An Engineer’s Life (with 4 months experience)!!

Hello everyone,

Jawad here! I just started my second term at the University of Waterloo for Electrical Engineering. If you have been following my blog, thanks a lot; and if you haven’t, welcome to Jawad’s version of Waterloo Engineering.

Right off the bat, 1B is WAYYYY COOLER than 1A!! So if you get into Waterloo Engineering, study hard in 1A because 1B will blow your mind! The courses are much more technical and hands-on. For example, we are working with Android phones using Java this semester. My labs involve reading sensors from phones, and you even design GPS, pedometer etc. for your own personal phone! How cool is that?

We are also working with Altera FPGAs (Field Programmable Gate Arrays) in our digital circuits course. To summarize that course, we learn awesome Boolean Algebra and binary math in lectures, and then code that into circuit boards during labs. The lectures and the labs are very relevant and it makes the course that much more interesting.

Another huge difference between this term and last is obviously co-op and JobMine. I am applying for jobs this term since my co-op term starts in May 2014. How JobMine usually works is that employers put up jobs in three rounds. The first and the second round happen back to back for one weekend each and each student gets 50 applications to use. After that, the continuous round starts which goes on till the end of term. Employers post jobs daily and there is no quota on how many jobs you can apply to. Our first round is already over and today is the second day of second round. Don’t have any interviews yet but fingers crossed for a few very soon! JobMine definitely adds on to your workload but it is worth the effort as the jobs are usually very interesting (not to mention jobs from Google, Facebook, IBM, Blackberry and so on). I would strongly recommend working on several versions of your resume during the break between 1A and 1B terms so that your resumes are up-to-date. As for cover letters, a generic cover letter is strongly discouraged. Cover letters only add to your package if you are really passionate about the job and can channel your passion into the letter you are writing to the employer.

Other than JobMine, cool courses and university stress, I am also looking for a place for next fall. All four of us roommates have decided to live together next year as well (Roommates aren’t that bad, see?) and we have another friend of ours joining us. Looking for a five bedroom place is a little tough for a low price as most sublets don’t offer places for 5 people at once. We are also preferring something really close to the campus which will cost us more as housing prices go up depending on how close you are to the university. Going out today to look for a condo (5 bedrooms, 2 washrooms) as a matter of fact; hope it works out.

That is how my life has been for the last few days! Email me or comment on the post if you have any inquiries. Good luck picking universities! Peace 🙂

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Miscellaneous topics (and my Christmas break!)

Hey everyone! Jawad here! Hope you all had an amazing Christmas and break. I am officially done my 1A term of Electrical Engineering at Waterloo. Finals are done, marks are out and I have had enough sleep to start off a new term with a fresh look!

I usually talk about all the different academic aspects of my university experience, and I thought this time of the year would be appropriate for me to talk about some of the things I do outside school that I enjoy.

Well, firstly and obviously, I like to write and hence I blog for the university and share my experience. If I were to suggest a hobby, I would definitely say blogging since it develops your communication skills while giving you an opportunity to share your day-to-day experiences. I also played soccer for my first term in Waterloo. Now, let’s be clear, I am nowhere close to a professional and I ended up playing in an intramural soccer team made up of engineers. It was a lot of fun for Saturday evenings and was something to look forward to. I also would go out with friends for dinner on Friday nights, play pool or ping pong in the dorm and so on. The whole point of me bringing this up is that even though you are in Engineering, it does not mean you will be locked up in your room, studying day and night. You can still do the things you like and pull off a decent mark at the end of the term. It all depends on time management and being conscious of your progress. Make a lot of schedules, plan ahead and it should work out at the end.

As for how my finals went and how my marks were, they were quite decent to be honest. I freaked out way more than necessary towards the beginning of the semester. Sometimes, you will think that your marks aren’t where they need to be and get depressed; but at the end of the day, the professors know what they are doing and as long as you study hard, you will pull through.

If you are curious how I am spending my break, I am catching up on sleep and TV shows and movies. I also bought a book on HTML and CSS just to read over the basics to have a grasp of how web design works. I am also working on my resume to prepare it for my upcoming term since I have to apply for co-op jobs.

