Campus Visits

It’s the season for campus visits and open houses, including our own on November 7 2015.  (See here for arranging visits to Waterloo.)  Here are a few thoughts on how to maximize the benefit of a campus visit, here or anywhere else.

  1. Prepare ahead of time.  Don’t just show up and expect to be entertained and filled with relevant knowledge.  Think about the things that are most important to you, and make a list of questions or issues to explore.  Most visitors will have similar needs, but a lot have their own individual concerns that we might not address unless asked specifically.
  2. For Waterloo Engineering, try to narrow down your interests to 3 or 4 programs at most.  It won’t be practical to try to explore all 14 programs in one day, plus programs in Science and/or Mathematics too.
  3. Talk to current students.  For Waterloo, they are absolutely the best examples of how co-op works, what it’s like to be in university, athletics and other extracurriculars, residence life, etc.  Our students have volunteered to give up a Saturday to meet with visitors and give tours, so make good use of them.  (I should note that our faculty and staff have voluntarily given up their Saturday too.)
  4. Take a tour, look around, develop some general impressions.  However, there are a few things to keep in mind when you tour universities (anywhere).
    1. If they show you a bunch of fancy research labs, don’t be too swayed by it.  As an undergraduate student you will probably not be using them (a few might, but not the majority) .
    2. Don’t bother trying to make detailed comparisons of facilities among universities.  You’re only going to see a minuscule sample, otherwise you’d be there for several days.
    3. I have toured many universities across North America.  The classrooms and teaching labs all basically look the same.  Maybe not architecturally, but functionally.
  5. If your tour guide is not very impressive, don’t judge the whole university by that experience.  It’s one person out of thousands.
  6. If your tour guide is really impressive, don’t judge the whole university by that experience either.  Wherever you eventually end up, there is going to be a wide diversity of people.
  7. For high school students…don’t be embarrassed if your parents want to ask a lot of questions.  We don’t mind, we’re used to it, and we like talking to them too.
  8. If you’re visiting on a weekend, the campus is not going to look the way it normally does when you’re taking classes.  It might be worthwhile to come back for another visit during a regular week day when it will be much more busy and dynamic, just to see what the atmosphere is like.
  9. For Waterloo Engineering, make sure you don’t leave without a good understanding of what co-op education is and how it works.

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