After attending some U.S. STEM college fairs and talking to lots of students and families, I’ve noticed that there are some common themes and questions that come up. For all those who we weren’t able to meet, maybe it’s worthwhile summarising them here with our responses (as usual, these are specific to engineering, and it’s not just Americans that ask these questions). Continue reading
We will be in Houston, Texas for the NACAC STEM Fair on Sunday November 5 2017. This is the last of this year’s College STEM fair schedule in the U.S., and we’re looking forward to meeting lots more high school students and families. In past fairs I’ve met with a lot of sophomore and junior students who were checking out their options in various fields, and that’s very commendable.
We will probably be doing some more school outreach classes on engineering design, as I described in a previous post. As always, if there are any students/families, or guidance counselors who want to meet us but can’t attend the fair event, we can schedule something else if you contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Waterloo’s Fall Open House is coming up soon, on Saturday November 4. Registration and other information is available online.
These open houses are a very important opportunity to find out more about different programs, curricula, co-op, career paths and various other aspects. As I’ve noted before, you want to go into a program for all the right reasons and this is a chance to gather information and formulate those reasons.
It doesn’t even have to be Waterloo’s open house! If you want to find out more about mechanical engineering (for example), your local university probably does something similar if Waterloo is too far away. Educationally, most accredited engineering programs across North America have similar course content within the same discipline, so what you find out about Chemical Engineering education and careers at Ryerson University will be more or less similar for the universities of Waterloo, Toronto, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, British Columbia, etc.
At Waterloo (or anywhere else), some of the best people to talk to are the students. They will give you their impressions about the program, examples of what they are doing or have done on co-op or internships, and information about student life. Talk to more than one student however, since everyone has a different experience, background, and perspective. Staff and faculty are good to talk to also, of course, since they can give a broader overview of things and have a longer-term connection with the program and its evolution.
There is a perception out there that Waterloo Engineering is a great place for a practical undergraduate education (I won’t argue with that), but when it comes to more theoretical graduate studies and research in Canada you should look to one of the other big names. I will argue with that, and of course present some data for analysis. Continue reading
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.
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 (email@example.com) and we’ll see if we can arrange something.
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
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we’ll see if we can arrange something.
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.
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