Some questions about coursework and academic things in COE

Submitted by Apureidiot on May 10th, 2018 at 7:51 AM

Hello everybody. I can't thank the board enough for the valuable guidance in choosing a dorm (I'm heading to central heh).

So, I guess I'll ask the most pertinent questions I have on my mind regarding academics at UM, specifically COE.

My first question probably has to do with me being really passionate about computers and stuff. Are there any hidden selectivity and competition involved in declaring a popular major like compsci? Are there any hidden quotas per major that will involve selectivity? Are there any extra requirements other than the course requirements listed on the official website? Perhaps I'm overthinking this, but where I'm from, these worries are widely applicable.

Also, I still want to keep my doors open even after graduation, and that means keeping a great GPA. How hard is it to manage my courseload (like getting an A in challenging courses) and meaningful extracurriculars at UM as an undergrad?

Finally, go blue! This season is shaping up to be something special, especially with our receivers closing in on the muscle mass and strength of Darboh and Chesson.


Gentleman Squirrels

May 10th, 2018 at 8:14 AM ^

Recent COE grad here.

No, there are no hidden selectivity/competition/extra requirements that go on with declaring comp sci. What's on the website should be correct but I would make sure to check in on your transcript and wolverine access from time to time to make sure that you are covering all you need to do. I declared at the beginning of my sophomore year and was able to plan out all my classes for the next 3 years right then and there with minor adjustments.

As for being able to maintain a great GPA, the old trope if you work hard enough you'll succeed applies. But you'll have to work a hell of a lot harder in COE than you would in most other majors. There's a reason why the average GPA is lower in COE. The course work is difficult and it will challenge you and you'll spend a lot of nights hating that you did this to yourself. But you should have no problems in doing work and still having meaningful extracuriculars. And if the material interests you, then you'll probably end up looking back on those nights with fondness and be fine with your GPA.


May 10th, 2018 at 8:15 AM ^

There's some hidden selectivity in that a lot of the required courses for a CS major fill up. Signing up for those classes immediately and/or being willing to ride the waitlist for a couple weeks give you a great shot at getting them, but it can be a bit inconvenient. As for getting A's, it's extraordinarily difficult to get above a 3.8 in most engineering majors. The classes are curved to around a 2.8, and you'll be competing against a lot of bright and hardworking students. If you use your time well though, you should be able to manage picking up some extracurriculars on the side. 


May 10th, 2018 at 9:06 AM ^

When I was in the college of engineering back in early 2000's there was a program called SGUS (Simultaneous graduate undergraduate study).  If you maintained a 3.6 cumulative GPA as an undergrad you had the opportunity to double count a few classes from undergrad towards you rgrad degree.  If this appeals to you, it can allow you to receive a master's in just 1 additional year.  I believe this is still available.  You'll have to work hard, but it could be worth it.  

By the way, I went this route, but still maintained a social life at UM (certainly less partying than my roommates though).  Had a great group of friends, and we even made it to the finals in independent men A flag football.


May 10th, 2018 at 9:14 AM ^

So, I think this ends up being more of a philosophical question than an engineering question.

Regarding selectivity, it has been a long time since I graduated ('93) but my experience was that all options are available.  There is some self-selection that happens as, for example, Chemical Engineering tends to exclude those who can't succeed in both math and chemistry. 

You'll find the university is packed full of like-minded individuals with similar interests.  The real benefit is sharing the educational experience with others who have similar interests learning from those who are among the best in the world.

With respect to grades and GPA... you are absolutely right: a stronger GPA is a great indicator for those in the position to evaluate you for internships, jobs, advanced engineering degrees, and other professional schools (e.g. JD or MBA).

Your academic success is the Venn diagram intersection of your ability and your willingness to work at it.  You seem to be focused on the academic success, so that's a great start.  Now you need to follow through to achieve your goals.  Of course, your academic path is only a part of what you get from the college experience.  But you will do what you make time for.

In other words, if you choose to make grades your only priority, that gives you a leg up on that front.  But it is possible to explore extra-curricular activities, make deep and lasting friendships, AND succeed academically.  Learning to manage your time is a key element of university and will be a foundation for the rest of your life.

So set goals, both academically and socially, then attack achieving them with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.


May 10th, 2018 at 9:49 AM ^

There's no hidden selectivity, but when I graduated in 2016 there were some issues with the demand for CS classes outstripping the number of classes/teachers they had. Particularly in 280/281 (Object Oriented Programming and Algorithms classes). Also, it can be tough to get the classes you want once you are an upperclassmen. Classes like Game development only have 100 spots or so, but a much higher demand than that. Basically, you have to be diligent in being ready to grab your classes the second you are able and also having backup options already backpacked and planned out.

Also, as others have said here, CSE is hard. Basically every important class you will take is curved to a 2.8. However, the real time sink is the projects. Generally, you will get something like 21 days to do a project, and you'll have something like 3 submits a day to see how good you did. Make sure to start projects basically IMMEDIATELY so you can maximize submits and take your time. Getting in the habit of starting projects early is the #1 key for being successful in CSE at Michigan and that's generally what separated a lot of the top kids from the bottom kids.

I would generally just work on my projects as I did other stuff that didn't need full attention. If I was bumming around watching TV, I would have my laptop open working on my project. 

Also good news, I have generally found other students to be very helpful. Most classes have a forum where students are allowed to discuss the problems of the projects and give hints to other students as to what the answers are.


Also: This sheet is a great resource.…

Gives you an example of what a normal schedule looks like, gives you all the prereqs for classes, AND provides a list of how tough of a workload all the CS classes are. Generally you never want more than two project based CS classes in a semester. A hard one (like EECS 482 Operating Systems) and an easy one (like EECS 484 Databases).



May 10th, 2018 at 9:56 AM ^

There’s no secret criteria. (In contrast to say University of Washington which, last I heard, caps the number of majors and makes you apply to get in, similar to the way the business school does at Michigan.) If you’re in the engineering program and you pass he required courses, you’ll be able to declare the major and graduate in CS. (Assuming the LS&A CS program is still available, then not being in the engineering school isn’t a problem.)

When I was there a decade ago, the first three courses were viewed somewhat as weeder courses (ENGR 101 or EECS 183, plus EECS 280 and 281). Not that the department will force you but that students may fail and thus not be able to continue or be unsuccessful and realize that it’s not for them.


May 10th, 2018 at 9:57 AM ^

Based on this post, your biggest concern is that you worry too much. College is incredibly easy for anyone with average or better intelligence. Go and have fun. If you put in the time to complete the course work you will be successful. Period.

Naked Bootlegger

May 10th, 2018 at 10:14 AM ^

I will slightly pick nits regarding this statement.   I consider myself to possess at least average intelligence.   My UM COE undergrad experience and multiple grad school stints were far from incredibly easy.   I worked like a dog to earn decent grades.   I wouldn't trade my experiences for anything, but it sure wasn't easy.  


May 10th, 2018 at 1:20 PM ^


My bsme was harder than anything I've done in the 10 years since I graduated, and I've designed and brought to market multiple spine implants as the project lead.


May 10th, 2018 at 1:54 PM ^

BSME here as well, from back in the 80's. I think the curve was closer to a 2.5 average then. The coursework was extremely tough and required way more time than my liberal arts housemates had to put in. I recall leaving the UGLi at midnight Friday to get ready to go out after 6 hours of after dinner studying. But it built something in you in terms of toughness and rigorous thinking.

I attended a well-known MBA program as well. The workload was heavy in terms of time, but the intellectual difficulty was absolutely nothing like engineering.

Alas, I never did engineering after graduation as my career path and interests were more business focused. I appreciate what it gave me in terms of thinking ability, but there were certainly easier ways to get a degree.


May 10th, 2018 at 11:26 AM ^

I appreciate the sentiment that you shouldn't worry too much, but UM engineering is rigorous as hell and you should not treat your upcoming challenge so fillipantly. I was probably one of the top 5 or top 10 smartest people in my high school (moderately sized, but rural), so I thought college would be simple. I was very wrong. I sucked at college until my second and third senior years when it finally clicked and I killed it. In the end, I don't think I ever answered for my GPA and got a bomb job and make solid money. My point is that you should not worry, but also don't expect to breeze through college.


May 10th, 2018 at 11:30 AM ^

I totally disagree. It depends a lot on the person and the major. I knew extremely smart kids who were able to coast and others who worked extraordinarily hard, including the kid who was almost definitely the smartest in my major my year.

I do agree not to stress too much about grades, though. You’re pretty much surrounded by kids who got mostly or all As in high school. Some, but very few, will continue to do so in college. Especially in engineering, you can be very successful with the degree, particularly if you focus more on getting your work done and understanding it than you do on grades.

Do have fun, that’s an important part of college, but don’t be surprised if the work is overwhelming at times. Learning to budget your time and to start early on big projects and make consistent progress is a huge benefit, but even then there will probably be times that will feel overwhelming, especially in engineering. If you’re staying mentally healthy big picture, then that’s totally ok. And if you’re not, get connected to counseling who can do wonders with helping you figure life out.


May 10th, 2018 at 1:06 PM ^

Not sure what major you had, but I can testify that engineering was no walk in the park at Michigan.

You can still have fun, but you'd be stupid to have a lax attitude about coursework in COE. You will be challenged. And if you don't spend a number of late nights in the library, your grades will suffer for it.


