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Need help with univ. decision - Queen's vs Waterloo vs UofT for engineering

  1. May 9, 2008 #1
    Need urgent help with univ. decision - Queen's vs Waterloo vs UofT for engineering

    Hi all,

    I am in need of some urgent advice.

    I am in my last year of high school and I've been accepted into the following programs for university next year:

    UofT - Engineering Science
    Queen's - Engineering
    Waterloo - Nanotechnology Engineering

    I have debated between these three programs for months now, but I still cannot decide on which of these would be best for me. I have a little under two weeks before I must accept my offer, so understandably, I'm feeling quite hysterical at the moment.

    That being said, I would very much appreciate it if anyone could give me some feedback or suggestions as to which of these programs would be best for me. Your comments may very well be the determining factor of my final decision.

    Here are my thoughts on these three programs.

    Engineering at Queen's - I live right beside Queen's, so the most immediate advantage of my going to Queen's is being able to live at home. Queen's atmosphere presents a starking contrast when compared to Waterloo's or UofT's, which I really like. The fact that Queen's engineering does not become specialized until the second year is also great for me, as I am still undecided as to which discipline of engineering is right for me - or engineering itself, for that matter. (I heard it's much easier to switch from engineering to science than the other way around, so this is strong incentive for me to go to engineering, at least for the first year.)

    EngSci at UofT - sounds like an extremely solid program. I think my ultimate goal is to pursue graduate studies, and I think this program will be able to prepare me extensively towards this goal. HOWEVER, I am extremely intimidated by the program's reputation for its difficulty. My sciences are solid, but my maths could be much, much stronger (my current calculus mark is a mere 90, and I ended up not writing the AP Calculus AB exam this week because I essentially bombed the mock exam :frown:). Because of this, I'm not sure how well I will be able to keep up in this program. In my opinion, If I'm going to end up switching into one of the regular streams at UofT, I might as well as go to Queen's to begin with. I have, however, been named a "Galbraith Scholar," which should come with some sort of scholarship. All I've received so far, though, is a free backpack that came with the initial recognition.

    Waterloo - its co-op program sounds extremely exciting to me. Nanotechnology Engineering, however, sounds risky. I have no interest in working in the industry upon graduation, which makes Waterloo's work-orientedness sort of contrived for my purposes. The discipline itself is also a little too specific for my interests, as I have yet to decide what kind of engineering career I'm REALLY interested in (or if it's even in the field of engineering at all). The program draws elements from a variety of engineering fields (electric, bio, chemistry, physics etc.), but the discipline itself is very specific. I'm afraid this will limit my career paths in the future.

    *takes deep breath* Thank you for reading. I look forward to responses.

  2. jcsd
  3. May 9, 2008 #2
    What's with all the Canadians (and Ontarians) lately? I am not even in university yet but from what I have heard nanotech and EngSci are the two most rigorous engineering programs in the country and frankly it sounds like you like Queens better. We have until what, May 25 to decide?
  4. May 10, 2008 #3
    It looks like you like Queens the best (from what you are writing) since you say nothing negative about it. IMO, if you want to prepare for graduate studies, have a solid understanding of the fundamentals and gain research experience in the summers between semesters.
  5. May 10, 2008 #4
    I suppose the factor that's holding me back from choosing Queen's is just because its engineering program has less of a reputation from what I've heard. Their engineering program also comes off as slightly too "traditional," without that cutting-edge flair that Waterloo will give me.

    I'm waiting for some insightful posts that will sway me one way or the other.
  6. May 10, 2008 #5
    If you can afford to live away from home - you should!

    It might be worth trying to find out how easy it is to switch between engineering disciplines at Waterloo - if you take the first year requirements for nanotechnology engineering are you qualified to switch to another engineering field in your second year?

    Waterloo and the eng sci program in Toronto are both really good options. I think you should consider which city you would prefer to live in and make your decision based on that.
  7. May 10, 2008 #6
    If you say your high school math seems weak.. then it would be hard to survive in any of three universities (engineering has lots of math)><

    But, if you do hardwork you would get good marks.

    UofT seems good option, academics would always be your priority..(so good if you want to go into research) - and, if you do hardwork you will do good.

    but at Waterloo, you need to consider other things too
  8. May 10, 2008 #7


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    My advice would be to go for the most general education in the beginning. Employers and grad schools don't care about bells and whistles on the program name. They care about marks and they care about whether you have a basic understanding of the core principles in the field.

    First year calculus is first year calculus regardless of where it is taught.
  9. May 11, 2008 #8
    Thanks for all the comments so far. I would appreciate some more though.
  10. May 13, 2008 #9
    Hey Andrew,

    I'm struggling with exactly the same choices you have right now, but I also have UBC Engineering to consider, and at Waterloo, I applied for the Computer Science program. Here's what I've heard/learned so far about these schools. Maybe we can compare what we've heard about them and end up helping each other?

