University advice for a Canadian student

The school experience. School related queries, discussions, and stories that aren't specific to a subject.

Moderators: gmalivuk, Prelates, Moderators General

University advice for a Canadian student

Postby mbrigdan » Mon Aug 15, 2011 2:57 am UTC

Hey xkcd people! I'm going to be going into grade 12 next year, and I'll have to make rather important choices for my future. I figure I need all the info I can get, so why not ask people who've already gone through the process? The internet is great, but people with firsthand experience are probably going to be more helpful.

Now, this is likely going to be a long-winded post, so try and stick with me!

First of all, some background: I'm a Canadian high school student going into grade 12 next year. I consider myself to be pretty good at math and science, and pretty decent at the other stuff. I fell in love with chemistry this year, but biology was also pretty fun. In terms of grades, I got 98 in chem 30, 97 in bio 30, 92 in math 30 and 31, and a 95 in english 20 (probably because I lucked out with my teacher), with the rest of my grades being in the mid-to-lower 90s. I've also taken the AB calc, bio, and chem AP exams, and gotten fives on them. In terms of extracurriculars, I'm part of my school's volunteer club, I have a job helping out at a local university lab, and I'm a nationally ranked fencer (not ranked all that high, mind you, but still ranked).

Now, my current "life plan" is to go get an undergraduate science degree, then go to medical school. That undergrad degree is the part that I kinda need help with.
Queen's has this program called "Engineering Chemistry" that I've been attracted to, because it would let me combine my love of chemistry with my math skills. As well, if it turns out that medical schools don't want me / I don't want them, I can go on to be an engineer, or go further in chemistry, because its a combined engineering and chem degree. As well, it would let me focus a bit more on the theoretical aspects of chemistry, rather than just things like process chemistry. Unfortunately, the combo of engineering degree + being halfway across the country mean that doing that program would cost 20k/year more than if I just got a plain old degree and lived with my parents. So, here are the questions (finally!): 1. Do you guys think that it would be worth it to do that program? 2. Has anyone heard about or have experience with this program, and have any advice to give? 3. Anyone know roughly how hard it is to get scholarships at Queens?

And here are some broader questions:
4. Any people out there that could recommend other Canadian universities known to have good chemistry or biology programs?
5. Anyone know how good the University of calgary is in terms of chem/bio programs?
6. Anyone want to give advice on the whole staying with parents vs leaving thing?
7. Any other general advice people could give me?

Thanks!
mbrigdan
False Alarm! There's more rum.
 
Posts: 109
Joined: Wed Jun 25, 2008 2:45 am UTC

Re: University advice for a Canadian student

Postby Chen » Tue Aug 16, 2011 4:28 pm UTC

University of Toronto and McGill are both known for good chemistry departments. University of Toronto is the biggest University in Canada I believe and usually very high on the rankings. McGill is notable since it does tend to get more name recognition outside of Canada than most other universities. Having gone there myself it also has a fantastic campus in downtown Montreal.

Unless you're living in Quebec, tuition is very similar throughout the country so that shouldn't be that big a deciding factor. Accommodations can vary. A lot of the big universities are in fairly pricey cities. Montreal is cheaper than Toronto but still significantly more expensive than say Kingston (for Queens). I stayed at home for my undergrad which, along with a $2k entrance scholarship from McGill made tuition practically a non-issue. I had a lot of freedom at home though so it wasn't that big a deal to live there through university. Being out on your own does come with its own benefits, but clearly costs a lot more. A part time job would probably allow a fairly comfortable student life and it could be worth even extending your degree by a semester to make sure you can reasonably keep up with the workload + job + social life. Canadian tuition tends to be low enough that is not a losing proposition as it might be at some of the more expensive American universities.
Chen
 
Posts: 3885
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2008 6:53 pm UTC
Location: Montreal

Re: University advice for a Canadian student

Postby mbrigdan » Tue Aug 16, 2011 6:22 pm UTC

Thanks for the reply Chen!

Yeah, the tuition thing was more about it being an engineering degree versus a normal science degree, which seems to add about 10k/year no matter where you go. McGill was one of the universities I looked at, but it did seem to be higher on the cost end for non-quebec students. I'll keep it in mind though. I've heard U of T has pretty brutal competition for scholarships, but that might be one of those things where I apply, then see how much money they're willing to give me before I make my decision.
Getting a part time job is definitely a good suggestion, although I'd hope that with my 3 AP courses, plus (hopefully) physics AP next year, I'd be able to avoid tacking on an extra semester. Those should also help me cut down on tuition, at least for the first year.

Thanks for the suggestions!
mbrigdan
False Alarm! There's more rum.
 
