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Schools University time :d?

  1. Oct 19, 2011 #1
    University time!!!! :d?

    Hello fellow physics lovers, I need all the advice I can get in choosing a university.

    OKAY ill be quick
    The program - Physics (honours/specialist)
    The Universities - UofWaterloo, Mcmaster, UofToronto
    Maybe - Queens, UofOttawa

    I live in Toronto (GTA)
    Money isnt that much of a problem but i would like to spend less $$ -(i can also get government loans)
    I think co-op is useful
    Teaching/learning environment is important.(Rigor of the program(curriculum) doesn't matter to me much, Im willing to work hard)

    The most I know about is UofT. Mcmaster and Uwaterloo not so much. This is what I think I know.

    - Bell curved
    - Competitive
    - Large first year classes (hard to stand out/talk with profs)*
    - graduate with lower gpa than other schools*
    - Sometimes profs seem like they don't care
    - Prestige
    - World class research Facilities
    - World class Faculty
    - Opportunities (research/job/award(if lucky/good enough))
    - Relative more scholarships than other Uni's
    - I dont have to do residence

    - residence $$
    - not known outside of Canada
    - High admission cut-off (relative to other institutions)

    - Mid size uni (smaller classes)
    - No bell curve (mostly)
    - less competition
    - Has facilities (nuclear reactor, "state of the art lab equipment")
    - Co-op ($ + experience for me(I like))
    - Has affiliations with Perimeter Institute

    - residence $$
    - not known outside of Canada
    - Im not too sure about other things
    - Bell curve depends from teacher to teacher from course to course
    -Smaller endowment relatively

    - Mid size uni (smaller classes)
    - less competition
    - Has facilities (new buildings)
    - Co-op ($ + experience for me(I like))
    - Has strong affiliations with Perimeter Institute and IQC
    - large campus grounds (1000 acres)
    - Concentration on mathematics (i guess this is a pro)

    Id like to go to UT but theres a lot of stories about bell curves and inattentive profs and as well as competition. I want to go to grad school however and I've also heard that UT is a disadvantage to that because they keep the gpa low. I like it because its close, the prestige, the faculty, the facilities, and the campus grounds is amazing. I've talked to physics professors (at a recent university fair) from both mcmaster and waterloo and they gave me really compelling and appealing account of the experiences at their universities. The mcmaster prof was really compelling.

    I'm sure I want to go into physics.

    So yeah any advice or opinions :)
    Also I wanna especially hear from undergrads/graduates from each university.

    Thanks in advance!

    (I know this is my first post which looks kinda bad, but im a constant lurker if that helps!)
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 19, 2011 #2
    Re: University time!!!! :d?

    I will be listening attentively to this thread.
  4. Oct 19, 2011 #3
    Re: University time!!!! :d?

    I have no clue about the canadian universities. But I find small classes to be a huge benifit for a university. I've been to a university where the professors were extremely approachable and nice. You can't believe how much this helps you in studying.

    You may be inclined to go to a world-prestigious university, but I see little benifit in that. It's not because you're a world-expert on quantum mechanics that you can teach it well and that you're a good guide for your students. (Of course, Letters of Recommendation and undergrad research will be impressive at a prestigious university).

    I have not chosen my school because of prestige, but because it was relatively small (certainly compared to the US) and with very approachable professors. I have never regretted my choice.

    Just my 2 cents. :smile:
  5. Oct 19, 2011 #4


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    Re: University time!!!! :d?

    Do you have any evidence that you'll end up with a lower GPA at the University of Toronto than either of the other two?

    All three are very good universities for physics undergraduate programs and university reputation will not be a decisive factor when you apply for graduate school if you come from any one of the three. All three are "well known" outside of Canada.

    The things that I would look for in comparing the three would include:
    - What professors are teaching the undergraduate classes? Have they won any awards for teaching?

    - What are the class sizes like?

    - What resources (academic and otherwise) are available for undergraduate students?

    - What research opportunities are available for undergraduate students? When I went to McMaster in the mid 90s, there were plenty of opportunities for undergraduates to get involved with research and the faculty of science even had scholarships established specifically to promote such things.

    - What extra-curricular activities do they have? I spent 2 years volunteering on McMaster's emergency first response team - which had absolutely nothing to do with physics, but was a lot of fun and allowed me to expand my circle of friends. I was also involved with the undergraduate physics society, which allowed me to connect with upper year students.

    - What is living there going to be like? I never gave the University of Toronto a second glance because I would have gone nuts living in Toronto (I'm just not a city person).
  6. Oct 19, 2011 #5
    Re: University time!!!! :d?

    Thanks for the advice! Thats one of the things that made mcmaster and waterloo appealling, the proffessors seemed really nice at Mcmaster esp. I would see benefit in a large/prestigious university - like you said- because of the 'opportunities' (research/prestige of recommendation of letter) however I have a feeling getting at these opportunities will be hard.