    I've ruled out Waterloo because, well, computer science really isnt where my interest lies (I'm more interested in civil engineering), and because I've heard it's just really a...well, no fun, all work school...but I heard this from a girl in my English class who visited over spring break...and she's not all too smart. People also say it's not well known OUTSIDE of North America. Now would be a good time to mention this: I'm aiming to work/study outside of Canada after my undergrad degree.

    UofT EngSci seems really strong, but I think it would be better for electrical, biomedical or even aeronautical engineers. Their civil engineering program (infrastructure option) does not seem nearly as comprehensive as a normal civil engineering program. I myself am not great at math (but pretty good). I did horribly in AP Calculus this year. I started off with a good strong A in term 1, and since then, have gotten a B and a C+. I think though, it has much more to do with my lack of motivation for the subject, which stems from the relationship with my teacher (whom I utterly despise), rather than me being unable to understand the stuff. I don't think I'll have too many problems in university, as I'll actually try to apply myself. I'm very much undecided about this program right now, but am kind of leaning towards...no, mainly because I feel it won't work for me if I I'd like to be a civil engineer. Its coop program (the PEY) is also, according to my research, not nearly as strong as UBC's or Waterloo's.

    Queens - well, I've heard bad things about it. Sure, it's one of the good schools in Canada, but due its size and limited resources, your education options will be limited too (especially in engineering lab work, etc.). Plus, it has no where near the reputation that schools like UofT and UBC do globally. Does it even have a coop program???

    UBC - I only applied for the normal engineering program here, like Queen's, I don't need to specialize until second year, so it's a good opportunity for me to explore where my interests lie. It's pretty much the same as UofT, in terms of the living experience and academic quality (lots of people, big metropolitan city, high global reputation, well known professors etc.). It's also close to home...and very importantly: IT'S WARM!! It's international coop seems to be the best out of all the universities on my list, but without a doubt Waterloo beats it on the North America front. A minor con is that I have to write those darned BC provincial exams if I want admission to UBC. This is where I'm leaning towards going to next year, although I keep feeling like I'm throwing a wonderful opportunity away by not going to UofT.

    So that's all the stuff I know about these universities so far. Have you heard things similar to what I've mentioned about the 3 Ontario universities, or things entirely different? I would be interested in knowing.

    In any case, GOOD LUCK!!

    Tough decisions, but I'm sure wherever we'll end up going, it will be good, these universities are after all, the top universities in Canada for engineering.
  11. May 13, 2008 #10
    From talking to several U of T professors and EngSci students, I gather that the math that they do is very comprehensive. EngSci students do proof based math, rather than most engineering schools, which will just teach you bare bones calculus skills. I think that the major difference in the engsci curriculum (maths especially) is that it is very theory based, and I know that there is a strong math component, quite possibly more than most engineering schools. Therefore, you might want to stay away from EngSci if, as you say, maths are not your strong point.
  12. May 14, 2008 #11
    I disagree. Math is not my strongpoint because I don't really pay attention to it. It will be if I did.

    Plus, I'd enjoy it if for once someone would tell me how they got that equation and what it's purpose is, instead of just telling me to when to use it.
  13. May 14, 2008 #12
    honestly, it just seems hilarious to me that you're even having this dilemma. you're choosing between something that you'd like for the atmosphere (Queen's) and something useful for your life (eng sci). waterloo is cool and all, but it doesn't even compare at all to how extensive eng sci is, and how well known it is to people around the world.
    you need to make one call. do you want to screw around for a few years and come out of it with a degree from queen's that's not gonna earn you any prestige, and not gonna give you any connections in the future? or do you want to buckle down and work hard for a few years, and come out of it with a ton of experience, and connections with some of the top people in the industry, and a huge amount of knowledge?
    there's really no reason to not go to eng sci, unless you're just afraid of the workload. but you're spending thousands of dollars, and you're not paying for them to give you an easy ride.
  14. May 14, 2008 #13
    Hi, I'm a first year student at the University of Waterloo (just finished co
    While Waterloo makes your work, their intention is in no way to teach you the bare minimum you need for working, so I don't see how that would be a problem since you learn the same materials in class. Also, I think you are underestimating the value of industrial experience, especially considering that you want to go into engineering. There is a lot you can learn from working, during my last work term, I learned Perl, LaTeX, some Scheme/Lisp among other things as well as important soft skills (they're more important than you think).

    While Waterloo programs are specialized from first year, it is not that hard to switch into a different program.
  15. May 15, 2008 #14
    Your calculus mark is a "mere 90"? Unless this is a prissy school which boosts your mark, a 90 is not mere. Back in my class only one person got over 90.

