Carmen (Year 2)
What made you choose this institution over all others? Did the university exceed your expectations?
I chose McMaster University for engineering over University of Waterloo because I prioritized learning and social environments over Waterloo's big name. I had heard from a few of my high school friends who went to Waterloo and they claimed that the environment is highly toxic and quite depressing, and I figured that was not where I wanted to be in the next 4-5 years. At McMaster, it's very welcoming in terms of the social environment because there are many upper years who are willing to lend a hand; the campus is much more compact than my other university choices; first year engineering is general so you can get a feel for what you actually want instead of choosing a stream preemptively without knowing the pros and cons. McMaster was everything I expected, I just didn't expect to be accustomed to the campus as early on as I did.
Do you have any lingering thoughts or regrets in your year as a whole (ex; application process, mistakes going into first year). If so, describe them.
McMaster has a large variety of engineering streams for first year students to choose from, but there was one particular stream I wish my university offered: aerospace engineering. I always wondered what it was like to have gone to a different university for a stream I truly wanted to work towards, but I realized my social circle wouldn't have been the same and perhaps I wouldn't have been the same. My one regret in first year was underestimating the workload and not committing to my work ethic from high school. In high school, I worked day and night to keep up my grades but once I entered university, I thought I had sealed the deal with my old work ethic. Turns out I had to put in some more time, love and care.
Briefly describe the academic rigour of your program (in terms of competitiveness, courses, professors, etc.)
The program is quite competitive so be sure to ask the right people for help. The assignments are tight on deadlines as they're very close together; no excuses for being late. Some professors make lectures very entertaining and the content easy to understand while others might simply read off their lecture slides in a monotone voice. Grading is fair but some questions assigned to each student for bi-weekly quizzes may be unfair as they vary in difficulty.
Describe the social life at your campus based on your own experiences (making friends, clubs + extracurriculars, party culture etc.)
Making friends came easy at McMaster because of Welcome Week/Frosh Week! There were many upper years waiting to introduce you to your new program classmates or residence mates. If you live on campus, it's much easier to make friends and stick with their hang-out schedule, whereas living off campus means you have an entirely different perspective on where to hang-out; you're not excluded from across-the-street grocery stores or restaurants. I never joined a club or any extracurriculars because I thought I would need more time to focus on my studies, but that time spent for 'studies' could have been my efforts to time manage and make space to join a club.
What are some of the best and worst parts of your university experience so far?
The McMaster campus is amazing, it's compact and easy to manage; it's a 10 minute walk across campus so you'll never be late to class. The worst part about McMaster is how it's in the city of Hamilton. My student house was along the street to downtown Hamilton and bussing home on nights lectures ran late is not a good idea if you're alone. There's a lot of people you may not want to run into, harmless yet frightening. Make sure you have a friend to bus home with! On my third day in Welcome Week, I went to get bubble tea at a local shop off campus and hadn't realized the bus schedule was 30 minute intervals as opposed to 10 minute intervals. Bus routes change and some buses aren't available at certain times. Waiting at this one particular bus stop was the worst time of my life because a man had approached me and began asking me strange questions; I ended up having to walk 20 minutes along the highway just to get back home.
List three effective study techniques and/or habits:
Colour coding (highlighters, sticky notes)
A fruit salad bowl
List three pieces of advice for first-year students:
Don't slack off, definitely do take breaks in between your studies, but don't brush off a small assignment or a point-system lecture. Always ask for help if you need it. Use textbooks! You might think you don't have time to open the textbook, but sometimes reading the book is more useful than taking notes directly from lecture slides. Bus home with a friend if it gets late!