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Share your POST-SECONDARY experiences and advice

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[OP]
Newbie
Jan 19, 2011
40 posts
10 upvotes

Share your POST-SECONDARY experiences and advice

Hey guys,

Just finished Computer Engineering program from Queen's and I'd like to share my experience of the past 4 years here. Please add anything you have have that can help others! There seemed to be a lot of troubled individuals getting kicked out recently...hope this thread can help.

Tips for high-schoolers:
1. Get as high of an average as possible (Grade 12). Why? Most universities have more entrance scholarships versus your undergrad. It is also easier to keep an entrance scholarship (maintain 80% at Queen's) versus competing for one after first year.

2. Get in a habit of doing homework. Why? To be blunt, high school is a joke. You are going to be hit with a heavier workload in post-secondary. Speaking from an engineering perspective, doing problems on a regular basis greatly improved my GPA.

Tips for university (Engineering @ Queen's specifics)
1. Use resources available to you. Why? You paid for them. Teaching Assistant(TA) and Professor office hours are free. Always ask them for help. One of the many regrets for me personally was feeling "stupid" to need to ask for clarification. These profs you see could come in handy later when you need a reference for grad school etc

2. Get as high of an average as possible (All years). Why? Scholarships and TAs. Scholarships- The faculty of Applied Science has general scholarships as well as department scholarships for all years (1,2,3,4). Most are based off academics (some for club specifics as well). TAs- The Faculty of Applied Science hire second+ year students for first year courses such as Programming, Caluculus, and Linear Alg. These positions are all based off marks. Third+ year students are then hired for in-department second year courses, and first year project courses.

3. Getting experience for career. How? Clubs and TAs. There are many clubs in universities which allow you to development leadership, time management, and communication skills. TAs provide opportunities for leadership, and scenarios for team leading development.
How being a TA helped me get a job at Proctor and Gamble I was a TA-title Project Manager for overseeing 4 groups of 4 students. I used many many scenarios during my interview for a summer electrical process engineer position at the P&G plant in Brockville. From leadership..to conflict resolution...to leading a team to a goal...etc etc I was able to give a solid context-action-result response to the interviewer.

4. Relax. Do whatever you like-party, sports, clubs, video games and balance the academic workload.

The $$ benefits (Personally experienced):
Scholarships $500 to $10k per year
TA (Engineering at Queens)- $19.45/hour (I believe other universities have a higher rate! Heard uot undergrad TAs were 3x/hr?)
Summer job at Honda-$15.50 /hour
Proctor and Gamble- $5035 / month salaried
Douglas tutor TA-$25/hr (GF experienced)
Edit* Private tutoring-Almost forgot..know your ***** and tutor rich froshs. GF and I charged $40/hour but the common rate should be ~$15

Overall tips- Know your ***** and learn to communicate. Having a higher GPA will only open more doors.
61 replies
Member
Dec 9, 2007
232 posts
29 upvotes
Conan O'Brien put it well "Work hard, be kind and amazing things will happen"

First off, this is your life and these are your choices; don't assume it'll all work out because you heard this was a good major or your parents will think you can get a good job with it. Your going to spend the next 4 years and a lot of money pursuing something, do your research and make sure it's worth it to YOU. Now some of you aren't sure what you want to do yet, that's alright and a very natural part of growing up, just understand that you can figure out what you want to do with your life in a lot of other places (which are usually a lot cheaper); shadow or take a crappy job for a day, learn how good you have it to appreciate the opportunities you have.

Now you've picked something, ok work your darnedest to be the best at it. Why? Because you're not a kid any more, how well you do things is going to determine what kinds of opportunities you're going to have in the future. You want practical advice? Study your materials before the lecture, be able to ask questions above and beyond what today's lecture is about. Start your assignments when they're assigned, not at the last minute. This may all seem like basic stuff but barely anyone does it and they end up doing the same amount of work cramming at the last minute. Above all else ATTEND YOUR LECTURES, looking at facebook on your laptop doesn't count.

Be nice to people, help other people even if it doesn't help you in anyway. You want to know what one of the most effective ways to understand something is? Learn to explain it to someone else. Social skills are essential no matter what you end doing for the rest of your life, don't be a Premed stereotype who's self serving nature is ridiculously transparent. Learn to treat your teachers and TAs as mentors and not grade givers. Asking to understand what you did wrong goes a lot farther for both your grades and other people's perception of you than being a grade grubber.

