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I think you’re missing the point your parent was making...

In a good CS program you will be presented a series of challenges below your “depth”....

“wait, you want me to WRITE a data structure? I usually just use a good one from a library”

“wait, you want me to fix a compiler? I have only ever run a compiler”

“wait, you want me to write code that CREATES processes out of nothing? I am used to letting the OS create processes”

... etc. These provide you a series of epiphanies, “wow, I can build a compiler from scratch, that means I could fux with LLVM if I had to”.

Ideally, these programs are designed to take you all the way down to the bottom of the machine. For some students, the end result is confidence in their ability to “dive in” to a problem anywhere in the system.

If your point is that you can teach yourself that outside of school—absolutely. But... well, in my case I doubt I ever would have. It wasn’t fun, I was pushed to do things I would never have followed through on if I was just casually teaching myself about programming languages or operating systems.

And if your point is that students can get away without learning the material—well, also yes. Of course.

But you are wrong to dismiss the idea that a CS degree is just another few things to learn. This business of “get all the way down to the bottom and challenge yourself at every step” is kind of the whole point of a CS degree, and the world outside is not going to encourage you to do it the way your profs will.

I have seen plenty of CS grads that can barely code or put together a real solution to a problem. There is no guarantee just because someone was able to muddle through a CS degree that they can do these things. In almost all cases, you really need to evaluate whether an individual shows the aptitude to solve your problems you need solved and crank out good well thought out practical solutions that fit the scale of the business problem. The degree paper is not all that important. I would give bonus points to a candidate if they came from an accomplished but different background than CS that shows they are capable of success/mastery in multiple areas, they are adept at learning and researching new material, and they have the matching technical prowess to spearhead a real project. For instance I have known many engineering (of the physical paradigm) types that are self-taught with no CS degree that I would trust to tackle a project over any random CS degree candidate.

I did a CS degree from a good school while doing none of those except the top cause I stuck to theoretical and math electives

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