Well, my undergraduate career is finally over.
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
I was fortunate enough to get accepted to my first choice back in 2000 when I graduated high school. Unfortunately, however, it wasn't without its speed bumps. I had received the Rensselaer Medal prior to receiving my acceptance letter so when I got notified I was awarded the scholarship I assumed my acceptance letter was just around the corner. As it turned out, I was wrong. I actually got officially rejected at first. Naturally I was very confused since I was awarded an academic scholarship to a school that rejected my admission. My mother ended up calling the school while I was in my high school and they told her they had made a mistake. They sent me the wrong letter. I had been accepted all along.
I spent about a year attending Rensselaer until I came to the realization I was not personally ready for college life. I was still mentally unprepared and immature to be on my own 3 hours away from my home town with no mode of transportation for myself. I ended up leaving Rensselaer at the end of my freshman year to move back home and chose a school closer to home in Worcester, MA.
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
My next attempt at college was closer to home and with being allowed a vehicle on campus I had the freedom to move around as I pleased. Home was now only 45 minutes away so I could head back whenever I needed to. Knowing that choice was available made studying a lot easier to focus on. However, this college attempt was met with not only going through 9/11 my first year there, but also contracting mononucleosis, commonly known as "mono", my second year there. This put me behind in school work and required me to undergo surgery over the summer to have my tonsils removed.
After playing lots of catch up and realizing I was paying a lot of money per course for content I was just buying books on Amazon to learn I decided to end pursuing my degree in Computer Science and focus on a degree that justified the high-priced tuition to be taught in a classroom.
Third time is a charm right? Bentley College is more known for its business and information technology curriculum which sounded like a better choice given the state of the world at this point. I thought I would focus more on a business oriented technical degree since at lot of the statistics for graduates with Computer Science degree showed their salaries dropped significantly. With mounting student load debt it made more sense to change to another degree to be more marketable when I graduated to pay back the ever increasing loans. As it turns out I hated the business side of technology. My heart was more in the scientific side, but it wasn't marketable in my area so I made a very hard to decision to drop out of college completely. I couldn't justify taking out more money for an education I hated doing.
After working for a few years for a local technology startup I ended up being laid off for financial reasons. Interview after interview yielded nothing I cared for or I was not the right fit. Eventually I came across an ad in Craigslist that ended up being posted by a recruiter. They told me it was for Harvard University. After my last position I thought it would be a smart move to focus on this one as much as I could. They would certainly not go out of business for lack of finances. On top of that I learned that employees got the added perk of taking courses for a ridiculous discount. Sounded like a win/win. Work for one of the most prestigious universities in the US and continue my college career part time at a discount. So that is what I did. I spent almost 5 years chipping away at my degree one course at a time each semester. Unfortunately, on two different occasions, the graduation requirements changed which forced me to take more classes than I anticipated to meet the graduation requirements. During this whole time I was getting older and my life was changing. I had moved to upstate New York and start building a life there while trying to finish online classes. A new job opportunity presented itself to work for a company locally and really put down roots where I lived so, again, I made the choice to drop out of college completely to work and live my life accepting the fact I will never end up with my degree.
SUNY Empire State College
Fast forwarding a lot of years and a few different jobs I ended up leaning a new programming language, Go, which piqued my interest in going back to college for Computer Science. At this stage of my life as a father to an autistic son and a working professional as a software engineer I didn't have the time or the means to just stop all of that and return to college full time taking classes during the day. I set out to find a college that accommodated working adult professionals. As it turns out SUNY Empire State College is essentially in my back yard only 10 minutes from my house and their focus is offering degree programs online for adults. This sounded like a perfect choice for someone like me.
I spent the next 3 years taking all the final classes I needed to achieve a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science. While there were some classes I could have taken in my sleep I pushed through since I could see the light at the end of the very very long tunnel I entered 20 years ago as an 18 year old kid. Now that this part of my life has finally come to an end I have come out the other end with a renewed vigor for academic learning to augment the Computer Science knowledge I have.
Master's Degree, Certificates, Courses?
I am still doing as much research a possible, but I do think that I won't stop taking courses in some fashion. The more I pay attention to where the world is headed with respect to technology and computers the more I realize that coding, software engineering, and computer science is only part of the puzzle. Picking up topics in mathematics, physics, material sciences, and other engineering disciplines will only strengthen my understanding and capacity to solve more complex problems in my career as a software engineer. Physicists, mathematicians, and engineers are starting to leverage coding and software engineering principals to do their job so it would be advantageous of me to learn parts of their primary disciplines to do mine. While I do spend most of my time solving problems in the video gaming and entertainment space; having other points of view would make me a more well rounded software engineer to apply those problems solving skills to new and exciting projects.