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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

This page consists of questions to common questions about the Double Degree programs and their answers.

What's the difference between being a Waterloo-based and Laurier-based student?

This is probably the most frequently asked question.

To maximize your chances of getting into the Double Degree program, you should apply through both the University of Waterloo (UW) and Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU). Both universities have their own admissions process, and if accepted in through both, you can choose which school is your "home school". Keep in mind that you cannot switch homeschools at any time in the program under any circumstances.

The program is academically identical, regardless of your home school. You get the same education, degrees, etc - you are a full-time student of both universities, which means that you have access to the amenities, facilities, etc of both universities, and you only pay tuition to your home school. However, if you are accepted through both schools and are trying to decide which to call your home school, consider these three factors:

  1. Co-op jobs

    UW is a school famous for its coop program, although other schools like WLU also have formidable programs which are, at times, superior to UW's program. UW co-op jobs tend to include more "Mathie" jobs such as Actuarial Science, while WLU has many more "Business" jobs in accounting, finance, and investment banking. This said, it is nearly impossible to neatly classify jobs into a single group. Almost every job will draw on skills from a variety of areas. The growing popularity of this program has increased the number of technical job postings at WLU, as well as business job postings at UW. Keep in mind that they have fewer of these jobs because of the fewer number of people interested in them. So even though there tends to be fewer WLU tech jobs, there's less competition, and vice versa for UW and traditional business jobs.

    The only major exceptions to this are Actuarial Science positions and Accounting positions. WLU will have significantly fewer ActSci jobs as there is not a well-established ActSci program at Laurier. If you are dead-set on becoming an Actuary, you may be better off picking UW as your home school. In contrast, if you are dead-set on public accounting, you are likely better off picking WLU as your home school. UW has accounting positions, but they are almost all sectioned off for the AFM/MathCPA/BiotechCPA programs.

    One key difference to note is that WLU-based students do not have co-op during their first term: WLU-based students can choose between 3 or 4 co-op terms, while UW-based students can choose between 4 or 5. Your 1A term will be from September-December, and your 1B term is from January-April. Your next required academic term (2A) won't start until the following September. This leaves a four month gap (May-August – the Spring term) where you don't have to be in school. For UW-based DDs this summer is your first co-op term. For WLU-based DDs you have this summer off. During their off-term, WLU-based students usually pursue work on their own, stay in school to get ahead in their academics, or simply take a term off. Students who choose the option with fewer co-op terms graduate "early", but most students take as many co-op terms as possible. After first year, you have the same number of co-op terms at the same times.

  2. Scholarships

    WLU and UW tend to have different philosophies on scholarships. In general, UW likes to spread its money across a large pool of students, while WLU tends to focus its money on a smaller number of exceptional students. This tends to lead to significantly higher individual scholarships from WLU. Note however that the additional scholarship money made through WLU may be offset by the loss of a co-op term. Also note however that a renewable scholarship can serve as motivation to get good grades.

  3. Residence and Orientation

    This is really a personal preference - its up to you to decide which university you feel more "at home" in. Your home school has an influence on your social circle throughout university. Visit both campuses or talk to current students to help you decide which is a better "fit" for you. While the stereotypes of each university have some basis in truth, they are significantly exaggerated. Living at UW will not doom you to a life of solely studying, and living at Laurier will not automatically mean you are partying every night. The important thing to realize is that your social life is what you make of it. If you want to party/game/hang-out with certain types of people then you can at either university, and you are not restricted to making friends at your home school – you just have to walk across the street to meet someone new. Double Degree students have the benefit of having access to facilities (gyms, etc) at both universities, and you can be involved in clubs at both universities. Keep in mind, that you will probably only live in residence for your first year, so this may not be a large factor in your decision.

These are simply some guidelines to help you choose a home school, keeping in mind that academically, the program is equivalent regardless. However, everyone's perspectives as to which is a "better" home school is different, so feel free to ask a current Double Degree student about their thoughts.

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What's the difference between Math/Bus DD and CS/Bus DD?

In short, not that much: half of the program, i.e. the Business-side, is identical for both programs. However, BBA/BCS DD, which is modeled after the highly successful BBA/BMath DD, is a newer program, which admitted its first class in September 2010. Students in CS/Bus take more Computer-Science oriented courses, but the first few years are, academically, extremely similar to Math/Bus.