Take time to enjoy life, procasinate on occasion, have fun and remember that you're working so hard so you'll have the means to do more and more amazing things as life goes by.
Sr. Member
May 28, 2011
982 posts
1025 upvotes
Any advice on how to avoid procrastination ? Especially for the serial procrastinator.
Newbie
Dec 27, 2008
13 posts
1 upvote
Ajax
Pratzy wrote: Any advice on how to avoid procrastination ? Especially for the serial procrastinator.
Sometimes it takes a wakeup call; mine was a spectacular failure when I left something too late that ended up needing more hours than I had left.

You could try eliminating some of the things that encourage you to procrastinate and incorporate a bit of peer pressure. When you've got something that needs to be done, plan some milestones in as checkpoints, then use a blog, facebook or checklist on your door to advertise them. You'll feel more pressure to finish what you said you'd do and you'll want to avoid calls from your parents and housemates telling you that you missed milestone dates.

You might also try starting with the hardest task of your project. It's easier to procrastinate when it's something you really don't want to do.
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Sep 22, 2009
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1. Make sure your professors know you and have a high opinion of you, especially:

-those who are stars of their subfield (top 1%)
-those who are well known in their subfield (top 2-5%)
-all other full professors/deans/senior professors in your department if possible.

This is important because these are the people whose letters of recommendation will carry weight should you choose to go further in your education than an undergraduate degree. Letters from unknown associate professors, assistant professor or lower generally don't count for jack squat.

If you go to a university where lectures and classes have more than 35 people (or a place where full professors do not teach your tutorials), this will take a lot of extra effort, and may require that you work in some of their labs for 6-12 months at a time. Could be paid, could be volunteer. Volunteer positions will be easier to get because few professors will turn away a motivated student who wants to donate their time to the professor's upcoming grant application or working paper or journal article.

2. Do a semester or year abroad in a non-english-speaking country. You will have the time of your life and learn a huge amount--especially if you've never lived in a country where you can't take knowledge of the local language for granted.
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[OP]
Newbie
Jan 19, 2011
40 posts
10 upvotes
Anonymouse wrote: How sad that you graduated with distinction from one of the best engineering schools in the country and couldn't do better than working at a tampon manufacturer. Weren't there any interesting startups in Ottawa to work for?
Surely there would be interesting jobs elsewhere. My girlfriend was working in Kingston as we already had a house leased with other people so I didn't really feel like paying double rent. But I was happy with the 4 month experience in Brockville. I was lucky to be in the Electronics & Instrumentation department, where a summer student actually does technical projects. I was responsible for upgrading the PLCs and communications network for an entire line (quite a huge task considering the lack of downtime you get), web handling (used to make Bounce sheets), troubleshooting tension transducers, fixing their scrap report for 5 lines (using SQL & database). So overall, my computer engineering skills were used and actually interested me into pursuing Masters in Communications.

I agree working at P&G can be a snoozefest. A new undergrad hire there as band 1 is basically babysitting a team that is 20 years older than you. The only position that requires technical work would be the Band 2 Controls Manager.
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Dec 7, 2009
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Great thread idea.

Tips for HSers and young undergrads.

1.) Declare after 1st year unless you're 100% sure you know exactly what you want to do with the rest of your life. Don't feel pressured to get into a stream until you've sampled some of the courses at the university level. You can still graduate in 4yrs if you take a year to test the water. Don't rush in thinking you know yourself at 18. Chances are, you know what your parents want, but you probably have little clue what you actually want.

2.) Get to know your profs. Most profs are extremely intelligent and interesting people with egos to match. Get over yourself and find ways to interact and get to know them. Don't just attend your lectures and melt into the crowd.

3.) Research your courses and come up with a study plan that fits the course you're taking. Find someone who has taken them before. Read online reviews (ratemyprofessor.com is a good one) and find out what you need to do. Every course is different. Some will require textbook learning. Some will require problem solving. Some will require you to record the lectures and listen to them twice. Some won't require you to go to lecture at all. Figure this out ahead of time.

4.) Participate in ECs!!! I can't stress this enough. Most universities have lots of travel opportunities and interesting study trips. Take them. Don't graduate having not taken advantage of all of the great experiences offered to you during this part of your life. Play a sport even if you're not good at sports. Find something and get good at it even if it's just ping pong or running.

5.) Get laid. Those hot, fit 30 and 40-somethings on TV are the exception, not the rule. When you're 18-25 you're almost hot by default. You have to work to screw it up. So make sure you taste as much tail as you can before people ruin themselves with bad lifestyle choices. It's easier to do it now than try to chase it when you're older. After 30 you have to work your arse off just to look presentable. When you're 19, it's free. Use it or lose it!

