Pursue 12 week internship at McGill or 8 month co-op at uWaterloo?
February 15, 2020 2:00 PM   Subscribe

Hi. I am wanting to do a master's in either political science. I am not sure if it would be best to go to McGill for the name recognition, and because Montreal is a nicer and more interesting city.

McGill only offers a twelve week internship with the political science/economics masters component - as someone with little professional work experience, would it be wiser to pursue the 8 month co-op at uWaterloo, even if McGill is more known for political science? (I was also contemplating on economics as well, but I have only taken courses in political economy not maths). I have always wanted to attend McGill, as it is one of the best universities in Canada, and have always wanted to live in Montreal and explore Quebec. I am worried that doing a 12 week internship will not be enough to get my foot in the door. Whereas, uWaterloo's eight month co-op might be better from a professional standpoint. Does anyone have a recommendation or some advice? I am really wanting to go to McGill. My grades are pretty good, and I am in my fourth year undergrad right now. I am also really interested in research and public policy research work too, and would love to get better at quant and programming down the line too, which econ courses might be useful for that. I have always wanted to TA and do an RA as well if possible. Would McGill be a good option although the internship is only for 12 weeks or so? The master's program is for almost two years, so not sure if it would be worth it, as it might be difficult to find professional work afterwards. Just not entirely sure.
posted by RearWindow to Education (10 answers total)
I don’t know about professional outcomes but Montreal is absolutely a million times better than Waterloo! Based on that alone I would choose it!
posted by nouvelle-personne at 2:42 PM on February 15, 2020 [9 favorites]

Another vote for McGill. I studied in Waterloo and it was not an entirely pleasant experience. I lived and studied in Montreal as well and it was delightful.

My feeling is that in a few years it won't matter much the duration of your co-op/internship. There *will* be opportunities for you no matter where you go. I'd choose the option with the better reputation in the cooler city, for sure.
posted by jpziller at 3:29 PM on February 15, 2020

Oh my god McGill. In my do over life I went to McGill instead of UofMumbleMumble
posted by St. Peepsburg at 5:32 PM on February 15, 2020

I don't know enough about the two different programs. Would you know the details of the placement (which company you'll be interning/ co-oping with) ahead of time? That, I think is more critical to your career development than 'prestige.' If there are lots of varieties of opportunities at both such that you'd have a range of choices to choose from, I'd definitely go with McGill for the Montreal v Waterloo component.

If you know what specialty/ field you want to get into, that would help making a decision. A 8 month co-op sounds like 2 terms; is there an option built-in where you could switch to a different co-op after 4 months (or elect to do the 2nd half with the same company - in STEM co-ops, the 2nd term at the same place usually adds some pretty good leadership/ management experience and is usually associated with being moved into a less grunty and more "actual experience" project(s))?

3 months (intern) seems a little short unless you're already more-or-less competent in the role and that's understood by the company or the scope is quite narrow. If it's something completely new (or seasonal! like, sometimes certain datasets only come out at certain times of the year), 3 months doesn't feel sufficient.

Another consideration is whether you'll be compensated at the internship; co-ops are paid, if not well.

Your profile suggests that you're a woman; I've had a number of friends who've attended Waterloo (undergrad and grad, but in STEM) and the consensus is that Waterloo can be toxic, the subtext being that it's baked into the school and the town. Racism, too, despite the higher ratio of visible minorities.

FWIW, I love Montreal (short- and short-ish visits) and would love it even more if I was more fluent in French.

Another point for Montreal is if you want to work in at the federal government level - being fluent in French in addition to English is very very convenient and complements the Masters well when applying.

Oh, sorry, misread - if it's intern/ co-op v getting into a Masters program at McGill - I'd shoot for the Masters at McGill.

Or even better, either of the intern/ co-op, followed by a Masters once you've figured out which career path you want to pursue. Doubly true if you want to work in the fed - the MA gets you an automatic paybump and removes a promotion ceiling. Sure, people say they'll go back to get a funded MA later, but it doesn't happen (for a variety of reasons) more often than it does; and going back to school is harder, especially once spouse/ children start entering the picture.

If you want to use working with the fed as a stepping stone to the private sector, the general advice is to have a pretty hard end-date; after more than 4-5 years with the fed, getting into the private sector become increasingly difficult unless you're a unicorn. Having the Masters before taking that jump is a plus - unless you quit the fed job and be super poor during the Masters program before landing a private sector job. Get the pain of doing the Masters over with while you're young.
posted by porpoise at 5:41 PM on February 15, 2020 [4 favorites]

Another vote for McGill.
posted by furtive at 8:15 PM on February 15, 2020

Do your graduate work in the place where you'd like to live.
posted by salvia at 9:45 AM on February 16, 2020 [2 favorites]

I've lived in both places and have attended both schools. While the above comments on Waterloo are a bit over the top (a lot of those problems have changed a lot since the 90s and early 2000s) Montreal is the better school for what you want to do. And yeah Montreal is the better larger city, there's no comparison really, but it is hardly free of problems. I've had loads of friends of colour leave Montreal with pretty negative experiences and from my perspective as a French Canadian there's a lot of problematic cultural aspects Quebec has double down on in recent years. In short no place is perfect and go for the experience.
posted by Ashwagandha at 11:56 AM on February 16, 2020 [4 favorites]

You can apply for other internships/fellowships during your time at McGill too, if they fit your schedule time-wise (for instance during the summer between years 1 & 2). The 12-week one is just the one that's officially part of the program, but it doesn't limit you if you want to find more opportunities on your own to supplement your work there.
posted by augustimagination at 2:05 PM on February 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: @porpoise Fantastic reply. Thank-you!
posted by RearWindow at 4:00 PM on February 17, 2020

Anytime, RearWindow. Glad you found it useful, even if just to develop your next sets of questions!

This time in your life can be tough unless you've got a pathway all mapped out - but don't be too envious of people who say/ act like they do; a lot of my peers at the time were absolutely unrealistic about their trajectories and while some ended up ok, many ended up secretly/ openly regretful, even if they've met their trajectories "on paper." Especially so if those plans involved romance or children.

Don't feel like you need to be absolutely dialed in right now, the environment is ever-changing. Adaptability is key, and having a broad but functional background will help you to adapt.

Reading some of your previous questions - ABSOLUTELY. Definitely actively try to get statistics experience. Not just running the calculations - anybody can be trained to do that - but to understand what/ which model/ analysis to run when, and be able to communicate why you chose that particular one (or two, which you can then contrast and discuss).

I'd highly recommend trying to get involved in interpretation and experimental design - "all models are wrong, but some are useful." Being able to design a model that is less wrong and more useful is a very useful skill - as is critiquing a model (and results arising from such) and understanding its weaknesses and identify aspects that might not be captured/ capturable.


Another consideration is when the internship/ co-op(s) happens. After a semester (or two) of classes? After the Masters? Having one in the middle of the program should be superior to having it before/ after the core classwork so you can have a focus (or two) to end the Masters on a strong and directed note.
posted by porpoise at 5:24 PM on February 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

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