Posts: 109
Joined: Wed Jun 25, 2008 2:45 am UTC

Re: University advice for a Canadian student

Postby Chen » Tue Aug 16, 2011 7:46 pm UTC

Where is that extra 10k/year coming from? At McGill a B.Eng degree has the cost at $7687/year for out of province students and a B.Sc has a cost of $7417/year. Queens has Engineering and Applied Science together at $8553/year. Here an Arts and Science degree is cheaper at $5382 but I believe that's a different degree then say a B.Sc in Chemistry.

Applying for scholarships is always a good idea. There are a lot of scholarships out there and if you have decent extra-curriculars and can write a good essay there's a good chance at getting them. As for not needing an extra semester, when I got my B.Eng they recommended it be done in 3.5 years but it was pretty insane trying to do that. After one crazy semester I decided that it was not worth it to kill myself the next semester (which was also a big one credit wise) so I pushed a class or two out in the following semesters so that one added semester was the minimum I needed to be a full time student. It also let me take some classes that DID count towards my master's so it wasn't really a full "extra" semester I paid for. I mean to each their own, but burning yourself out in a super packed 3.5 years (or whatever it is) is not worth the relatively small added cost of another semester (tuition is mostly based on credit/hours so a small semester will be cheaper anyways).
Chen
 
Posts: 3885
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2008 6:53 pm UTC
Location: Montreal

Re: University advice for a Canadian student

Postby mbrigdan » Tue Aug 16, 2011 8:36 pm UTC

Huh, I must've been remembering it wrong. The Queen's 2011 viewbook I have puts engineering tuition (along with extra fees and such), 5k above an ordinary science degree. I guess that's a pleasant surprise.
I think the engineering chemistry degree is supposed to be done in 4 years, which is what I'd try for, but if it gets too crazy, I could always push a few courses back.

Only if you don't mind telling me, how much money did you get in scholarships in your first year? I'd be nice if I could start to put rough estimates of this stuff together.
mbrigdan
False Alarm! There's more rum.
 
Posts: 109
Joined: Wed Jun 25, 2008 2:45 am UTC

Re: University advice for a Canadian student

Postby Chen » Thu Aug 18, 2011 3:21 pm UTC

mbrigdan wrote:Huh, I must've been remembering it wrong. The Queen's 2011 viewbook I have puts engineering tuition (along with extra fees and such), 5k above an ordinary science degree. I guess that's a pleasant surprise.
I think the engineering chemistry degree is supposed to be done in 4 years, which is what I'd try for, but if it gets too crazy, I could always push a few courses back.

Only if you don't mind telling me, how much money did you get in scholarships in your first year? I'd be nice if I could start to put rough estimates of this stuff together.


Well I didn't really seek out any scholarships. I had gotten a $2k/year renewable entrance scholarship without any special applications (it was offered to me with my offer to come to the university). Considering I was an in province student that $2k/year covered almost everything anyways so I'm not really familiar with the other scholarships that were available.
Chen
 
Posts: 3885
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2008 6:53 pm UTC
Location: Montreal

Re: University advice for a Canadian student

Postby Kyubey » Thu Aug 18, 2011 4:25 pm UTC

Just my two cents here. I'm a student who's studying computer science and physics. I go to a small university (St. Francis Xavier university) and I love it here. Since it's a small university I have a lot more interaction with the profs, and I have a summer job doing physics programming (despite being in my first year). I recommend you find a nice smaller university like X where there isnt a grad program but they still do research - If you can get a research job you'll learn a lot more about science then if you just did classes.

By the way, X has a relatively new physical sciences building and it's a beautiful complex. Plus it has some great profs. Just saying >.>
User avatar
Kyubey
 
Posts: 9
Joined: Fri Jul 01, 2011 5:36 pm UTC

Re: University advice for a Canadian student

Postby 314man » Fri Aug 19, 2011 12:21 am UTC

Here's my thoughts. First off, I highly recommend NOT going to UofT (I know you didn't bring it up but it was mentioned in a post so I figured I'd mention it). Besides how tough it is to get scholarships there, their reputation comes almost entirely out of research and graduate studies. At an undergraduate level, it's a bad decision. The class sizes are terrible, especially in the first year where you will almost certainly have a class with 1000+ people. Also the professors put teaching at a much lower priority than their research. That's common in other universities too, but UofT seems to be at the head of the pack of professors that can't teach.

Anyways another reason I'm pointing this out is that during your undergraduate years, the most important things that will affect your learning is class sizes and your profs. It's hard to learn about the professors before you pick your university (and they might not even be around when you finally get into the classes they're teaching right now), but class sizes is fairly easily attainable information. Queen's I think are pretty good with class sizes. I don't know the universities out in the west though so I can't help you there. Though don't write off a university having large class sizes just because it's a large university, there are large universities with small class sizes (Western Ontario for example).

