It is going to be my last year in school, and I am thinking about studies abroad - I would love to study computer science. Lately, I started participating more in Stackoverflow, answering to PHP, MySQL, and HTML questions. If I manage to answer to a decent amount of questions(now I have 26, I am thinking about ~75-100) would it be worth mentioning in my personal statement (not the number, but that I am participating in the community, providing university with my nickname used here). I have other experiences that I am planning to write there:

  • I have taught people online of how to use microcomputers
  • I have taught people of HTML basics
  • I am writing my extended essay on computer science (I am attending IB diploma program)
  • I am currently working on quite a big project for my school using not spaghetti code, but a normal MVC architecture and OOP (at least, I am trying)

Is participating in Stackoverflow community worth mentioning among these (or maybe it is even stronger than what I mentioned?), or not?

  • 1
    I doubt that it would count for much. However, in an interview it might be worth mentioning that you contribute here, but also that you've learned a lot exploring the wide variety of issues raised on SO. Also, reputation is relatively easy to build on very large sites as long as you don't say dumb stuff. There are a lot of users, so a lot of voters. And if you are an obsessive user it might be a negative.
    – Buffy
    Jul 22 '18 at 20:32
  • 3
    I don't think these numbers mean much. According to SO metrics, I have reached 285000 people on here and 161000 people on math.stackexchange (and no one ever thanked me, lol). I think I accumulated more than 10k reputation on each of these sites and gave most of it away through bounties. I am neither a seasoned academic nor a mathematician. I think there are better ways to improve my chances when it comes to applying for faculty positions or industry research positions than giving my SO stats. Plus a lot of my stats come from asking dumb questions.
    – Fraïssé
    Jul 22 '18 at 20:39
  • 1
    Voting to close as off-topic as this is a question about undergraduate admissions.
    – astronat
    Jul 22 '18 at 20:46
  • Seems like a good idea to me. Don't get me wrong, StackExchange participation isn't some huge achievement, but it seems like a pretty reasonable sort of external engagement for a student hoping to enter undergrad. I mean, don't applicants normally list school clubs and whatnot?
    – Nat
    Jul 22 '18 at 21:45

If you find value in participating in an activity, then you should feel free to put it in your personal statement. It's no better or worse, say, than including your participation in hosting a neighbourhood PHP class, just that your "neighbourhood" is on the web. Just note the following:

  • Assessors may not understand what Stackoverflow is, so you may need to spend valuable space informing them about it. You need to describe not only what you do, but why you do it.
  • You may have many other activities in which you find value that you would like to feature. This means that the space you use to describe Stackoverflow will compete with space that you could use to describe other things. At its heart, isn't this an economic decision?
  • Understand that some assessors may look you up on Stackoverflow and assess your work differently. These sites are public, after all. Are you prepared for this to happen?

Good luck!

  • 1
    "Assessors may not understand what Stackoverflow is" - in general you won't know whether they understand or not - so you will have to spend some brain cycles estimating the probability.
    – emory
    Jul 23 '18 at 0:57
  • I would say there's a very small chance undergraduate admissions officers know what Stack Overflow is, just by virtue of them not being computer scientists/mathematicians. You might get lucky with one who knows another SE site. Jul 23 '18 at 1:23

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