Disclaimer: I am not a representative of the University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University, or any of their affiliate faculties or schools. This post is simply a reflection on my experiences applying to and attending the CS/BBA program. I hope you enjoy it.
When I was in grade 10, I decided that I wanted to attend the University of Waterloo. Many of the older students that I looked up to (especially my future brother-in-law) were attending Waterloo, enrolling in illustrious programs like Software Engineering and Computer Science. My high school, Vincent Massey S.S., has deep ties with Waterloo, earning us a reputation for being almost like a pipeline. In my mind, I don’t think there was ever a choice between Waterloo or any other University. From the beginning, my high school classmates were groomed for this University. I had very little idea about my goals for University, but I knew one thing for sure: Waterloo was going to be the place for me.
I picked up the admissions viewbook for the first time in grade 11, looking through the wealth of programs being offered. Of course, I had to take the legendary red booklet from the Cheriton School of Computer Science. I began browsing through the booklet like a catalogue magazine, just shopping for programs. One thing jumped out at me: “Business Administration (Laurier) and Computer Science (Waterloo) Double Degree, Co-op”. On the right, it listed the admissions requirements: “Individual Selection from the mid-90s”. At the time, I had no idea what Business even was. I thought it would be the same as the stuff that goes on in DECA or Investment Club. To be quite honest, the entire goal of getting into CS/BBA stemmed from the thought of getting extra clout for two degrees. (Pro-tip: Don’t let that be the case.)
With my new goals in mind, I started prepping for admissions. In grade 11, I took multiple “easy” grade 12 classes with the objective of getting high marks for admissions. I focused hard on my grades, extracurriculars, and contests. The last semester of grade 11 and the first semester of grade 12 were some tough times: I felt enormous personal and social pressure to get in to my “dream” program. Looking back, the process wasn’t so bad, but I remember so many moments of despair and helplessness. Every little inconvenience felt like the end of the world to me and this goal legitimately consumed my mind. It wasn’t healthy at all. Some saw it as dedication, others saw it as being closed off. Regardless of the motivations, it ended up working out. On March 22nd, 2019, I got an email from the Faculty of Mathematics. It was a surreal moment for me, to achieve my own goals and to make my parents proud.
After making my decision to attend Waterloo, I accepted the CS/BBA offer. If you get into both CS/BBA & CS and you’re unsure of what to pick, choose the Double Degree. Dropping out of CS/BBA into CS is literally just a 5-minute talk with the academic advisor, so I’d always recommend giving it a shot. Upon admission, you perform your preliminary course selection and residence forms. Course selection for CS/BBAs is just picking one course from a list of 3: Public Speaking, Interpersonal Communication, or Writing. You can also opt into advanced classes at this time (more on that later). Meanwhile, residence is a bit more complicated. The question boils down to: “Do you want to take responsibility for buying groceries and cooking food?”
I’m currently living in a V1 double room. My roommate and I are doing fantastic, but we can both agree that CMH is the ideal place for double degree students to live: best cafeteria, gym access, centralized location, etc.
After these administrative things are done, you have the rest of the grade 12 year to kick it and enjoy senioritis. My summer months were spent working at the pool or just hanging out. I wouldn’t recommend pre-reading, literally nobody does it (but you might want to work on some CS side projects if you’re really keen). So, my best advice for anyone is just to enjoy your last summer and live it up 😊
Now comes move-in day. All the bags are packed, and the travel arrangements are made. Arriving at Waterloo might be a bit alarming. Move-in day is action packed, with all of the orientation leaders and volunteers running around in their bright shirts. Everyone is frantically unloading cars and moving their stuff up to the dorms. After you get moved in, frosh week begins. Nobody forces you to go anywhere, but the orientation events as a whole are a great spot to meet people. There are usually many nighttime parties and to be quite frank it’s the most social UW gets. The first few weeks seemed to be really laid back with little real work. Everybody says, “Man Uni is so fun!”. That attitude changes quite quickly.
But, in the meantime, you’ll notice that double degree is a really tight-knit community! All the MATH/BBA and CS/BBA students take roughly the same classes, so there’s quite a few opportunities to interact. In the future, your double degree group will bond over preparing BU presentations, cramming math assignments the night they’re due, and hustling around between campuses. You’ll also quickly realize the sad reality of CS/BBA. The program boasts an almost 70% drop rate, with many students dropping into CS within the first few weeks. Most people just decide that business isn’t for them and choose to stick to the CS route instead. I’ll speak to this in later sections.
This is the meat and potatoes. From the CS/BBA perspective, 1A is pretty similar to any other program in the Faculty of Math. We take the following five courses: MATH135, MATH137, CS135, ECON120, and BU111. I described them below.
Of the 5 courses, the biggest time-sink was definitely BU111. Sometimes, I felt like the material was useless and that I wasn’t learning anything. But I still became interested in Business over 1A. The BU111 course didn’t contribute to that interest, but the people around it definitely did. To me, Business was always the add-on to CS, but I quickly noticed how much I liked CS/BBA over just straight CS. If you were a CS student, you’d need to take elective courses – Physics, SPCOM, etc. Struggling and complaining through some random bird course is really less rewarding than struggling and complaining through BU! When you stick it through BBA, you feel a much bigger sense of accomplishment and learning. Through BBA, you also get to meet a wider variety of people and make your learning experience more complete as a whole.
Outside of school, I hope you get involved and get out of your comfort zone. In high school, you were most likely a participant in many clubs and activities. Don’t let that die! Although you may have a lot less free time, you can definitely commit yourself to a couple clubs and societies you’re passionate about. I was on my V1 Residence Council for community events and also played a couple intramural sports. There’s plenty of great clubs around that enrich your academic, athletic, and social experiences.
I hope my experiences can tell you a bit more about double degree. I put together a little TL;DR of quick statements to help you out some more.
Please feel free to contact me at any time for specific anecdotes or thoughts. I’m always glad to help!