If from Canada, should I go attend more renowned school?

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Blue58
Posts: 3
Joined: Sat Nov 05, 2011 9:12 pm

If from Canada, should I go attend more renowned school?

Postby Blue58 » Sat Nov 05, 2011 9:21 pm

Hi!!
I think it is really early for me to come to this forum, as I am only in last year of high school
but that said, I am considering my universities coming winter and I have a choice between ( not that I have been accepted to yet, but physics is not that competitive so say I did get accepted) Waterloo physics/math and Toronto physics/math. I don't know if you guys know of both schools but from the top grad school's point of view (in the states) will they recognize me if I graduate from waterloo compared to toronto? I just had a look at the 2011 acceptance thread and thought that a lot people from small not known college got rejected even with 4.0 gpa compared to someone from MIT with 3.7 would get in ( I am talking about top grad schools)
so any ideas for me would be helpful
thanks

astroprof
Posts: 95
Joined: Fri Feb 15, 2008 4:47 pm

Re: If from Canada, should I go attend more renowned school?

Postby astroprof » Mon Nov 07, 2011 2:14 pm

Both Toronto and Waterloo are considered excellent Canadian Universities. Both
will provide unique research opportunties and a solid background in physics. So,
provided that you take advantage of those opportunities, it is unlikely that a choice
between these schools would have a significant impact on your options for graduate schools
in a few years.

TheBeast
Posts: 114
Joined: Mon Mar 07, 2011 12:06 am

Re: If from Canada, should I go attend more renowned school?

Postby TheBeast » Fri Nov 11, 2011 8:46 pm

Firstly, in my opinion, you're thinking about the whole graduate school thing way too early. Concentrate first on getting into an undergrad program and excelling in it.

With respect to the two specific schools mentioned, I think that there are pros and cons at either institution. GPA-wise, I think that an average student would probably have a worse GPA at UToronto compared to Waterloo. When I was a student at UToronto, the classes exams and marking were much harsher than I've seen at other institutions. I was once comparing notes with a Waterloo physics grad (after we had graduated) and the midterms that we had written for similar classes generally seemed harder for the UToronto classes. If you're a super genius, you'll excel anywhere, but for those of us who aren't, UToronto will probably give you a greater challenge to do exceptionally well. As you can imagine, a poor GPA will hurt you come grad school admissions.

With regards to research UToronto has a much larger and diversified department than Waterloo. That's good because you'll have a chance to be exposed to a larger variety of physics research and thus have a better idea in figuring exactly which subfield in physics you wish to apply to for grad school. I can't stress enough the importance of getting research experience in a field you're interested in; not only will it help your grad school application, but it will give you a chance to see if your expectations of the field match the reality.

Being an undergrad is a period of self-discovery. You'll learn a great deal about what you enjoy, academically, and your goals and objective may vary greatly from what you thought they were when you started the program. You're keen on grad school now. Awesome! But that might change once you learn more about physics, its day-to-day realities and academic job prospects. You may eventually decide that you would rather go into industry. Waterloo, with its co-op program, would give you some real-world scientific work experience and thus put you in a better position, in general, than a UToronto physics grad, when applying for jobs right out of undergrad.

Blue58
Posts: 3
Joined: Sat Nov 05, 2011 9:12 pm

Re: If from Canada, should I go attend more renowned school?

Postby Blue58 » Thu Nov 17, 2011 7:47 pm

Thank you so much TheBeast for your information
it is truly tempting to study at a challenging school such as Toronto
but I am scared after reading this post http://forums.redflagdeals.com/uoft-stu ... c-1104641/
I will still consider both school as I got several more months to think about

TheBeast
Posts: 114
Joined: Mon Mar 07, 2011 12:06 am

Re: If from Canada, should I go attend more renowned school?

Postby TheBeast » Fri Nov 18, 2011 6:24 pm

I skimmed the forum link that you posted and I have to say that many of the statements on that board echoed my own personal experiences at UToronto several years ago.

Ridiculously hard tests with an unscaled average less than 50%. Check.
Classes with C+ averages. Check.
Marks scaled down due to many students with high marks. Check.
Poor quality of teaching in many of the classes. Check.
Being told by a professor "If you have to ask that question maybe you shouldn't be taking this class." Check.

But, like I said before, there is phenomenal research going on at that school and there are few places in the country where one can be exposed to such a wide variety of physics research.

Also, with respect to the classes, one could argue that because they're so hard, students are exposed to more material than they would be otherwise. I did a master's degree at another Canadian school and was surprised at how much more physics I had apparently covered in my undergrad compared to my classmates.

Blue58
Posts: 3
Joined: Sat Nov 05, 2011 9:12 pm

Re: If from Canada, should I go attend more renowned school?

Postby Blue58 » Fri Nov 18, 2011 10:35 pm

Where did you get your masters?
You must be extremely smart to graduate from Toronto and got accepted in grad school
Did any of your colleagues went to the states for school

TheBeast
Posts: 114
Joined: Mon Mar 07, 2011 12:06 am

Re: If from Canada, should I go attend more renowned school?

