I’m a high school senior who's gone through quite the self-introspection the past few months while applying for college, and I have a bit of a dilemma. All my life, I've loved & excelled at mathematics, and wants to study & explore it very much in depth in college. I get very excited when I read up on fields such as number theory, analysis, topology, and algebraic geometry. On top of that, I've also realized that although I have no experience programming, there are wonderful merits to applying math to computer science and would love to apply my math skills to a fast-growing industry.

I feel, however, that studying comp sci will "limit" the scope and depth of the math I study, because joint programs of math and comp sci will only make you take math classes relevant to the study of computer science. Out of the Common App colleges I'm applying to, Emory, NYU, and BU have joint majors in math and computer science, while UMiami only has a BS in mathematics, and Georgia Tech has BSs in discrete and applied mathematics. For Emory, for instance, I'll be "missing out" on multivariable calculus, complex variables, real analysis, and abstract algebra.

If there is a way to combine these two interests without limiting the mathematics I learn, that'd be amazing, but if not, so be it. If you feel I have certain misconceptions, please feel free to point them out. Lastly, I know this is not the best place to ask this question, as it is directed towards students and researchers of computer science, but I would love your input and appreciate it ahead of time!

Thank you!

  • $\begingroup$ The bare minimum degree/program requirements are for people that go to college only to get a degree and get out. There is very little stopping you from going beyond those requirements and taking whatever advanced math courses you want. You can also learn these things on your own time. The only thing really limiting you is you, regardless of degree program. $\endgroup$
    – mdxn
    Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 6:03
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure whether this is on-topic. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 8:48
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Computer Science! Unfortunately, your question is not a good fit for the Stack Exchange format. We prefer questions that have objectively correct answers that will be useful both to the asker and others who have the same question in the future. What is or is not a suitable topic for study, projects or research is very much a matter of opinion and depends crucially on the interests and skills of the person who will be doing the work and the support that will be available to them. This is a question that you should be asking your school's careers advisors. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 17:44
  • $\begingroup$ There are many connections between math and CS, especially when considering theoretical CS. Think about: analysis and numerical algorithms, logic and theoretical CS (automata, computability, complexity, programming languages theory), topology and type theory (homotopy type theory was pioneered by a Fields medal), algebra and cryptography, statistics and machine learning. Surely many others. If you choose a CS program, I strongly recommend you check that courses offer a good view of these connections -- too many CS programs nowadays tend to avoid math as the plague :-/ $\endgroup$
    – chi
    Commented Jan 30, 2017 at 11:41

1 Answer 1


Math is heavily used in both computer security, machine learning and AI.

  • Computer Security, such as encryption and related fields is all about finding math that makes it impossible to retrieve information without being the intended recipient. With quantum computing possibility being a reality within the next 10 - 20 years there is a lot of work needed to come up with new ways of securing data. Number theory is very relevant here.

  • Machine learning is heavily based on statistics. new algo's with better capability of prediction is always relevant, and a very hot topic.

  • AI, while strictly an area of machine learning, are typically resolving to other areas of of learning than typical stats. Any advancements in this areas will be done by people with strong math background.

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    $\begingroup$ Not to mention theoretical computer science, which is math that is done in computer science departments. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 8:49

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