Why I Switched out of Double Degree

September 6, 2017

introduction: a look back

With Summer wrapping up and a new school term starting, I have found myself reflecting on the previous year and how my career interests have evolved. Exactly one year ago from today, I was entering my first year in the Computer Science and Business Administration Double Degree program at the University of Waterloo (UW) and Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU) respectively. The CS/BBA Double Degree is a relatively new offering that aims to equip students with a unique combination of technical and soft skills. Upon applying, you are required to declare whether you want UW or WLU to be your “home school”. The main differences lie in the co-op platform used, the sequence of co-op terms, scholarships, and residences. Students are treated as full-time undergraduates under both institutions and take courses at UW and WLU every semester. Now, as I’m gearing up to start my 2A term of Computer Science solely at UW, I would like to document a few of the reasons why I decided to make the switch from CS/BBA to pure CS.

When I was applying to schools in Grade 12, I wanted to pursue a career in entrepreneurship. As such, I was set on going to Queen’s for Commerce or Ivey at Western for Business Administration. I struggled to find a third program that I was interested in (students pay for a set of three applications at my high school), but one of my peers told me to look into the Double Degree program due to how beneficial co-op is. I decided to apply to the CS/BBA program on Laurier-side and I ended up accepting this offer instead of going to Queen’s as I realized how important gaining relevant work experience as an undergraduate is. Additionally, I wanted to do something else to supplement a business education as I noticed an influx of students entering business programs.

lack of course relevance

After taking the first-year business courses at Laurier, namely BU111 and BU121, it was evident to me that I was not investing my time wisely. I felt as if these courses had too much filler and were not very applicable to actually operating a business. Often times, it seemed to me that we were just memorizing diagrams for the sake of it and then regurgitating the professor’s words onto examinations. The business and economics courses were not challenging enough, as reflected by my 12.0/12.0 GPA across these subjects. To shed some perspective, there is a 17% difference between my first-year UW and WLU averages if 12.0s are treated as 95%.

Fundamentally, I believe one of the main problems with CS/BBA is the dichotomy that exists between the two disciplines. Compared to the Math/BBA Double Degree, there are not enough career options that justify the inflexibility of studying Computer Science and Business Administration. While it is extremely beneficial for someone working within the field of business to have a background in computer science, this does not necessarily hold in reverse. In fact, my peers who have interviewed with companies for software engineering roles were not even asked about their business studies. In addition to this, Laurier’s BBA simply does not carry as much weight as UWaterloo’s BCS. Since Laurier is not very recognized outside of Canada, it is harder to leverage that facet of BCS/BBA. For these reasons, I feel as if it would be more favourable for me to commit to studying Computer Science and then perhaps get an MBA later on from a more renowned business program.

worse technical co-op prospects

It should come as no surprise that Laurier’s co-op platform, Navigator, is ideal for those looking for business positions, whereas WaterlooWorks is superior in terms of getting technical jobs. However, there are some intricacies that are less obvious on the surface. For one, switching into CS enabled me to get an additional co-op term. An extra four months of work experience is ideal financially and conducive to increased professional development. Furthermore, my co-op sequence (SEQ 1) is more advantageous now since I alternate between academic terms and work terms until graduation. Staying in Double Degree would meant two more back-to-back school terms. Finally, Laurier-based Double Degrees have no co-op terms over the Summer, meaning that there are some companies that they won’t be able to intern at based on logistics (see: here).

Laurier DD Co-op Sequence Laurier-based Double Degree Co-op Sequence

UWaterloo DD Co-op Sequence UWaterloo CS Co-op Sequence

inflexible course requirements

Double Degree students have very limited flexibility when it comes to courses because of the fact that they need to fulfill two sets of major requirements within ten academic terms. In regard to flexibility, switching into CS has opened me up to more variance. Firstly, I will be able to graduate earlier since I only need to complete 40 credits instead of 52. Additionally, I do not have to overload or take courses over co-op terms like most students in BCS/BBA. Moreover, I can take core CS classes earlier which is ideal for passing technical interviews. For instance, I will be taking CS 240 (Data Structures and Data Management) in my 2B term whereas many Double Degrees will be taking it in 3A. As an added bonus, I have space for electives now, so I can delve deeper into different fields within Computer Science or explore other interesting disciplines such as Philosophy. Finally, I can fit in an exchange term without having to worry about how I can squeeze in certain courses.

new beginnings

Tonight is the eve of my first term as a pure Computer Science student at the University of Waterloo. I am excited for what this term will bring and I look forward to the start of the co-op process in a few weeks. Ultimately, being in Double Degree for a year exposed me to many valuable people, and for that I have no regrets. Even as a CS student, I will continue to find my place at the intersection of technology and entrepreneurship as I traverse the roads of life.

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