6.) Work hard when you have to, relax when you don't. Know the difference.
In a perfect system, corporations would fear the government and the government would fear the people. - David Wong

Check out caRpetbomBer's picks in this thread.
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Sep 24, 2007
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1. GPA. Work your ***** off to get in, to stay in, and to get your degree. Don't assume university's like high school, where zero homework done could still lead to an 80% final mark. Some courses won't be that simple - work, read, do what you have to to earn that 95% and get into a star university.

2. Even if you get into a top-tier university, you're not special. You'll be in the same boat as hundreds of thousands of people across Canada - and the same boat as maybe 50-75 in your own program/major/degree, depending on what that degree is. The sooner humility is found, the sooner you'll see sometimes things won't simply fall into place.

3. Extra curriculars. I made the fatal mistake of not joining any clubs, and I'm paying dearly for it. I've got little experience, a degree in which I have no experience except in-class projects, and because of that, I'm not expecting to be in a high-paying position any time soon. No doubt if I tried for a club or a school council thing, I would be a step ahead of a lot of people.

Now that I think of it, I was part of a case competition team... nvm.

4. Work your body. Go to the gym, get fit, go running, do anything. You'll get that feel. At the same time, stop eating (or reduce consumption of) processed crap. It made me fat. I'm working out now and eating healthier and I feel better than crap.

5. Manage your time well. Don't wait until the second night before it's due to hammer out a rough draft. Work on it right away. If you've got multiple projects, work on them equally, then put more time into it as the deadline approaches.

6. Get off the computer/video game consoles. Stop surfing RFD the day before a midterm, stop playing Max Payne 3 well into the night, stop surfing Reddit for hours. You'll find you have tons more time. My time waster was Minecraft. Carried me to 4am every night, just to wake up at noon for class at 3.

7. Make friends with as many people as possible. Including professors.
Member
Dec 16, 2007
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Scarborough
Take the courses you want, ignore the detractors.
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Mar 17, 2012
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MISSISSAUGA
Be nice to people, help other people even if it doesn't help you in anyway.
Be nice, but help? No. DO NOT HELP ANYONE. why? A class is a battlefield, its you versus 35 or more for that A and high mark, especially to get the professors attention. Why should you help your competitors? I say actively sabotage them.

Say someone wants a lecture note for a day they missed. Well if they approach you, then tell them that you'll give it to them, but then DON'T. When they ask you tell them you sent it by email but they must not have got it and continue so the next day until they stop bugging you about it. By that time they should be far back enough not to be much of a competition. If they ask you if they can photocopy your notes tell them sure but leave very quickly after class. This way it denies them any sort of way to approach you. Do the same with assignments they miss and such.

Life's a battlefield and you should actively seek to screw your opponents to get that A.
Member
Dec 16, 2007
373 posts
1 upvote
Scarborough
Anonymouse wrote: Art history major? How much do the social assistance programs give you these days, anyhow? Take the courses you want, as long as most of them are going to teach you saleable skills.
Ignore the detractors.
Banned
Mar 17, 2012
460 posts
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MISSISSAUGA
Anonymouse wrote: Art history major? How much do the social assistance programs give you these days, anyhow? Take the courses you want, as long as most of them are going to teach you saleable skills.
Any skills are saleable, people like the person who wrote the quote that was quoted above, are ones with limited imagination. Ignore them and continue to study what you like.
Member
Dec 9, 2007
232 posts
29 upvotes
Katchemash wrote: Be nice, but help? No. DO NOT HELP ANYONE. why? A class is a battlefield, its you versus 35 or more for that A and high mark, especially to get the professors attention. Why should you help your competitors? I say actively sabotage them.

Say someone wants a lecture note for a day they missed. Well if they approach you, then tell them that you'll give it to them, but then DON'T. When they ask you tell them you sent it by email but they must not have got it and continue so the next day until they stop bugging you about it. By that time they should be far back enough not to be much of a competition. If they ask you if they can photocopy your notes tell them sure but leave very quickly after class. This way it denies them any sort of way to approach you. Do the same with assignments they miss and such.

Life's a battlefield and you should actively seek to screw your opponents to get that A.
Why help other people? Because the world doesn't revolve around you. Even so let's talk about this purely from a point of self interest, other people will recognize you for the way you behave and treat other people, unless you're one of the handful of extraordinarily gifted people studying something with very clear applications you will depend on other people throughout your life. People talk about networking and having other people help as references, they gain the respect and admiration of those people by treating others well.

