#058 Navigating the Competitive Landscape of Computer Science Admissions

Show Notes


Computer science is currently one of the hottest college majors. The job opportunities are plentiful and promise a great return on your investment in your child’s college education. But demand has made CS programs competitive. Is it the right program for your child? And if so, what can your teen do to maximize their chance of being accepted? Jennifer Stephan is a university dean of academic advising and a private college counselor working primarily with STEM-focused students. She breaks down what colleges look for in teens applying to computer science programs.


Over the past decade and a half, the job market and economy have seen their fair share of ups and downs. As a parent, you want to know when your child graduates from college, they’ll be able to get a well-paying job in their field. This starts with choosing the right major. Studying computer science can open many doors for your student after graduation, and CS has become one of the most highly sought-after majors. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most competitive majors, with several top programs boasting admissions rates in the single digits. 

Jennifer Stephan is a Dean of Academic Advising and Undergraduate Studies at Tufts University’s School of Engineering and an independent college admissions counselor. We discuss computer science as a discipline, course of study, and career to determine what kind of student is equipped to thrive in this field. Of course, a solid background in math and science is a must, but if you’ve got a creative teen on your hands, computer science might be an avenue they want to explore. 

If your student has already demonstrated an interest in computer science, it’s important to help them develop a college application that will help them stand out from a crowd of other highly qualified applicants. The key is authenticity. Computer science-oriented coursework and extracurriculars are an excellent place to start. Still, to get into some of the best computer science programs, your student will need to demonstrate intellectual curiosity, creative problem-solving, and genuine interest throughout their application. 


  • How to have a strong computer science fingerprint on the college application
  • Why creative students may want to consider computer science 
  • Criteria to identify good-fit computer science schools
  • Computer science related majors for students to consider 
  • Advice for navigating this highly competitive major

Meet Our Guest

Dr. Jennifer Stephan, Ph.D., has spent her entire career helping young adults achieve their academic and personal goals through her roles as a professor, academic dean, alumni interviewer, independent educational consultant, and parent.

Jennifer holds a BS degree in electrical engineering from Johns Hopkins University and an MS and a Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering from Carnegie Mellon University.

After completing her doctorate, Jennifer spent over two decades at Wellesley College; fourteen years as a professor of computer science, followed by eight years as a class dean. In 2016, Jennifer moved to Tufts University, where she currently serves as the Dean of Academic Advising and Undergraduate Studies for the School of Engineering. 

In addition to her formal roles on college campuses, Jennifer is an independent educational consultant. At Lantern College Counseling, Jennifer specializes in mentoring young students preparing for careers in STEM program admissions, including those interested in computer science and engineering.

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Links mentioned in this episode

Launch College & Career Clarity Course

Lantern College Counseling Website


[00:44] Introduction 

[01:57] computer science’s popularity boom

[03:41] It’s all about creative problem solving

[06:53] The competitiveness of computer science programs

[12:09] Giving your application a strong CS fingerprint 

[17:01] Demonstrate intellectual curiosity 

[19:29] Considering majors outside computer science 

[21:36] Pursue what you really love

[24:20] Sign Off 

Access the episode transcript here.