Recent US College Fair and Outreach Activities

For 11 days in October we traveled across the U.S. to attend the NACAC College STEM Fairs in Santa Clara CA and New York city.   These were very good events, and we had the opportunity to meet a lot of high school students and families.  Some had heard of Waterloo, but many others had never considered the idea and potential benefits of studying in Canada.  So we had some good conversations, especially around the concept of Waterloo engineering’s co-operative education system, alternating study with up to 6 paid work opportunities.   It looked like very few (if any) schools sent faculty to these fairs, but I thought it was worthwhile for me to be there because I could discuss the program content in depth, as well as more general thoughts on engineering education and career paths.

In addition to attending the college fairs, we also did some outreach workshop activities.  Waterloo has a long history of outreach educational activities, especially through our Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing  (CEMC) who do mathematics classes and workshops in a wide variety of schools and locations.    Borrowing from their ideas, I created several engineering design workshops based on case studies from our Waterloo Cases in Design Engineering group, headed by Prof. Lambert.  With some adaptation for high school level and time limitations, we cover some math, physics and/or chemistry, and spend some time having the students come up with preliminary design ideas for a rocket, or rainwater harvester system, or some industrial equipment.  These are all based on things our own students have done during workterm employment, and it is meant to be an introduction to engineering design concepts and different approaches to problem-solving.

During our trip we engaged with about 7 classes in several schools, including Design Tech High School in San Mateo, Harker School in San Jose, Léman Manhattan Preparatory School in New York, and the United Nations International School in New York.  Although there was interest from other schools, we couldn’t squeeze in any other schools in our limited timelines this year.

We also had a very nice evening event held at Bellarmine College Preparatory school in San Jose.  A number of prospective students and families were able to meet some of our engineering and mathematics alumni and a few of the hundreds of co-op students currently working in the Silicon Valley area.  (Many thanks to our alumni and students for volunteering their time to attend!)

Finally, we had a couple of good meetings with quite a few independent college counselors to explain about Waterloo and co-operative education.  In Canada, such people are rare but in the U.S. they are more commonly employed by families to help them sort through the myriad of possible options for college.  It was an opportunity for us to explain what type of student and background might be the best fit, and to explain more about the Canadian admissions process and timelines.  For example, in the U.S. the application deadline is often November 1, but our engineering applications are open until February 1, so there is still lots of time for applicants in the U.S. to look into Waterloo or other Canadian schools.

We will be returning to the Houston area in early November for the last NACAC Stem Fair, after which we’ll return to Waterloo to start ramping up the admissions process for 2018.

 

New York STEM College Fair

On Sunday October 15 2017 we will be attending a STEM College Fair in New York City.  We are looking forward to the chance to meet some high school students and their parents, and to talk about Waterloo Engineering, co-op education, and studying in Canada.

At the same event last year, held on the campus of Columbia University, we were pleased to meet a number of parents that mentioned that they already knew something about Waterloo because their co-workers were alumni, or their company  hired our co-op students.  We had some interesting conversations with many others who didn’t know about Waterloo or had questions about studying in Canada.

If there are any blog readers from the New York area, Karyn  and I would be happy to meet you at the STEM College Fair.  We will also be around for a couple of days doing some engineering workshops at local high schools and meeting independent guidance counsellors, so anyone who wants to meet us but can’t attend the College Fair can always send us an email (assoc.dir.admissions.eng@uwaterloo.ca) and we’ll see if we can arrange something.

Ontario Universities Fair 2017

A crowd around the Engineering area of Waterloo’s booth.

As usual, the Ontario Universities Fair was a busy place last weekend as high school students and families talked to people from all the universities in Ontario gathered in the Toronto Convention Centre.  Here is a photo I snapped while taking a quick break from the crowd.  We had dozens of faculty, staff and current students there to answer questions about our programs.  There are always some common questions, so here are some of them with a quick answer. Continue reading

Silicon Valley STEM College Fair

On Sunday October 8 2017 we will be attending a STEM College Fair in Santa Clara, California.  It’s a great opportunity for us to meet some high school students and their parents, and to talk about Waterloo Engineering, co-op education, and studying in Canada.

