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Schools UBC, University of Toronto, Queen's or Waterloo for civil engineering?

  1. Apr 18, 2008 #1

    I am a Canadian high school student who has been admitted to the following universities: University of British Columbia (UBC), Queen's U, University of Waterloo, and University of Toronto, into the Faculty of Applied Science.

    I plan on being a civil engineering in the future, so that's the program I would like to go into at any of these universities.

    At UofT, I have gotten acceptance into the EngSci program (EngSci offers the infrastructure option in the third year, which I'll probably take), but for the rest, I only have acceptance into normal Civil Engineering programs.

    Anyways, I'm completely lost as to which university I should select. So I'm interested in what opinions you guys have about these universities, especially in regards to their civil engineering programs and student life.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 18, 2008 #2
    from what I've gathered, most schools are similar for undergrad studies.

    if you plan on going beyond a bachelor's degree, UofT is probably the least favourable because apparently they make an effort to keep their GPA low.

    I also applied to UofT and others. Just curious, what is your high school entering marks to get accepted?
  4. Apr 18, 2008 #3
    Whatever you do, don't go to U of T.
  5. Apr 18, 2008 #4
    I've gotten the impression that engineering science at U of T is aimed at people who want to do grad studies? I think if you know you want to be a civil engineer in the future, it's probably better to just do the normal civil engineering... unless you plan on doing research or something.
  6. Apr 18, 2008 #5
    UBC and Toronto you will get lost in the masses. Waterloo people work to hard. The best student life and education ratio is probably queens. There engineering department is pretty tight.
  7. Apr 18, 2008 #6


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  8. Apr 18, 2008 #7
    Where are you from? Have you been to the cities where these schools are located? Have you thought about how much it will cost for you to travel from where your parents live to where you study?

    All the schools you are considering are large schools with large engineering programs. I don't think the undergrad experience varies much between them. I have personally spent time on all the campuses you list and I know people who've studied engineering - and who have taught engineers - at all four schools. If I were you I would just pick the city I would like most to live in. Do you like music? Doing things outdoors?

    Vancouver and Toronto are hard cities to find off-campus housing in. However, in my opinion, they are more interesting places to live than Waterloo or Kingston. If you live off-campus in Vancouver or Toronto you will almost certainly have to take a bus (or car) to school, while in Waterloo and Kingston you can find suitable housing within walking or easy biking distance.

    If you're not living at home I would advise you to live in residence. That really helps you to meet people. Other than that, your social experience is really what you make of it. Volunteer, join student clubs, take part in sports and don't rush away from campus when you're finished your classes. Lots of people are turned off UBC and U of T because of their size - but their hugeness is also an advantage because there are more options for clubs and coursework. During your undergrad you will probably find yourself interested in things you've never been interested in before - so it's good to have the opportunity to develop in a direction different from what'd you'd planned on.
  9. Apr 18, 2008 #8
    I had an admission average of 94%. However, from what I've gathered, many universities also take into account which high school the applicant attends. There are well reported cases in the country, (private schools especially), of illegal "marks boosting" occurring. I'm lucky that I'm graduating from a high school that has a reputation for having very stringent academic standards, so much so, that UBC would consider a 90% average from my school equivalent to a 100% average from certain private schools.

    I live in Vancouver myself, so I am well acquainted with the city (I will be living in residence however, if I'm attending UBC).

    I've never been to Toronto, Waterloo, or Kingston, so I don't really know what I'm getting into.

    What about the quality of education? Which do you think would be the best school for engineering?

    Also, I do plan on doing grad studies (maybe specialize in something like structural engineering, or do an MBA). However, for my graduate studies, I'd like to go to some place very reputable, maybe in the U.S or Europe. I'm especially leaning towards UC Berkeley or MIT for my grad studies.
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2008
  10. Apr 18, 2008 #9
    I would personally think Waterloo is the weakest for that type of engineering, they are more of a math//CS/physics school. The other three are all very strong schools, many people have problems with UofT since they apparently (I have never attended there) are much harder markers, or keep GPA's really low, which can affect your future in graduate studies. I have been to the UBC, Waterloo, and Queens campus, recently, I was considering them for graduate studies, and in the end I decided on Queens, it seems to have a very strong program and a very good social scene. It is a smaller city and is designed to be more close knit and everything is accessible through walking/biking. In Canada I believe Queen's has the most reputable engineering program, but if you are planning to do international graduate studies UBC and UofT will rank higher, due mostly to more money and a bigger faculty. Either way, I don't think you can really go wrong with any of these choices, and you will not suffer academically at any of them.

