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Which is Best?!?

Posted on 2000-01-06
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Last Modified: 2006-11-17
Hi there,

   Here is my situation.  Maybe you can help.  I am Canadian and i am about to attend University.  My goal is to be an IT developer (focusing on Web development).  I want to work for a high-profile American company like IBM, Nortel, 3M, Cisco, etc, or even big web companies like Yahoo.  However, since i am Canadian i will need to get a 4 year degree so that i can be eligible for a greencard (or maybe a TN-1 visa -- i checked the TN list and noticed that only Systems Analyst were on it.  Am i still eligible for a TN-1 visa?).  I was planning on getting a "BSc 4-year Honors with Software Engineering Specialization" degree.  I guess that is the right degree to get.  Ok, here is where i am confused.

I have to make a choice.  I can attend UWO university which isn't the most prestigious University in Canada BUT i am in a situation where i can actually begin my 3rd academic year come September 2000.  If i were to go to UWO i could finish my 3rd year by 2001 (Sept 2000- April 2001), then i would take a 6 month - 18 month Internship, and then come back to UWO to finish up my last year and get my "4 year Honors BSc w/ Software Engineering specialization" degree.  I figure i could be done by 2002-2003.

OR:  I can go to Waterloo University (or Simon Fraser University).  I have sent off applications to both and i find that there is a distinct possibility that i will be accepted by both universities.  As you know, Waterloo and Simon Fraser are two very prestigious universities.  BUT, if i do attend one of these two i may have to start over in my first year (softmore?).  If i were to attend UWO though i would be in my 3rd year by Sept 2000.  I know Waterloo and SFU have "transfer credit" but i am sure they may not take all of the credits that i got from UWO precisely.  Another advantage to Waterloo and SFU is that they have extensive co-op programs (Waterloo for instance provides 3 years experience by the time you get your degree).  And they both have employers scrambling to hire all grads, while UWO may have few if any.  Attending Waterloo or SFU i could have my degree by 2004-2005.

I should mention that i am not in UWO right now.  I was a student there about 5 years ago and have been seriously deciding to go back to school.  I just don't know which school to attend.

I want to get the most experience but i also want to get hired by the best firms out there without too much trouble.  I also want to be able to become an American citizen.

What would you suggest?  Advice?

Thanks very much for your expertise!
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Question by:ljaques
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Expert Comment

by:biard
ID: 2328914
Personally, I believe that the prestige of a University will only get you so far.  It is far more important that you are able to demonstrate a functional working knowledge of the field you chose.  Also, the degree program, while important in one respect to your career, is not everything.  I know people with degrees in History and German who are now International Bankers and Investment Bankers.  Now, the most important thing to consider will be the type, quality, and quantity of real working experience you have in your field by the time you graduate.  Many companies will hire you if you have a degree, but if you have a degree AND some considerable experience, you will be much better off at the bottom line.  Also, you may not have to start off in a menial, boring position.  However, because you have some significant amount of university coursework completed, I feel that the very best thing for you to do before making any comitments would be to contact the admissions/advising offices of each of your potential schools.  You should forward copies of all of your transcripts to each of them and ask them to inform you of what your standing will be and how many of your credits will transfer.  You may be surprised.  Also, just your transcript may not be enough information.  You may need to provide information from the University where the credits were issued regarding the topics studied in each course.  This will help the new universities in accepting your transfer credits more efficiently.  It really sounds like Waterloo or SFU may be a better option for you if you can get most/all of your credits transferred because it will help you, not only in education, but in the work experience as well.  It will just require a little extra work on your part to gather the course info from the courses you have taken so that the other Universities can place your credits.  If they cannot determine what the classes you took were and what topics were studied, they will refuse some of your credits.

Good Luck.
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mjswart earned 200 total points
ID: 2329975
-bias alert, I'm a recent uw grad
BMath in CS, co-op -

In this case the prestige associated with UW is warranted. If you're going for a systems analyst career, then you should give _serious_ thought before ruling waterloo out. Co-op is a huge selling point.  Most of my friends I met at UW are doing extremely well.

UWO is good too however and I wouldn't feel too bad about going there. 2 Years a lot of time to save!!!

I grew up in London and got accepted to both UWO and UW. After choosing UW I've never had a regret.

Best advice: talk with people who know you personally.
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Author Comment

by:ljaques
ID: 2331244
mjswart,

- How quickly have you found a job?
- You probably don't know this but are the pay differences for new grads from UW are different from UWO, assuming experience level and job position are the same?

Thanks
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Expert Comment

by:mjswart
ID: 2332167
I'm almost positive that the pay differences are comparable but you're right that I can't tell for sure.

Personally I had a job lined up before I graduated.
After the experience and interview experience that co-op gave me I never really worried about finding a job.

All my class mates are now working. And while some friends struggled who were in different programs. I don't know anyone in Math who didn't find a job after graduating.

In any case: UW, UWO, SFU have great programs. If you can finish a program, then you can certainly find a good paying job.
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Author Comment

by:ljaques
ID: 2334358
mjswart,

  One last question.  What was the Descartes Contest like?  Was it tough?  What kind of material was on it (highschool level or higher)?  Were they tricky?  What is the best way to study for it...get their Math Prep book and previous exams?

Thanks
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Expert Comment

by:mjswart
ID: 2338264
The descartes contest was tough, but I happened to do well (skill or luck take your pick). It tested on grade 12 math I think (I don't remember any calculus on it).

I took it when I was in Gr. 13. They were tricky but I thought they were fun.  I found that the best way to prepare for them is to take previous exams. By taking previous exams, you'll get a good idea of what an exam would be like.

http://cemc.uwaterloo.ca/CMCHome.html is the homepage for the Canadian Mathematics Competition. Most of the previous exams and manuals that they have cost some money though.

Good luck
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