    "This is what I think I know"
    So no solid evidence other than multiple posts in PF about UofT and the grading system/horror stories. Here is one such example:

    I really like the points you've listed on what to look for in a university, it's given me a couple of ideas on how to approach my decision better. I think Ill be going on campus as well
    to see what hamilton/waterloo is like.
  7. Oct 20, 2011 #6
    Re: University time!!!! :d?

    Where do you plan on going?

    What have you heard about these institutions? :)
  8. Oct 20, 2011 #7
    Re: University time!!!! :d?

    Well, I have changed my mind a lot in terms of what I want to major in. It keeps on revolving around mechanical engineering, math and physics but I think I'm going to settle on physics or math and physics.

    I'm looking at McGill, U of T, Waterloo, McMaster, Queen's, Western but I won't apply to all of them. I'm actually driving up with a friend to Montreal this weekend to go to the McGill open house. To quote someone who works at the biophysics lab that I was talking to: "According to the schedule, you'll be seeing a low temperature lab, a biophysics lab, a solid state lab, an AFM lab, a graphene lab, and an astronomy lab. Damn, that's a lot of labs to visit. Anyway, in each lab I recommend talking to the people giving the tour, asking how they like it and what they plan to do after, etc etc."

    I don't know a lot about the universities but visiting them sure does make a difference. The thing is, all of the programs are the same (some are a little different). If you don't try in any of them then you'll fail in all of them. Go to where you feel is the most comfortable. For me, McGill seems like a pretty awesome city and I like the Honours physics program however it is difficult to get into.
  9. Oct 21, 2011 #8
    Re: University time!!!! :d?

    I'm currently attending the University of Calgary, but I have lots of friends who are going to University of Alberta, University of Waterloo, University of Toronto, University of Manitoba, McGill University, etc.

    Just from what I hear, it depends on the person as well, it's not like I get a great sample size but,

    University of Alberta:
    -A lot of work, seemingly unnecessarily too much work.
    -Many foreign professors with strong accents
    -Massive Class sizes
    -Very nice facilities, and for upper division undergraduate courses is a very good school
    -Very clean and appealing lecture halls, new science building just built
    -Many research opportunities and lots of scholarships offered.

    University of Waterloo
    -All around pretty good feedback (I have about 4 friends going here)
    -Professors seem to care about their teaching even in first year classes
    -Since it's "the best for math/physics" in Canada a lot of other students will be just as intelligent as you and it is easy to make friends
    -Classes are very challenging but rewarding, the level of work is seemingly "worth it"
    -Emphasis on conceptual understanding and exams don't necessarily reflect what is the standard examples in the textbook
    -Not very good for scholarships

    University of Manitoba
    -Small class sizes
    -Math training for competitions (putnam, etc.)
    -Professors care about teaching and there would be an easier chance of being noticed as an outstanding student
    -Easier to obtain summer research under a professor
    -Lacking in infrastructure (research facilities for physics)

    University of Toronto:
    -Massive school with massive classes.
    -Work load is incredible, and seemingly no time for a social life if you want all A's.
    -Professors have very high expectations and quick mastery of material
    -Beautiful campus (I've been there myself, it is really nice and old).
    -Competitive for any summer research
    -Lots of funding for research facilities

    Anyways, I don't have time to keep listing things... hopefully that helps? Ever considered western universities like University of British Columbia, or University of Calgary? They are both really good schools.
  10. Oct 23, 2011 #9
    Re: University time!!!! :d?

    How was the trip to Mcgill (If you don't mind sharing)?
    I agree with you that visiting the universities makes a solid difference in your choices, and also that most programs at the undergrad level are basically the same thing through out (curriculum wise) however there is also the teaching/learning/research environment which is a factor to take into serious consideration.

    Hey thanks a lot for taking some time to post some info! It's really helpful. The more perspectives I get the, the clearer the picture.

    About western universities; well I would consider them however I really don't have any solid information on them. I'm sure they're excellent institutions but again all I really know are about are the universities around ontario (mostly around gta) so from my perspective it seems like a bit of a risk.

    But tell me, I'm curious about the university of Calgary how is it there for your program (I'm assuming Hon. Physics c:).
  11. Oct 23, 2011 #10
    Re: University time!!!! :d?

    I'm currently doing a Double Honours degree at the University of Calgary. One in Pure Mathematics, and the other one in Astrophysics. Comparing myself to the other students, it doesn't seem like the majority of the students are really that smart, or they don't try or something for the first year anyway. I found there was 60-70% averages on tests (maybe this is normal?) when I was getting 100% on most of them without putting in a ton of effort. During first year I spent a lot of my time reading textbooks on Real Analysis, Abstract Algebra, and some Astrophysics for fun instead of my courses and spent a lot of time with friend. But, thank god I did read ahead because it really picks up in difficulty in the later years. A lot of the people in physics/math either dropped out, switched majors, or went into something where they wouldn't have to go to grad school and by the time upper-division classes roll around there's like 10-25 students in the classes for something like General Relativity or Honours Abstract Algebra II. The course selection is very good for upper-division Math and Astrophysics courses. There's an observatory about 45 minutes outside of the city where undergraduates and graduate students can do some observational research (mostly on menial stuff), I think it is only a 1.8 meter telescope (which is really big for Canada). If you can go to University of Waterloo, go there IMO. University of Calgary just works good for me because I live here, so I won't have to get a student loan. It's good... not real good, but still good.
  12. Oct 29, 2011 #11
    Re: University time!!!! :d?