Feel free to email me or leave a comment regarding any inquiries you might have or if you want me to share my experience regarding a specific topic of interest. Peace!

Courses I Take… or I will!

Hellloooo people, long time since I have talked to everyone who follow my blog. Sorry for the late post, university was dominating my life (still is as a matter of fact!).

So, I was thinking about what everyone might want to know about this week and I think my courses are a good point for me to discuss. SO what courses did I take first semester as an electrical engineer? What I am I taking in 1B? Curious? Here you go…

FIRST TERM (1A)

1. ECE 100A: Pretty much an engineering ethics course. Talks about the basics of being an engineer, how to get licence, the morals an engineer should uphold and so on.

2. ECE 150: Intro. to programming essentially. Teaches C#, starts from variable declaration, covering arrays, sorting and upto linked lists.

3. ECE 105: PHYSICSSSSSS (more like … MECHANICSSSS). Started with kinematics, then forces and torque all the way upto waves and simple harmonic motion.

4. ChE 102: This is a general chemistry course most engineering programs take. Covers essentially the concepts done in grade 12 like equilibrium, kinetics, gases and stoichiometry.

5. ECE 140: This is an analog circuits course for electrical and computer engineers. Mostly involves solving circuits with resistors, capacitors etc. using different techniques. Includes 5 labs, also involving the techniques used to solve circuits by hand.

6. MATH 117: Math course covering differentiation, integration as well as a little bit of optimization and functions.

That’s all my courses I took this semester. As for my next semester courses, I know what the courses will be about, so here we go:

SECOND TERM (1B)

1. ECE 100B: This course is of the same structure as ECE 100A. This goes slightly more in-depth into other engineering disciplines as well as about co-op.

2. ECE 103: This is a discrete math course. It is supposed to go over set theory and logic and so on, but I haven’t done any of that before, so we will wait and see.

3.  ECE 106: This is an extension of the first semester physics. However, this has a lab component to it. The course talks about electrostatics, electromagnetism and so on. To give you a perspective, this will be the theory behind the circuits course I took first semester.

4. ECE 124: This is essentially the digital couterpart of the analog circuits course ECE 140 I took first semester. It starts off with boolean arithmetic all the way to digital logic using VHDL.

5. ECE 155: I am so excited for this course specially!! Apparently, we are using Java to design apps for android devices. Can’t wait!!

6. MATH 119: This is an extension of the MATH 117 course. It goes over stuff like Taylor series, vectors and so on.

Those are the course every ECE student has to take first year. If you want more information on the courses, here you go:

http://www.ucalendar.uwaterloo.ca/1314/COURSE/course-ECE.html#ECE100B

That is all for today. Hope you guys are excited to come to university!

Have fun! Bye for now 🙂

MIDTERMS ARE OVER!!!

Hello everyone! Jawad here with a fresh pile of news to share about how my life is going at the moment!

Highlight of the last few weeks: MIDTERMS! MIDTERMS! MIDTERMS! MIDTERMS! and more MIDTERMS!!!!!

How was my midterm experience, you ask? It was okay to be honest. I started studying one week before midterms started. I made myself a schedule and more or less tried to follow it roughly. If you come to Waterloo Engineering, you will notice that all the engineering midterms are done in one week, back-to-back; whereas other faculties will have theirs spread out throughout the semester. Having all your midterms in one week is good and bad in different ways. It’s good since you don’t have to worry about midterms all through the semester and you are done with all of them at the same time. The bad thing is that having all your midterms in one week is quite stressful at times and you have to learn to move on in case any of them weren’t as amazing as you expected them to be. I honestly would recommend starting to study a few days before exam and go through them methodically (guess who learned their lesson?).

So, I thought that i should give everyone some tips on how to write the first ever midterms in their university career:

1. Make a schedule. You will not regret it. You don’t need to stress out later if you plan out ahead.

2. Once midterm week is officially here, calm down and sleep properly (I mean 12 am-8 am everyday!).

3. Study for every course methodically (Go through textbook readings, then lecture notes, then previous midterms and tutorial questions).