    Check out YouTube videos of Queen's engineering activities/ frosh week. Also, check out Queen's homecoming videos etc. If you want a strong education and a really good social atmosphere/team spirit / parties that is the place to be.
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2008
  11. Apr 18, 2008 #10
    Also, when applying for graduate schools references and experience could be very helpful, in that regards Waterloo and Queen's would probably be better for getting to know profs, again because they are smaller schools. It may just be me but I generally tend to have a bias towards medium sized schools as opposed to large ones, my undergrad university was great, I know all my profs well and golf/play squash/ drink/ go out with them. I also know all the undergrads and most of the graduates and to me that atmosphere is priceless.
  12. Apr 18, 2008 #11
    If you're planning to do grad studies especially in the States, I think you should go into the engineering science program at U of T.

    You mentioned about universities taking into account what high school one attends. I'm pretty sure for grad school, the university you attended for undergrad will also matter.

    The other posters are talking about going to smaller schools for graduate school references, etc because they are "smaller" so you'll get more contact. Waterloo has a fairly large engineering faculty and since you're on co-op every 4 months, you might have a harder time keeping in touch with all your profs and employers. While U of T is very big, the engineering science program will only take in 30 people. This means that you're probably going to get a lot of one on one time with the profs and get to know them. They'll probably give you some research opportunities because you're in engineering science. I've heard that they dote on these students just as Mac dotes on their health science students. This is the premier engineering program in Canada, and I'm thinking if you're aiming for top schools like MIT or UC Berkeley, you should prepare yourself for their standards.

    My cousin's friend graduated from the engineering science program recently, and he went down to the States for grad school in engineering. I'm not sure which university, but no doubt it was probably one of the top schools.
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2008
  13. Apr 19, 2008 #12
    UT keeps its undergrads under grads.
  14. Apr 19, 2008 #13
    In the end, it doesn't really matter which is more reputable really, it depends on you. I go to a university that is much less reputable than all of those, and I have had friends graduate here and get into grad studies at MIT, Stanford, Chicago. They were really bright, performed very well in their classes and on their GRE and got good references and I assume interviewed well. Waterloo, Toronto, Queen's, UBC are all very good schools, and if you do really well at any of them I don't think you will have any problems with graduate schools.
  15. Apr 20, 2008 #14
    Hmm, thanks you, to all of you who posted constructively.

    I think right now, I'm leaning towards UBC for too main reasons: 1) its got wonderful weather and 2) I have lots of friends going there.
  16. Apr 21, 2008 #15
    I have to say... if you got admitted to Waterloo... you should go there. The Civil Engineering program at Waterloo is a co-op program. Starting from your second year, you alternate between one semester of class and one semester of work placement until you graduate. Which is great! Because you get to apply what you leant in real life, learn from the work experience, build up your resume, etc. Also, the internships are all paid (and VERY well paid, might I add), which means that you don't even have to apply for student loans. Also, you're not really stuck with having to stay in the city of Waterloo, or even Ontario. I know that they have co-op placements around Canada, the US, and also some throughout the world. (For example, they have co-op placements for the Anthropology students in Brazil.) - Email the department of civil engineering for more info. They WANT you to go there, they'll be happy to provide you with any information.

    Also, like everyone says, in big Universities, you end up being lost in a crowd and nothing more than a student number. You want to be in a place where there will be a lot of support for you, so that you are continuously inspired. There's nothing worse than not enjoying your classes. (Trust me, I'm speaking from personal experience. Its not only a waste of time, but of a LOT of money.)

    Another thing to consider is the program itself. And the classes you'd have to take. Does the program allow for you to develop yourself outside of the field you have chosen? Do they allow you to take courses outside your department? The most amazing people I know are complete renaissance men and women. Those who have studied political science, psychology, mathematics, programming, art, traditional sciences, music, etc. And it shows in their work; it is anything BUT ordinary or expected!

