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University dilema: below avg prestige vs. above avg mediocrity


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Last year I attended McGill University for my first year (Science) and ended up flunking out. I took a semester break, kicked myself in the butt and now I just completed the Winter semester with straight As at the Ottawa University (BA Geography).

 

I desperately wanted to re-apply to McGill for several reasons: Great reputation, considered as one of the best schools in Canada, 90% of my familly graduated there, and even though i flunked out, it was the best time of my life (socially and emotionally). But since i've been in Ottawa, i'm not sure anymore. Ottawa U is not a bad school, but its not a great school either, its just sort of in the middle. I'm not a big fan of the city, and although I have a few friends here, I still feel pretty alienated.

 

I know that I will not do as well at McGill as I have at OttawaU, but since i've figured out what I am actually decent at (Geography), I might have a chance there. But i'm really stumped as to whether I should risk it or not, because if I drop out of McGill again, I might not get another chance.

 

So I have already sent in my application and I havn't received a reply yet, but I just want to prepare myself for it since I only have a few days to respond. So any advice/comments/or amusing anecdotes would be much appreciated!

 

P.S. I intend to go to postgrad school for Urban Planning/design.

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I would care to aim for a more prestigious school for postgrad rather than undergrad. Go where you know you will do well and then let the grades speak for themselves.

 

Having been privy to graduate student admissions before, poor marks from prestigious schools are just as unattractive as ones from any other school. I'd rather see a consistent, solid academic record from a mid-tier school than one that's all over the place from an Ivy caliber, for example.

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This is my belief system on choosing colleges...

 

Where you get your undergrad is only important in certain fields. Ex: you don't want to get a med degree from an average school. You want to go to John Hopkins, etc. At the same time, I don't think going to Princeton when you want to become a teacher is a good idea either (unless you can afford it financially)... it's not worth going into debt because you're going to come out making $40,000/yr and never recover from the loans, etc.

 

HOWEVER, if you want to go get your masters/phd then where you go to undergrad might matter to SOME extent. It might be easier to get into an elitist grad program if you are graduating from a better college for undergrad. OR if you do go to an average college, you want to graduate at the TOP of your class (like top 10 people, etc. preferably first or second though.)

 

I think where you get your masters/phd is more important than undergrad. I don't see the point in going into lots of debt for undergrad unless it's important to the field you're studying. ie: medicine, law, etc.

 

Also- you want your schools to get better over time.

 

Undergrad: average college

Masters: more selective college

PHD: prestigious college

 

And it looks better if you get your degrees from three different institutions. IE: Don't get your undergrad and masters at the same place, etc. (but this isn't a big deal if you're a teacher, etc. just depends on the field).

 

Sorry that was a tangent... but that's my whole college philosophy.

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In California, if you want to become a teacher, graduating from a prestigious school can open many, many, doors. I have people e-mailing me job offers for when I finish my current credential. A top-notch, private school gives you access to all sorts of important contacts in your field.

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I still have people asking me what uni I went to - and McGill is awesome, even I've heard of it all the way from australia

 

I say go to McGill but back yourself. Believe that with the right amount of work, and the course that suits you - you can do great there.

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McGill is the best University in Canada.

 

So yeah, I know where Ottawa is, so I'm not surprised there's a University that happens to be called University of Ottawa. But that's about all I know about it.

 

It's not just the fact that people know about the school, but if you feel good being in the place, go there. You'll be stuck in the school for 4-5 years so treat yourself well.

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Hey, thanks for the comments everyone.

 

I guess there's pros and cons for staying and going. I wont hear anything until mid-august (so i'm told).

 

One thing i forgot to mention is that Ottawa has a great co-op program, while McGill doesn't. Does having a co-op degree give you an edge when you apply for postgrad?

 

I also considered that if McGill rejects me (that would uncomplicate so many things for me), I figured that i'll just do undergrad in Ottawa and try post-grad at McGill. Thoughts?

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I think doing undergrad at Ottawa and post-grad at McGill is a nice option. So regardless of what happens, everything will work out.

 

IMO, it is best to go to the college that is best for your degree. I went to the #1 teaching school in NJ because I wanted to be a teacher. Sure I could go have gone to Princeton, but the school I'm at is literally the best in my field. So why spend all that money, ya know?

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One thing i forgot to mention is that Ottawa has a great co-op program, while McGill doesn't. Does having a co-op degree give you an edge when you apply for postgrad?

