Applied Computing

The Bachelor of Arts in Applied Computing

Applied Computing (AC) is a multidisciplinary major that allows students to become experts in integrating computer technology with a second discipline. This program is highly relevant today, as computing expertise is needed in almost every aspect of society.

This major is designed specifically to build in-depth, well-rounded knowledge as both a computing professional and in an area of specialized interest.

Second discipline options

Applied Computing students may complete their second discipline of study in several ways:

Program overview

The Applied Computing curriculum provides a basis of computer science and software engineering skills that students can add to based on their own areas of interest. Current students can work with a division of CSS academic advisor to ensure proper planning for your core and elective coursework and timely graduation.


Visit the Applied Computing admissions page for more information on these prerequisites.

  • English Composition
  • Advanced English Composition
  • Introduction to Programming I
  • Introduction to Programming II
  • Calculus I

Course information

Core courses

The core courses required for the Applied Computing degree focus on the skills needed for a technical business environment.

Elective & second discipline courses

When considering options for their elective and secondary discipline courses, Applied Computing students should reflect on the type of work that they are interested in pursuing after graduation.

  • General Education Electives: Can overlap with other degree requirements
    • 15 credits of Arts and Humanities (A&H)
    • 15 credits of Social Sciences (SSc)
    • 3 credits of Diversity (DIV)
  • CSS Electives (25 credits)
    • 10 credits at 400-level
    • 5 credits at 300-level or higher
    • 10 credits at 200-level or higher
    • Maximum of 15 total credits of CSS 397/495/498/499 or B IMD 495
    • Maximum of 10 total credits of CSS 290/390/490 (Special Topics)
  • Second Discipline Courses (25 credits or more)
    • 15 credits at 300-level or higher
    • 10 credits at 100-level or higher
    • Additional credits as needed if completing a minor or second major
  • Upper Level General Electives (10 credits)
    • 10 credits at 300-level or higher in any subject area

Course descriptions

Read brief synopses of what topics and materials a course will cover throughout the quarter. Courses taught by the CSS Division include the following course prefixes:

The links above take you to the online course descriptions.

Course sequence

The CSS Division offers a variety of introductory computing courses for pre-majors, as well as courses for students pursuing non-CSS majors.  Please see the following flowcharts to help you choose the right first computing course for you:

Your pre-major or major advisor can give you additional assistance.  To contact a School of STEM Advisor, please call (425) 352-3746 or send an email to

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Assessing your programming experience level

While the introductory programming course CSS 142, designed for CSS majors (e.g., CSSE, AC, etc.), has no prerequisites, historically students who have enrolled have had varying levels of prior experience with programming.  While all students, regardless of their prior experience, are held to the same standards with regards to attaining learning outcomes, some students with limited prior programming experience may find a learning environment with peers of similar backgrounds to be helpful for their learning.  Some terms, one or more sections of CSS 142 may be designated for "limited programming experience" students.  The questions below provide a self-assessment to help students determine whether they have limited programming experience.

Question 1: 

Have you ever written a program (regardless of length) in a text-based programming language (e.g., Java, C++, C#, Python, etc.)?

If you answered "no," you probably have limited programming experience.  If you answered "yes," please continue to the next question.

Question 2: 

Which of the following topics do you understand well enough to write a short program (under 50 lines) using the concept?

  • Variables
  • Expressions
  • If statements
  • Loops
  • Nested loops
  • Arrays
  • Classes

If you answered "no" to 4 or more of the above topics, you may have limited programming experience.

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Below are links to special policies regarding specific courses.

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Capstone overview & FAQs

All Applied Computing students take part in a final project, Applied Computing Capstone (CSS 496), in which they integrate their CSS coursework with their chosen second discipline coursework to deepen their education. The capstone project provides momentum that students can use to start their career.

When should I start preparing & when is the course offered?

Read this entire page at least two quarters before you plan to take CSS 496 so that you are adequately prepared.

This course is offered:

  • ALWAYS in autumn and spring
  • USUALLY in winter
  • NEVER in summer

What are the prerequisites for the course?

The prerequisites for CSS 496 are:

How do I register?

Visit our registration page and submit a CSS Registration Request form during your registration period for the quarter you want to take the course. Be prepared with a list of the second discipline courses you have taken in preparation for the capstone.

What is the course about?

CSS 496 provides a capstone experience for Applied Computing majors. The course is designed to integrate your secondary education with your computer science education in a relevant way. The goal is to transition from being in a student/teacher relationship to becoming an expert in your field of study by practicing what it’s like to have a job and be working in it every day.

Unlike a typical course that gives you reading, assignments, quizzes, papers, exams to do that tell the instructor that you learned the material, this course is self-constructed.

CSS 496 cannot be an internship. If you have found a computer science job and want to get academic credit for what you learn on the job, then use CSS 397 (Computing Internship) and/or CSS 495 (Applied Computing Internship).

How is the course structured?

Rather than your instructor defining your work, YOU create bounds around your capstone experience in which you combine your CSS education (core + electives), second discipline (2nd major, minor, concentration), and your passion (where you’ll go after you graduate, what your first job will be). Your instructor will assist you with keeping the scope of your project within a single quarter.

