My Teenager is Interested in Programming. How Do I Help Support Him/Her to Be Best Prepared for Applying to School for Computer Science?

Parents of teenagers who are interested in computer programming have several ways to help their child prepare for applying to school for computer science. Programming is a good skill to encourage due to the prevalence of computers in modern society, with the foundation of computer use rooted in programming. Programming is how games, software products and operating systems are designed, and programming knowledge can open many career opportunities. There are a few actions parents can take to support teens who show an interest in programming and ultimately help them embark on a computer science degree program in college.

Give Them The Tech Tools They Need

Programmers need certain tools to do any of their work, such as a reliable computer, the right software tools and other resources such as books and guides. Parents of teens interested in programming need to provide their child with these tools so students can actually start programming. These make great gift ideas for birthdays, holidays and rewards for special achievements. Any computer will work so long as it has the processing power to compile code—laptops are usually a good bet because students can then go on to use them in college. Simple game development programs such as RPGMaker, the free version of Unreal Engine and Gamesalad allow programmers with basic knowledge to create their own video games. For teens primarily interested in developing mobile apps, TechRadar lists programs such as Zoho Creator, Appy Pie and AppSheet as good options. Other useful tools include books, online resources regarding the different programming languages, how-to videos and more.

Provide Them Opportunities To Code

Learning to code requires lots of hands-on experience. After providing the tools that will let teens practice their programming skills, parents next need to provide opportunities for their teens to code. If parents know how to code, they can offer advice but should keep their hands off the keyboard to let their teens actually do the work. Help teens set aside time to code and give them a quiet space where they can work. If they aren’t sure what to code, parents can give them ideas. Games, in particular, can be a fun way for teens to explore coding, as many people enjoy video games and may desire to make one, whether as a hobby project or as a career. Mobile apps are another good project to undertake. Teens can even publish apps, games or software they create to perhaps earn some money to help put them through college, deposit into savings or to use as extra spending money.

Enroll Them In Classes

Students interested in computer programming can also take formal classes to learn more about the subject. The best options would be computer science or programming classes offered through their high school. Most high schools now offer these classes as electives and some might even require them. Parents can help ensure teens build their schedules around useful science and tech classes that will help them prepare for applying to school for computer science. For teens who want to create video games or more creative pursuits with their programming, taking creative writing and art classes might be beneficial as well, as can encouraging them to pay attention in English class. Classes at community colleges or options offered through local community centers are also good options. Classes at community colleges can even provide students with college credits that will transfer and count towards their degree once entering university. As outlined by U.S. News & World Report, dual credit programs can even give students both high school and college credit for completing a course.

Help Them Research College Options

When the question of looking at colleges comes up, many high schoolers will start feeling overwhelmed by the number of choices they have and the factors they need to consider. The process of choosing and applying to a college should be started when a teen is in their junior year of high school. For parents of teens who are interested in programming and are fairly certain they want to pursue a computer science degree, schools with especially strong computer science programs should be considered first. Teens who enjoy programming but still aren’t sure what they want to major in should look at schools that offer a wide variety of options so they can choose a more specific path later. Facilitate in-person visits to campuses as well.

Encourage Them To Keep Their Grades Up

High school students will need to pay attention to and earn good grades to get into the college of their choice. Every college has different admission criteria so students should keep their options open by getting the best grades possible, particularly in any computer science courses. For teens who already have some options in mind, they can find out what grade point average (GPA) they will need in order to get in. For parents whose teens are having academic trouble at school, they can help by finding tutors and providing other tools and resources for success. In addition to grades, students need to perform well on standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT. However, as The Atlantic reports, most colleges are having to use other criteria to make decisions regarding acceptance such as a student’s desire to attend a particular school and their extracurricular activities.

Encourage Them To Keep At It

Programming is messy and can be difficult. It requires those who use it to try something, and if that fails, try something else until it works correctly. It requires a lot of patience and dedication and teenagers should be encouraged to keep going even when nothing seems to be going right. Sometimes trashing a project and starting over is the right thing to do. This can be disheartening, but teens who stick with it and learn to master it can truly create something wonderful. Parents need to make their teens aware of this reality and encourage them to not give up until they get better. This cultivates the right mindset for programming and computer science—wanting to not just create something that works, but something that is great.

Computer programming is a valuable skill to have in the modern world, with many careers utilizing it. Teens who are interested in learning programming should have their enthusiasm encouraged. With the right approach, parents can help their teenagers interested in computer programming prepare for applying to school for computer science.

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