Noshin (Year 2)
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.
I chose this institution over others after I attended the Open House. I chose this university as it offered one of the only cyber security focused programs in the country. The program has had a history of excellent job prospects with partnerships with Cisco, IBM, CSIS, Facebook and more, and the faculty to student ratio was very small, so professors and TAs get to know students on a more personal level for better guidance. Some advantages of this 18-year-old university are that the facilities are very technology friendly, eco-friendly, and aesthetically pleasing, which makes studying and attending classes overall a better experience. The curriculum of all programs offered are constantly being updated so that students are prepared with the latest necessary skills and knowledge to face todays world. The only disadvantage is that it is fairly new and doesn't have a 300 yr old reputation of prestige like some other universities so it is not recognized too often, but this doesn't hinder alumni in their career applications at all.
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.
I wish I knew that I was allowed more freedom in choosing my courses in their respective orders. All majors have their required and elective courses and academic advisors make a course map that you can follow to ensure you complete all your degree requirements. But many of the electives do not have to be set in stone, and you can choose when to take these courses to make your semester easier, and to graduate on time with all degree requirements. Had I known this, I wouldn't have been miserable starting and then dropping out of a business elective that I just wasn't ready for and now I have to find time in a summer to complete it.
What was your favourite university experience?
My best experience at university was when I went alpine skiing in the winter semester as part of a club event in partnership with the club across all Ontario universities. Not only did I have a thrill-seeking day, but I was able to meet a lot of new people and grow closer within my friend group on campus from that club.
What was your least favourite university experience?
My worst university experience was doing group work and group projects because it always seems to be that you are the only one picking up slack in your group. And since every grade matters towards your cumulative GPA, you have no choice but to do the best you can and take one for the group because group projects rarely give individual marks. I suggest picking your group members wisely and building on your teamwork skills while you can because it is going to be super important in university life and beyond.
What is the hardest part about your program and what were the steps that you took to overcome any difficulties?
Because my program is very hands on and technical, we have a lot of application based assignments and projects and these can be due back to back. You have to understand the material, develop it from scratch, verify to make sure the final result works in a very short amount of time, and they are often worth a good chunk out of your overall mark. To cope with this, I've learned to space out time allocated towards projects and assignments weeks ahead and actually commit to doing them. It is also impossible to get by university with the bare minimum and expect a decent GPA. It is really important to time manage, ask questions, seek help if needed, but most importantly be organized. Once you've nailed this down, your first two years of university will be a breeze (assuming you tried hard in high school).
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?
My favourite course was probably Object Oriented Programming as I did not anticipate the type of programs I was able to create, how much I was able to learn and deploy and I also loved learning interactively by my professor. It also didn't hurt to get a straight A in that class as well.
Join hackathons regardless of whether you're in STEM or not, especially if you're in commerce or business. Hackathons are a great opportunity to showcase your presentation skills, programming skills (not necessary), network with huge companies etc. Not only are you able to learn and take many new skills due to the many workshops they might offer but it is a very enjoyable experience as you make friendships with hackers, participate in activities, get free swag, have paid transportation and most importantly, free food. If you ever end up winning a hackathon, that might literally be your ticket to an internship or a full time job -- as it was for me.