    Also, try emailing the faculty. See if they can answer your questions or concerns. They're VERY helpful! Its also one of the best ways to figure out if the program is right for you. You should do it for any/all universities you are seriously considering.

    Anyways, don't worry so much about where your friends are going. You will make friends no matter where you go. What's important is that you find the program that is best for you, and where you will be able to best develop yourself.
  17. Apr 29, 2008 #16
    Here's what I tell everyone. Find out what you want to build, then buy the tools to build it. NOT buy expensive useless tools, then decide what it can build. In the end, it's the job you want after you graduate, choose your university accordingly.

    Speaking as a former Elec. Eng student from U of T and as current systems engineer at the toronto star I can say that work experience is 5 times more important than academia, and business/social networks is about 7 times more important than academia. Univeersity choice is not tha tbig of a deal because employers won't care. They just want your work experience.

    I recently tlaked to a bunch of engineering students. I've blogged about it recently. If you want more info read www.john-lai.com/blog[/URL]
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 23, 2017
  18. Apr 29, 2008 #17
    UW gives lots of free marks! - but must work
    (Bell curves a lot; class averages in most courses are about 60-77 .. We had below 50% average in more than two courses but bell curves saved our life - but somehow, lot of kids are barely passing)
    But, life can be awfully crazy! You need to skip classes for interviews - and if you are unlucky you would have interviews during your midterms or finals ... (more tensions)
    And, you will never be free ><. They load you with Professional development courses during co-op terms ...
    And, class size is never more than 100 and some professors would even remember your name!

    and I don't know about UofT; I just heard it is very hard to get good grades in UT - I wanted to go there because it seems more challenging ...

    I had received acceptance (for Elec eng) from McMaster, Queens, Waterloo, UofT, Carleton (with crazy high scholarship of about 20K) with marks of about 92% (with an average of about 99 in all math courses).
    I picked Waterloo because of coop (never visited the campus, attended those open houses, or ... ) and I am happy!

    In engineering, you have really less time for other activities so you should ignore factors like weather, friends, environment, ...

    Final Advice: If you don't have enough money UW would be the best choice. Otherwise, it really doesn't matter where you go
  19. Apr 30, 2008 #18
    I am an undergrad; please take this with a grain of salt.

    It has already been mentioned that UofT is tough at grading (whether this is really true, I am not certain), but you should already know that EngSci in particular is extremely hard and time-consuming. I have the impression (which shouldn't count for much, as I didn't go for it) that it is way more intense than any other Engineering program, which suggests that you will get a lot out of it if you put in the effort, but also that you may have more courses in the first 2 years that you are not really interested in as you are not in the CivEng program itself.

    PEY does give you 12/16 straight months of co-op experience so while it doesn't match UW in terms of overall length, there are arguments that this work term lets you focus more on an entire project, and that you get to spend your other summers doing work as well. Also, you wouldn't have to deal with UW's ridiculous professional development requirement (j/k as this is a minor issue; rootX would be more knowledgeable about it).

    EngSci is probably the biggest name to attract grad schools' attention, but you will need grades and all the other stuff to complement that.

    Engineering classes are small (look up the numbers) so you are more likely to make long-term friends and useful study groups than people in Arts & Sciences. In this sense, the total size of the university isn't so important. Similarly, you can familiarize yourself with profs regardless of faculty size.

    You will need time off to relax and socialize, so the environment including the weather does matter in how productive you are. You won't enjoy hating the campus or the city. You probably have an idea of what each campus is like, but it doesn't hurt to ask/read more.
  20. Apr 30, 2008 #19
    Hey I had to make the same choice and am currently in my 2nd year of mechatronics eng at UW. I would suggest UW for the experience and the awesome co-op program. I've just finished my 2A term but already have a year of experience. For two of my work terms I worked as a research engineer and for this work term I'll be working at AMD. You can make enough money so that you don't have to rely on OSAP and such. Though it will take you an extra year to finish the program. But in terms of benefits to you consider being potentially debt free, having 2 years of experience and making tons of contacts. A lot of people leave here with jobs lined up for them.
  21. Apr 30, 2008 #20
    While I don't go to Waterloo I know that PDEng is the devil.
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