    Sorry for late reply, but thanks for the info in your program! :) It helps everyone here looking to go to Canadian universities.

    Anyways why do you say uWaterloo? I'm going to their open house next week.
  13. Oct 29, 2011 #12
    Re: University time!!!! :d?

    Well, you mentioned McMaster has affiliations with the Perimeter Institute? Maybe you are thinking of Waterloo. Perimeter is located in Waterloo and the PSI graduate programs graduate with a a degree from the University of Waterloo.
  14. Oct 29, 2011 #13

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    Re: University time!!!! :d?

    Toronto? Beautiful campus? The Robarts Library ("Fort Book") is regularly listed as one of the ugliest buildings in the world. (And the ROM, just off campus, gives it a real run for its money)

    Maybe compared to Simon Fraser, regularly filmed for science fiction shows as an example of alien architecture.
  15. Oct 29, 2011 #14
  16. Oct 29, 2011 #15
    Re: University time!!!! :d?

    How does one building discredit the rest of the campuses wonderful sites.
    I personally think kings college road/circle is very iconic as well as queens park. Don't forget about the old buildings :)
  17. Oct 30, 2011 #16
    Re: University time!!!! :d?

    I personally think the library building was pretty cool, and why does it have to look beautiful when it's function is to provide space for studying and look up information?

    most of other campus buildings are antique and what I call beautiful

    I went to downtown yesterday to since day were having a fall campus day, and I loved it!
    Specially the physics and math faculty seemed great, and I even talked to some of the engineering profs and they seemed to nice as well. Toronto will be a great choice, it won't hurt you for sure
  18. Oct 31, 2011 #17
    Re: University time!!!! :d?

    Hey i went there too on Saturday but I was upset because I couldn't get to talk to the profs, how were they like?
  19. Oct 31, 2011 #18
    Re: University time!!!! :d?

    For physics, there was a prof and I think a TA at the medical science building
    They had a superconductor simulating a magnet trainish things, which was pretty cool

    anyway, the professor was approachable and helpful. He said not to focus on what you will be doing specifically in the future, cuz I mentioned that I wanted to study cosmology. He told me to take my first year, open up possibilities and go from there to area that interests me most.
    My favourite one was math department, there was this really enthusiastic math phd student convincing me to do double joint specialist on math and physics.

    Which college are you planning to apply to?
  20. Oct 31, 2011 #19
    Re: University time!!!! :d?

    Also I happened to run into some premed students and they said don't come to U of T. They said there marks were fine but it is too vigourous

    More the reason I will be choosing toronto LOLOLOL,
    jk jk jk but I am sure it will prepare me well for grad studies
  21. Oct 31, 2011 #20
    Re: University time!!!! :d?

    um another thing, for the size of class there may be 1000~2000 people taking physics first year (not necessarily one course, there are several profs running for the similar courses) however, the profs told me that only 20 or so will graduate as a physics major
    so imagine the fourth year course class size, it will be very small and nice

    and there are a lot of research going on in toronto, pure science students should definitely study at toronto if they are thinking of going into research or academia
    and if you are thinking of going into industry, waterloo would be better because they can hook you up with a company. But hey, if you are thinking of that route, you should be also applying for engineering dontcha think?
  22. Oct 31, 2011 #21
    Re: University time!!!! :d?

    The math & physics specialist looks awesome but it also looks incredibly difficult!
  23. Nov 1, 2011 #22
    Re: University time!!!! :d?

    U of t - physics (specialist)
    uWaterloo - Physics
    Mcmaster - physics
    uGuelph - physics
    Maybe Yorku, Queensu, uOttawa, Mcgill


    You mentioned some undergrad research? thats good to hear however i dont want to compete with a lot of people for positions.

    Also it would compel me to go there more if they had co-op (money + experience (for resume)) like mcmaster and waterloo has
  24. Nov 1, 2011 #23
    Re: University time!!!! :d?

    Hello there,

    I am actually currently a student at the University of Waterloo enrolled in physics. I am in the co-op program as well so I definitely have some information for you if you are interested. I live in Etobicoke, I am working in Mississauga right now, and I enter the second semester of third year in January.

    If you'd like to ask me some specific questions feel free to do it here, or PM me.
  25. Nov 1, 2011 #24
    Re: University time!!!! :d?

    Wow it would be much appreciated! However I might have a lot of questions to ask, and your time is important ;) so be warned if you still want to answer some questions.

    Answering here will be fine. It might help other people :)
  26. Nov 5, 2011 #25
    Re: University time!!!! :d?

    When Bill Gates came to Canada, he only visited UW. No where else. 'Nuff said.
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