Canadaian Computer College Classifications?
December 29, 2008 9:42 AM   Subscribe

Where should a Canadian 1.5st year student transfer to, in order to complete a computer science degree?

Canadian Computer Science transfer student.

I am a 22 year old Canadian university student with a year of arts credits under my belt. I am currently attending Dalhousie University in Halifax, where I've been taking computer science for the past term, and have decided that that is how I'm going to finish my degree.

Everyone who talks about computer science degrees on the internet seems to place a real emphasis on the quality of the school you get your diploma from. I somehow doubt Dalhousie is in the upper echelons of such school.

My marks are pretty good, both in university and high school courses. Would it be best if I transfered to a better Comp Sci school? If so, what are the best options in Canada?
posted by mjewkes to Education (10 answers total)
University of Waterloo
posted by FusiveResonance at 9:59 AM on December 29, 2008

+1 Waterloo. Otherwise I hear that UofT is pretty good.
posted by lowlife at 10:05 AM on December 29, 2008

+2 Waterloo
posted by jkaczor at 10:57 AM on December 29, 2008

As a Waterloo grad I'm biased. But U of T has a strong dept as well. Outside of those, there are a number of decent schools that have reasonable CS departments - SFU, McGill. The real strength of the Waterloo program is co-op where you'll be forced to get half a dozen real jobs before you graduate; a lot of big software companies do heavy recruiting at Waterloo so this is the real reason that the school has better graduate outcomes as opposed to somehow having magically better teachers. Companies like Microsoft, RIM and Google each hire several CS grads each year from Waterloo which is more than you can say about most schools.

Waterloo also has a wider range of CS programs - they have straight CS, they have Comp Eng in engineering, they have Elec Eng with a CS elective, they have a relatively new Software Engineering program and they have a variety of options for the core CS/Math program, like CS+bioinformatics, CS+digital hardware or CS+software engineering. There are a lot of options, far more than any other Canadian school. So that's another reason to try to get in there.
posted by GuyZero at 11:19 AM on December 29, 2008

Unbiased opinion, as I did not go there: Waterloo.
posted by meerkatty at 12:52 PM on December 29, 2008

Thanks everyone.

Program aside, what is the quality of student life like at Waterloo, vs Toronto or McGill?
posted by mjewkes at 1:40 PM on December 29, 2008

For the sake of completeness, I'll throw out there that everything GuyZero said about Waterloo is also true about the University of Victoria's CS program. UVic has the CS combined with Bioinformatics, Music, Visual Arts, Geography, and pretty much any thing else you could be interested in. They also have an accredited Software Engineering program (which means that you would be a ring-bearing true engineer, which is not true of most Canadian Universities), and have Computer Engineering in the Elec Engineering program. Co-op is also a long standing tradition at UVic, and I know several students who have done co-op with companies such as RIM, Google, Electronic Arts, and Microsoft. At UVic however, for CS students co-op is optional and for Engr co-op is mandatory. Regardless, in making a decision, I would choose some place with Co-op - it is seriously invaluable experience, and right now there are quite a lot of jobs. At my University CS students are the highest paid co-op students.

I add though, that Waterloo (and pretty much everyone else), has a better and stronger reputation than UVic, which has more of a slacker reputation. The strengths towards UVic would rather be if you were interested in one of the many combined degree programs or the accredited Seng Program. UVic also has a growing graphics lab with a focus on game design, which would be worth while if that was what you were interested in.

Ultimately though, find out what part of CS you are interested in and go with that - the topics of study in CS are so very broad, and different places have better support for different programs. That information might help in providing a better answer to your question.
posted by billy_the_punk at 2:20 PM on December 29, 2008

I am another University of Waterloo alumnus (Mech Eng '08) . At the University of Waterloo, math and computer science "belong to" the math faculty, and are the largest such faculty in the world. You also have a great opportunity for cooperative education (paid, and in the case of engineering and CS, highly paid internships). Cooperative education is mandatory for engineering, but definitely an option for CS. One of my best friends was a CS major. Coop gets you jobs, networking, and over any nerves you might have in job interviews.

Waterloo is a pretty decent city. Friends who I met on coop at RIM from Dal said it was a pretty decent place to spend a summer.
posted by KevCed at 2:25 PM on December 29, 2008

Ooohhh... student "life" at Waterloo. I graduated from Waterloo twice - in '94 and '03. As a grad student in '03 it was not really the same as undergrad, but I got some sense of how things had changed.

First, Waterloo isn't everyone's cup of tea. it's a quiet city with not much outside of RIM and the two schools, Waterloo and Laurier. There's a big Oktoberfest in October (duh) but it remains a pretty agricultural area outside the city. The large Mennonite population contributes to this - thus the horse cart parking stalls at the malls in the north end of town. The local Farmer's Market is great, but the average 22 year-old isn't all that into farmer's markets outside of when it makes a good place for a date. It's not all that different from Halifax I suppose - small town, lots of students, rough winters. Allow me to repeat that: expect rough winters. But unless you're from Toronto, or Vancouver, you know this and will probably not be phased.

Toronto and McGill (Montreal) are both in real cities with real nightlife and have young people that are not in the same university as you, so the social potential is a lot more open. On the flip side, they're also a lot more expensive and you will have a tougher time finding convenient-to-campus housing.

As for the school: there's a lot of work and most people work hard. I had a good time as an undergrad but returning in '03 I found that the undergrads were working harder than ever and there seemed to be a lot less partying. On the flip side, Waterloo student projects are fucking amazing. Kids these days are building commercial-grade stuff that's on the cutting edge of software, robotics and a lot of other stuff. A guy in my grad school class who had just finished Comp Eng started Tangam Gaming which is a pretty amazing product. There's a real emphasis on entrepreneurship at Waterloo these days with CBET, the Accelerator Centre and the new residence/incubator thing at VeloCity. So my impression is that Engineering students are basically work machines by their own choosing - Waterloo attracts that kind of student. If you want to drink and get a degree on the side (arguably what I did in undergrad past third year), it's probably not the right school. Again, the teachers are fine but the reason that Waterloo grads get the best jobs is that Waterloo attracts the top students to begin with. You could let the top 20% of Waterloo math & eng students do nothing for 4 years and they'd still get the top jobs.

Toronto and McGill differ in that they're much larger schools where the engineering dept plays second fiddle to faculties like law and medicine. Waterloo is all about the engineering. And neither Toronto nor McGill have anything like Waterloo's co-op program. FWIW I know several Waterloo grads at Microsoft and I have met numerous Waterloo grads at Google. Not so much for other Canadian schools. Depending on what you want to do, that may be a big deal or it may be meaningless.

The Globe's assessment/survey on Waterloo campus life.

Finally, math and engineering have improved the gender ratio over the years but it is still, as the kids say, a sausage-fest. And not the Oktoberfest kind.
posted by GuyZero at 2:34 PM on December 29, 2008

Waterloo -- which is where I went to school -- is probably the best regarded school in the country when it comes with Mathematics and Computer Science. The program there is quite good. I graduated in 2004. A crap load of my friends left the school to work in the US, for Amazon on Microsoft. (Both companies recruit very heavily from the school.)

Also, Computer Science is its own faculty now. When I was there it belonged to the faculty of Mathematics. I think you can now get a BMath in Computer Science or a BCS. The later seems a bit dumbed down to me, since the math classes were what really weeded out the not so bright people.
posted by chunking express at 7:10 AM on December 30, 2008

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