My First Semester as a Remote Computer Science Student at WGU

My First Semester as a Remote Computer Science Student at WGU

After being out of college for 3 years, I started missing academia. I decided to enroll in Western Governor's University (WGU) computer science program after seeing it would pair nicely with my interests in artificial intelligence, computers, and my first bachelor's degree in clinical psychology obtained from East Tennessee State University. I decided to venture into cognitive science.

Cognitive science is comprised of 6 disciplines: psychology, philosophy, neuroscience, artificial intelligence, linguistics, and anthropology. These are some of my favorite topics, so I can't go wrong learning more about any of the disciplines and integrating it into my life goals.

In 2023, I also started working in insurance. I never knew much about insurance previously. Not long ago, I went 2 years without having a vehicle because I had an accident while being uninsured. I worked remotely during that time for an eyewear company, and fortunately eventually got a car again and also a customer service job with a local State Farm agency.

I'm licensed in Property & Casualty insurance, and I'm working on my Health & Life licenses while on term break.

I'm pleasantly surprised at new overlaps and work opportunities I've found between insurance and programming.

My CS degree and programming expertise is a work-in-progress, but I'll be finished in under 2 years. My life will become radically different at that point considering the surplus work opportunities I'll have. As the insurance business undergoes digital transformation, insurance and programming are becoming increasingly intertwined. 

Computer Science in Insurance

Software engineers and programmers are critical in the development of models for risk assessment, the development of policy management systems, the automation of claims processing, and the implementation of data analytics for underwriting. They work on fraud detection systems, customer relationship management solutions, blockchain applications, cybersecurity enhancements, and the deployment of chatbots and virtual assistants for customer service automation.

As insurance companies embrace digital technologies more fully, there is a greater demand for skilled professionals in data science, artificial intelligence, machine learning, cybersecurity, and blockchain, presenting new and diverse opportunities for software engineers within leading insurance companies.

This excites me because having front-line experience in insurance like I'm getting will help me tremendously if I ever start working on backend projects in insurance software development. It's hard to come across people with hybrid training like I'll have. I'd love to have an agency because small businesses are fascinating systems to work with and also require a programmer's mentality, but I'll explore that more in a few years.

 

Western Governor's University Computer Science Program (Remote)

WGU is a flexible, affordable, competency-based program. If you like having a structured yet adaptable learning path, remote couse work, weekly accountability sessions with a mentor, and regular access to skilled professors and professionals, then WGU might be for you!

This first semester was hard getting through mostly because I had so much going on with insurance and also having been out of school for nearly 3 years. Now that I know what to expect for my at-home learning, it's going to be easier next semester getting the work load done and accomplishing more.

I'm able to study whenever I can and test when I so please as long as I'm within the course and term deadlines. There is no graded coursework for this program except your finals. You can get a few attempts at the finals, but there are no homework assignments grades to bring up your score at the end of the course if you flunk the final. There's no extra credit.

There is homework, but the assignments don't count towards your grade. Only the final can determine if you pass or fail, so it's critical you comprehend this coursework thoroughly. The finals are proctored via Zoom, and there's no way to cheat your way through this.

You'll be learning data management, web development, programming, scripting, and IT fundamentals.

 

Solitude is the Gift

“Isolation is a gift. Everything else is just a test of your endurance. You will be alone with the Gods. Your nights will flame with fire.”

― Charles Bukowski

Computer scientists aren't extreme socialites. There's simply not enough time, and the type of introverts drawn to this field normally don't mind spending 14-15 hours a day doing computer work. If that sounds like a good time to you, then you might make a great computer scientist!

Value your solitude and also ensure you have a private, minimal, stress-free, and environment or office space to focus in and study. Get a pair of Loop ear buds if you need disconnection from noise pollution. Also, keep soothing music on your playlist while studying CS instead of the regular heavy metal and trap hits you might normally listen to like me.

 

Execute Your Schedule

Since this program is remote, you are the conductor of your progress. The course outline and assignments are there, but you've got to do the work. You have to reach out for help if you need it or drown if you let yourself. 

Try to get 8 hours of sleep, and get at least one hour of studying every day instead of cramming 6-8 hours on a single day. I've tried cramming large chunks of study into the weekends only, but even though you're mostly in solitude, you do need to balance your schedule and give yourself blocks to step outside, eat, and do something besides programming.

Get a big dry erase calendar to hang on your wall and see every pending and upcoming task dated clearly. Check them off as you accomplish them. See yourself grow! Just like you've learned and developed in the past, you're going to progress with this. Just keep your schedule nearby and review your weekly / monthly / and term goals routinely. 

 

Be Ready to Fail

This is especially true if you've never taken a competency-based course. Don't be surprised if you fail a final or two. I did! This program is hard, and it might take  adjusting to not having homework to pull you up if you fail the final. If you do fail, do not be despaired! If you follow your professors' instructions for retaking the exam, you should definitely pass the next attempt.

What matters most is your comprehension.Don't let the mishaps irritate you. After all, debugging is a daily part of this work! It's critical you learn to balance cortisol as motivation to problem-solve without becoming anxiously overwhelmed and indifferent from irritation.

There will always be new challenges as new treasures are invented and discovered with programming. Achieving balance as a programmer means harnessing the motivational drive generated by problem-solving stress without succumbing to crushing pressure.

It is all about optimizing cortisol levels in order to maintain enthusiasm for tackling problems while avoiding burnout. This precise balance allows me to enjoy the thrill of problem-solving while appreciating every accomplishment and accepting new obstacles as possibilities for growth.

 

Balance Your Health

Maybe you'll want to reduce your intake of sugar and processed foods while increasing your intake of coffee, tea, water, and healthy foods, as well as protein-rich meals and intermittent fasting.

Consider a legal, low-dose hemp pick if using THC for pain relief and attention, maintaining mental clarity for programming and problem-solving. Avoid excessive alcohol and hard drugs while prioritizing regular exercise to offset the sedentary aspect of your job and alleviate any anxiety and tension.

Embrace mindfulness, stoicism, physicalism, and finding enchantment in everyday duties and necessities by including breathing exercises, daily journaling, and meditation into your routine.

 

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