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Waterloo vs McMaster for Pure Mathematics

A photo of waterfall waterfall
Waterloo
Pros
-internationally renowned university
-excellent Putnam competition performance
-offers conducting courses for non-music majors :)
Cons
-too competitive => less research opportunity and possible mental breakdown

McMaster
Pros
-better research opportunity In fact, McMaster offers a senior research project course
-easier to maintain high GPA
-small class size
Cons
-global reputation

McMaster does have a decent faculty members (Ph.D. from Harvard, Princeton, Cambridge and etc...) but the sole reason I were to choose Waterloo over McMaster is because of the reputation issue. However, one of my acquintances advised me that, since I am definitely going to pursue graduate studies, the reputation of where I do my undergrduate studies won't matter as much as my research experience and GPA.

So which one should I choose?

Any insight or advice regarding this issue will be greatly appreciated.
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4 replies
 
A photo of greygoose greygoose
For pure mathematics? Waterloo hands down. It deserves its undergrad reputation, and I don't say this just because I go here.

The grad students Waterloo gets from other schools usually spend at least a semester in 4th year classes with the undergrads, catching up. Waterloo's pure math students are encouraged to take at least one grad course prior to graduation. The undergrad pure math program at UW is almost certainly one of the best in North America. I'm not saying this based on reputation, but curriculum strength.

The research opportunities here are real, though I can't speak in comparison to McMaster's. They are pretty competitive. Your GPA should not be such a high focus.

I guess I should mention, there are a lot of music opportunities at Waterloo, through both Conrad Grebel and Laurier's Faculty of Music down the street. (You can take Laurier courses for credit paying Waterloo tuition if you choose to.) Since that seems to be an interest of yours.
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A photo of immaculatedx immaculatedx

@waterfall wrote
possible mental breakdown





Lol.

UW pure math is better in every way. ^ What greygoose said. However, that doesn't mean there aren't valid reasons to go to Mac. Obviously you noted your concern of difficulty, Mac will allow you to transition easier to university. The transition from high school to UW Math is not the smoothest for everyone. Lot of high school superstars are failing or doing very poorly in first year Math.

Also, you should take into consideration your feel for the respective campuses.
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A photo of waterfall waterfall

@greygoose wrote
For pure mathematics? Waterloo hands down. It deserves its undergrad reputation, and I don't say this just because I go here.

The grad students Waterloo gets from other schools usually spend at least a semester in 4th year classes with the undergrads, catching up. Waterloo's pure math students are encouraged to take at least one grad course prior to graduation. The undergrad pure math program at UW is almost certainly one of the best in North America. I'm not saying this based on reputation, but curriculum strength.

The research opportunities here are real, though I can't speak in comparison to McMaster's. They are pretty competitive. Your GPA should not be such a high focus.

I guess I should mention, there are a lot of music opportunities at Waterloo, through both Conrad Grebel and Laurier's Faculty of Music down the street. (You can take Laurier courses for credit paying Waterloo tuition if you choose to.) Since that seems to be an interest of yours.



First of all, greygoose, I always appreciate your advice.

Next, I can't agree more that Waterloo is one of the best maths schools in North America. But my concern is, because of its reputation, it attracts most of the brightest minds in Canada, hence it will be hard to attain a research position given that only top few percents will be granted such opportunity, as you have mentioned. So I am wondering if research experience is a more important factor than reputation when applying to grad schools.






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A photo of greygoose greygoose

@waterfall wrote
Next, I can't agree more that Waterloo is one of the best maths schools in North America. But my concern is, because of its reputation, it attracts most of the brightest minds in Canada, hence it will be hard to attain a research position given that only top few percents will be granted such opportunity, as you have mentioned. So I am wondering if research experience is a more important factor than reputation when applying to grad schools.



Of course research is always going to be more important than the school's reputation: they care about your strengths as an individual, not the school's.

Granted, research isn't everything either. Your mathematical background, commitments and experiences all factor in as well. For instance, there is an undergraduate mathematics journal at the UW you can get published in (you don't have to go to UW to have your article published in it!). There are all sorts of mathematics conferences and seminars you can attend; these look good on your CV. Your transcript of courses that you've taken factors in as well! Grad courses look great, especially if you've done well in them.

There are probably around 20 or so NSERC-funded research opportunities per term that I'm aware of in the Faculty of Mathematics. There are also a ton of part-time opportunities and the like that are not nearly as competitive. There's also research that can be done in CS, physics/chemistry, etc... depending on your interests. And there's always the possibility that you could do unpaid research. It all depends, but unless you pursue it, you'll never find out.
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