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Computer Science undergrad. in Canada - Small uni vs Big uni

  1. Jul 17, 2009 #1

    Recently, while for what must be the thousandth time, I've rethought my plans for university, and discovered that studying something I've always been very interested in - Computer Science, software design and development - is an actual possibility. For some reason, I've never thought of this path before.

    I'm a Norwegian student enrolled in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. I want to study abroad, and Canada seems like the most viable option, for a multitude of reasons. So, on to my question.

    I have every intent to go to grad school, and have never considered stopping at a bachelor's. So what I'm wondering is which type of university it would be beneficial for me to attend with regards to grad school: A big, research-heavy school such as University of Toronto; or a smaller, more 'intimate' school like Mount Allison, UNBC, Acadia and StFX, to take the top 4 of the newest Maclean Primarily Undergraduate ranking list.

    As an international student, the smaller schools are significantly cheaper. Mount Allison and StFX would both cost me around $13-14k a year in tuition, while the bigger schools would run me over $20k a year. This limits my choice of big schools, as I'm reliant on an additional stipend from the Norwegian government to cover the tuition, and only Queen's, UBC and U of T qualify for this stipend.

    Personally, I think I'd enjoy the smaller, more intimate environment of a small school, and would learn better in this environment. Will grad schools I apply to care which school I'm from? If so, do they look favorably upon smaller schools? Or will they just care about my grades and research?

    Any feedback is appreciated. :)
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 22, 2009 #2
    I think that for you undergraduate degree, its a matter of personal preference. I am currently in my last year of my undergrad completing an Honours Specialization in Computer Science with a Major in Physics at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada.

    Western is quite a large university, but the computer science department here is small. That has both advantages and disadvantages. As an advantage, you get to know the professors and other students in the department quite well. As a disadvantage, there seems to be fewer opportunities for undergraduates to do paid research (fewer NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Awards for instance), and the positions that do exist don't pay nearly as well as other departments, such as Physics which is only slightly larger. Also, the undergraduate computing facilities in Computer Science at Western are not all that great. Although I don't know the details of the department's funding, I expect that a larger computer science department would have more funding available for computing facilities and hopefully undergraduate research as well.

    At the undergraduate level, I don't think there are large differences between programs. Students who continue onto graduate school typically change schools again to complete their master's and/or Ph.D. in order to get a larger breadth of experience in their field and its not until you apply to graduate school that you really need to take a critical look at the departments that you're applying to. I think graduate schools look more at your academic record and research potential and don't really care where you did you undergrad. However, I expect I will gain more experience with this in the coming weeks and months.
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