How to Boost Your Confidence in Computer Science

Gaining confidence in computer science can be tough, but it’s not impossible. Here are 3 pieces of advice to boost your confidence in computer science.

A Black, male college student with red headphones around his neck holds an iPad and smiles confidently at the camera.
Sigrid Turcios-Wiswe

Do you sometimes doubt your ability to keep up with the computer science grind? Have you even begun to wonder if you’re really a “computer science person”?

Don’t fret. This is something that many, if not most, computer science students experience at some point and learning how to build and maintain confidence in computer science is just a part of the journey. 

Here are 3 pieces of advice to help you boost your confidence in computer science:

1. Learn from your mistakes.

At some point in your journey as a computer science student, you will experience failure. It could be a low exam score, a disappointing course grade, or a lackluster technical interview. Whatever it may be, these events have a tendency to chip away at your confidence. You may slowly start to question your ability to succeed in the next exam or interview.

One of the most important skills to learn is how to reframe these outcomes as learning experiences and opportunities. You cannot change the past, so you should look to the future.

Let’s say you just got a low score on an exam. You know that you cannot go back in time to do better on that exam, so instead take some time to assess why you did poorly and how you can improve your chances of getting a higher grade on the next one. Maybe you realize you spent way too much time reviewing your notes instead of doing practice problems. So for the next exam, you should make sure to remember to spend more time doing the latter.  

The process of learning from these outcomes will not only help you move past them but will also strengthen your ability to respond to feedback, which is an invaluable skill when it comes to programming.

At the end of the day, this was one test (or course or interview) and there are many more left in your computer science career. Focus on learning what you can improve upon and then implement those changes..

2. Surround yourself with people who build you up. 

Computer science has a reputation for being very competitive. Oftentimes, it feels like you are in direct competition with your peers. Sometimes that’s true — your final grade in a given course may depend on how you do compared to everyone else. Your job application is likely being measured against tens if not hundreds of other applicants. This can certainly be overwhelming.

It’s understandable that these circumstances may lead you to view your peers as your competition. But this sort of mindset will ultimately only lead to you comparing yourself to others and keeping your peers at a distance. This is not the answer.

One of the best ways to gain confidence in computer science is to surround yourself with people who are going to support and believe in you. Find a group of students in your class to study alongside and work through practice problems with. Not only will you encourage each other, but working through the material together will help you fill in the gaps in each other’s understanding. One of the best ways to learn a new concept is to explain it to someone else. 

Finding people who support you could even look like getting your non-computer science major roommate to give you a pep talk before your next big interview or exam.

Don’t let the competitiveness of some aspects of computer science make you forget that some of the best support you can get is from other people going through the same challenges as you. As you encourage each other, you’ll likely notice that you’ll begin to believe in yourself and your capabilities more and more.

3. Keep trying. Never give up.

One important thing to keep in mind, especially early on in your computer science career, is that your confidence will likely grow as you gain more experience programming. So, one of the most important things you can do is to stick with it even when you don’t have confidence in your abilities yet.

And what should you do in the meantime while you’re waiting for that confidence boost to kick in?

Put simply, use your resources and practice. 

The computer science community has created countless online resources to help you succeed in computer science. Whether you struggle with interview prep or a specific computer science topic, help is likely only a google search away. Go to office hours and participate more in class. Check out any computer science tutoring options your school may have or look into online services like Edlyft.

Do whatever you can to keep pushing forward and in no time you’ll find yourself at levels of knowledge and experience you were once worried you’d never reach — with loads more well-earned confidence.

Ready to boost your CS confidence with helpful resources and community? Check out Edlyft and sign up for the newsletter here.

Sigrid Turcios-Wiswe

Sigrid is a junior studying computer science at Barnard College. She writes articles for Edlyft to help encourage computer science students to stick with it! Outside of school, Sigrid likes to read and cook with friends.