This will be the second year for this event, which was held in South San Francisco last year.  Mirjana and I were somewhat overwhelmed with interested people last year and we were talking non-stop for the full three hours.  I was impressed by the number of parents that approached us and mentioned that they already knew something about Waterloo because their co-workers were alumni, or their company regularly hired our co-op students.  Of course there were many others who didn’t know about Waterloo or had never thought about studying in Canada, so we had some good discussions with them too.

If there are any readers from that area, Karyn (our current Associate Director of Admissions) and I would be happy to meet you at the STEM College Fair.  For any readers that can’t make it to that, we will be hosting an evening event on Tuesday October 10th at Bellarmine College Preparatory from 7-9 pm.  Please feel free to come out along with your families to learn more about what Canada’s most innovative university has to offer. You will also have a chance to meet our local alumni and a few of the hundreds of current Waterloo students that are on their work term (internships) at various companies in the Silicon Valley area. Please register Here  so we know how many to expect.  Registration closes on Thursday, October 5th.

We will also be around for a couple of days doing some engineering workshops at local high schools, so anyone who wants to meet but can’t attend those either of those two events can always contact us by email (assoc.dir.admissions.eng@uwaterloo.ca) and we’ll see if we can arrange something.

Buyer Beware

One of the best features of Waterloo Engineering is that it is direct-entry.  Right from the first day you are in your chosen discipline, all the courses can be tailored to your interests, and all your classmates will be with you in the same classes for the next few years.  All of this makes for a nice social and educational environment.

One of the worst features of Waterloo Engineering is that it is direct-entry.  If you selected a program which doesn’t really match your interests or aptitude, you are somewhat stuck.  In theory you can switch to another engineering program, but in practice this is complicated and may require the loss of one year to re-start and catch up on certain key courses.  If the program you want is over-subscribed and highly competitive, transfers into it may never happen (which is often the case for Software Engineering lately).  Students in this situation will likely suffer a form of “buyer’s remorse”, that feeling of regret when you buy something expensive without really deeply considering all the aspects.

That’s why this time of the admission cycle is quite critical for prospective applicants, and they should be doing lots of investigation to inform themselves about different choices and options.  From our side, we know that applicants are in potential trouble if we get one of the following types of responses  when we ask them why they are interested in a certain engineering program:

  • it’s the most competitive one to get into
  • it just sounds cool
  • my father/mother/cousin/aunt/etc  said it would be good one for me
  • I heard that it’s the best one for getting a job
  • I like math and physics
  • I heard that it’s the highest paying field

None of those answers are “bad”, but if that’s the total extent of the reasons then there is an obvious lack of insight into the program, career opportunities, typical jobs and what they involve.  The only way to get those insights is to spend a few hours to do some research and look at some websites and videos.  Type something like “what do chemical engineers do” into Google and you’ll get loads of information to look at.

Meeting faculty & engineering students at events is another good opportunity to find out more, but you should do some research in advance so you can ask good questions and get better answers.  The Ontario Universities Fair is runs from  September 22-24 2017 and is one good opportunity, for those within travelling distance to Toronto.  Waterloo has their Fall open house on November 4 2017.  If you live far away from Waterloo, look for similar events at your local university or college.  Engineering programs have a lot of similar features across North America or even around the world, so visiting any of them is a good starting point in exploring down your choices.

Some of our most impressive applicants are the ones who clearly know what the program is about, and have some initial ideas about careers and things they would like to try in co-op employment.  Occasionally they have even looked at the upper year courses in the program and are looking forward to taking certain ones.  That requires some effort and thought, but in the end they are much more likely to excel than someone who doesn’t put much thought into picking a program.

Admissions 2018: How it’s going to work

An updated version of this popular post, with some revisions  for the upcoming September 2018 admissions cycle. 

Here is an overview on how the process works and the approximate timelines.  As usual, this is specific to Waterloo Engineering admissions; other programs and universities will have their own unique variations.  Also, make sure you look through our admissions webpages for exact deadlines and official requirements since this is just an unofficial, quick overview and I can’t cover every detail for every variety of applicant and situation. Continue reading

Waterloo does well in PitchBook entrepreneurial rankings

The following is re-posted from Waterloo’s Daily Bulletin website.  Interesting statistics for those who are interested in entrepreneurship.

Ranking season is upon us as organizations have begun publishing their annual listing of international universities.

