This year, before I decided to drop out of high school, I had the opportunity to apply to universities to pursue a degree in computer science. And while it is common knowledge that, on the whole, going to college in this field is a waste of both time and money, if I could secure a full-ride free scholarship, I would get the best of both worlds: a prestigious degree without crippling debt, and to enjoy Scotland’s rife teenage drinking culture while I still can.
Now, I can only speak on my experiences, but here I will give you all of the information that got me into the best university in the country, as well as the other second-rate ones.
Every course at university has a set of "expected" grade requirements, but of course, going above these is even better. Fortunately, school came relatively easily to me, and I found myself getting top marks with little to no extra effort outside of school.
It's easy for me to sit here with my A's and preach that there's more to a career in software engineering than school and grades, but there really is. College or university is one of the many routes to success, but probably isn't the optimal one.
But if bribing your teachers doesn't seem feasible, and you haven't been simping for them for the past 4 years at least, it might seem challenging to get your grades, but there is still hope.
The heart of your application.
A summary of your achievements, skills, and accolades.
There is a hard character limit, so you need to make every word count. There are also potential interviews, so no big fat lies either.
Like a classic teenager, I left this all until the last minute, so take everything here with a grain of salt.
The key things that I would choose to focus on are:
Why you chose the degree, and why the course interests you personally.
Your experience and examples of actually putting in effort to pursue it, be that work experience, or projects that you have made.
Traits that make you not just a good software engineer (in this case), but also a good all-around student.
Oh, and a good opening sentence, use those big words you've got tucked away, they LOVEEE that.
Here's an example of mine, I know, I know, literary masterpiece.
In Computer Science, I see a tenacious and versatile vocation, yet what I love most is its fusion of a scientific core with a creative heart. It is the art of eloquent expression and the science of structured thinking. Learning to code requires establishing how to learn effectively - I have found this skill to be invaluable, as it allows me to be confident in my ability to overcome any task that I set my mind to.
Using a project-based learning approach provided a lot of frustration initially, however it taught me to enjoy the process as well as the outcome. My studies in Physics, Mathematics, Computing, and Mechanics have broadly developed my techniques for solving complex problems by abstracting them and thinking laterally and logically. When the solution to a problem is not obvious, I enjoy putting in the extra effort to study, understand, and solve it.
It is extremely rewarding to work so hard on an idea that everything unnecessary falls away - all of the little ideas and fundamental building blocks suddenly fall into place. What's remaining is the refined truth, the end product of a daring yet worthwhile procedure - and when you write it down as a series of instructions, you can see all the minuscule components working in harmony. This is what makes it so satiating to solve problems on your own. Programming is about understanding a problem so deeply, that a piece of metal can be taught how to solve it. Even the way the software itself is designed can be a work of art - it can be succinct, witty and powerful, all at the same time.
I am an ambitious individual who has enthusiasm, motivation, and competence - traits that are critical for effective programming and study.
During my time playing sports, I have acquired strong interpersonal skills, can work individually and as part of a group, and have excellent organisational skills. I have demonstrated these in my academics as well as coaching tennis, as managing my time effectively allowed me to excel in these tasks. I consider my key strengths to be an ability to make rapid, tactical judgments, managing teams, making fast yet robust decisions, and striving for a thorough understanding of the topics that I am passionate about.
I developed these skills further during my summer, which I spent working for an FPGA manufacturing company in Edinburgh, developing the low-level software that runs the chips. This has shown me the reality of working life, in addition to other considerations such as writing tests, working with version control, and using a range of programming languages, such as C and VHDL.
The applications of computing fascinate me: from the algorithms used by Google to filter 50 billion web pages in milliseconds, to the utilization of neural networks in self-driving cars. After following the work of George Hotz, I was intrigued by his take on this problem. This led me to look at the OpenPilot source code, and eventually contribute to his project. It was rewarding to work on a project that I felt genuinely passionate about, and to see it grow into a fully autonomous prototype.
I remember being told that the more full of yourself that you are in your personal statement, the better. And while my sarcastic Scottish humour may contradict this, it made me quite uncomfortable writing in this way.
Try not to be too generic, if the little university gremlins that read a hundred personal statements every day go through the same sentence in 99 different applications, make sure you're the 1%.
Also, to toot my own horn, in the final paragraph I link hobby ⇒ passion ⇒ career. If I could go back, I would try and have that running throughout the entire statement, make it cohesive and enjoyable to read, if that's even possible for this kind of writing?
In closing, give it a go, and if it doesn't work out, there are plenty of other options open for you. The game plan for me is to build a multi-billion dollar startup and dropout, maybe get a PHD or 2.
Also, follow me on twitter, okay thanks.