Postby TheBeast » Sat Nov 19, 2011 1:17 pm

I got my master's at McGill, but I'm attending a school in the UK for my PhD. Check my applicant profile if you want more details.

I'm not really smart by physicist standards; I'm just persistent when trying to achieve my goals.

Amongst my undergrad classmates, I know of three people who went to the US for grad school in physics (though there very possibly could have been more). One went to MIT, another to Harvard and another to UChicago. However, all three of these guys were incredibly brilliant and were not representative of the average physics or engineering science physics student.

Failnaught
Posts: 12
Joined: Mon Feb 06, 2012 12:09 am

Re: If from Canada, should I go attend more renowned school?

Postby Failnaught » Tue Feb 14, 2012 12:07 pm

TheBeast wrote:With regards to research UToronto has a much larger and diversified department than Waterloo. That's good because you'll have a chance to be exposed to a larger variety of physics research and thus have a better idea in figuring exactly which subfield in physics you wish to apply to for grad school. I can't stress enough the importance of getting research experience in a field you're interested in; not only will it help your grad school application, but it will give you a chance to see if your expectations of the field match the reality.


By now you must be almost getting acceptance letters from all the programs you applied. But TheBeast is extremely correct in that there are better research opportunities at U of T. If your goal is eventually to go to graduate school for physics (keep in mind your ideas might change over time!), this point cannot be emphasized enough.

While your ideas might change over time, don't worry too much about it either way. Aim where you want to end up eventually, and you can always adjust your course as you go.

From what I've heard (ie. may not be true), Waterloo compSci, math and engineering are really quite good, but the downside is that most good physics students just ends up in engineering and/or math programs at Waterloo, and so I'm not certain how good your classmates are going to be at Waterloo physics - this will lower teaching standards, make things easier, etc. I suspect the physics program at U of T is probably better, if only because you'll be taught by top researchers in the field, with a great selection of experimentalists (keep in mind, Perimeter Institute is very theoretical). Co-op is good for making money, and good for finding industry jobs later on, but it does not replace research postings. I had a friend in math at 'Loo who quit the coop program to do NSERC USRA's because they're more fun and more useful for apps later on. He got in to U Chicago (for math), as far as I know.

If you do decide to go to Waterloo, look out for research awards at the top schools during summers (usu. through this NSERC USRA), and participate in those contests to make yourself stand out. If you go to U of T, involve yourself in research as much as possible, even through the school semesters, and do your best in both classes and research. Remember, a good GPA isn't the full story - you'll need research too. Also consider any and all scholarships they might be giving you. You should give more consideration to the place that costs you less overall. But if they're giving you a free education, that's a privilege - don't be one of those snobby kids on campus.

Regarding U of T, don't be afraid of the program. It always looks more scary than it actually is. Just do your best, and you'll be fine! And remember, an 85% is a 4.0 grade point, so if you know everything, that's not difficult to get.

TakeruK
Posts: 813
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: If from Canada, should I go attend more renowned school?

Postby TakeruK » Tue Feb 14, 2012 3:07 pm

A few points to add to the above:

1. Co-op does NOT always have to be industrial jobs. At UBC, the co-op program could be any work in your field, and my first co-op posting was also a NSERC USRA. In fact, we were encouraged to get USRAs because our employer would be able to take us on for free. Effectively, co-op allowed me to take a year off courses to do research while maintaining full time student status (required for honours programs). It's better than just a summer position since 4 months isn't a lot of time to get caught up on the background and really develop a good project.

2. The 16 months of co-op (which pays about $2000-$2200/month) pretty much allowed me to pay off all tuition for my undergrad that wasn't covered by a few small entrance scholarships. More importantly, this means when it's grad school/fellowship application time (beginning of 4th academic year), I already had 16 months of full time research experience while many others may only have 1 or 2 (or even none) summers.

So check out your schools co-op programs!!

3. I'm currently at a smaller Ontario school (for MSc) and a lot of undergrads here said they went here because they heard bad things about U of T instruction quality. I don't know if it's really true or not, but if you are a good student, I would recommend that you go to the school with the best research opportunities and not worry too much about instructional quality. You might be able to self-learn/read a textbook to better understand coursework, but you can't gain research skills and experience without faculty with funding to take a risk on hiring you and interesting research options to choose from.

4. Even if you don't go to a "renowned" school for research, try your best to get summer research positions at these schools. USRAs are pretty good for this, and NSERC will even pay for your round-trip travel costs. There are also other national labs that offer similar programs (e.g. TRIUMF). This is what the above person said too, but it's worth repeating I think!

5. Finally, make sure you do an Honours BSc instead of just a major. I originally started in a majors program because I was afraid and intimidated by the fact that you have to write a thesis for an honours program. But I soon realised that the expectations for an honours thesis isn't as scary as I had thought, and I had to take extra courses in the summer to catch up to the honours stream again.

These are the things that would have helped me if I had known them when I started university. But then again, I didn't know I wanted to do grad school at that point! I try to emphasize these points when undergrads interested in grad school ask me for advice!




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