Computer Science Canada

Experience from a student in UWaterloo Computer Science

Author:  Nathan4102 [ Sat Nov 21, 2015 4:19 pm ]
Post subject:  Experience from a student in UWaterloo Computer Science

Hey guys

For those in grade 12, it's getting around time to finalize your admissions decisions. There's no definitive answer for which school you should or shouldn't apply for, or which school you should or shouldn't accept an offer to. You need to do the research and figure out which schools best match your values and education requirements. I'm giving my first hand experience to help with that decision.

First, a bit about myself and admissions. I'm a first year at the University of Waterloo in the Computer Science Program. I went to a non-IB/AP high-school in Ontario. I had a 96% early admission average (Not including semester 2 midterm marks), and a 94% admission average (including semester 2 midterm marks). I was accepted in early May, though the acceptance dates change every year. After you get accepted, you only need to maintain an average of 80% and at least 70% in required courses for your program (I believe) to maintain your offer.

The cutoff this year was 93-94% for Computer Science Co-op. With >90%, you could score an alternate offer (CS non-coop, Honors Math coop, Honors Math non-coop). If you're below 90%, you're not in good standing to get an offer for Computer Science.

After you apply to Waterloo, they ask you fill out an AIF (Additional Informations Form). The AIF is pretty simple, with 2 or 3 longer questions (maybe 400 words? I can't remember). On the AIF, you can list out your extra-curriculars, awards, jobs, special circumstances, etc. They also give you a section to talk about whatever you like. Think of this form as your one chance to impress the admissions officers. You could finish this form in an hour or two, but you should be revising it and perfecting it over a span of weeks. It's that important. Waterloo values side-projects and efforts that show initiative in technology, so try to emphasize these.

I think I've covered most of the important bits of the admissions process, if there's something I didn't cover just ask.

After you get an offer, you need to decide if you want to accept it. Here's the pros and cons of studying at Waterloo.

- Co-op, by far the biggest pro. If you play your cards right, you can get your degree with no student debt and a number of reputable companies on your resume. That's not an opportunity you get at many schools. I personally know people at Waterloo who've worked at Google, Mozilla, Microsoft, Khan Academy, Facebook, etc. Not everyone get's these jobs, but the opportunity is there if you work for it.
- Reputation. Waterloo is the number 1 school in Canada for technology and engineering if you're only planning on an undergraduate degree. Companies across Canada and the States will recognize the name which is valuable for scoring jobs.
- Atmosphere. People at Waterloo, from the profs to the people around campus, are extremely friendly and bright. From what I can tell, there isn't too much gossip/drama at Waterloo either. People don't judge people on the scale you may have seen in high-school, which is great news. You can be whoever you want to be here.

- Workload. The workload here is insane. For some, that's good news, I'm on the fence though. As nice as it is to be busy, I don't have time to participate in extra-curriculars and sports like I used to. I'm also having trouble working on a side project that's been on hold for 3 months now. Of course, this is my first term and I've never been put under this sort of pressure and work-load, so perhaps when I adjust to the changes it won't be so bad. Don't expect Waterloo to be a cakewalk just because high-school was, though.
- Parties. If you're the sort of person who enjoys partying, drinking, and doing whatever frequently, you'll have trouble finding that sort of scene at Waterloo. That's not to say it's impossible to find parties on a Friday, just much harder than at any other university. The good news, though, is Laurier, a school known for partying, is just a 2 minute bus down the road.

Neither Pro nor Con:
- The cultural diversity at Waterloo isn't great, especially in the Math faculty. Expect about 70-80% Asians in your program. I've not found this to be a problem, but it's worth mentioning.
- The math here is very different than you may have seen in high-school. As a top school in Mathematics and Technology, UW expects a lot from it's Maths students. In your first year, you'll do an Algebra course and a Calculus course. The Algebra course is 90% proofs, which will be tough as the closest thing to proofs most high-school students have seen are trig identities. The Calculus course is review of MCV4UI for the first half, then new content for the second half. Don't under-estimate though, if you aren't sharp with your trig/exponent laws/algebra, you'll find the exams impossible to finish in time.