While I don't claim to represent everyone that has a high GPA and gone on to use that high GPA to access opportunities, I can say everyone I've met in the same boat were hardworking generous people that never had to sabotage anyone else to get where they are. Helping someone else understand something they're struggling with might infinitesimally affect your grade by curving, but if you were on top of your game anyway you wouldn't be worried about that. What's more as I said before it will teach you to work with other people and may also help your own understanding of the material.

I don't expect you to understand the value of helping other people just from a post on a message board, I hope you will see how petty it is to wish for other people's failure instead of working towards your own success.
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Dec 7, 2009
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Katchemash wrote: Be nice, but help? No. DO NOT HELP ANYONE. why? A class is a battlefield, its you versus 35 or more for that A and high mark, especially to get the professors attention. Why should you help your competitors? I say actively sabotage them.

Say someone wants a lecture note for a day they missed. Well if they approach you, then tell them that you'll give it to them, but then DON'T. When they ask you tell them you sent it by email but they must not have got it and continue so the next day until they stop bugging you about it. By that time they should be far back enough not to be much of a competition. If they ask you if they can photocopy your notes tell them sure but leave very quickly after class. This way it denies them any sort of way to approach you. Do the same with assignments they miss and such.

Life's a battlefield and you should actively seek to screw your opponents to get that A.
What the hell is wrong with you? Are you afflicted?

Not helping people is one thing, but this sort of behavior deserves a punch in the nose.

If someone went out their their way to promise me notes, and tried to pull a bait n' switch I wouldn't let it go. I'd get the notes elsewhere and then I'd paint a target on their back. The problem is that up until now, it didn't even occur to me that someone would actively try to screw other people like this, so I probably wouldn't be looking out for this level of d-baggery.

Stay classy.
In a perfect system, corporations would fear the government and the government would fear the people. - David Wong

Check out caRpetbomBer's picks in this thread.
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Jul 8, 2010
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What to do when at 18 you don't know what you want to major in, let alone what field you want to pursue.
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dankup wrote: What to do when at 18 you don't know what you want to major in, let alone what field you want to pursue.
This is typical. Nobody has the life experience at 18 to know what they will be passionate about the rest of their lives. In past generations, people just took jobs and sucked it up because it paid the bills. We are living in a time where we can explore the space around several careers and make an informed decision before it's too late and you're already entrenched or financially saddled.

I already posted my advice about this. Use your first year of university to explore career paths you have some spark of interest in. Move from there.
In a perfect system, corporations would fear the government and the government would fear the people. - David Wong

Check out caRpetbomBer's picks in this thread.
Banned
Mar 17, 2012
460 posts
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MISSISSAUGA
I hope you will see how petty it is to wish for other people's failure instead of working towards your own success.
Oh, never once did I say not to work to your own success. That is vital as that A is more important. But you also need to keep the other people down so that only one of the assured people that will get an A.
Stay classy.
Stay unemployed and a leech on society!

Its a vaild thing. Life is a jungle, you compete for jobs, you compete for grad spaces so you need all the leg up that you can get. If that means putting down people and purposely misleading then all power to you.
Member
Dec 9, 2007
232 posts
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Katchemash wrote: Its a vaild thing. Life is a jungle, you compete for jobs, you compete for grad spaces so you need all the leg up that you can get. If that means putting down people and purposely misleading then all power to you.
In all the things you've mentioned you'll still depend on other people short of being some amazing prodigy (which if you were you wouldn't have to screw over other people), at the very best if you plot and schemed to rise somewhere that you wouldn't have gotten to otherwise you'll just fail once you get there because, everyone else will be happy to work with each other instead of you.

Don't believe me? Talk to anyone successful, while I'm sure they may have screwed over a handful of people at some point, the overwhelming part of their success story is all the people they helped and were helped by.
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Katchemash wrote: Its a vaild thing. Life is a jungle, you compete for jobs, you compete for grad spaces so you need all the leg up that you can get. If that means putting down people and purposely misleading then all power to you.
Just stop talking.
In a perfect system, corporations would fear the government and the government would fear the people. - David Wong

Check out caRpetbomBer's picks in this thread.
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Jul 8, 2010
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Syne wrote: This is typical. Nobody has the life experience at 18 to know what they will be passionate about the rest of their lives. In past generations, people just took jobs and sucked it up because it paid the bills. We are living in a time where we can explore the space around several careers and make an informed decision before it's too late and you're already entrenched or financially saddled.

I already posted my advice about this. Use your first year of university to explore career paths you have some spark of interest in. Move from there.
Didn't. And now I don't want to because I might already be a year behind if I do something else.

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