Both programs take the same courses in first year, with a couple exceptions:

  • - Math DDs have the option of taking CS 115/116 instead of 135/136. CS 135/136 are the CS major courses and are aimed at those looking to take more CS courses in the future. If you're Math DD thinking of switching into CS, take CS 135/136.
  • - CS DDs don't have to take MATH 137/138(Calculus for Honours Math); you can drop to MATH 127/128 (Calculus for the Sciences) but it's highly inadvisable.

Starting in second year, the courses each program takes start to diverge more and more. While there are still a number of required courses at UW that both programs take, there are increasingly more different courses as both programs focus more on the Math or CS portion.

For more information about CS at the University of Waterloo, visit the CS Club at www.csclub.uwaterloo.ca.

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Is the program hard? What should I do to cope?

Many students find it difficult to adjust to university life, and adjusting to Double Degree life can be particularly difficult because of the joint hazards of Math and Business. However, students leave the Double Degree program for many reasons, and a very common reason to leave is that students don't like the either Math or the Business sides of the program, so they switch to just one of the degrees.

Program difficulty is hard to answer because it varies from person to person. You might find mathematical proofs easy and breeze through Math 135, or you might find it to be one of the hardest courses you have to take early in DD. With that said, it's a little easier to talk about the workload and what you can expect in terms of class hours in first year. First years have 18-20 hours a week of scheduled class, which you are highly encouraged to go to. Classes aren't mandatory (your first year business lab is the exception) but you should be going to all of your classes – many also give marks for class participation. 18-20 hours is much less than in HS, but you'll be expected to do a lot of studying on your own. Your math classes will have weekly assignments that you need to keep up with, more for the actual learning than the marks (although they count for marks too), while your business courses will have projects, reading, and (especially this) studying for your first year BU111/121 exams will not be easy. This means you have to manage your time appropriately. If you manage your time well and ask for help early on, then you'll likely have an easier time than if you wait until right before exams to ask questions and look for help.

A big part of adjusting to university life is time management, but also realizing that there are many places to go to for academic and personal support. Students who keep up-to-date with course material and don't let themselves fall far behind tend to handle the university adjustment well. That being said, nearly every university student has to occasionally work late into the night to complete an assignment or project, but this should not be a regular occurrence. Developing a strong social network during orientation will help you count on your friends for support, which everybody in university eventually needs.

The DDC, UW Mathematics Society (Mathsoc), and Lazaridis Student Society (LazSoc) provide additional resources that students can go to for academic support. The DDC provides a Mentorship program, where incoming students have upper-year contacts to ask questions to and seek advice from. Mathsoc offers an exam bank with past exams of popular courses.

It cannot be said enough that time management is the key to making it through university, no matter what the program. The majority of people that drop out of university do not do so because they were not smart enough; they drop because they cannot manage their time effectively enough to learn and practise the material well. Many students that had it easy in high school find adjusting to university to be quite challenging because they must learn new skills to succeed in university.

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How can I best prepare for university during my summer break?

Before you decide to spend all summer preparing for university, remember that this is probably your last summer holiday ever. Therefore, the Double Degree Club strongly recommends having a relaxing summer, although some preparation would certainly help you make the adjustment to university better.

If you have some spare time during summer, some ways to prepare are:

  • Look at the DDC and Mathsoc Academic Libraries to let you know what you will be facing when you start university
  • Brush up on your high school mathematics. Don't do an in-depth review, but just looking over the basics again to get yourself into a mindset for learning math again may be helpful. Some concepts that you learned early in high school may come up again, and being familiar with what some of these terms/definitions are can be helpful.
  • Don't worry if you've never taken a high school business course (such as accounting or economics). First-year BBA courses assume that you have not taken these courses anyways, although they are still very helpful (see next point).
  • Brush up on high school Accounting/Economics. If you were fortunate enough to go to a high school which offered these courses at a pre-university level, review your notes! Again, don't worry about doing an intensive review – just go over the very basics to keep them fresh in your mind. The foundations of Accounting (such as T-accounts and journal entries) are only barely covered in university, but being able to "think in terms of T-accounts" is extremely helpful. A pre-university Economics course is extremely helpful for 1st year Economics courses as well. It also helps to keep up-to-date on current affairs, because your Business courses will occasionally discuss things that are in the news.
  • Learn how to use Excel. You will be using Excel in school and/or co-op, so you will, at some point, be forced to know how to use it.
  • Don't worry if you don't know any programming languages: introductory CS courses (CS115 and 135) assume that you've never written a line of computer code before in your life. However, learning some VBA is an extremely useful life skill.
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What do most people major in?

