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Author Topic: Compsci At Monash: An Unofficial Guide  (Read 4871 times)  Share 

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Compsci At Monash: An Unofficial Guide
« on: June 02, 2016, 12:34:43 pm »
Back in my yr12 days I was a major lurker of atarnotes and I haven't been on in a while but I've seen a couple of posts and received a couple of messages asking about compsci at monash. This post is going to be a combination of 'what to expect', 'what to do' and 'what I did'. I'll preface this by saying that we live in Australia and getting any good job is a competitive process so I've included some advice about what I think is necessary to maximise a student's chances in that regard.

What are the lecturers like?
This is 50/50, some lecturers such as Robyn Mcnamara (FIT3042), Stephen Huxford (FIT2081), David Albrecht (FIT1008), and Peter Tischer (FIT1029) are amazing in my opinion, but there will always be lecturers that just don't do it for you. The best lecturers are the ones who use their own slides because they can look at a dot point and know whether it's important and deserves elaboration or not, whereas if a lecturer is using somebody else's slides, they're often going to under-explain some major points, and over-explain other ones, in an attempt to give equal consideration to each point.

Anything to look out for with lectures?
One word: Clickers. Lecturers will very often attach a 5-10% grade to lecture attendance, and enforce it by making students buy clickers to answer real-time quiz questions during the lecture. The clicker you buy gets attached to your ID. The idea is that students who attend lectures get higher grades so making it semi-compulsory will reduce the failure rate. That's great for students who need an external motivation to learn, but for people like myself living >1.5hrs from uni by public transport, with an affinity for recorded lectures, it's not a good time. So decide early whether you go to the lectures and get the grade, don't and lose it, or email the lecturer and try to get some kind of leeway. Some students were found with bags full of clickers randomly pressing buttons so that their friends would get the grade without attending, and despite the fact that it's blatantly cheating and risky, there is an entrepreneurial beauty to it that I appreciate.

Can I rely on watching recorded lectures instead of attending in person?
If we ignore attendance grades for a moment, yes absolutely you can. You'll be missing out on the social opportunity to talk to the people next to you, but you won't be missing out on any important content. Lectures have a lot of complex content to organise in their mind before it leaves their mouth and that means their rate of speaking is often quite slow. Watching the lecture at 2x speed often turns that into a conversation speaking pace, and if you miss something you can pause and rewind. Furthermore you won't hear any of the students talking amongst themselves in the background so there's less distraction. As an aside, this semester is the first semester that I'm attending lectures in person because one of my units has a quiz in its second hour, and the first lecture I went to, when the lecturer said something I didn't quite understand, I instinctively hit the space key on my laptop which would usually pause the lecture but alas nothing happened.

What's the workload like?
Very good question. A lot of the uni experience comes down to learning to think like an examiner and ask yourself 'would I actually be asked a question on this? and if so what kind of question would I be asked'. Some units like FIT1031 Intro to Computers and Networks had 60 slides per lecture dense with info and I was there making notes for everything just in case it came up in the exam, only to find that the only exam revision you really needed was doing tutorial questions which were far more straight-forward than a lot of the lecture content. If you come across a slide with 10 things listen under 'non-functional requirements', just chuck three of them in your notes and if there's an exam question asking for more, squeeze your brain muscles and make something up that sounds like it's right. Don't fall for the rote-learning trap like I did in my first year where I was using flash cards to memorise things on slides that I would forget a few days later. Instead, focus on getting practice in the language/algorithms you're learning and use the tutorials/labs as a guide to what the exam questions will look like. Also another good tip is to dig up an old exam for the unit BEFORE you start it so that you're calibrated as to the kinds of questions they'll ask.

Anyway the proper answer to 'what's the workload like' is: it's full-on, provided you want to secure a successful future in compsci/softeng/IT. If you want to stand out when it comes to IBL interviews you'd wanna have at least a disctinction average, at least one side-project to talk about, and a customer-facing part-time job or better yet one related to the industry. I went without a job for my first year of uni and got high 90's in all my first sem units (can't remember second sem). That's an example of very bad balance, and a job interviewer sees that and says 'that's cool, what do you do on the side?' and you'd wanna have a good answer or it will be an awkward interview.

What opportunities that Monash give for side-projects and extra-curriculars?
In your first year you should be able to enrol into a non-credited unit called FIT1016 Advanced Project. Lecturers/Professors will have semester-long projects they want students to do for them and they'll pitch to you what they want to achieve, then it's your job to make a flashy application that convinces them you're right for the job. If you are not honest about your capabilities in your application you will be up for a very stressful semester playing catchup the whole time or just being blatantly found out. Not that a semester of extreme stress and shame is necessarily a bad thing in terms of personal development, but just know what you're signing up for by bending the truth in that application.

