Advice to a Junior in High School?

Corey Coughlin corey.coughlin at
Fri Sep 5 23:03:52 CEST 2003

A junior in high school?  First off, I wouldn't worry too much about
the job market, computers aren't going to go away, there will be a
need to program them for at least a little longer, and if you really
love it, you'll get good at it, and being better than most is all you
really need to get a job.  If you're still really worried, I'd suggest
a double major with electrical/computer engineering.  Learning what
goes on inside computers can be useful.  Take it from an EE grad who
wishes he'd done CS now.

As far as what languages to study, I wouldn't worry about that at all
at this point, any of the previous suggestions would be fine.  In high
school, I learned Pascal, Cobol, Basic (applesoft, if you must know)
and Fortran, and guess how long I kept using those languages?  First,
figure out what you need to know for the AP tests, learn that
language, and then figure out what languages are most
popular/applicable for whatever CS specialities you're interested in. 
Lisp and C are good suggestions, the highbrow CS types love Lisp, and
C will be useful until somebody finally puts a stake in Unix/Linux/(os
written in C).  Python is great if you enjoy it (and you should),
C++/java/perl always make nice resume items, but that's bound to
change by the time you get out of college, so keep an eye on them and
see if they last.  Many people have suggested learning a whole bunch
of languages, and that's fine if you want to learn a whole bunch of
languages, but if you enjoy programming more, then just pick the
languages you need to know to program what you want, and you should be
fine (for now, anyway).  Keep an eye on new languages, peruse them
occasionally to see if they can help you out, otherwise stick with
your favorites.  And in general, try to relax, I know the
hypercompetitive/internet time future is scary, but like most people,
you'll probably figure out some way to get by.

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