Before I get really into this, keep in mind the program has changed a bit since I started, but I’ll try to annotate that as I go along, this particular topic comes from both questions I’ve been asked in the past and from some more recent questions from potential future Neumont students and parents.
My interest in computer science really started before I was even in high school, both my parents were electronic engineers and met and graduated from the same college. One of the best things they ever did for me was to encourage me in my interests and help me as best they could. When I was about 11 or so my parents gave me a Lego Mindstorms robotics system. Its essentially a programmable brick with attachable motors and sensors that came with a rather basic programming system that gave me an introduction to programming. That became my programming staple for many years until I began to play with a language called DarkBasic. DarkBasic itself is a spin off language based off of the Basic programming language, its unique in that it is setup with a host of 2D and 3D direct commands built directly into the language to make it easy to play with. Instead of learning a complicated language like C or C++, it was more fun to tinker with and get immediate results (if any of you have tried to initialize directX directly in C# or C++ as a 14 year old, you know what I’m talking about). That grew into a several year obsession of building and making games, and learning a great deal about programming concepts via the age old ‘fall down and pick yourself up’
My first real classes in computer science began when I entered high school and began taking online classes in addition to my regular ones. My very first introduction one was taught in pascal, which was new to me but my prior experience allowed me to move quickly and fairly easily through. The second level class was taught in java and had a much bigger focus on Java and Object Oriented Programming but was not that difficult. After my sophomore year of high school I took my ACT test over the summer and got a good enough score on it to be able to enter a program through the state of Minnesota called PSEO(Post Secondary Education Option) which allows high scoring high school students to begin taking classes as a ‘pre-freshmen’ at the local college and have all your class expenses and books paid for by the state. More than that your classes could also count for both high school and College credit. So for the next two years I was taking a full college class load at Winona State University and graduated from high school with a home school diploma two years ago. My stint at WSU also landed me my first job as a student software developer in the WSU programming department where I was first introduced to ASP and C#. Over my time there I had completed two or three small projects that I look back at now and wonder how it took me a month to do, and in the educational meantime I had taken ~3 different programming classes to the 250-300 level by the time I left.
Neumont Decision Process
Pending my high school graduation I had a box of college promotional mail about a foot an a half deep where I continually tossed most of the college mail that I got. So how did I personally decide? I got lots of mail from Neumont, about 3-4 pieces before I even began seriously looking at them. Finally went and looked through their website, filled out a form and talked to one of the recruiters on the phone. That itself wasn’t what made my decision for me, it was when Neumont brought me and my parents down to visit the school that finally did it for me. At the time it was called Geek weekend, where they would bring in a bunch of new prospective students, give them a tour of the school, and give a chance for the student and parents to meet with people actually in the program, see the facility, and meet some of the faculty. After listening to the current students describe some of there current classes, the things they were currently being taught and getting a chance to see the current scope and size of the projects they worked on I was pretty much sold.
At that point my decision was between Neumont University and Winona State near where I lived, for me, I could have gotten enough scholarships to pay for most of my tuition there and since I was seriously considering staying with my parents for that time I would have graduated from there with little or no debt in under 4 years, plus I would have graduated with ~3 years of part time development experience from my job in the WSU tech department. On the other hand, Neumont was in Utah, farther away (With no-one I knew), more expensive, shorter, more intense, but I knew Neumont had MUCH more educational value than WSU after comparing the classes I would be taking at WSU vs the ones I would take at Neumont. I chose Neumont, for the following reasons: It’s a full bachelors in two years, it gets me out into the real world on my own, its a challenge, and if I’m careful I should be able to pay off my loans within ~3 years. As you can see, I decided to go with Neumont, and I’ve never doubted that it was the right decision.
My Neumont Experience
Quarter 2 began with a shift away from C# to Java, and also began to introduce the projects classes. A fundamental principle that Neumont has adopted is the concept of team based project classes, starting at your second quarter you have Development projects in the afternoon that are usually tied to an associated CS class, for me in quarter two our Development projects was tied to Java 1. After a quick review of the concepts we had learned in the C# introduction class we quickly progressed through a large number of topics in Java, introducing interface design, connecting to databases (MySQL for the java class), events, event handlers, MVC design and so on. The associated project class tied to Java 1 followed the java class closely where the class is broken in to teams of 4-5 for the duration of the class, each team is assigned the same project that they are required to design, build, test, and present over the duration of the quarter. During this time your first class in databases is taught in addition to a class knows as Information Modeling which teaches the basics of how to take business requirements, break them into there constituent elements and then to clarify, design, and build systems based on that.
Up through Quarter 6 everything is pretty standard, you will end up taking a variety of core classes including Databases 1 & 2, Information Modeling 1&2, Java 1 – Forms, Java 2 – Java web, Java 3 – Service Oriented Architecture, .NET 1 – Win Forms, .NET 2 – ASP.NET & web, .NET 3 – Windows Communication Foundation, Algorithms. For anyone starting now the last 4 Quarters are reserved for ‘concentrations’ which allow you to specialize you degree toward a particular field, Web technologies, Open Source, .NET, Java, Mobile Development, Mid range platform development… etc… Talk to Neumont if you want to know what the exact concentrations are.
The biggest and best draw to Neumont University however is the enterprise projects, your last several quarters you sign up for a class that’s similar to every other project class, except these projects are not run by teachers and instructors, but are run by actual companies with actual projects. Some are local and you’ll work at the company offices, and some are remote and you have a project room and conference calls on a regular basis. Its a sort of real life, pseudo internship with a company. Many MANY times these companies will hire students off of these projects but even if they don’t, by the time you graduate you will have a list of 2-3 companies that you have worked with on actual projects. You really learn what you want to do, what you don’t want to do and the direction you will want to take your career, more often than not it opens up a wide variety of options, especially if you impress your employer. To put it in perspective, I only really began my job search process at the beginning of this quarter, and as of this writing I’ve interviews with over 10 companies, received 3 VERY good offers, finally choosing to accept an offer with Interknowlogy, the company I’m currently doing my enterprise project with.
Neumont is fast paced, difficult, but well worth the struggle. Like any education you WILL get out of it what you put into it, there’s a lot to learn in this industry and it changes even faster. From what I’ve seen and can compare to both in the industry today and the educational world Neumont is already one of the top universities in the US for computer science and is rapidly gaining recognition.
A rather long winded explanation, but it gives a rough description of where I’ve come educationally over my life, hope it helps explain Neumont and myself a bit better.
Oh, and for anyone that’s still wondering how it’s possible to fit a ‘4 year education’ into 2 years… try this:
5 Years at a normal college taking the normal 2 Semesters per year is 10 Semesters total.
At Neumont, you go year round and cram 4 in a year instead of 2. So 2 1/2 years at 4 quarters per year = 10 Quarters total.
No summer break.
*Lights go on*
– Paul Rohde