 

It gives you quite the edge when getting in the work field (but some post grad require 2+ years of experience, and the coop is considered or helpful). I did the Ottawa U coop program. They paid around 20$-22$/hr while you were working (which I needed bad because I wouldn't have made enough at 13$/hr). Because of the experience I had when coming out (1.5 years of experience as opposed to none) everyone was jumping to offer me jobs. It will delay your graduation by a semester though - so that is something to think of if you want to jump straight away to a Masters but then you are also more aware of if it's worth pursuing.

 

 

(I think your field might be a bit different from mine for coop placements though. I think Ottawa U is more well known for their IT sector than geography, what building are you in even? lol)

 

I got great grades at U of O - it was somewhat easy in the 3rd and 4th year so I wish I could have gotten challenged a bit more. (I guess I'll just take the A+ and shut up)

 

 

If you get anything above 8.0 GPA, you can get a paid research Masters anywhere in Ontario I believe. Too bad for me I'm not into the research thing, I want to do my MBA. I wouldn't worry too much about the whole prestigious thing at the Bachelors level - it didn't hinder anything for me to be honest. My friends got jobs at Google, and are all making 80K+ a year etc... (I stayed behind for my family). I think that at this point it's more about drive, personality and knowledge. If you want to do a PHD or masters, then do it at the more prestigious school.

McGill does recognize Ottawa U education, it's not some sort of online scam University so I wouldn't worry too much about it if you want to do your masters there.

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Also think about what kind of student you are, and what kind of environment you will thrive in...what I am getting at is, at some large, prestigious schools, the environment can be rather impersonal (hopefully that's not the case where you are though). Undergraduates at my Ivy complain about this a lot. Where I am is a great place to do fellowships and high-level research, however, and I couldn't be happier at that level here.

 

I've found my better mentors at the lower levels and the smaller schools, which has prepared me for this tougher environment. At the more laid-back places, sometimes faculty have more time to devote to the individual development of each student, which I feel cannot have a price or prestige stamp placed on it.

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I would stay at Ottawa U for two reasons:

 

1. You need good marks to be accepted into a graduate program. You don't just have to be worried about passing. You'll have to maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0 (for most graduate programs), and any individual grades lower than a B- will really set you back. Too risky to go to McGill, I would say.

 

2. The co-op program at Ottawa U is great. we hire two co-op students each term and we consider students from Concordia, waterloo and Ottawa U. But we normally end up choosing at least one from Ottawa U each semester because the co-op program there is so well maintained and top notch. I've also noticed that the students from Ottawa U tend to do much better in the interviews, as they are given solid preparation. A co-op program is a great way to not only get relevant experience but, equally important, to make good business contacts.

 

I also have a personal dislike to McGill because I went to Concordia. Lol... we're required to bash McGill Oh, btw, even though I did my undergrad at Concordia, I was accepted into a Masters program at a good school (rates 2nd or 3rd in Canada) with funding. Ottawa is considered better than Concordia, I think, so it's not like going there will prevent you from being accepted to a good school for your graduate studies. And your graduate school matters much more than your undergrad school.

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Lol, I'm not sure what building Geography students are in! We're in the faculty of Arts so I think we're just clustered with them.

 

From the UO website, most placements for Geography students are at Environment Canada, Agriculture Canada, Natural Resources, etc.

 

Thanks!

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I also have a personal dislike to McGill because I went to Concordia. Lol... we're required to bash McGill Oh, btw, even though I did my undergrad at Concordia, I was accepted into a Masters program at a good school (rates 2nd or 3rd in Canada) with funding. Ottawa is considered better than Concordia, I think, so it's not like going there will prevent you from being accepted to a good school for your graduate studies. And your graduate school matters much more than your undergrad school.

 

 

Haha, we were taught to bash Concordia; while I was at McGill

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Lol, I'm not sure what building Geography students are in! We're in the faculty of Arts so I think we're just clustered with them.

 

From the UO website, most placements for Geography students are at Environment Canada, Agriculture Canada, Natural Resources, etc.

 

Thanks!

 

I don't know for what company you want to work later on but if you're looking to get into the gov't, it's a good start!

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  • 4 weeks later...

SO! I got accepted back into McGill! I just got the notification earlier today, and they want me to officially withdraw from OttawaU so they can process the rest of my application (cause i can't be registered in 2 schools at once).

 

BUT! I think i might just stay in ottawa and head to mcgill for postgrad. Thats my decision for now, cause i also signed a lease for an apartment today with my roomate, so if I suddenly leave, she'll be royally pissed off.

 

Quite a bitter-sweet moment actually...

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