The PitchBook 2017/2018 Universities Report is the latest to be released. PitchBook compiles a ranking of the world’s top 50 universities that produce venture capitalist-backed entrepreneurs.

This year, the University of Waterloo is ranked #20 in the world for the number of VC-banked entrepreneurs, and is the highest-ranked Canadian university, with the University of Toronto coming in at #31, McGill University at #32, the University of British Columbia at #49 and Queen’s University at #50. This measure ranks universities by most prolific producers of entrepreneurs with venture capital banking and includes companies that received a first round of venture funding between January 1, 2006 and August 18, 2017. Waterloo counted 390 entrepreneurs and 299 companies raising $7.06B. Waterloo’s rank remains unchanged from last year.

In the category of top universities for “unicorns,” or the number of entrepreneurs founding companies that are valued privately at $1B or more, Waterloo is tied for fourth place (and again, #1 in Canada), with only Stanford, Harvard, and Cornell ahead of us. Waterloo is tied with the University of California at Berkeley. Waterloo’s top unicorns included Wish, Pivotal Software, Kuadi Dache, Instacart, and Storm8. Waterloo moved to fourth place from sixth place last year.

In the category of top companies by capital raised, Waterloo is ranked #20 (1st in Canada), the same rank it achieved last year. Waterloo-connected companies listed in the ranking included Wish; Pivotal Software; Kuaidi Dache; Instacart; and Storm8.

Source: Tuesday, September 12, 2017 | Daily Bulletin | University of Waterloo

Chances for 2018

To start the new academic year and next admission cycle, the 2018 Admissions brochures for Engineering and other programs have recently been uploaded on the Waterloo website.  We continue to include a table showing admission probabilities (“chances”) for different programs and grade ranges (at the end of the brochure, and another online version is available here).  Many people find it useful for assessing  their chances at admission, and  then they can plan accordingly and have realistic expectations.   This is based on the 2017 results and as usual we caution that 2018 may be different, since it all depends on the number of applicants (which is unknown in advance and can fluctuate).

For convenience and readability in a table, we lump the grades into ranges.  Some people find the big jumps in probability between the different grade ranges to be difficult to understand or interpret, so I have been generating graphs that provide interpolations between the various grades in finer detail (see the end of the post for methodology, if interested).  As usual, the grades shown below are the raw, unadjusted averages of the Grade 12 required courses (or equivalents), not including any other factors such as scores for extracurriculars, work experience, or awards. Continue reading

So, about this Googler’s manifesto. – Yonatan Zunger – Medium

Anderson:  Ignoring the underlying controversy for the moment, I found these excellent two quotes about the nature of engineering work.  I would say it’s applicable to every engineering discipline, beyond just software.  Very useful concepts for high school students to understand if they are thinking about an engineering career.

Engineering is not the art of building devices; it’s the art of fixing problems. Devices are a means, not an end. Fixing problems means first of all understanding them — and since the whole purpose of the things we do is to fix problems in the outside world, problems involving people, that means that understanding people, and the ways in which they will interact with your system, is fundamental to every step of building a system.

—————

Essentially, engineering is all about cooperation, collaboration, and empathy for both your colleagues and your customers. If someone told you that engineering was a field where you could get away with not dealing with people or feelings, then I’m very sorry to tell you that you have been lied to. Solitary work is something that only happens at the most junior levels, and even then it’s only possible because someone senior to you — most likely your manager — has been putting in long hours to build up the social structures in your group that let you focus on code.

Source: So, about this Googler’s manifesto. – Yonatan Zunger – Medium

What U.S. Campus is Most Like Waterloo?

In a recent post about rankings, I showed that Waterloo often appears in the rankings alongside colleges like Penn State, Texas A&M, Purdue, UCLA, Michigan, etc.  So perhaps the next question is, “how does Waterloo look and feel compared to these or other colleges?”.  Rankings are one thing, but if you don’t like the environment then the ranking probably doesn’t matter.  By “look and feel”, I mean the general campus environment (architecture, space, etc.) and situation (urban, suburban, rural, etc.).  Waterloo is a fairly young university (just 60 years old this year), located within a medium sized city (population about 380,000 if you combine the twin cities of Waterloo and Kitchener), so how does that compare with those places? Continue reading