Applying to University: Done Your Homework Yet?

For those applying to university for Fall 2020 admission, there is some homework you should have done, or at least started by now. Arguably, this is probably the most important homework that you have, even if no one has explicitly assigned it or told you to do it. Properly done, this homework will make success in university more likely. So what is this homework?

Continue reading

Why Engineering is Purple

Engsoc-purple

Some purple students at a Waterloo Engineering event (from engsoc.uwaterloo.ca)

Waterloo’s official colours are black, gold and white, but you might have noticed that Engineering’s brochures, websites and other material have a lot of purple.  Sometimes I’ve been asked why that is, or why we are using Wilfrid Laurier or Western University‘s colours.    The main explanation is that sometimes our students are purple, as illustrated in the picture, so why not use that as our theme colour?  But there are purple engineering students at other universities like Queen’s, so there is more too it than just that. There is a bit of a long explanation that can be given in more detail as follows.

Continue reading

U Waterloo #13 Worldwide!

The latest university ranking scheme is one from Times Higher Education (THE) and their University Impact Rankings for 2019.  This new ranking is based on the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals and how well each university contributes towards meeting those goals. According to a news summary, Waterloo does particularly well on 4 of the goals, namely Partnership for the Goals, Sustainable Cities and Communities, Climate Action, and Reduced Inequalities.

Listing of the 17 Sustainable Development GoalsOverall, Canadian universities score well in these sustainability rankings, with McMaster #2, UBC tied for #3, University of Montreal tied for #7, York #26, and Toronto #31.  McGill comes in somewhere in the 101-200 range.  I haven’t spent any time looking at the details yet, so I’m not sure what contributes to some of these rankings.

A lot of the “top” US universities didn’t participate in these rankings, so it’s hard to make many comparisons.  The top 3 ranked US colleges in these rankings were U of North Carolina at Chapel Hill at #24, Arizona State at #35, and U Maryland Baltimore County at #62.  I’m aware of these places because they have strong STEM programs and research activities, but most Canadians probably aren’t aware of them.  Perhaps next year more US colleges will participate.

In general, sustainable development is an important goal and increasingly a part of engineering education and practice.  Engineers Canada, the body responsible for accreditation of engineering education in Canada (among other things), has a national guideline on sustainable development for professional engineers published in 2016.  Various bits and pieces of this are already built into our curriculum for chemical engineers (and I assume in other disciplines), but there are further improvements we continue to work towards.

 

For further news details:  https://uwaterloo.ca/news/news/university-waterloo-among-top-schools-world-social-and

Formula For Writing An Attention-Grabbing Cover Letter

HR managers say that many job hunters are not writing cover letters anymore. Learn how you can standout if you use these proven cover letter writing formula.

Source: Formula For Writing An Attention-Grabbing Cover Letter

—————————————–

Comment:  This is a pet peeve of mine, after having served on multiple hiring committees for faculty (and some staff) positions.  I’m surprised at how many applicants don’t provide a cover letter to start off their extensive faculty C.V. and other documents.  My practice is to generally ignore applications without a cover letter.  Why?  There are several reasons:

  1. I suspect that the lack of a cover letter implies that the applicant is not that serious about the position, or
  2. the applicant doesn’t actually meet the requested qualifications and doesn’t want to highlight that fact,
  3. If there is no cover letter, the applicant essentially expects me to sort through 20+ pages of C.V. and other stuff, and try to figure out how they fit into our advertised requirements for teaching and research experience.  There are sometimes 100+ applicants and my time is quite valuable.  Why not provide a cover letter where you can highlight your key features and experience and tell me how it may meet our needs?  Then I can spend my time looking into the details and considering whether I agree.  Job seekers should not expect hiring committees to do their work for them.

So if you’re truly interested in a job (especially a professional or higher level position), spend some time researching and analyzing the position and do a brief cover letter that highlights things of interest to the employer.  It might not get you the job, but at least it’s more likely to pass the first stage of screening.

The Burden of the Iron Ring

A typical Iron Ring.

As some people know, Canadian engineers usually choose to wear an Iron Ring, as illustrated in the picture, on the small finger of their “working” hand.  Actually, it’s now usually stainless steel, and so about 72% iron, 18% chromium, 8% nickel and some other elements.  It is originally a Canadian invention, so engineers in the U.S. and elsewhere are often unaware of it.  What is its significance?  Let’s start with what it is Not supposed to be about:

  • It is not a reward from the university for finishing an engineering program.
  • It is not a status symbol.
  • It is not a sign of belonging to some prestigious or secret society.
  • It is not an indicator of any competence or qualification.

So what is it all about?  First, consider its history… Continue reading

Applying to University Should be Like Applying for Jobs

As high school students return to class, here is some key advice for those planning to apply to university or college.  I strongly suggest that when applying to a post-secondary program, it should be treated like applying for a job or career.  There should be some significant self-reflection and “selling yourself” to the university.  The self-reflection part is derived from Prof. Larry Smith’s book, which I have briefly reviewed before.  It’s very important to know why you’re doing something before doing it.  The “selling yourself” part builds on this, and can be illustrated with an example that is a composite of stuff we see for Engineering applications.  For this example, let’s consider two hypothetical applicants to Mechanical Engineering, both with similar grades (say low 90’s) and similar other activities.  Each applicant writes something in their Admission Information Form, along the lines of the following… Continue reading