4. Check you room assignments for each midterm and put them in your schedule so that you don’t have to stress about it. If you don’t know all the locations for your midterms, make sure you look over a map of the campus.

5. If your midterms go well, good for you! If they don’t, come home and take a shower. Eat. Forget about the last midterm and focus on the next one. You can always boost your mark by acing THIS midterm since you cannot do anything about the LAST ONE!

6. Do not try and cram! This is not high school and it is not only about understanding concepts. The more problems your practise, the better prepared you will be in handling whatever the midterms throw at you.

7. TAKE IT AS A WAR! ENGINEERS CALL IT THE ‘HELL WEEK’. HOW MANY PEOPLE GET AN OPPORTUNITY TO WALK OUT ALIVE FROM HELL WEEK? YOU DO. FIGHT IT HARD AND YOU WILL WIN THIS!

Good luck with your studies! May the demon of procrastination shrink away from you and may the angel of time management guide you! Peace.

 

P.S: FALL OPEN HOUSE IS THIS NOVEMBER 2ND!! COME DOWN AND EXPERIENCE THE WATERLOO LIFE. IT MIGHT HELP YOU MAKE THAT DECISION WHICH CHANGES YOUR LIFE (no pressure!) 😀

HERE’S MORE INFORMATION: https://uwaterloo.ca/find-out-more/visit-waterloo/foh2013

An Engineer’s Life (with 2 weeks experience!)

Hello people! How y’all doing?

First of all, I got a new computer for school (Yayyy!). This is my first blog post in this new computer, so I thought I should talk a little about the necessity of getting a new computer for Engineering. I would not say that you really need a new computer for Engineering, but sometimes you do need to run software like AutoCad, programming compilers and so on. If you feel that your computer is very slow with multitasking, or that it has poor battery life and portability, I would probably start saving up for a new computer. Not something fancy for sure, but something that is able to manage everyday work and still handle some rigorous software needs. (My new computer, by the way, is a i5 core with 8 GB RAM and 1 TB HDD).

How’s Engineering, you ask? If I were to answer that question in one word, I would use “adventurous”. It is going to be very fast-paced, very rigorous and possibly stressful at the beginning, but it is going to be rewarding. I personally love circuit analysis, and I have a whole course this term just on that, like JUST ON CIRCUIT ANALYSIS (*rants for a while*). My physics prof. actually wrote the book that we follow in the course curriculum. How often do YOU get to ask questions regarding a textbook directly to its author?

Some quick tips though from my engineering experience so far:

1. Do not assume that it is all review from high school for the the first few months. We did some review, but then we very quickly moved onto topics covering more depth. So, if you think you need a review, brush up on your skills during the summer before university starts.

2. TIME MANAGEMENT IS CRUCIAL. When you have 10 assignments due in a week, you really need to prioritize and have a schedule ready. I will confess, I have not been entirely efficient with my time so far, but I am trying to improve myself everyday.

3. LEARN PROGRAMMING. I will say it again, IF YOU WANT TO GO INTO ENGINEERING, HAVE A BASIC IDEA OF PROGRAMMING. I taught myself Python basics over the summer this year and it is paying off incredibly well. Even though we are learning C# this term, most programming languages have the same basic logic and it is much easier to grasp once you are familiar with the fundamentals of programming.

4. PICK UP RELEVANT SKILLS. If you are planning to come to Waterloo Engineering, you have to do co-op. One of the most important things co-op employers look for are your relevant experience. Even if you are writing a code for your school announcement board or helping the neighbours build a go-cart from scratch, every little experience adds up. Remember, you learn the same things as another 200 or more people in your course, and the only way to stand out is through your unique experiences.

5. DO THE WATERLOO CONTESTS. Whether it is the Avogadro Chemistry contest, or the Pascal and Fermat Math contests; DO THEM. Those questions are often chosen from previous first year university assessments and they will give you an idea of how you will be performing in university. Remember that everyone in Engineering will be just as talented as you are, if not more so. Therefore, you have to go that extra mile to prove yourself.

