Life as a CS Student

Michigan CS students have the opportunity for unique experiences during their time here as undergraduates. Along the way, they’ll be preparing for one of the most exciting and impactful careers available to those with a bachelor’s degree.

Most CS students want to join the workforce as a computer professional upon graduation. A bachelor’s degree in CS will qualify you for a diverse variety of interesting positions. Our graduates join design teams on large projects, become a member of fast track leadership programs, and manage corporate IT accounts. Some work for Fortune 500 companies, some work for small startups, some head their own startup.

Some CS students head to graduate school because they have a passion for research. Researchers may be faculty at universities like the University of Michigan, or may be employed in the research departments of corporations or at government laboratories.

In the video below, senior Chelsea Pugh talks about her experiences as a computer science major at the University of Michigan.

Distinguish Yourself

Student experiences start in the classroom, but many of the most enriching and satisfying opportunities come through participation in extracurricular sponsored events, interdisciplinary student teams, and student organizations. U-M and your fellow students have done the groundwork for you in creating centers, programs, teams, contests, and clubs to participate in. You just need to take advantage of what is already in place. We suggest participating in some of the following.

Examples of Departmental Opportunities

You’ll find a number of amazing opportunities available through our department. Here are a few examples:

Computing for the Greater Good:

  • The development of a mobile app to give children with cerebral palsy an easier way to communicate.
  • Class development of therapeutic computer games for children with autism. See the video below.

Capstone Course/Major Design Experience: This is the perfect opportunity to create the app of your dreams. For most capstone courses, you may choose your own project and your own team. Past projects included:

  • A mobile app to monitor the breathing of newborns
  • A mobile app to assist farmers in India in getting the best price for their produce by cutting out the middleman
  • A WYSIWYG equation editor for Android with a link to Wolfram for solutions
  • And of course, games for iOS, Android, Windows Mobile, etc.
  • Singapore Connection: Creating Mobile Learning Apps for K-12. See the video below.

Contests and Competitions

Programming contests and hackathons: CS students will find many opportunities to hack, collaborate, build, and gain valuable experience while participating in hackathons and other programming events that are organized by students, the University, or company sponsors.

  • MHacks: A semiannual hackathon organized by the Michigan Hackers and MPowered Entrepreneurship. It is the largest hackathon in the world.
  • 1000 Pitches: Share your idea! Entrepreneurship is what’s driving change. It’s about using your passion to get out there and make a difference. That’s what is happening here at U-M, with so many great ideas coming from the students. Each winning pitch receives a $1,000 prize.
  • U-M Mobile App Challenge: An opportunity for everyone to compete in a university-wide mobile app development contest.

Student Organizations

Becoming involved in a student organization is a great way to cultivate leadership and organizational skills.  These are the student organizations that many of our students enjoy and participate in:


CSE Scholars
: Students promoting the field of CS

Michigan Hackers
: A community for all hackers at Michigan

HKN
: Eta Kappa Nu honor society

gEECS
: Girls in electrical engineering and computer science

WolverineSoft
: Video game development group

Multidisciplinary Student Teams

Many CS students participate in student teams that design and build systems to compete in national and international competitions or to advance the social good. Although these teams are often based on North Campus, they are open to all students. Almost always, CS is a critical component for team success. Competitive Teams:

The MAAV team quadrotor operates using mapping and decision-making technology developed by CS students.

  • Michigan Autonomous Aerial Vehicle (MAAV) team:  This team competes in the annual International Aerial Robotics Competition with their robotic quadrotor vehicle and placed first in 2012.
  • UM:Autonomy: This team competes in the annual RoboBoat Competition with their robotic boat and placed first in 2012.
  • U-M Solar Car: This team raced their solar powered car in a number of competitions; they recently had a record-breaking first place win at the 2012 American Solar Challenge. It is their 7th National Championship.
  • Michigan Hybrid Racing: This new team is racing competitively at SAE events with their new hybrid vehicle.
  • Mars Rover:  This team competes in the annual University Rover Challenge with their custom designed Mars rover vehicle and placed fourth in 2012.
  • U-M Programming Team: This team competes in the annual ACM Programming Contest and second in the world in 2011.

Teams Advancing the Social Good:

Michigan CS students helped build a remote stethoscope that would send heart sounds of patients in rural Guatemala to a city hospital.

  • BLUELab: Engineering Social Change.  Members work toward sustainable solutions to development problems at home and abroad.  It coordinates project teams that develop environmentally, culturally, and economically sustainable technologies.
  • E-MAGINE:  Bridging a Digital and Social Divide.  E-magine is an entrepreneurial, multidisciplinary student organization that designs, builds, tests and deploys “low-cost solar-powered internet systems” to various off-the-grid communities in Africa.
  • M-HEAL is a multidisciplinary effort to develop sustainable solutions for global health.  Members volunteer at World Medical Relief to test and repair medical equipment, implementing a survey to evaluate unmet medical needs in hospitals in the developing world, and designing and building medical devices to meet these needs.

Research Opportunities

There are a variety of research opportunities for undergraduate students at U-M.  Students are encouraged to approach CS faculty for advice on projects.  Our faculty are highly approachable, so if their door is open pleasewalk in and introduce yourself – don’t worry, they won’t bite. Research opportunities are available as follows:

  • Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP). This program creates research partnerships between first and second year students and U-M faculty. All schools and colleges are active participants in UROP.
  • Summer Undergraduate Research in Engineering (SURE). This program pays undergraduate students for 10-12 weeks during the summer to work with a CS faculty member on a research project defined by the faculty.  LSA and non-U-M students are able to apply through the SURE application process.
  • Independent Study. A great deal of leading-edge academic research is carried out at U-M. You can get involved in this type of research as an undergraduate, which will provide you with valuable training for future work in the field and a letter of reference for grad school. If one of your professors is doing work that is interesting to you, approach him or her to discuss this possibility.
  • Senior Honors Thesis Option

Applied Career & Entrepreneurship

Do a paid internship or co-op: A great way to gain work experience is with a paid internship.

  • There are two major job fairs a year for CS students and multiple smaller ones. The Engineering Career Resource Center (ECRC) will assist declared CS students with their search and interviews.
  • According to the ECRC Annual Report (PDF), the median monthly salary for Computer Science undergraduate interns in 2014 was $5,001.
  • For more information on internships, click here.

Become an entrepreneur while at Michigan: The university community has created centers and programs to assist you in launching your entrepreneurial venture:

  • The Center for Entrepreneurship (CFE) helps student entrepreneurs to have a positive impact on society with game changing ideas that are scalable and meet a societal need. CFE supports student entrepreneurs and connects them with the Michigan entrepreneurial community, and offers academic programs that include a Program in Entrepreneurship.
  • TechArb: Co-sponsored by the Center for Entrepreneurship and the Zell-Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, the TechArb student startup accelerator is a six-month program for U-M student entrepreneurs who are committed to starting a venture. Like other great incubators around the country, TechArb offers invaluable perks to early-stage startups, such as pairings with seasoned mentors (both regional and from the Bay Area), introductions to angel and venture capital networks, invitations to exclusive seminars, and access to highly useful resources (such as free legal counsel). At the end of the six-month session, student teams will be given an opportunity to present their venture (and give product demonstrations) to several dozen alumni/VCs/Angels.
  • MPowered Entrepreneurship: MPowered is a student organization that exposes students to entrepreneurship and supports new student ventures. They do this by bringing out the few courageous self-starters to begin their entrepreneurial journey, and spreading their bold passion to the rest of the U-M community.