Didn't realize this was such a huge post...so I provide you with...a table of contents! (and the option of skipping part 1 without missing any really important information) 1. Background Info - the epiphany! 2. Accepted! (to hell?) - the truth unfolds 3. The other - university, that is 4. The scales - weighing the possible decisions 1. Background Info - the epiphany! Well, here I am in university. It was never really in my plans, but I kept finding an urge to keep challenging myself intellectually. From a two year college program, to a three year college program, to a four year university program. This roundabout path started with apprenticeship/college oriented high school courses in which my grades were less than stellar. In my senior year of high school, I had applied to auto maintenance technician programs, as well as a mechanical engineering technician program. During the time between applying and receiving letters of admission, I definitely realized I had made a huge mistake and I could not see myself changing tires and oil at thirty years old. I thought auto technicians did a lot of problem solving and had to use their brains a lot, so it seemed like a good choice. A trip to get an oil change resulted in the epiphany that the problem solving basically stops and it becomes a mindless job once you have learned all the basic parts of the cars. Luckily for me, I had also been accepted to the engineering technician program and was able to start heading in a much better direction. Almost immediately, I discovered that this program was not for me either. The courses were too easy and were headed in a very technical skills type of direction. I did not want that. I wanted to be part of an engineering team, being paid for using my brain and inventing new things, not just fixing or testing them. After one year of this program, I switched to the three year version: mechanical engineering technology. I thought it was a better fit, I was being presented with a more in depth look at the how and why of things. It wasn't enough, just a little extra reading in the textbooks revealed a whole other level of knowledge to be acquired that wasn't so much as being mentioned in these courses. I had a thirst for knowledge, I wanted to say I truly understand things and not just be able to calculate some simple things. I also feared that a technologist still does not have the say that an engineer does, and does not get to create the designs but merely implements the engineers'. It was then that I realized, I could not settle for anything less than being an engineer. This requires a university degree, that's alright my academic history may be tainted by my performance in high school, but at this point I had two years of college under my belt and my grades were decent (3.3/4.3 GPA). I applied to three universities which can be categorized as follows: no chance, a slightly bigger chance, and if you have a pulse, come on in! (note: having a pulse is optional). Of course, the first two rejected me on the basis of my high school transcript. They said something about not being able to use college courses in lieu of high school pre-requisites (which I had none of, for engineering...or anything in university really). Another stroke of luck, I had a pulse and so I was accepted into the new university that had opened up...started by the president of the college I was in and on the same campus. Even though I had applied to mechanical engineering, I could not use any of the credits from mechanical engineering technology. I was slightly annoyed, but assumed they knew best. In retrospect, jumping into the third year of engineering with two years of college engineering would have been academic suicide...it's a whole different ball game. 2. Accepted! (to hell?) - the truth unfolds At first things seemed good, I was being challenged far more than I ever had before and was still pulling out A+...wait a minute, that doesn't make much sense. Slowly but surely, signs of the incompetency of the administration at this school started to show. It seemed like students always took a backseat to opportunities for the school to make money. Promises of having a new laptop every two years (they are required...$1700 per year to lease a piece of sh..) were quickly found to be lies. Misinterpreting a deadline for returning one of these great pieces of stuff results in a $250 fee which, when appealed results in an e-mail talking about how it's just not possible to let it slide because it's important to teach a lesson here. Classrooms that appeared to be under construction, still appear that way two years later. The cafeteria can charge you $7.45 for a burger and a drink because...you have no choice, the company that handles the food services is the only option on campus. Areas for students to sit, relax, and study disappeared over the course of the summer to make room for more offices. Okay, that's fine but...wait a minute, they didn't create any new space? So I can study in the packed 'study halls' that are mostly dominated by loud, obnoxious people who lack any ability to respect others. Maybe I can go to the library? Oh right, there's rarely any room there either...where is the money going, what is the school doing with it? Hey, cool, there is such a lack of space that one of my classrooms is in a circus tent! Seriously...a nice big white inflatable tent. Another class takes place in an old room that can best be described as a garage. Yet another of my classes takes place in some portables that are indistinguishable (from the outside) from the construction crew's offices. I ended up taking a few summer courses and one day I show up to class and I'm not allowed in. Why? Oh, there's a meeting for some company or other taking place in the lecture hall I'm supposed to be in at that time. The professor was not even informed of this. The cafeteria gets taken over by this sort of thing fairly often too. I'm not sure how common that is because I have nothing to compare it to. Hmm...so what is the university doing with the money it has, if all these problems exist? Well...we have a nice skating rink, and a new bar in it they just opened up. Awesome, we can go study on the ice rink...? You certainly don't want to study in one of the atriums...panes of glass from the balconies fall from as high as three floors up. They put some plywood walls up around that area and apparently forget about it since those walls are still there and it's been about two months. I haven't seen anyone working on them either since the first week when they put the walls up. This wasn't the first glass falling incident either, I believe it was the third. One fateful day, I happened to spill a drink on my $1700 leased piece of garbage...stupid I know, but...hey that's an extra $1000 in their pocket, so they were happy. They didn't even have to give me a new one, it was another piece of garbage...great! It won't happen again, but in case it did, that would be $2500 in their pocket so they probably look forward to it. Ok, aside from all of that there are academic concerns. A lot of the professors seem young and inexperienced. I'm not sure what to make of it. It seems that they are still experimenting with the proper level of difficulty for their exams since class averages for some tests have been as low as 20 and 46%. At the same time, I feel it should have been very unlikely for me to get 90%+ in physics and differential equations. I am far from a good student and isn't this stuff supposed to be very difficult anyway? Alright, fine, maybe I'm just good at this stuff . There is another issue, since this is a very new university, it has not had a graduating class for any of their engineering programs, and for mechanical that won't happen until one year before I graduate. It is not accredited, it is not recognized, and it seems as if it's just not that organized. In addition to this, it's very much a commuter school and lacks the epic feel of a university that I believe would be part of the package. I'm not sure if I want to look back on my time at university and remember it as high school version 2. I live about 10 minutes away and am actually living with my mother. This makes things probably as cheap as they could be, but there is a part of me that really wants to experience university as a time where I lived on my own and it was basically my introduction to the real world. I want the epic feeling of the humongous lecture halls and a large busy campus and just a totally new experience. I have been in this city, collectively, for about twelve years. I suppose I'm just bored of it. 3. The other - university, that is This brings me to the main point. I applied to another university for next semester and I have been accepted. If I want a guaranteed spot in the program, I need to accept the offer within three weeks. This other university apparently has a reputation as being a university you put on your application as a backup in case all of your other choices fall through. Really though, it seems as if the university I currently attend is now the undisputed king of that, and it seems to attract the type of people who are not quite university material in terms of attitude. Anyways, I don't really care about the prestige, I know that the physics and the math are the same at any university and that it's up to the student to get as much knowledge out of a course as they want. They are accredited, so their programs meet the expectations of an engineering graduate as outlined by the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board (CEAB). This university has approximately five times as many students as the one I'm currently attending. It has a much larger campus in a city which is nicer and larger. 4. The scales - weighing the possible decisions The only thing that holds me back from just accepting the offer right away is the fear of failure in terms of money. Maybe I will have to work part-time in order to have groceries, but that's standard isn't it? It still seems scary to me, I guess that's because I've never lived on my own. Living on my own would be exciting and scary and I suppose that's what causes my hesitation. If you would share your thoughts with me and offer your advice, I would appreciate it.