Now that I have managed to intimidate you with my tips for Waterloo Engineering, let’s talk about how awesome Engineering really is. Three awesome things about Waterloo Engineering:

1. THE PEOPLE. If you thought Engineers were boring people who love Math and Physics only, think again. Waterloo Engineering has one of the most diversified collection of students who are incredibly well-rounded. You will be sitting in the same hall with another 150 people who love talking about both Calculus and last night’s football game. You will meet professors who are incredibly experienced and talented yet who will treat you like their equals and ask for your opinion in every single step.

2. CO-OP. My co-op term does not start until next summer, but I have already started the process through resume critiques and interview preparation. As for my friends in four stream, they have already started applying for the first round of job postings. Let me give you a quick stat: according to my friends in four stream Engineering, there are 550 junior and intermediate jobs available in the GTA right now just for Waterloo’s Electrical and Computer Engineering students. That is an incredible network of employers that you have instant access to as a Waterloo Engineering student.

3. THE FACULTY. Waterloo Engineering is an elite group of incredible people with access to amazing facilities (like 3D printers in the Quantum Nano Centre and the Student Team Garages in Engineering 5 etc.) and resources (like Velocity, an entrepreneurial incubator which funds your ideas). You will be able to maximize your potential if you truly utilize your opportunities.

So that is how I feel about Waterloo Engineering after two weeks of classes. As they say, first impressions are everything; and my first impression of Waterloo Engineering was pretty impressive. After all,

” We are, we are, we are the Engineers,

We can, we can, fix anything with gears,

We work hard, we play hard, so come along with us,

Cos we don’t give a damn for any damn man who don’t give a damn for us.”

– The Engineering Hymn.

End of Orientation, start of classes

Good morning to all the spiders on the interweb! Having a great September I hope!

I just dropped by today since my classes don’t start till 10:30. Just finished orientation week (as well as my first week of living independently with friends!). How was it, you ask?

IT. WAS. A. BLAST.

First of all, let’s start with EDCOM. Words cannot descirbe how awesome EDCOM is and how fun frosh week was due to their ‘pitiful’ comments. If you are confused, I suggest that you try and make it to Waterloo Engineering as fast as humanely possible so that you also can enjoy EDCOM and their awesomeness!

Next in list is all the night events. The night events are usually university-wide orientation events not specific to one faculty. We had events like scavenger hunt, dances, capture the flag, hypnotist shows, Masquerade Semi-formal (casino-themed) and so much more. It was planned perfectly and went on smoothly without a hitch. Everyone of us had such an amazing time.

Then, there is SINGLE AND SEXY. ‘Single and Sexy’ is an incredible play put on by the UW students every year. If you were to go to one event, I repeat, JUST ONE EVENT during O-Week, I would say definitely go to ‘Single and Sexy’. It was hilarious, educational, entertaining, captivating, mesmerizing, awesome and all other adjectives y’all can think of!

As for the morning events, they are also incredibly fun. However, the morning events should be attended because all of them are faculty-oriented and have lectures (like ENG 101), department meetings, workshops and FREE FOOD! One of the more memorable morning events for me was the keynote speaker for this year’s welcoming committee, Andy Thibodeau. Andy was such an amazing person and a great motivation at the start of the academic year; I would strongly recommend going to his session if he is here next year.

Now, on a tangent, let’s talk about my dorm life. First of all, I would like to say three things, three VERY IMPORTANT THINGS:

MY DON IS AWESOME.

MY ROOMMATES ARE AWESOME.

MY NEIGHBOURS ARE AWESOME.

Dons are people who live in your floor and can be like your friend/parent/event planner/police officer depending on the circumstances. Our don is incredible to say the least. What he is doing for us in a $8/term budget per person is truly magical.

As for my roomies, I studied with them in high school and three of us are in Engineering (The other is in Geomatics/Computer Science). My roommates are incredibly talented (which helps when you forgot how to do implicit differentiation!), innately funny (which helps when you want to cry seeing the barrage of emails even before classes start!) and very understanding (which helps when you don’t want to take out the garbage!). There are always conflicts when you live together, but there is nothing that cannot be solved with a bubble-tea apology.

