I spent a year at a community college working in industry straight out of high school. I recently got into a top cs program and will be attending starting spring 2015. However, the school only gave me until spring 2017 to finish my degree, which means I will be at the 4-year university for 5 semesters. Will I be at a disadvantage when applying to top graduate schools in comparison to my peers, who have been at their university for 4 years? I am a CS major who will attend a top cs program.
Also, due to my transfer situation, I feel that I am severely disadvantaged in terms of research opportunities. This is because for most of the labs at my school, professors have formal requirements which often entail good grades in high-level electives specific to the research. Unfortunately, I probably won't have time to complete many of these electives, and even if I do, it will most likely be during my last year. I want to get started in research as soon as possible, but I also know that I don't have much specific experience for my fields of interest (which include AI, NLP, machine learning, and data mining). How should I reconcile these gaps, and what tips do you have for a new student getting engaged in research?