    Good thing with engineering is you don't need to be that good at math, as its taught in a similar vein to what was done in highschool (ie. no proofs). If your sciences are even better it either means you're truly intelligent, or that your HS is easy.

    UT is hard, I'm doing science here. I know many engineers, and they all like to whine. Some times I think they whine because the ones before them whined. Then again we all whine, but not as much as the engineers. But we've seen what they do. Its pretty easy. There is one catch though. They do a lot of courses. So the difficulty arises in the amount of work they get. They have all these silly classes to do. So it helps if you are quick. Anyway, the rigor should prepare you for grad work but you might not get a grade high enough to be accepted. Thats the problem with UT, they slaughter your grades. And I know many people who want to change schools. Rumor has it electrical engineers have it worst.

    I hear a lot of people praising Waterloo. Its great if your going into industry, but I think you expressed an interest that is not in that direction. One of the best in Canada. And by second year, you'll see how great it is to have a summer job. But you need to think this over.

    I can't comment on Queens, but I think I heard someone say their math is a joke. Dunno. However, I'll tell you it is great living close to home. Something you will appretiate later.

    As for switching, you got it backwards. From engineering to science is a more difficult transition, because engineers deprive you of all the rigor which really is the hardest part. So academically, its more challenging. Now actually getting it done, you are correct. Its probably easier to transfer from eng to sci than the other way around. There are a lot more people that want to be in eng, because of good job prospects. Something science doesn't have. So due to demand, I'd imagine its harder to get into engineering.

    Being at UT, I'd sort of advise you not to come here if you wanna do grad. The school is sort of out dated in its methodology. Many engineers share my opinion. Reputation only becomes important in grad school, no one cares if your undergrad is from UT. But this might be different for a professional degree like engineering. But as the other guy said, its better to work you tail off and be recognized. 4 years will FLY by. Just make sure your doing a program you like. Or you could always do Waterloo/Queens, and apply to UT for a masters. I'd say go to Waterloo/UT
    Last edited: May 15, 2008
  16. May 19, 2008 #15
    To Andrew and others of this thread, I'll also share some of my perspectives and thoughts on these universities and see if I can't contribute to this discussion.
    I'm Grade 11, from Vancouver, just so you all know.

    For me, I know I won't be attending U of T. You have to ask yourself if you can withstand the vastness of the facility. I know I feel isolated easily, especially in that metropolitan university, so I am crossing it off the list. Do YOU feel alright with a huge surrounding? Because it's not just the academics, it's also about the social environment around it, and I know I can't stand it.
    Howers also stated that UT rapes GPA's. My thought is that at least at Waterloo or Queen's you have small classes and personal teachers to help (my impression from their websites at least.)

    That said, UT and Queen's both offer EngSci (same with UBC). Unfortunately, UT Saint George Campus doesn't offer Co-op, and Missassuaga Campus and Scarborough Campus don't offer EngSci at all. (I know I'm being overly negative on UT, so sorry for my apparent bias. There ARE good sides obviously.)

    I also have the doubts you have about it too.
    Queen's University, I actually really like this university. Now, I'm quite uncertain whether to choose between it or Waterloo for its Engineering programs. I too, like you, am very attracted to Waterloo's Nanotechnology Engineering Program. ATM I'm leaning a bit more towards Waterloo, due to its better Co-Op Program (though Queen's only has Internship, which I believe in their context is different b/t Coop) and the new Nano Program implemented in 2005 (though Queen's does have Engineering Science (Chemistry and Physics)). Financially though, Queen's seems more affordable ($20 000 total fees for 2 terms cost of 8 months for Waterloo Nano Eng, bottom of:
    Google: (As I can't post URL until over 15 posts)
    Waterloo also stated that its Nanotech is somewhat more expensive due to its high lab equipments and stuff. McMaster may also be an option for me if Waterloo's too expensive. I heard McMaster's also pretty renown for its Engineering I heard, anyone care to confirm?

    Here's a website that compares Ontario Universities and Colleges degrees and programs against each other on a common format. It's very general, but it works:

    Queen's does offer Engineering Science (Eng Chem and Eng Phys, former being the only Engineering Chemistry in all of Canada), which just makes our situation seem even more complicated then necessary.
    Now the even weirder part is that Waterloo offers something different to EngSci, which they call Systems Design Engineering, like an interdisciplinary program or smthg. From their website (Google: eng.uwaterloo.ca/admissions/Faq/Faq_Programs.htm) they make the impression it's even better then the normal EngSci programs of other univ's. Complicated huh?

    Really? I was hoping for that. Flexibility is always good, but are you sure about it? Any information on this will be most helpful, so please, if there's anything, please say something. =)

    Yes, Engineering being a Professional License may be different. Does anyone know more about this? Whether undergrad school matters for engineering?