As for my neighbours, they are the coolest people ever! ‘Nuff said.

My class (ECE 150 Tutorial – Programming) is in an hour, so I should probably get ready. Peace out people, and have fun!

Move-in Day (Orientation Day 1)

Too much stuff! Colorful!! Our kitchen In love with GoT! Warrior Welcome Warrior Welcome A LOT of people, eh? Fighting blindfolded with foam swords in the dark!

I HAVE JUST MOVED IN! LIKE LITERALLY THIS MORNING! AND I AM SO PUMPED ALREADY MEETING ALL THESE AMAZING PEOPLE!

So, let’s go in details. I moved in today around 9-10 am at UWP Wellesley Court South (if you are in campus and reading this, come visit me!). Moving in was a breeze to be honest. There were so many volunteers helping us move our stuff, and on top of that, all my roommates are my high school friends, so we all helped each other out. But the happiest part was when I saw that our residence theme was Game Of Thrones and I was in House Martell (I inhale GoT by the way!).

Then we went and picked up our WatCards and Engineering Orientation kit from the Student Life Centre as well as my “All Hallow’s Week” pink-themed t-shirt.

After that, we came back to rez and met up with our don, Stephen, who is JUST AWESOME to say the least! Like, free pizza and cookies, what else do you need in life? Honestly, everyone in my floor is so awesome. I won’t deny that at first it was kind of awkward with everyone being new, but me and my roommates decided to go knock on people’s doors and say Hi. We had some icebreakers in the afternoon before we went off to the ‘Warrior Welcome’. The event was held in the Physical Activities Complex, and it was full to the brim with around 7,800 first-year students. DJ, cheerleaders, congratulations and promises to succeed- all were in order.

But, the most fun we had was after 10 pm. We ate and went to our rez lounge where we played board games and it was hilarious. Everyone is awesome and incredibly quirky and funny to say the least. Can’t wait to spend the next 8 months with these awesome people!

That was pretty much our first day at the University of Waterloo. Saying bye to families, Hi to new friends and trying to fit in – it was an incredible way to start off the school year. Can’t wait till tomorrow!

Pictures, you ask? Fine, I won’t disappoint. Here you go.

 

Have fun. Bye for today 🙂

Last week before frosh! (aka CONTROLLED PANIC!!)

Hey y’all flies stuck on the web! How you doing?

I am very, very excited. You ask why? IT’S FROSH NEXT WEEK, and I am moving out! My move is on the 2nd of September to UWP (Wellesley Court) and I could not be more excited or stressed at the same time.

But I am not really panicking because I have not prepared for moving out. It is a healthy type of panic where I have prepared the best I could and all I can do is wait now for the day to arrive.

 

So, today I am going to do 7 points on what I have taken care of this last two weeks before moving out to ensure that my orientation and frosh week goes smoothly. Let’s begin:

 

1. Making sure that my financial status on Quest is “Fees arranged”: What does that mean? That means that you have either paid all your tuition and other fees (residence, co-op etc.) or you have promised to do so by preparing a ‘promissory note’ (which takes into account OSAP and scholarships).

2. Sending in my WatCard photo: TRUST ME, it is better to do it online so that you do not have to wait in line during frosh week missing all the events to get your photo taken for your card. If you have sent in your photo, your card becomes available at SLC within 3 business days for you to pick it up.

3. Talking with my roommates (if applicable): This is crucial because you need to decide who is bringing what appliances specially in suite style (like mine). Once you have an idea of what your roommates are doing, you can go ahead and start packing.

4. Starting to pack: Hah! Packing is the worst thing ever. The more you pack, the more you realize how much stuff you still have left to squeeze in. SO get on with it! Grab some boxes, start with your clothes and then on to your appliances, electronics, toiletries, kitchenware etc. Remember to bring all your chargers and docking stations!

5. Book shopping: Most upper year students will suggest to wait till the first week of class to get your books, and in most cases they are right. But it still does not hurt to take a look at the books you need at BookLook (Waterloo’s bookstore and booklist website). Maybe do a budget and put aside some money to buy the books once your profs tell you that you need them. Budgeting is always helpful since it prepares you.

