1A in CS/BBA

February 19th, 2020

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.

Part 1 - Origins

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.)

The Viewbook Every Prospective Student Looks At

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.

Part 2 – The Build-Up

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?”

  1. If the answer to that was yes, pick UWP or MKV
  2. If the answer was no, pick CMH or one of the University colleges

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 😊

Part 3 – Arrival

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.

Part 4 – School

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.

    MATH 135 (Algebra for Honours Mathematics)
  • Colloquially known as ‘proofs’ or ‘alg’, MATH 135 is probably the hardest of the 3 Waterloo classes you’ll take. The class revolves around weekly assignments which were due on Wednesday mornings. Each week kind of builds on top of the last, bringing forth more proof techniques and different mathematical concepts that you most likely wouldn’t have seen in high school. The content itself can seem abstract or unintuitive at times, but solving the problems felt very rewarding. Students can also opt to take the advanced version of this course – MATH 145. I didn’t take it so I can’t draw from personal experience, but the advanced courses in general are far more challenging and should only be taken by students who have a genuine interest in the more abstract concepts. You can drop out of 145 into 135 anytime before the 6th week of class.
  • Class Average(s): High 80s on assignments, Mid 80s on midterm, Mid 60s on Final
  • Average Final Grade: High 60s/Low 70s
  • Time I spent: 4-5 hours/week on assignments, 0.5-1 hours/week reviewing
    MATH 137 (Calculus 1 for Honours Mathematics)
  • Ah, Calc. Much of it is high school review (depending on where you’re coming from). There seems to be a general consensus that the class content is relatively easy, just very fast paced. The weekly quizzes are possible to cram for in an afternoon but can make you complacent very quickly. The hardest sections were probably Epsilon-Delta proofs and Taylor Series, but if you study well this class should be a cinch. The advanced version of this course – MATH 147 is known to be quite challenging. It’s fairly proofs-based but explores many more in-depth concepts. Like 145, you can drop out of 147 into 137 anytime before the 6th week of class.
  • Class Average(s): Mid 70s-Mid 80s on Quizzes, Mid 70s Midterm, Lows 70s Final
  • Average Final Grade: High 60s/Low 70s
  • Time I spent: 3-4 hours/week preparing for quizzes, 1-2 hours/week reviewing
    CS 135 (Designing Functional Programs)
  • Waterloo introduces all of its new students to CS through the marvelous language called Racket. Functional Programming is unlike anything you’ve ever done in high school and will definitely spark a fair bit of confusion. Racket will make you a pro at recursion and CS135 will make you a pro at writing documentation. The general consensus seems to be that the course runs like a logarithmic curve – fairly easy for the first few assignments but really picks up after the midterm. I took the advanced version of the course – CS145. The advanced version had some really challenging assignments that took many hours to complete, but the midterms were very fair and comparatively easy to prepare for if you followed along well. The assignments were very interesting, and I’d definitely recommend taking the course if you’re interested (it’s probably the easiest advanced course).
  • I won’t speak to averages because I’m unfamiliar with CS 135
  • Time I spent: 6-10 hours/week on assignments, 0.5-1 hours/week reviewing
    ECON 120 (Introduction to Microeconomics – WLU)
  • Some students have transfer credits for econ, but those who don’t find themselves in Lazaridis Hall for a good ole econ session with Ken Jackson. Laurier Microeconomics is a very clean-cut course. If you do the online homework, quizzes, and study modules you’ll get 21% for free. You can keep redoing the online assessments until you get 100% if you want. If you understand what’s going on and read the textbook now and then you’ll easily get an A+ in the class. The Laurier -> Waterloo GPA conversion really clutches out (more on this later).
  • Class Average(s): 100% on online assessments, mid 70s in midterms, high 60s in final
  • Average Final Grade: Low 70s for all students, many double degrees get 12.0 (95%)
  • Time I spent: 2 hours/week on online homework, 4-5 hours reviewing for each midterm
    BU 111 (Understanding the Business Environment – WLU)
  • We usually have a love-hate relationship with BU. For students who drop out of BBA, many cite the fact that they hate this class. To be honest, the lectures are incredibly dull and most of us just skip or goof off. To many, the class content seems like mostly common sense that you memorize and regurgitate for exams. The class earns its reputation for having a copious amount of work through its assignments: Live Case, New Venture, and a boatload of lab prep work. There are mandatory weekly labs with a BU111 TA. You register for these labs at the beginning of the semester: REGISTER WITH YOUR SMART FRIENDS, it makes things so much better. For many double degrees, they spend more time doing work for BU111 presentations and reports than any other class work. Laurier provides a wealth of opportunities for bonus marks and extra help, so succeeding in this course is highly dependent on how many of these opportunities you seize. Go get those bonus marks, they’re what pushes you to a 12.0 in the class.
  • Class average(s): Assignments are subjective (TA dependent), low 70s midterm and final
  • Average Final Grade: Low 70s for all students, many double degrees get 12.0 (95%)
  • Time I spent: 6-8 hours/week on assignments, 10 hours cramming for midterm

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.

Part 5 – The Big Takeaways

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.

  • If you get into double degree and CS, start in CS/BBA! If it ends up being a good fit for you, you’ll get the ultimate educational experience, combining the best of two worlds. If not, dropping into CS is an easy process and it’ll be all good!
  • The people in double degree are the reason why it’s so great. The amazing community is the biggest reason why I’m not just a CS student right now.
  • Get of your comfort zone. Trying new things and pushing your limits is the best way to get the best version of yourself. Don’t be afraid to dive right into the many opportunities of CS/BBA!
  • There are so many resources for learning more! Check out the double degree club website or even the planning guide for more specific details.

Please feel free to contact me at any time for specific anecdotes or thoughts. I’m always glad to help!