for my kids when they struggle with specific topics. I'm sure a tutor wouldn't care that you're a more mature student.

    Make college A your goal and find a way to pass it this year. My daughter is taking I-GCSE's this year and the maths board she is studying is halfway between a traditional GCSE and an A Level. I last did maths over 30 years ago but have been teaching myself the necessary topics to help her when she's stuck. It's hard but achievable. Go for it.
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2020
  4. Luckystrike123


    Joined: Aug 11, 2011

    Posts: 522

    I got C's in GCSE maths and science at age 16 (very, very average), fast forward 20 years and I'll soon be graduating a chemical engineering degree with first class honours.

    You should try your best and go for your preferred option, you may be surprised at how much easier you find it as an adult.
  5. iamdjdz


    Joined: Nov 24, 2006

    Posts: 4,364

    Can you take both entrance exams? I'd study like mad and you'll keep the knowledge in your head in the short term ready for the exam, but do both anyway. Ultimately it's the qualification not the college that will get you a job in the end.

    And as for studying a few years late, do it! I started studying Computing and IT BSc with open university at 23 and only graduated at 30 but I got a job at 28 and love my career change. If you're keen and willing to learn you'll soon catch up on your slightly younger peers and it'll make no difference in your 30s.
  6. Rich


    Joined: Oct 18, 2002

    Posts: 2,722

    3-4 months is a lifetime. You can learn anything in that time frame. Don't judge the time by how long it takes to learn things at school. Find a tutor and get some help. Go for your preferred option.
  7. peterwalkley


    Joined: Feb 23, 2009

    Posts: 3,456

    Location: South Wirral

    53 year old software engineer here, working in the Telecoms sector.

    The colleges are treating maths as a proxy for the type of mind that generally is good at programming. It really is a poor indicator frankly: I've worked with developers from all sorts of backgrounds and what actually matters is logic and problem solving skills. The "maths" I use day to day is what I learned in school by the age of 14 (looking at that pastebin list, I use 5 of the 24). @Hades suggestion of a tutor is good, in that it would get you past the barrier and a tutor can focus on the specific skills for the test. There are business areas where you will need all 24, for example scientific computing and certain areas of finance (investment working with quants etc) but most of the time I find it is trivial maths, addition and logical operations.

    Second point is to not get too hung up on the college. When it comes to recruitment, what is generally looked for is that you completed the course and less so of where you did it. Any employer applying the "snob" factor of only looking at candidates from the top tier universities is actually being quite dumb and cutting themselves off from a wider talent pool. You should look at the success rate of the college getting people into paid employment as that is ultimately what matters.
  8. dirtychinchilla


    Joined: May 2, 2011

    Posts: 9,255

    Location: Woking, Surrey

    Do something now. Whatever you do, don't wait!
  9. ObSene


    Joined: Sep 6, 2015

    Posts: 47

    I would go with this option :) A lot can change if you wait a year.
  10. UnLuckyBenski


    Joined: Dec 28, 2017

    Posts: 4,299

    Location: London

    So much good advice already. I agree: set college A as your target, work hard to give that your best shot. If possible, also do the test for college B. Ideally you could wait for results from both, then decide what to do?

    If college A interview you and you can talk about your previous self-driven programming experience, you will impress them. Be hopeful and outgoing, maybe contact them directly?

    I went to university at 26 - I was rejected for engineering based on my maths qualifications so had to do a foundation year elsewhere. I smashed that year, came out with straight A grades and bargained my way into the original course I wanted.

    Aged 30 I graduated electronic engineering, started a good job in broadcast, 2 years later I'm transitioning to a developer role. It's never too late but you will have to give your best shot whatever you do!
  11. booyaka


    Joined: Jan 19, 2006

    Posts: 12,990

    I agree - do some study, get a tutor if needed. Your probably over thinking how hard it will be. The college needs students as much as the students need the college.
  12. bb gun


    Joined: Jul 29, 2015

    Posts: 19

    Once again, thank you, everyone, for replying. All of your replies are useful and informative :) I had a bit of an issue with my net which took my ISP some time to get it fixed, so forgive me for the late reply.

    To answer some of the replies I got:

    Unfortunately, I won't be able to take both exams. Both begin at the same time, and at the same date :(

    Thank you for your reply, @peterwalkley . One thing I wanted to ask you (and anyone else who works in this field) is; how important is math for problem solving?

    I'm well aware that you could easily learn programming, data science, etc... without being good at math, but I keep hearing that the better you are with math concepts, the better your problem-solving skills become. Seeing how many things in programming derives from concepts in math (functions, vectors, matrices, etc...), do you believe having a strong foundation in math would only help me in this type of work? I actually find math very interesting and would love if I would be able to study it properly, and actually learn to improve "abstract thinking". Also, this is not only for programming but for software engineering in general.

    Additionally, if I take the entrance exam this year, I think I'll be forced to rote learn math, so I hope this won't have a big negative impact on how I approach problems with their solution. I'm also worried about having trouble in class if I manage to enter college this way. This is the reason why I'm leaning towards pausing this year, but like @booyaka said, maybe I'm just overthinking this.

    Once again, thank you, everyone, for replying, and pardon the late reply.
  13. peterwalkley


    Joined: Feb 23, 2009

    Posts: 3,456

    Location: South Wirral

    As side-effect of learning maths you also tend to learn abstract thought and (for development) the MOST important skill which is to break down a problem. If I can't solve X, how do I break down X into A, B and C that I can solve. Critical thinking and divide-and-rule are your friends. Maths is not the only way to learn those skills, so please try not to get too hung up on it. If you can get past the hurdle of the college exam, you will be fine going forwards - you can pick up what you need at leisure. I've worked with developers who took arts subjects at A level and barely scraped a pass at GCSE maths.

    From what you said earlier about writing small programs and modding games, you've learned some of those skills already. You don't mention if there is any kind of interview process for the colleges, but showing past development and particularly an enthusiasm for building software should give you credit. I do despair when I hear of people starting a CS degree when they've never written a line of code in their lives - there are no barriers to writing code: all you need is access to a PC and time. Development software is free, huge numbers of free resources are out there and help is out there if you ask.

    When it comes to job interviews, a lot of places won't look at you unless you show them a github account, so PROOF you can actually write code. You should work on that for whatever personal projects you have going and if the modding you used to do isn't visible anywhere, put it on github.
  14. UnLuckyBenski


    Joined: Dec 28, 2017

    Posts: 4,299

    Location: London

    This is a similar experience to what I had - I love numbers, can do calculations but struggle with more abstract maths like calculus. I'm better with "numbers" than "process by rote" if you see what I mean.

    I started uni with a good GCSE grade in maths but no further. Some of the more intense mathematics at university were my hardest modules - but that was electronic engineering so calculus, frequency domain work, Fourier transforms etc. The more straightforward maths was OK and I managed to learn it from fresh, and get good grades.

    So I relate to the idea that you're scared of what you don't know - but you can apply yourself as you go along. I'm very practically minded and I always found a way to understand the subject matter from that perspective if I struggled with the theory.