Overall, I'd recommend this school to anyone considering it. Its a great school, and I'm happy to be a student here.

Let me know if you have any specific questions Smile


Author:  Tony [ Sat Nov 21, 2015 8:54 pm ]
Post subject:  RE:Experience from a student in UWaterloo Computer Science

Pretty good personal account, thx for sharing Nathan!

To extend on a few of your points:
- an alternative offer might be a good avenue. First year Honors Math is basically identical to first year CS (and you pay less in tuition!). It will be a challenge to transfer programs (and this particular path is frowned upon, as Admissions suspect that students just try to dodge the tuition difference), but if you believe that you are up for the challenge, your admission package was unfairly penalized, and you really want to do UW CS -- this is your backdoor path in.

- U of Toronto gets your most of the same things. Between UofT CS and UW alternative offer, going with UofT would be a good choice. Any other University in Canada -- you'd need to carefully consider your specific offers and values.

- Reputation: you'd be amazed at UWaterloo's presence in Silicon Valley.

- Workload is tough. You'll be broken down, to be rebuild into a stronger professional. Those that make it through do very very well for themselves. Of course not everyone makes it through the program.

- Social life is better for Engineers, mostly because they can just stick to their own class.

- Lack of diversity is definitely a con. Last I've checked, UWaterloo's CS female population was at an all-time-high of 13% (current numbers might be +/- couple percent points).

Author:  San17 [ Mon Dec 14, 2015 6:56 am ]
Post subject:  RE:Experience from a student in UWaterloo Computer Science

Hey, I'm applying for the same course for the fall 2016 intake. I have a couple of questions related to admissions...
I know that I need to have mid-90's to consider getting in, but I've taken IB. So do you know what is the minimum IB score I need in order to be considered?
For extracurriculars, I haven't done much, but I did a few of them for almost a year. Do you think this is sufficient?
Thanks in advance for the help! Smile

Author:  MadiAraly [ Wed Dec 16, 2015 7:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Experience from a student in UWaterloo Computer Science

Did you participate in the Canadian Computing Competition or any of Waterloo's math contests?

Author:  San17 [ Thu Dec 17, 2015 3:30 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Experience from a student in UWaterloo Computer Science

MadiAraly @ Thu Dec 17, 2015 5:54 am wrote:
Did you participate in the Canadian Computing Competition or any of Waterloo's math contests?

I'm going to give Euclid Math contest this April

Author:  Derek1473 [ Thu Dec 31, 2015 11:51 am ]
Post subject:  RE:Experience from a student in UWaterloo Computer Science

Lets say i had an 86-88 average but with a good AIF and score on the Math Contest. What would be my chances in getting in?

Author:  Nathan4102 [ Thu Dec 31, 2015 12:07 pm ]
Post subject:  RE:Experience from a student in UWaterloo Computer Science

You'll need to get that average up if you want to get in. If you got accepted with that average, you'd most likely be looking at an alternate offer to regular math. Push hard to get that average up Smile

Author:  bcsstudent [ Thu Feb 25, 2016 12:45 am ]
Post subject:  RE:Experience from a student in UWaterloo Computer Science

I would have to disagree with the con about the lack of parties... There are plenty of parties if you get to know the party people and especially people at Laurier... I would also recommend against going to too many, they can do quite the disservice to your marks and overall wellbeing...

-BCS Student

Author:  jannatul18 [ Sat Mar 26, 2016 4:42 am ]
Post subject:  RE:Experience from a student in UWaterloo Computer Science

What is the chances of getting scholarship from here? What are process of applying for scholarship during admission process?

Author:  Nathan4102 [ Sat Mar 26, 2016 9:14 am ]
Post subject:  RE:Experience from a student in UWaterloo Computer Science

Entrance scholarships are automatic and based on marks. There are also some other scholarships that you have to apply for manually.

The full list of entrance scholarships is here: