Undergraduate Student Blog, Speaking of Princeton

Undergraduate Student Blog

Author: Serena Zheng ’17

Rockville, Maryland • Computer Science View Profile

What's It Like Being a COS Major?

To answer the most frequently asked question I get from prospective students: It's super cool!

The Computer Science building
The Computer Science building

Basically, being a Computer Science (COS) major means that I have to take eight departmental classes, which are COS classes that are 300-level or higher. COS courses are typically lecture-style classes, and the coursework involves programming assignments, problem sets and final projects. There's no one course that all COS majors are required to take, and it's nice having so many options for classes. (See listing of COS classes here.)

Sketch of the Computer Science building

The Computer Science building, generated from an edge detector algorithm from the first assignment of COS 451: Computer Vision

Homework for COS/ELE 516

Homework for COS/ELE 516: Automated Reasoning about Software

Because I'm pursing an A.B. degree (as opposed to B.S.E. - read about the differences here), I have to do four semesters of independent work, which means I get to work on projects of my choosing, learn about whatever I want to learn about, and then write a report about it. For my junior fall, I wanted to learn how to make a mobile app, so I built an Android app that uses geofencing to deliver push notifications about public events happening in nearby parks. In my junior spring, I wanted to brush up on my web development skills, so I made a website that made URLs human-readable and then conducted a user study. For my senior year, I wanted to engage more with people, so I'm interviewing people and writing my thesis about it! If you're curious, my thesis is about smart homes, privacy and the Internet of Things. :)

Skype interview for my thesis

Skype interview for my thesis.

Since declaring COS as my major sophomore spring, I've taken two COS classes each semester, plus independent work. About half of my studies are dedicated to COS, and the other half is filled with whatever else I want to study--English, French, Chinese, dance, music and anything that strikes my fancy to round out my liberal arts education.

The reading list for ENG 369: Contemporary Science Fiction.

The reading list for ENG 369: Contemporary Science Fiction.

Additionally, I'm super grateful for the fact that being a COS major has, quite literally, taken me places: I've gotten to work in San Francisco and Seattle the past two summers, and I spent my junior spring studying abroad at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. This spring break, I also got to travel to Berlin for the Fung Global Forum: "Can Liberty Survive a Digital Age?"

COS majors studying abroad!

COS majors studying abroad!

I'm so happy to be a Computer Science major and have certainly enjoyed my Princeton academic experience. Hopefully you've gotten a good taste of what it's like to be a Computer Science major here at Princeton, as well!