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.