Advice for curriculum-deferred students

3 minute read

If you are not sure yet what kind of career you’d like to pursue, being curriculum-deferred (CD) is a great opportunity to try different things and to get more information before you decide. However, we strongly recommend that you plan ahead a little bit - e.g., by picking courses that will most likely count towards the majors you are considering. That way, you won’t have a lot of catching up to do once you do decide on a major.

At first glance, this seems impossible, since the requirements for the various SEAS majors are quite different. However, by eliminating the programs you are definitely not interested in, you can probably cut down the number of options fairly quickly. Then you should be able to pick courses that count for all or most of these options. The SEAS Undergraduate Handbook has some specific recommendations for CD students. Have a look at the list of “First Semester Courses for CD Students” and the table at the bottom, which recommends CIS 1100formerly CIS 110 or CIS 1200formerly CIS 120 for students interested in Computer Science.

How do I find out more about computer science?

To start, read a bit about what computer science is and why you might want to study it. Many students think computer science is primarily about “hacking”, and that is certainly a part of it, but there is a lot more than that! For instance, check out the CIS Department Highlights page, which has some examples of exciting research projects that computer scientists at Penn are currently working on. Also, have a look at the CIS Seminar Series - we have a lot of exciting speakers coming through all the time, and going to some of their talks will give you an idea of what is currently happening in computer science broadly.

OK, I am interested. What should I do next?

Look at the degree requirements for your degree of interest. Circle the courses that would interest you. Did you circle most of them? If not, you may need to think more about whether this is indeed the right major for you.

If you have no programming experience, take CIS 1100formerly CIS 110 and see if you enjoy it!

Take a look at faculty research. Is there something that intrigues you?

Join one of the student groups: WICS, the Penn Computer Science Society (formerly the Dining Philosophers), PennApps, SIGGRAPH or PennLabs. You will meet folks who are majoring in computer science, and you will find out what they enjoy about the major!

Also, you can meet with a faculty member who understands the curriculum-deferred process, or come see the CIS Advising staff.

Can I do research and study abroad even if I am joining the major late?

The vast majority of students who transfer into CIS can do and are doing all of these things. Each student is different, however, so that’s why it is helpful to create a degree worksheet before you meet with an advisor, so that they can take a look at the courses you have and the courses you will need.

What do CIS graduates from Penn do once they complete their degree?

Most CIS graduates find a job in the tech sector after graduation. The graduation surveys from Career Services are a useful place to start to see what you might expect. They give a breakdown by job title, and the two highest median salaries for the class of 2021 are Software Engineers and Data Scientists, both of which are standard career paths for computer science majors.

In addition to industry paths, a few students each year will go on to pursue PhDs at top computer science departments across the country.