May 10th, 2018 at 10:08 AM ^

You mention being passionate about computers. Have you ever programmed? I ask because I have seen a lot of students who love computers but hate programming (and a lot who love computers and love programming). If you haven’t programmed before, I’d encourage you to pick up a book and try it out over the summer (and do many exercises in the book, you won’t understand the material until you use it). If you hate it, don’t give up until you’ve tried a class or two at Michigan because learning in a class is a very different experience, but it will clue you in to think about what else you might be interested in. If you enjoy it, then you’ve got a leg up in the first class or two compared to where you were before.


May 11th, 2018 at 1:02 PM ^

This is off the front page, so I don't know if you are still looking at this, but here goes.

I would recommend broadening your language exposure to help you out before you get into your more advanced CS classes.  I don't know how classes like 280 are taught now, but based on how they were taught back when I took them long ago, some OOP languages would probably help (C#/Java/C++).  A lot of my CS classes were focused on OOP design back then.  I don't know if that is still true, but my entire programming career has been in OOP programming so.......  Having self-exposure to the languages before you have to start using them in class is a great thing.   I think  I read online that 280 still uses C++. 

You really don't want to be using C++ for the first time in this class.  You want to be focusing on solving the problems, not learning the language.  C++ is NOT easy to learn.  I worked professionally in C++ for 11 years, and of all the languages I have learned, the learning curve for C++ was probably the steepest (not counting assembly, but almost no one except for the hardest core people use that directly anymore) 

If you aren't interested in digging into any of those, exposure to JavaScript would probably be a good thing just because it is used so heavily in web programming.  Just be aware that a ton of JavaScript is learning a particular framework which may be replaced in 2 years for a new one. 


May 10th, 2018 at 10:56 AM ^

You can have extra activities and succeed, but do NOT bite off more than you can chew from an academic perspective. I was in a fraternity and did plenty of other activities, but the one semester I took 4 ME classes was the worst semester I had. If you can keep your engineering courseload to 10-12 credits (add a humanities/requirement to maintain full time status) you will be much happier.

16 credit hours of ME 211, 240, 250, and 238 were way too much. Also, ask other students for help/see professors early. The biggest academic mistake that I made was having a first semester of Eng101, Physics 240 (shout out to the 4 on AP E/M not counting starting in 2005!) and Calc 3. Two of those were sophomore classes where the professors assumed that you knew how to succeed in college. I didn't find out what a gateway exam was until way too late, but ended up passing it on my 2nd or 3rd to last attempt.

Swayze Howell Sheen

May 10th, 2018 at 12:12 PM ^

find projects (programming projects if you are a computer person) to do on your own, and learn languages and tools as you do them. An undergrad degree grounds you in fundamentals, but there are a lot of things you have to learn on your own. So, why wait?



May 10th, 2018 at 2:02 PM ^

I was EE and I actually loaded up on CS classes for fun.  Hence I figued out too late that I wanted to be a CS major, but back in my day, CS wasn't part of the COE.  Luckily people still hired me for CS stuff with an EE major.

Unlike the majority of people, I actually LIKED living on North Campus, because it meant I was closer to my classes and the computer labs, but also back then the internet didn't quite yet exist so that made working on projects out of your dorm room more difficult.  You could still do it on the university network but it wasn't quite as convenient as it is now.

The best thing I did when I was in college was spend time going to TA office hours and working with the other kids there to solve some of the impossible homework problems that made up 20% of your grade.  Now, this was EE, and I'm talking about the 300 level classes, so CS won't have to deal with those classes, but it was absolutely worth it to maximize the homework % because that was sometimes the difference between getting a B+ and an A-.

Learn how hard you can push yourself and then be ready to do it.  I pulled several all-nighters getting projects done (both EE & CS), because there was no alternative.  I guess I could have started earlier, but what fun would that have been?   I had some spring semesters with 18 credits and usually found that to be too much--some class would get almost totally ignored.  But I did marching band in the fall and I wanted to keep my schedule light (12-13 credits), so that is how I did it. 



May 10th, 2018 at 9:12 PM ^

Between my sophomore and junior year. At least that switch was straight forward. A bunch of prerequisites, a 3.0 overall GPA and a 3.0 in sciences. I made it in with just over a 3.0 and did fine in the engineering school. Personally I found the amount of effort to get from that B to Bplus range to the A range was not worth the amount of social time I was willing to give up.

You need to know going in that you are really going up against the leaders and best. My roommates and most friends were all brilliant. I had a friend in CS that picked up and Econ major too so he wouldn’t graduate to early. Other friends with almost perfect GPAs that went on to prestigious law schools and medical schools. It’s really cool if you are one of those people, but don’t worry if you aren’t one of those people. I was not. I struggled in chemistry and had to drop a class called woody plants. I have a great engineering career and have gotten patents and awards for my work.

College is an amazing time that will go by quick. You will work for many many years. Enjoy your time there. If you can get a top GPA that is great. If you don’t, it’s far from the end of the world. Have fun and best of luck.