Selecting Your Offer

Offers to Ontario engineering programs will probably be wrapping up over the next two to three weeks (mid-May?).  Then people have until some date in early June to pick the one they want (see your offer or  OUAC for specific deadlines) and put down some sort of deposit.  It seems like most people apply to multiple universities and programs these days.  In the “old days” you could only apply to 3 in total, but I think the average now is around 5 or 6.  I’ve seen some applications in the high 20’s!

So assuming you have 2 or more offers to choose from, how do you decide?  Ultimately it’s going to be a very personal decision, but here are a few common factors to consider:

  1. Program:  do you really know what it’s about, and how well it fits your interests, skills and temperament?  Ignore your family and friends ideas about the “best” program for the future and jobs.  It’s your future.
  2. Location:  is quick and easy travel back home on weekends important to you or necessary for some reasons?  Or, are you fine with staying away for weeks and months and connecting by Skype or whatever?
  3. Costs:  some programs are expensive.  Some cities are expensive to live in.  How do the total costs add up for your budget?  Is there an internship or co-op program to help with the costs, and how much does it help?
  4. Facilities and Extracurriculars:  is there something that you really want or need to do, apart from the academic program?  Does the university have that opportunity available?  Are there clubs or sports opportunities that you are particularly interested in?
  5. Scholarships:  are these important for your budget and affordability?  Did you get a really big scholarship spread over 4 years?  If so, are there performance conditions, such as maintaining an 80% average?  Note that many students have difficulties maintaining these averages, so the scholarship may not  really be that reliable for future budgeting purposes.
  6. Prestige:  studies from the US generally show that going to a “prestigious” school has no particular influence on career (with the possible exception of politics).  Ignore “prestige” or rankings and go for the place and program that is the best fit for you and your interests.  An engaged and interested student will always do well wherever they are, versus a miserable student at a “prestigious” university or program.
  7. Other? Possibly there are some other factors that are more individual?  I can’t think of any more general ones at the moment, but suggestions in the comments are welcomed.

8 thoughts on “Selecting Your Offer

  1. Hi
    Do you think student academic support in the first/second year is comparable in top applied science universities like U of T, Waterloo, UBC. Shouldn’t that also be a factor while deciding on the offer?

    • That could be a good factor to consider. I think that Waterloo engineering has a lot of opportunities available for academic support. I don’t personally know about other places though. I think it could be quite hard for an applicant to rationally compare this factor between places, since I’m not sure what data you could use for the comparison. There are probably anecdotal comments on message forums, but unless the person has attended several universities and used their services it’s not very reliable information.

  2. Hey,
    If I take English in summer school but take coop in grade 12, would my admission chances be affected by this? Also, would the coop I take in grade 12 be sufficient for work experience, or would I need to volunteer/get a job, as well? Thank you!

    • Co-op is always good for some experience. Having a summer or part-time job is good too. There is no specific thing you should do to guarantee success, it depends on all of your circumstances; so you should do whatever seems right for you. Summer school is not usually an issue if done for reasons that you can explain on your application.

  3. Dear Professor Anderson,

    I’m interested in what you think about something I’ve noticed at Waterloo Engineering: the steadily increasing reliance on (non-tenure-track?) lecturers in teaching undergraduate engineering at Waterloo.

    Is this temporary? Sustainable? In line with other schools? A sign of trouble in the traditional academic system? Less or more of an issue in particular Waterloo Engineering departments?

    I wouldn’t presume the teaching quality to have fallen (dedicated teachers could be even better for the undergraduate student experience), but what does this say about the academic system? Are professors being allowed to spend more time on research and grad students? Is this a strategic move by the university? Are there valid concerns or is it more of a perception issue?

    I would be interested in multiple perspectives: professor/tenure-track faculty, undergraduate student, graduate student, and lecturer (non-tenure-track).

    George

    • Thanks, interesting question and a topic I should write about some day. Over the past decade there has been increased hiring of lecturers (i.e. faculty who focus on teaching without the requirement to obtain outside funding and operate research programs). I don’t think Waterloo is any different than any other North American university in this regard. There are two broad drivers, in my experience: 1) the ability to hire/develop teaching specialists who have more time to do course improvements and implement best practices in support of students and learning outcomes; and 2) the continuing financial squeeze on universities makes it difficult to operate or expand existing programs or launch new ones using additional “traditional” research faculty (who each teach fewer courses and need floor space and resources for research facilities). In general, I think that the right mix of lecturers and research faculty can be very good for a program’s quality. I wouldn’t say that research faculty are getting more time for research and grad students because of lecturers. The teaching load expectations for research faculty at Waterloo have been pretty constant over the past two decades and are not decreasing.

    • In my experience, we never use PhD students for course teaching unless we absolutely have to (i.e. the alternative is to cancel the course, which is problematic for a required course). This generally happens when we’re short-staffed due to leave (medical, maternity/paternity, sabbatical), sudden departures, or unfilled positions. Sometimes faculty will take on extra load to cover the shortfall but this can eventually lead to burnout too. So when necessary we’ll try to find a PhD student or other person to fill in. We try to find the best candidate we can, but as with any “novice” the results can be variable until they get more experience.

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