Mathematical Finance (Co-op) at University of Waterloo
Tabitha (Year 2)
Tabitha He (Facebook)
What did you wish you knew before going to your university? What made you choose this institution over all others? What are advantages and disadvantages of your institution or campus? List any advice for incoming first-year students about your university.
There are three main reasons I chose to go to UW over other institutions.
1. The co-op program. I heard that in this generation, it's becoming increasingly difficult to find a job out of university, with many entrance level positions asking for years of experience prior. Co-op basically solves that issue for you, and it's also much easier to find internships this way.
2. Reputation in mathematics. This is pretty self explanatory, UW seems to have a good reputation in mathematics in terms of quality of education as well as quality of the students in the program.
3. Academic atmosphere. I have heard from various sources that the students at UW are very motivated learners. This was very appealing to me, because I am definitely more motivated in school when I'm surrounded by others who are also motivated. It seems that everyone that I've met here has been extremely intelligent, talented, and driven, which always inspires me to do my best. I also appreciate that the atmosphere isn't competitive; I can depend on my peers to help me when I need it, which apparently is not true for some programs at other schools...
What did you wish you knew before choosing your specific program? What are the advantages and disadvantages of your program? List any advice for incoming first-year students about your program of study.
My advice for incoming students for this program is to try to complete your assignments *by yourself* so that you fully grasp the things you learn each week. If you do this, you will greatly reduce the amount of stress come exam time. Exam questions are mainly just easier versions of your assignment questions or class examples, so there's really no better exam prep than to just do your homework.
If you really don't understand a question, there are a lot of resources that can help, such as friends, profs, course notes, and res tutors, but I really recommend you try a problem for at least two days before asking for help. A consequence of that is that you must start your homework early and not leave it to the last minute. This isn't just so you do well in exams, it's also so that you'll have a solid foundation for future courses.
This seems like pretty standard advice, but the reality is that a lot of students still don't follow it :(
What was your favourite university experience?
Aside from hanging out with my friends (an obvious choice), I really enjoyed taking naps in the DC library, in the comfort and privacy of the little green pods. I was always sleep deprived, so I would often get the urge to sleep in the middle of study sessions. The pods were right there in the library, so it was really convenient to just go and take a nap. It's much more comfortable than sleeping on the desks. I highly recommend it to other chronic sleepers.
What was your least favourite university experience?
Math 148 (advanced calculus 2) midterm. This was the first and only advanced math course I took in first year, and it was definitely not a friendly welcome to the advanced stream. I felt out of place and deficient having not taken advanced calculus the term prior, and I felt overwhelmed by the long and crazy assignments. After trying to study for the midterm and feeling lost and frustrated, I told myself I would drop the course and gave up on studying for it two days before. That was probably the lowest point of my confidence in myself and my abilities. Now, I realize that my imposter syndrome was holding me back a lot. It turned out okay in the end; I ended up not dropping the course thanks to encouragement from my friends, and I have since grown much from this experience and can better deal with feelings of discouragement.
It's still the worst experience I can think of though :')
What is the hardest part about your program and what were the steps that you took to overcome any difficulties?
In high school, I was deferred to the no co-op version of my program. This was upsetting, as one of the biggest reasons I wanted to go to UW was for the co-op. I did some research, and I found out that it was possible to switch in to the co-op program at the end of first year, and they accepted students based on their average. I realized that if I wanted to switch in, I would have to devote my time to studying and aim for the highest marks I could get. As a result, my study habits have improved greatly. Some things that have helped me:
1. Colour code your notes. Make it easy to search for theorems vs definitions vs examples vs proofs. This makes studying much easier and more efficient.
2. List all the definitions, theorems and propositions in a separate section of your notebook, to have a handy "reference sheet". Get your friends to take your sheet and test how well you know it. You need to know your definitions well before you can move on to actually solving problems! Also, sometimes a quiz question will simply ask you to state a theorem..
3. Study the examples done in class. Sometimes, just reviewing assignment questions is not enough. There was a quiz question once that was basically the same as an example done in class, but not covered on an assignment, and the results were that the majority of students couldn't solve the problem. This is another reason why you should attend your lectures :)
4. Try to solve a problem in more than one way. Your first solution isn't always the nicest or shortest one, and this becomes important in exams where time is an issue. Also, just thinking about it from a different perspective will make you a better problem solver overall.
If you were able to take electives, what was your favourite elective? If you were not able to take electives, what was your favourite course and why?
I have good memories of Math 135, which is algebra/proofs. Not only did I meet some of my closest friends throughout first year there, but I just found the material to be very interesting. The material felt less "messy" than 137 (calculus) and it reminded me of fun, contest style math from when I was a kid. I felt so cool when I wrote my first proof by contradiction, one of my favourite proof techniques today. The second half of the course is somewhat related to number theory, and I enjoyed it so much that I might take a number theory course in later years (pmath 441 - algebraic number theory).