6. Checking out my orientation and first week schedule: I checked out my schedules for both frosh and first week of classes just to get an idea of how my days are going to work out. Each faculty has their own orientation schedule with team assignments. If you have not paid for your orientation, make sure to do so and register! Check your schedule at: https://uwaterloo.ca/orientation/first-year-students/schedule. Remember that orientation is dry (meaning no alcohol at all!) and that you need your WatCard for the events.

7. Arranging transportation: Make sure you know how to get to the university, whether it be by car, GO or Greyhound. Each residence has its individual time slots for moving in, so plan ahead so that you can make it in time. Remember that you have to worry about your suitcases and boxes as well, so take that into account while travelling.

 

Bonus reminder: Remember to do something about your phone plan so that you are not getting charged for long distance calls when you move out. Talk with your service provider, maybe get a local number or a different plan that better suits your needs!

 

Plan ahead! That way you will have less to stress about and more to enjoy. 

Bye for today! Take care…:)

The Application Process

This bothered me for a very long time when I was in grade 12. I was utterly confused about how the whole application process to university/college would work. There were a lot of conflicting information from previous graduates vs. the school guidance. At the end, it all worked out smoothly but the whole experience left me wishing for a detailed procedural checklist which we could check to make sure the deadlines are met properly.

Therefore, here I am. In this post, I will be doing a general timeline of how the applications to post-secondary institutions are processed. So, let’s get to it.

Summer before grade 12:

A lot of people do not use this summer effectively. I strongly recommend doing some serious research during this period of time on the programs you are interested in. Figure out what course requirements the programs desire, what average they expect you to maintain and whether you have to design a portfolio/do a contest. For example, if you are going for Waterloo Software Engineering, they strongly recommend you to have some programming experience beforehand. If you are planning to apply to Waterloo Architecture, a portfolio is desired. Clear out any confusions or clarifications you might need by calling the university offices and checking their websites. And most importantly, make sure you have taken all the right courses for your program. Most high schools allow timetable changes in the beginning of the school year and you should totally take advantage of that if you forgot to pick any of the required courses for your program.

September-November:

This time is very important for your grades. Build a strong work ethic and start off the school year on a strong foot. If you need to, do some more research on your program and make sure you are doing everything right. If you are in a semestered school, your midterm marks are not looked at by the universities; only your final marks for the first semester. So even you have missteped in your first few weeks of school, you have a chance to make up for it before your marks go to the university.

December-January:

These two months are critical since you complete the actual application during this time. Since I was an Ontario high school student, I will focus on the Ontario application process. Sometime in December, if not earlier, you will receive the PIN code to log in to the OUAC 101 Application portal. Once you receive your PIN, you should log in and check for all the personal information and make sure they are correct. MOST IMPORTANTLY, check your email and make sure that the address is correct. The OUAC system will be communicating with you mainly through email.

Most people usually wait for the Christmas break to apply to programs. You can do it anytime after you receive your PIN, and the deadline is sometime in early January. However, pay attention that a lot of your programs might have supplementary application requirements which have their own deadline.

The application process in the OUAC portal is quite self-explanatory. Remember that you have a to pay a fee!

Another important aspect of this time period is that your first marks will go to the university through OUAC during this period. These marks will play a critical role if any university wants to send out an early acceptance.

February-April: 

A lot of universities have supplementary application deadlines during this period. Make sure that you take your time with supplementary applications as they are a critical portion of what universities look at to decide whether to accept or refuse you.

Acceptances start coming in during this period too based on your first set of marks on OUAC. All these acceptance offers are conditional on maintaining a final average in your top 6 courses (with or without prerequisites).  However, just because you have received an early acceptance offer does not mean you have to accept it right away. All offers have a deadline in the first week of June, regardless of when they were sent out. So take your time and wait for all your acceptances, if necessary, to make a decision.

Your midterm marks for second semester/the second set of marks for non-semestered schools will also go in during this period. Since universities do not use your final end-of-year marks for acceptances, this is your last chance to impress!