BBA/BMath DD sudents can choose between any major(s) offered by the UW Faculty of Mathematics, and all DD students can choose any concentration offered by the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics. Not all students major or concentrate. The most common mathematics majors are Actuarial Science and Statistics, while the most common business concentration is Finance.

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How hard is the Math at UW?

It isn't easy, but it isn't impossible or anything like that. Remember that your profs and TAs and the university want you to succeed and give you all kinds of resources to succeed. If you start to struggle, tackle the problem proactively. Math builds on itself so if you don't understand something from week 3, you will likely have issues in week 12, and on the exam.

Do Waterloo Math if you enjoy mathematical challenges, whether they be complex logic problems or calculations, interesting proofs, or modelling real life situations in numbers.

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Should I take advanced math and/or advanced CS?

Mathematics at a university level is a different animal than in high school: the courses are less about computation and more about logical reasoning. Taking advanced math is learning about a new way of thinking. There are many good reasons to take Advanced Math, and many reasons not to.

Reasons to take Advanced Math

  • You want to major in Pure Math or Mathematical Finance (outside of these fields, Advanced Math may not be particularly helpful)
  • You have genuine interest in theoretical mathematics
  • You are motivated and are willing to put in a significant effort
  • You like problem solving, critical independent thinking
  • You don't like to accept a fact until you have seen its proof
  • You did very well on the Euclid Mathematics Competition

Reasons not to take Advanced Math

  • Taking advanced math could be a major weekly headache: assignments take much longer to complete, and there is less support available
  • You are sensitive to your marks in university
  • You want to be closer to your mainstream Double Degree social group
  • You aren't particularly keen to study mathematics, or are worried that it may be too difficult / abstract
  • Taking advanced math for the sake of it provides no benefit in other courses or upon graduation.

You can easily switch from advanced to regular math. A basic rule of thumb is that if you're interested in the Advanced Math courses, to take it to begin with and switch down if you find it too much to handle, as you can always switch down but not up.

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How long does it take to walk between both universities, and how do class schedules work out between them?

University schedules normally allow 10 minutes to get between classes. However, it takes about 15 minutes to walk between the UW Mathematics building (MC) and the Schlegel Centre (SBE) building, where most of your classes will be held. First-year DD classes are typically scheduled with a 40-minute break between Math/CS and Business classes, so that you have plenty of time to walk between campuses. However, upper-year DD students frequently have to deal with having only 10 minutes to move between campuses, but professors are typically understanding and accommodating if you are a few minutes late for class, or have to leave a few minutes early. During first year, you can switch the time slots of you UW classes as you prefer, but you may NOT change time slots for your WLU classes.

Other means of transportation are:

  • Biking: Waterloo is a cyclist-friendly city with bike lanes on all roads around the universities. However, bikes tend to be a prime target for thieves.
  • Bus: Both universities include a regional bus pass with tuition fees. There are several routes that span both universities
  • Driving: Not recommended for cross-campus travel: you would have to pay double parking (for two universities), or risk racking up lots of parking tickets, just to save a few minutes. The time it takes to find parking may even result in this option taking longer than the others. However, free parking near both universities is available during evenings and weekends
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What sort of workload should I expect and how much free time will I have?

For a standard 5-course term, you should expect 3 hours per course per week for lectures (15 hours total per week) plus time for tutorials and labs. This comes to 18-20 hours of scheduled class. The standard "work load" is an average of 3 hours of study/homework for every hour of lecture (so 9 hours/week/course). Math assignments are long and may take anywhere from 5 to 10 hours to complete. The business and economics courses are not as heavy with assignments, but have more "readings" and group work.