YOU define the parameters of the course in your capstone contract, which includes:

  • Project definition
  • Breakdown of project into discrete tasks
  • Scheduling completion of all task(s)
  • Whether you will work alone or in a group, and who will be in your group
  • When you will schedule check-ins with your instructor and your expert consultant
  • What grade you want to receive based on the course’s specification grading model

You will demonstrate the results of your capstone experience in all the following ways:

  • Project plus progress artifacts
  • Writing (reflections and artifacts)
  • Poster
  • Participation in a panel at the STEM Colloquium

On the time schedule, the course is scheduled for two days per week or as 50% hybrid course, but most of the work is independent and you will not attend every class meeting.

What are the learning objectives?

  1. Integrate computing with specialty area knowledge through research and/or applied project work, including gaining new knowledge and skills as appropriate
    • Identify work that connects computing and specialty knowledge
    • Perform work that improves depth and breadth of knowledge and skills related computing and specialty areas
    • Incorporate best practices and knowledge in accomplishing work
  2. Communicate about computing and specialty area topics to different audiences
    • Communicate with different audiences: management, experts, peer, public
    • Engage in discussions, including those providing feedback
  3. Independently manage and report work efforts in a professional manner
    • Use time management to plan, estimate, and control work
    • Write reports that effectively communicate state of work and embody self-reflection to improve work performance
    • Meet periodically with management/mentors to discuss progress and receive feedback
    • Show responsiveness to critique, feedback, and self-evaluation to altering work direction and approach
  4. Prepare for a post-education career, including communicating about these expertise, skills, and experience
    • Identify jobs/roles and associated organizations of interest
    • Map knowledge, skills, and experience to job descriptions/job roles
    • Justifying ability to succeed based on expertise and work experience

How is the course graded?

This class uses a specifications grading method where your grade is determined by completion of the assignments and activities for this class. You decide what grade you want and then perform all tasks within that grade’s column on the grade table. If you meet some but not all tasks in your target grade’s column, your final grade will instead be averaged.

Note: The table below is an example. Specific scoring criteria may vary for your instance of the course. 

Sample specifications grading rubric
GRADE 2.0 3.0 4.0
Meeting with instructor Two Three Four or more
Meeting with experts One Two or more
Interactions with stakeholders One Two or more
Meeting with librarian One One or more + survey
Participation 10+ points 30+ points 50 points
Career preparation 10+ points 30+ points 50 points
Capstone contract plan 25+ points 30+ points 40+ points
Capstone paper (including appendices) Draft 1 or Draft 2 AND Final Report >= 50 Draft 1 or Draft 2 AND Final Report >= 75 Draft 1 or Draft 2 AND Final Report >= 90
Weekly status reports Four (at least one every two weeks) Six Eight or more
Colloquium Poster 50+ points AND participate in panel Poster 75+ points, participate in panel, AND generate questions for panels Poster 75+ points, participate in panel, generate questions for panels, AND moderate a panel


What can I do before the first day of class?

This section offers suggestions on how to think about what you want to do before the first day of class and to start defining your capstone experience. Planning for your capstone takes time – expect this process to take several hours or more. Review and refine your responses periodically to arrive at your best project idea.

  1. Brainstorm what you’ve learned and are interested in doing, but do not actually start the project before the course begins.Venn Diagram of three circles saying "CSS education" "Second Discipline Education" and "Passion (aspiration for first job)" and where the circles intersect, an arrow pointing to it with the text "what lives here?"
    • Think deeply about your computer science education, second discipline of study, and your own passions.
    • Brainstorm about how these intersect to discover what lives in the center. Come up with multiple possible ideas.
    • Think about how these ideas could help position you for your first job after graduating.
    • Think about how you will keep yourself motivated at every step along the way to complete the project.
    • Narrow down the ideas to get your top three.
    • Note: Be sure that this work will be unique. You can NOT use assignments from a previous course as your capstone, but you CAN build on assignments from previous courses. If you are unsure if the work is appropriate or not, contact the instructor for the CSS 496 course to discuss your ideas.
  2. Consider the following to determine whether you want work alone or with others.
    • How big are your scope and goals? With more people, more is possible (bigger scope).
    • Can their second discipline add to the project in an interesting way?
    • Do you know someone(s) you’d like to work with?
      • Someone else in Applied Computing or another computer science major (CSSE at Bothell campus, CSE or INFO at Seattle campus, TCSS or TINFO at Tacoma campus)
      • Someone you’ve met while taking courses in your second discipline
      • Someone in another STEM major (Biology, Computer Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Interactive Media Design, etc.)
    • With larger groups, consider who will be the project manager.
  3. Consider who might be your expert consultant.
    • You need to identify someone who has experience in your project’s scope and can take the time to guide your plan and review your results. This person could be a faculty member or professional in the industry to which your project is related. They CANNOT be your CSS 496 instructor, friend, or family member.
    • As you search for this person, you can use the following bullets to explain to them what their role would be as your expert consultant:
      • Meet together 1, 2, or more times (see specifications grading table)
      • Review your capstone plan for relevance, feasibility, scope, solution
      • May assist during project work for problem solving, feedback, scope re-definition, etc.
      • Review final project for feedback
      • Answer a google questionnaire for the instructor regarding your meetings’ content
      • Requires at least 3 or more hours of their time over the course of about 10 weeks

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