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3*(CSC 171)

There is a famous idiom, “Third time’s the charm”.  And I believe in that.

In the Spring of 2018 semester, I took CSC 171: Introduction to Computer Science. I remembered how excited and, at the same time, nervous I was when I first sat in this big lecture hall in the Hutchison building. I loved the class since day 1, despite it was the class that I spent most of my time on, and yet still the class that I struggled the most. Despite pouring all my efforts into this class, I did not pass the class with a grade high enough to advance to the next class, CSC 172: Data Structures and Algorithms.

In the Summer of 2018, I decided that since I have already taken this class, I would definitely be able to ace the class. Since the first day of class, I was on top of my lab assignments, projects as well as copying notes right after class. However, as the class material got harder, I slacked off. I was not able to complete all the lab assignments on time, I was not able to hand in perfect-score projects and as a consequence, I scored poorly on my tests as well. In addition to that, summer class was three hours per class and three classes per week. The material did not come off any easier for me, as the class was so condensed. Without the academic year’s tutoring support and office hours and a 50% weight on exams – I did even worse.

After taking the final exam, I went to meet with my academic advisors, both whom suggested that I look into other majors as a backup plan. I cried hardly. I never thought that chasing my dreams would have been so challenging. For three days straight, I debated on one single question: “CS or not?” I walked around campus crying thinking about this question. I constantly thought, “What if I have to switch majors? What if I will not be able to work in the technology industry?” It was definitely the time I learned what a heartbreak is. I was faced with two choices: To not take Computer Science next fall and try another class, possibly switching my major, or, take Computer Science for the third time.

It was a difficult choice.

It was not only difficult because my confidence had dropped a lot since the first time taking the class, but also because I started thinking that I was not capable of succeeding in Computer Science and would need to make a different choice. I talked to nearly all my CS friends about my desire to change my major. They all encouraged me to think about it more thoroughly and that they believed in me. That meant everything in the world to me – the fact that my ability was trusted meant a lot. After that, I knew that it was not about my ability – but my approach to the class. I especially have to give thanks to my CS trio squad (Picture below) – they were in the same class as me over the Spring semester and definitely helped me through my hardest times in-class. (Note: There are definitely a lot more people I have to thank!)

Hence, instead of thinking that my failure in the class was due to my abilities, I started to think about how I approached the class. I had noticed a great difference in how I approached the class compared to my friends and classmates who did well on the class. For instance, instead of blindly copying all the slides down like I did, all my classmates read the textbook beforehand and came in prepared with questions. Another example is how they study for the class, instead of writing code into Eclipse, they first brainstormed/pseudo-coded on paper first. There are a lot more strategies and approach that they used… that I did not.

So here I am, taking CSC 171 for the third time. And confident that I will do well this time with an adjusted study approach and strategies.  Also because, “third time’s the charm”!

-Carolina Lion He, 2019 RTC Fellow

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