How do I get a head start?
If you want to do well at anything, I reckon you need to set out some kind of plan. This probably seems a bit hard nosed, but I find that students who have a plan do tend to get what they want. The plan doesn't need to be too complicated, just a few strands that you need to keep an eye on. Here are the strands that I think you should think about as you contemplate your move into this business:
Learn to Program
If you want to get a head start in computing I reckon that you might find it useful to have a go at some programming. This is one of the fundamentals of any programming course and you will almost certainly be taught this in some way in your first year. Getting your head around writing programs is good thing to do (assuming you have time from your A Levels). Trying to learn some programming is good for another reason, in that it lets you find out if computing is for you! You can get hold of our entire first year programming text here. This is a good start, and it would prepare you nicely for our courses.
Work At Ongoing Professional Development
If you are serious about the computing business you must resign yourself to the fact that the subject is a moving target. The graduates that we produce have a "shelf life" of a few years. After that the things that we have told them are out of date, and there are new skills that are required. We keep our courses under continuous review to make sure that the people who graduate are as useful as possible.
But of course it is also down to you to make sure that you are up to speed on your chosen subject. This means that you should probably have at least one computing book on the go at any given time, and work at staying up to date. Popular magazines like PC Plus have good sections on programming and the industry, and you should read these to keep yourself current.
Broaden your Character
Another good tip, which is nothing to do with computing (or indeed anything really) is to get out and get involved in stuff. A huge chunk of being a successful computer scientist is getting on with folk. It is something that is very important. Being a great programmer will take you quite a long way. Being a great programmer that can stand up and sell their work, or talk to a customer without upsetting them, will take you even further. Join some societies, read as many books as you can, get involved in discussions about, well, anything. Start a diary - or better yet a blog. Take a look at Microsoft Channel 8: http://channel8.msdn.com/. Get a camera and start posting pictures. Make some videos and put them out there. Anything which broadens you are a person is a really good idea. And fun too.