Information for First-Year Students

Computer Science studies the computational structures and processes that appear throughout the natural and human worlds. The study of those processes (known as algorithms) can lend insight into the functioning of our brains, the structure of our genes, the mechanisms by which people form communities, and many other questions in a wide range of disciplines. At the same time, an understanding of algorithms and the structure of data can help us create a tremendous variety of useful software tools. Carleton’s computer science curriculum is designed to provide students with a balance between theoretical study and the practical application of theory to the design and construction of software.

Can I major in it?

Yes, a major in Computer Science is offered, and no prior experience with computers or programming is necessary.

Topics explored: Algorithms, artificial intelligence, software design, databases, data mining, graphics, security, computer networks, natural language processing, operating systems, social networks, theory of computation, evolutionary computation, and data visualization. These are a sampling of topics covered in our major; for more information, check out the complete listing of CS courses.

What course should I take first?

  • The natural place to start is in CS 111 (Introduction to Computer Science). CS 111, which is offered every term, requires no previous experience in computer science, is required for the computer science major, and is a prerequisite for all other courses in the department. 
  • If you received a score of 3 or better on the Advanced Placement Computer Science A exam, you should enroll in either CS 201, CS 202, or CS 208. If you have taken the AP CS Principles exam but not the AP CS A exam, you should choose CS 111 as your first CS course at Carleton.
  • If you have other previous computing experience that may be roughly equivalent to Introduction to Computer Science, you may be able to place out of CS 111. If you have some prior experience in the field, you should take the CS Placement Exam (which we're piloting for the 2017–2018 year), and we'll work with you to figure out the right place to start.
  • If you have additional questions, you can contact the chair of the Computer Science Department at cs@carleton.edu.

For more information, you can review the CS Course Guide, which is linked on this page in the Related Documents section.