I am incredibly disappointed with this school. I study Mechanical Engineering and I went into this program with a lot of excitement expecting to learn a lot of things and now I feel as if I have been tricked and robbed.
The University gets tons and tons of money from its students and uses it all on advertising to new students. If it weren't for the co-op program Waterloo would be done, the education itself is garbage so the only way they're students succeed is because they got work experience through the co-op program and they were the best coming from high school so they are able to learn as they go once they are in the industry.
My main issues with the education are that everything is done in groups, the classes are huge (80-110 people per class) and most of all: THERE IS NO PRACTICAL EDUCATION.
This is an overview of the most practical lab I ever had, and it was for my manufacturing class:
You take apart a snow-blower engine once, in groups of 4, there is paint on the screws you should not remove and different coloured paint on the screws you should remove. The inner workings are not explained and the purpose is to pick 4 parts that were manufactured differently and write about them later. It's done in an hour and you learn nothing. That's the MOST PRACTICAL LAB.
Other labs included:
A group of five observing refrigerant move through a refrigeration cycle. You push a button, you record the temperature push the next button repeat, draw a graph. NOTHING LEARNED.
I don't know how to fix a car, I don't know how a plane works, I don't know what tolerance should be used where, I don't know the GD&T symbols, I don't know what type of fit should be used where, I don't know what metal should be used when, I don't know what different types of screws are used where, I don't know how to program, I don't know electrical, I don't know anything...and it's NEVER GOING TO BE TAUGHT. I'm aware of these things because I know people who had quality practical educations in other countries and because of talking to coworkers/supervisors during co-op jobs.
It's incredibly demoralizing to learn that you are going to work hard for five years to pass courses that give you no benefit in the future. Waterloo is basically teaching you how to be the worst boss in the world, you are taught steps to designing and tons of theories and how things should be but no real practical basics. To improve something you need to understand it, you are never taught that, you will be relying on technicians for everything because they are going to be a helluva lot smarter than you are and they will be irritated that you are above them and yet can't do anything and frustrated that you just don't understand the inner workings(and you really don't).
I am currently taking a design course where we were given a case study and it included the details of how a cabinet was made and you were asked to think about how to improve it. What I find ridiculous about these is that it includes details such as what tools were used for what and that dowel pins were used here and these screws here and we are expected to understand that and yet we were never formally taught what the different tools are, what a dowel pin is, where it should be used etc. and suddenly were making changes with a half-baked understanding of why anything is there in the first place.
So what do you do at Waterloo? Calculus, calculus, calculus. Calculus is very very useful in research and...pure math and basically useless in the rest of the world. You can calculate things all day every day but it will never be equal to a real life test and what engineers make needs to be useful in the real world, not just in a computer program. Your fluids courses are all calculus, you're controls program is all calculus, your mechanics courses are all calculus and you will forget all of the theories and formulas after graduating and since you were never taught the understanding/practical sides of these subjects you now KNOW NOTHING.
Professors are not very helpful either, there a few gems who are incredible but for the most part they are not willing to spend more than a few minutes trying to help you and if you can't answer their questions you will be sent away and told that you need to work on it more before coming for help because you're wasting their time. If you're understanding was good enough to answer their questions, you wouldn't be asking for help. A lot of them have heavy accents and poor English as well.
The students in this program don't work together very well either, there is a tendency for cliques to form (asian kids, white kids, brown kids, small groups of friends) and when a prof gave us assigned groups once there was so much blow back that he caved and allowed us to make our own groups when the original reason for doing this was because of people constantly switching in the past and being unsatisfied with their timeslot because so and so had practice etc. Students fail constantly and every year there are at least 5 new faces from the previous class joining you and people aren't very concerned to see their peers left behind as long as they are doing well.
I've mentioned the co-op program several times as a positive and it is a great pool of jobs that you have access to but it is still up to you to go to interviews and compete for positions and many students do end up not finding jobs. Another issue with this is that the co-op organizers are not concerned for the student well fare and are completely willing to sacrifice you to keep an employer happy. You are matched to a job through a ranking system where you rank an employer from 1-9 and they rank you 1-9 and give no rank if they don't like you, YOU MUST RANK (lowest rank assigned if none given), employers get a choice. I've seen more than one student get stuck in a job they didn't want because either the employer didn't understand the system or it just didn't end up being the job they thought it was and yet were stuck anyways (a friend failed a co-op term for refusing to take a job where the employer didn't want them but didn't understand the system).Summary: Waterloo doesn't care about you and just wants your money. It is a fantastic business doing very well for itself.