Summer is melting away and in just a few short weeks the fall 2019 Harris School of Public Policy class will be bustling through the halls of the Keller Center.

Recently, our colleagues on the Academic and Student Affairs team sent some information out to admitted students about coding. Our Director of Enrollment Management, Jenny Erickson, sat down with Harris Dean of Students Kate Biddle and Assistant Director of Student Affairs Jen Lombardo to share some frequently asked questions while enjoying some free candy from the bowl on Kate’s desk. It’s great when you can rely on your colleagues to take impromptu last-minute meetings to help students—and even better when they keep a steady supply of candy on hand for both staff and students.

I’m an admitted student. What are some of the resources I should check out before arriving at Harris?

In July, admitted incoming students received an invitation to DataQuest, which provided some helpful learning modules. Make sure to continue checking emails from [email protected], as the modules will be listed in those emails. For admitted students looking to refresh their skills over the summer, we recommend the  Data Analyst in R learning path. The first two courses are free—just sign up with your UChicago email address so we can link your account to premium access later.

I’ve heard there is a lot of coding I need to learn at Harris. Can you give me a brief overview?

The core curriculum at Harris includes six classes covering Analytical Politics, Statistics, and Economics, completed in the fall and winter quarters of their first year. Students use both Stata and R in the Statistics sequence of the core, including in the fall quarter. Once you complete the core, you can choose from a range of electives that use coding to various extents. Many students go on to use Stata, R, or additional programming languages in other courses as well.

I’ve never coded before and I’m a little nervous—any tips or advice? Are there other students who have attended Harris who didn’t have experience with this?

Loads of students have attended without having experience! Remember, there are three sections of the core, and there will be plenty of other students without experience in this area. (Admissions here: we know everyone doesn’t have experience in this because we read everyone’s applications). The most important thing to remember is you are reshaping how you think. Putting in the practice, being patient, and knowing that you might be shifting how you think, is an essential approach to learning.

Many students have attended Harris and have been successful without having a coding background. It can be challenging to learn coding on top of the other objectives covered in the core, and spending some time on coding over the summer can help you ease into this topic.

I’ve been coding for a while now. How can I confirm these courses will be challenging for me?

Great! If you’re looking to dive into additional challenging coursework in this area, we have classes for that: we have three levels of the core curriculum. Those who have a strong background in coding can find challenging coursework by taking advanced versions of the courses. If you’re interested in this pathway, you can talk with your academic advisor when you arrive at Harris.

Familiarity with coding doesn’t necessarily mean you may want to take the advanced levels of core courses, maybe you want to give yourself some room to be challenged in other areas, or you want to jump into extracurricular activities or networking. Your academic advisors can help steer you in the right direction. For those who really want to dig further into coding, there are other University of Chicago courses you can pursue as well as clubs and extracurricular activities you may be interested in joining.

Once I’m at Harris, what are some of the resources I should use to make sure I will be successful?

Coding support at Harris occurs through introductory workshops, a Stata & R Bar for supplemental support, and cultivation of self-study resources. More information about these resources can be found on the Stata & R Support page of our student portal. Admitted students can log into this page using their CNetID.

Each core course has sessions with Teaching Assistants that will supplement the material and will be especially helpful as you are doing your homework. In addition to TA sessions, you can have up to ten hours total of free tutoring over the quarter. Students can also drop into Stata & R Bar. There are two sessions each week. These sessions include a brief content overview, but also an opportunity to just drop in and ask questions. Very helpful if you’re working through your homework and just need some support! Students are also encouraged to meet their instructors and attend office hours with faculty! In most core courses you will be completing your homework in groups, so we encourage you to get to know your classmates as well. Harris students are known for their teamwork and collaboration, so don’t be shy.