May-June:

During the month of May, universities will let you know whether they will send you an offer of acceptance or not. May is also a good time to looking at the OSAP application process if you are considering applying for loans.

The first week of June is usually when you have to accept an offer. Remember that all these offers are still conditional and if you fail to maintain a required average at the end of the year, your acceptance is subject to re-consideration and possible refutation.

July-August:

You should try and send in your OSAP forms after you have signed and completed them. Also, if you are staying in residence, residence formalities (contracts, rooming assignments etc.) are usually taken care of during this period of time.

Course selection for your first term in university takes place online during this period. Spend some time researching your degree requirements so that you can choose your requisites and electives appropriately. As for textbooks, most people tend to wait for their first week of classes to decide which textbooks the professors want you to have.

Lastly, but most importantly, you have to arrange your fees (tuition, residence etc.) during this period. If you have applied for OSAP, most universities will allow you to delay your fees payment until you receive OSAP funding if you are able to provide sufficient proof.

This is a pretty general timeline of how you should expect the university application and acceptance process to work. Feel free to ask me any questions in the comments below.

Have fun!

Choosing your education

Hello everyone! Hope you are all having a great summer.

Whether you are going into grade 11/12 this fall, or are planning to come to Canada for university education or are a mature student planning to go to university, it is important that you pick the right university for YOU.

In my opinion, 3 things are very important in picking your university, at least they were important to me when I chose to come to Waterloo.

Tip 1: Plan out your career

A lot of people say that they do not know what they want to do after high school and are therefore going into _______ program. I personally am not in favor of such a decision. High school is the time to explore. If you do not know what you want to do, take a variety of courses, try them out and see what you really like. Also, do not fail to take into consideration how your program relates to the job sector. It is also important to have at least a vague idea of whether you want to pursue an academic career (meaning Masters, PhD, teaching) or occupational career (jobs in the field). I am not saying that plan out the next 10 years in detail, but try to have a general idea of how you want to proceed with your degree.

Tip 2: Decide what you want from the university experience

To clarify, decide how you want to spend the next 3/4/5 years in university. Are you interested in moving out and try to be independent? Are you more comfortable with staying with your parents and having less to worry about? Are you serious about any sports/extra-curricular activities that the university might offer? Do you want to pursue a double degree/a minor/an option? All these are questions that you should be able to answer, at least partially, before you step into the post-secondary realm of education.

If I were to mention myself, I wanted to move out for university. I am not really particular about any varsity sports but I enjoy soccer and ping pong as intramurals. I have a plan to possibly do an option in software engineering if I can fit it into my schedule comfortably. All these factors played a crucial role in my choosing Waterloo.

Tip 3: Money!!!!

Trust me, this is crucial and probably one of the most important aspects of university. In high school, you can experiment with as many courses as you want but in university, every course costs you. I hate to admit that I myself wasn’t really concerned about my tuition and residence fees until it hit me a week or so ago!

If you are planning to take OSAP (Ontario students only), I would strongly recommend trying out the OSAP Aid Estimator. Just ask your parents for their income tax returns of the current/last year, find out if you have any tangible assets (car, property etc.) and sit down to estimate how much funding you may receive (more or less accurately). Here’s the link: https://osap.gov.on.ca/AidEstimatorWeb/enterapp/enter.xhtml

If you are relying on scholarships, check out the scholarships available to you, both in the university and outside. Most universities have entrance scholarships, but do not limit yourself to only those. You can check out www.studentawards.com to find out more about all the scholarships out there.

And lastly, a lot of universities have bursaries that try and cover your expenses in case OSAP is not sufficient. Definitely look them up in the respective university websites.

AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, ask your parents! They have dealt with money for much longer than you have and they know all about hidden costs that you might not pay attention to. Ask them for help if need be, and make sure to exhaust your resources (RESP, personal savings etc.) before you take a loan like OSAP. Remember, OSAP is a loan, and you HAVE to pay it back with interest after graduation.

University might be intimidating, but it can be planned out if you spend some time. Pick the university that fits you, do not try to fit yourself to a university.

Have fun choosing!