Waterloo Engineering Advice

I’m a graduate of Electrical Engineering at the University of Waterloo. Naturally, I’m arrogant enough to think this puts me in a position to advise those younger than me. More rationally, I’d like to highlight the range of different experiences that happened to my friends and I. Consequently, I’ve listed below a bunch of things I’ve learned over the course of my degree.

1. Go on Exchange

You should do two terms if possible, for a whole range of reasons that have been written about better elsewhere. The paperwork looks intimidating and the probability of getting all your credits transferred seems minuscule, but anecdotally I’ve never seen anyone caught in an academic pickle because of exchange. Also, based off the fact that both my lab-mate and I got into a master’s degree despite going on exchange, exchange will have a limited effect on the long-term outcome of your academic career.

2. Apply to Jobs You Aren’t Qualified For

Surprising no one, you can often be your own worst enemy when applying to jobs. However, I urge you to apply to any job that you think is interesting, even if the you don’t even reach the requirements. You’d be surprised by how many employers are actually fine with training you on the job and use the requirements section as more of a wish list.

3. Don’t be Afraid to Switch Programs

Most programs spend their time prepping you to take the specialised third and fourth year courses. If at any point in your academic career, you look at those courses and find them unbearable, you should consider switching programs. Alternatively, going on exchange has the added bonus of letting you knock off a few fourth year courses with minimal effort.

4. Engineering Isn’t Designed for You to Auto-Fail

When I was looking for a university back when I was graduating high school, I would talk to a bunch of university marketers. I was most interested in Waterloo, because I figured it would allow me to quickly decide if engineering wasn’t for me via co-op. However, I was quite concerned I would fail, like a lot of the people from my home-town seemed to be doing. I mentioned this to a marketer, citing some statistic that I made up and he shrugged. Seriously.

I then spent the entirety of my first semester convinced I was going to fail. People do fail out of Waterloo, but the unifying attribute of the people that I’ve seen fail is apathy. They didn’t want to be in engineering in the first place. If you like engineering, listen in class, do your assignments, go see teaching assistants when you’re confused (THERE ARE TONS OF TEACHING ASSISTANTS IN FIRST YEAR) and review past exams, you’ll be fine. Even if you don’t have any friends (like I didn’t in first year, until I joined EngPlay) you’ll be fine. This may surprise you, but Waterloo isn’t made up of magical engineers better at you than everything. Okay, some of them are magical, but they’re cool people when you talk to them and it’s not like their success undermines your own.

5. Online Courses are Harder

This seems to be the one thing that UWFlow doesn’t inform you about course-wise. Sometimes this is okay, if you just want to not have to attend class.

6. Most of the Cool Courses are in Winter

I think this is because the fall semester is used for building up requirements to take the winter courses.

7. Learn to Meditate

This last bit is more personal than the others. A lot of the stuff that will get you through engineering is understanding your emotions and being able to think rationally about them. For example, noticing when you’re stuck and need help, ignoring time-wasting impulses so you can actually get away from your computer and managing panic when you’ve made a terrible decision. Mindfulness meditation really helped me in this respect.

That’s it. That’s literally all of the non-cliched advice I have in regards to my program. Comment if you think there’s something important I’ve left out.


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