The best way to get information to make a wise decision is to talk to people that are currently studying in the universities you are interested in. It's probably the most invaluable information you can get.
User avatar
314man
 
Posts: 117
Joined: Sat Oct 09, 2010 6:03 pm UTC
Location: Ontario

Re: University advice for a Canadian student

Postby sikyon » Fri Aug 19, 2011 9:32 am UTC

If you want to be an engineer, come to Waterloo. The co-op opportunities are unbeatable.

If you want to be a Doctor and take science, go to Toronto or Mcgill. However, as a heads up it's not easy to get into med school. And honestly a bachelors in science won't net you much.
sikyon
 
Posts: 346
Joined: Sun Dec 07, 2008 5:45 pm UTC

Re: University advice for a Canadian student

Postby sidek » Fri Aug 19, 2011 6:44 pm UTC

What do people think of the University of Alberta for math/computer science/electrical engineering? I could always go to Waterloo/McGill/Toronto, but the University of Alberta is so much cheaper for me as I'm already in Edmonton.

Also, how hard is it to get involved in undergrad research at most universities? I am somewhat interested in participating in such research, and already have a fairly good reputation with a few U of A professors, some of whom would make it very easy for me to get involved in such research. Is that something that makes the U of A more attractive?
sidek
 
Posts: 17
Joined: Thu Sep 16, 2010 3:44 am UTC

Re: University advice for a Canadian student

Postby mbrigdan » Fri Aug 19, 2011 10:34 pm UTC

Thanks for the advice guys, so small classes and asking people who are already there are big ones. I'll make sure to look around a lot, I'll probably make a big list of my options.
I'd still like to hear from anyone who knows about the "Engineering Chemistry" program at Queens!
mbrigdan
False Alarm! There's more rum.
 
Posts: 109
Joined: Wed Jun 25, 2008 2:45 am UTC

Re: University advice for a Canadian student

Postby Low Caliber » Fri Aug 19, 2011 11:27 pm UTC

Kyubey wrote: I go to a small university (St. Francis Xavier university) and I love it here.

Pffftt..

Obviously schle doesn't want to go to St. Francis Xavier, who would want to live in Antigonish? Clearly schle would be much better served in going to Acadia ;)

In a more serious tone, keep in mind that if you are going to go to Queens for engineering you are going to be expected to work hard and party harder. If you like the macho party culture then by all means go for it, I just can`t stand the amount of, what should I call it? white privilege? I will go with that. (Although Acadia is also pretty monochrome)
Low Caliber
 
Posts: 70
Joined: Tue Jan 26, 2010 7:34 am UTC
Location: Wolfville, N.S.

Re: University advice for a Canadian student

Postby Yakk » Sat Aug 20, 2011 12:20 am UTC

This may help: http://survivingtheworld.net/Lesson907.html

Then again, maybe not.
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

Last edited by JHVH on Fri Oct 23, 4004 BCE 6:17 pm, edited 6 times in total.
User avatar
Yakk
Poster with most posts but no title.
 
Posts: 10450
Joined: Sat Jan 27, 2007 7:27 pm UTC
Location: E pur si muove

Re: University advice for a Canadian student

Postby Dopefish » Sat Aug 20, 2011 12:27 am UTC

Low Caliber wrote:
Kyubey wrote: I go to a small university (St. Francis Xavier university) and I love it here.

Pffftt..

Obviously schle doesn't want to go to St. Francis Xavier, who would want to live in Antigonish? Clearly schle would be much better served in going to Acadia ;)


All the cool east coast kids go to Dalhousie. :P


I don't know about the quality of specific programs, but I'll respond to the idea of living at home versus getting out on your own. Living at home is wonderful and (probably) free, which makes life much easier. However, that could be considered a bad thing, since "getting out of the nest", while scary and expensive and generally more difficult, is a good step towards independance, and undergrad university is a good opportunity to take that plunge. You can end up in res with lots of others in similar situations, or end up sharing an apartment with a handful of people who are similarly living on their own for the first time, so it's a great chance to find your feet. Also, having your own place is great for recreational purposes, as you don't have parents to limit the amount of partying you can do (although discovering how much you actually can do without regretting it is probably something you'll learn the hard way).