The next thing is that you can (should) apply to be a student rep, which gives you opportunities to interact with students when collecting feedback, and make your own recommendations for change in units that you can see opportunities for improvement in. Student societies are also a good idea. The IT faculty has Wired and another one I can't remember the name of, so look into that. Ideally you start off as a member and work your way into the exec, but I've never had that experience so I can't comment on it. Also look at other societies like radio monash, debating, etc where there's lots of opportunities to meet new people.

Finally on this topic, there's nothing stopping you from coming up with an idea with a friend from one of your units, and going and making a little app or program to do something out of the blue, which can be fun and looks good on a resume.

What's monash IT like socially?
There's not much going on socially in the IT faculty. Recently there has been a trend of improvements and there are lots of opportunities to be social but the turnouts aren't as impressive as in e.g. the eng faculty. When it comes to things like balls and big social events, there's nothing stopping you from tagging along even if it's not your faculty (at least I think that's the case).

Does Monash Compsci Prepare you for the real world?
In terms of the units, I think you need to take some initiative to choose the right electives. Language-wise, the core units will give you experience in Python, SQL and some assembly. You do not want to graduate saying that's all you know. I recommend doing at least one of FIT2071 (intro to C++) and FIT2081 (java/android). I also recommend looking into cyber-security units because that industry is booming right now.

The biggest thing monash will do to prepare you for the real world is IBL i.e. industry based learning. You spend 6 months as an intern at a company (could be a bank, consulting firm, software development company; mostly very well known and very high-esteemed) and basically you get to be an employee and see how it all works. You get a 17k scholarship as payment for the 6 months. Everybody who's done IBL has gotten a job within a year of graduating and if I recall the statistic correctly, %80 get the job from the company they interned at. The thought of graduating and sending a heap of applications to various jobs and receiving rejection emails terrifies me, so knowing IBL can be a bridge straight into a good grad job is a huge relief to me. I'm starting my placement in July and have talked to many former/current IBL students who are loving it and learning a lot.

How does the IBL program work?
  • get good grades, do a side project or two, have a part-time job, try to avoid failing any units
  • do an interview with the monash people running it and convince them you're switched-on enough to uphold Monash's reputation as a source of bright, capable interns. For me this took place in my third year because I underloaded last year and started as a midyear entry student in 2014.
  • fill out a form that acts as your resume for the company interviewers on the interview days
  • suit up
  • there's 2 8-hour interview days where you'll be interviewed by >20 companies and you just do interview after the other with some waiting in queues inbetween. This is an amazing experience in itself because you get a tonne of interview experience, you learn about the industry, and it's a good social opportunity while you're waiting between interviews
  • the interviewers will give you a number from 1 to 3. 1 means you're a perfect match, 2 means you're okay, 3 means you're not the right fit for that company. Don't stress, nobody will be perfect for every company, and not every interview will be a fun conversation. In my interview with PwC I accidentally called them 'EY' (their direct competitor) :P
  • Monash collects all the ratings from companies and feeds them into an algorithm that determines which students get placements and of those, which placements they get and in which semester. Students unfortunately aren't able to submit their own preferences, so that means it's your job not to oversell yourself to companies that you personally don't think you're a good fit for, if you think you're likely going to get a good rating from a company that is a better fit. But it's a balancing act because the less strong interviews you have, the less chance you have at getting a placement (there are usually more students than available placements) .
  • a couple of months later you find out about your placement and assuming you got one, you go to a briefing at monash, sign papers, and then start about a month later

That's all I can think of at the moment, please comment or message me for any clarifications :D
2012: legal studies [41]
2013: physics [47], chemistry [45], englang [40], softdev [43], methods [44]
ATAR: 99.20
Computer Science @ Monash


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Re: Compsci At Monash: An Unofficial Guide
« Reply #1 on: June 02, 2016, 12:51:09 pm »
Great job! Kudos. :)

I have added this to the Monash resources thread.

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Re: Compsci At Monash: An Unofficial Guide
« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2016, 01:23:33 pm »
Awesome, thanks for your contribution. Its great to see a different perspective to computing here. :-)
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Re: Compsci At Monash: An Unofficial Guide
« Reply #3 on: June 02, 2016, 04:03:03 pm »
Re IBL, you can ask Sue/Jack for what you got as preferences from each company, it's pretty cool!! The IBL is probably the most well-run and most beneficial internship program in Australia, make sure you get on it if you're doing comp sci stuff!
2010 - 2013: Bachelor of Software Engineering - Monash (completed w/ alternative exit to B. Comp Sci)
2014 - 2016: Master of Laws (Juris Doctor) - Monash