    In conclusion, I'M leaning towards Waterloo ATM for its Nano Program. I don't think its discipline is very specific; it encompasses physics, bio, chem on a nano-scale. But of course, these are just MY thoughts, and I'm no expert. I certainly hope I didn't introduce too much stress to anyone else on this thread.
    If there are ANY alumni or people from these Universities (Waterloo, Queen's, UT, UBC, etc.), you're always more than welcome to post ;) Any input will be most helpful.
  17. May 19, 2008 #16
    Thanks to everyone who've responded so far.

    I'm leaning heavily towards Waterloo at the moment, but there is one thing holding me back, and I'd like some final input in the next and last week before I must make my final decision.

    I am quite sure that my interest does not lie in working in the industry following graduation. To my understanding, nanotechnology doesn't offer that much in the place of industry to begin with. I'd much rather go on to pursue postgrad studies, doing some research and whatnot. I think a field as new as nanotechnology should offer me plenty of exciting research opportunities. HOWEVER, the work-oriendedness of Waterloo's engineering curriculum makes my attendance somewhat contrived in my opinion. Getting field experience is great for the sake of experience, but will this deter the focus of this program from an academic standpoint? Will I be getting a less solid theoretical groundwork than if I went to UT?
  18. May 19, 2008 #17
    Don' t go to U of T except for grad school. Its research is really nice, but if you want to do well in undergrad, go to Waterloo or Queen's, frankly, as a U of T graduate, U of T couldn't care less about its undergrads. Don't be fooled by Maclean's magazine's rankings. Grad schools look for good marks in good courses, and although U of T's engsci and math&physics programs are really rigorous, you'll end up with a really crappy GPA that can' t be counterbalanced by the "prestige" (quote-unquote) of U of T.

    Hope you make the best decision (i.e., not the f*cking University of Toronto),
    - Vince
    Last edited: May 19, 2008
  19. May 19, 2008 #18
    This is a response to Howers' reply. I hope you can get me back.

    Yes, my school can be considered "prissy." To give you an idea, the average for my calc class is 90 right now, so I'm considered borderline average. I feel that the education system is becoming more and more dummed down. For example, the ontario school boards, for whatever reason, decided to take Geometry and Discreet out of the curriculum, and I'll be with the first wave of students to go into first-year engineering without taking this course.

    I would appreciate it if you'd elaborate on this more. I'm not sure if I understand what you're saying. I know the coop is a definite advantage one way or the other, but are you suggesting maybe that its work-orientedness will somehow deter from my overall academic experience? I addressed this in my previous post (see two posts above)

  20. May 20, 2008 #19
    Well before I go further, what do you mean by industry? Are you thinking of it like process engineers and management positions in companies and businesses? Not necessarily so, there's lots of fields to find your niche in.

    From what I've garnered, engineering is a social/group work career. And nano being a multidisciplinary program, you'd need contacts with others, connections in industry to know what companies/governments are wanting in their new application of items. With an understanding of the trends in industry, you will then be able to research and develop new exciting solutions to solve the problems.
    So, from my understanding of your question, you seem to say that the whole Co-Op program at Waterloo may make you practical, but you want a seat in the R&D, and so you think that by being practical, you lose out on the theory? Thus, you are wondering if U of T would be better "in theory" as it doesn't have co-op, correct?

    If that's so, I'd have to say no. I don't believe that UT will give you a more theoretical background than Waterloo. I'd think Waterloo will be more able to allow you to apply your ideas in a practical way in the workforce (as said in my second paragraph), as it allows the Co-Op, and while doing co-op, you get paid, work experience, and connections, which is a triple win.

    That said, although engineers are a very stable job, there's a also high chance that you won't stay in that exact same field from now till the end. Over a large half of the engineers got a degree in one specialization, only to move to another one (say, a bachelors in electrical eng, but ends up working as a chemical eng, or computers eng, or something not even related to eng at all). The skills engineers develop transfers over to a wide variety of jobs, so R&D can just as easily transfer over to industry, processing, manufacturing, etc. Just something you should know, it's even something publicly acknowledged on the Waterloo Engineering website.

    Have I answered all your questions? I hope I was clear with my concepts, and didn't beat around the bush on this one.

    To RedAlert: You applied for UBC engineering? I just discovered that SFU actually has a very solid engineering program ranked higher than UBC (SFU number 4, with Waterloo as 1, UT as 2, McGill as number 3, Queen's at 7, and UBC at 8) (Google: best engineering in canada). Seems like a big shock to me. I just might rethink Waterloo engineering as financial constraints may limit me to SFU, (EDIT) which brings me back to one of my small questions: I know an undergraduate degree is an undergraduate degree, no matter where you get it, but Engineering being a fully accredited Professional Licence, will the prestige of the school where you got your Bachelor of Engineering matter? Matter more so than a course that's not in Engineering?
    Last edited: May 20, 2008
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