In short, it's worthwhile to get away if it's finacially viable. I do know at least one person who stayed in town, but went into res anyway so they were still getting the 'on their own' experiance, while avoiding the travel costs of really getting away, so that might be something to consider as well.
User avatar
Dopefish
 
Posts: 806
Joined: Sun Sep 20, 2009 5:46 am UTC
Location: The Well of Wishes

Re: University advice for a Canadian student

Postby mbrigdan » Sat Aug 20, 2011 5:08 am UTC

Low Caliber wrote:...Obviously schle ...

You can say "they" if you don't know someone's gender. For future reference, I'm male, not that it really matters.

Yakk wrote:This may help: http://survivingtheworld.net/Lesson907.html

Then again, maybe not.

Hey, I like that! Except they put chemical engineering and biomedical engineering in the same bracket first round. Maybe that's a good thing though, or I would have let them knock out every other possibly interesting one on the way to their (epic) final confrontation. :)

Dopefish wrote:I don't know about the quality of specific programs, but I'll respond to the idea of living at home versus getting out on your own. Living at home is wonderful and (probably) free, which makes life much easier. However, that could be considered a bad thing, since "getting out of the nest", while scary and expensive and generally more difficult, is a good step towards independance, and undergrad university is a good opportunity to take that plunge. You can end up in res with lots of others in similar situations, or end up sharing an apartment with a handful of people who are similarly living on their own for the first time, so it's a great chance to find your feet. Also, having your own place is great for recreational purposes, as you don't have parents to limit the amount of partying you can do (although discovering how much you actually can do without regretting it is probably something you'll learn the hard way).

In short, it's worthwhile to get away if it's finacially viable. I do know at least one person who stayed in town, but went into res anyway so they were still getting the 'on their own' experiance, while avoiding the travel costs of really getting away, so that might be something to consider as well.


Yeah, that's sorta how I've been feeling about it. Thanks!

PS:
sidek wrote:What do people think of the University of Alberta for math/computer science/electrical engineering? I could always go to Waterloo/McGill/Toronto, but the University of Alberta is so much cheaper for me as I'm already in Edmonton.

I don't have personal experience (clearly!), but I've heard that for engineering in general, the U of A has one of the better reputations in Canada. But, given that this is Alberta, that reputation might come entirely from chemical engineering. Goddamn oil patch, controlling my/our education. XD
mbrigdan
False Alarm! There's more rum.
 
Posts: 109
Joined: Wed Jun 25, 2008 2:45 am UTC

Re: University advice for a Canadian student

Postby ShootTheChicken » Tue Aug 23, 2011 5:31 pm UTC

I ruled out Queen's as a possibility for me just because there's something about everyone I know there that's a little too testosterone fueled. Whenever I go there's a lot of posturing and it gets on my tits in a huge way. Also, the proximity to RMC only fuels that fire.

But that's just me.
SecondTalon wrote:the Hot Freshness of Wicked Classic.
User avatar
ShootTheChicken
Best. Cheerleader. Ever.
 
Posts: 433
Joined: Wed Feb 16, 2011 5:11 am UTC
Location: America's Hat

Re: University advice for a Canadian student

Postby Jorpho » Wed Aug 24, 2011 12:50 am UTC

sikyon wrote:If you want to be an engineer, come to Waterloo. The co-op opportunities are unbeatable.
Well, you don't have to be in engineering to do co-op. You can also get a B.Sc. in co-op.

The advantage to co-op is that you get real-world experience and that the pay can offset your tuition expenses. The disadvantages are that you're moving every four months or so and that any buoying illusions you may have about said real world will be utterly and unceremoniously shattered with great speed.

sidek wrote:Also, how hard is it to get involved in undergrad research at most universities? I am somewhat interested in participating in such research, and already have a fairly good reputation with a few U of A professors, some of whom would make it very easy for me to get involved in such research.
That's a pretty big point in favor of U of A right there, if what you say is accurate. You see, I am very much under the impression that an undergraduate researcher in general has very little to do with the professor and everything to do with the professor's grad students. If they happen to have a task that needs doing that you're capable of, it could work out splendidly! If everything is accounted for and they have no idea what you're doing in their lab or the time to find out, you're screwed. But if you really have a good reputation with the professors, hopefully they can stop that from happening.

However, keep in mind that your first few semesters are likely to be so busy and disorienting that signing up for undergraduate research at the same time may not be such a good idea, especially with said possibility of getting screwed.

mbrigdan wrote:
Low Caliber wrote:...Obviously schle ...
You can say "they" if you don't know someone's gender. For future reference, I'm male, not that it really matters.
I like it! I hadn't thought of using that before. (Yes, it's from Futurama, I know.) Using the plural for the gender-neutral still doesn't feel quite right.
User avatar
Jorpho
 
Posts: 5623
Joined: Wed Dec 12, 2007 5:31 am UTC
Location: Canada


Return to School

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 0 guests