All classes have midterms which can take 4 to 12 hours to study for (depending on the number of midterms the course has). Ultimately it is your decision which classes you wish to attend and how much work you want to put into any given course. There will be times when you feel that you can't even afford to sleep because you have 3 assignments and 2 midterms all in one week, but this is manageable if you manage your time well. Students often get involved with campus recreation and athletics, clubs, part-time jobs, and other social activities and still manage to complete their school work and get enough sleep. The key is to avoid procrastination so you can work hard and enjoy your time off.

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Which degree is the harder/takes more work?

You shouldn't think of this program as a Business degree with a side of Math/CS, or vice versa. It is a full CS/Math Degree and a full Business course. The ones who devote all their time into one degree and slack off on the other, are the ones who will likely switch programs in the future. You should be working equally hard on all your courses. With that being said, the UW courses are considered more difficult because they require a lot of work throughout the year. You will have weekly assignments that take 5-10 hours a week for each of your three UW courses. Business and Econ will have weekly prep work as well, but they aren't as challenging and time-consuming. In terms of your first year business courses, BU111 and BU121, you will be doing a New Venture Project, which is extremely time-consuming and requires a lot of work. At times when components of the NVP are due, business will take up the majority of your time.

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Will I have enough time for other activities/sleep?

As mentioned above, you will have 18-20 hours of scheduled class each week. How you spend the rest of your time is up to you. If you manage your time properly you can join any activities or sleep as much as you want. The big thing is to manage your time and not get behind.

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Will I have any electives?

A few, but not many. Earning 2 degrees means that you pretty much have a fixed schedule throughout your 5 years. Your only choices within your graduation requirements are:

  • Advanced Math/CS vs. Regular Math/CS courses
  • For BBA/BMath students, 6 of any senior UW Math course
  • For BBA/BCS students, 4 of any senior UW CS course
  • 5 of any senior WLU Business Course
  • 4 of any course in either university

These are graduation requirements; however, and you can easily take additional courses by going above course load if you choose to do so. A few DD students choose to take electives such as languages, health studies, etc. However, most students use the electives to pursue a Math Major (BBA/BMath students only). Business Concentrations do not require any additional BBA courses beyond the 5 required in the DD program.

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Can I join clubs/play intramurals at both schools?

Yes. You are a full student at both schools and you should take advantage of all the clubs and services available to both. If you want to join LIFA (Laurier Investment and Finance Association) at Laurier and CTRL-A (Club That Really Likes Anime) at UW then go for it. All of these clubs and services are available for you, and you pay for them with your school fees so make sure to use them. Remember that co-curricular activities are also considered when you apply for co-op jobs, as they showcase your leadership and ability to manage multiple tasks.

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Are there people that party in DD?

Yes. If you want to go out and party, you definitely can. It isn't limited to just Laurier, or just UW, but it really depends on the people you spend time with. Find the people who want to party like you and go for it!

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What residence should I pick?

This is another common question that has no good answer as it really depends on the individual. One thing to note is that you can't request specific buildings at Laurier – you can only request certain types of rooms.

Residences can be broken down into two major categories – traditional or suite. Traditional residences are similar to what most people think of when think about college dorms. These residence rooms have a bed, desk, dresser etc. Most have shared washrooms for the entire floor, and there is no kitchen so you need to purchase a meal plan and eat your meals in the cafeterias on campus. These rooms can be single rooms or double rooms, and the communities tend to be very tight knit and outgoing/social. These are the residences many people think of as the party residences.

On the other hand, suite-style residences are more like a typical apartment. There are usually 2-4 bedrooms, with a shared living area and kitchen. Since you have a kitchen, it's assumed that you'll be cooking some of your own meals. You can get a meal plan, but it isn't required.

Which style is best for you is dependent on what exactly you are looking for in your residence. Make sure to tour the residences if you can to get feel for what feels right to you. You will be living there for 8 months and starting off your university experience there so you want to feel comfortable.

In terms of location, most UW-based DDs choose to live in UWP because it is located in between UW and WLU. Located beside that is WLU's Waterloo College Hall (WCH), which many Laurier-based DDs choose to live at. UWP is a suite-style residence while WCH is a single-room dormitory style residence.

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Is it easier to get a co-op job in DD than XYZ program?

Your co-op job search won't depend on your program. Some employers are biased towards a certain year or program, but there's no general rule about it. This is especially true for similar programs such as DD and FARM or CFM. The benefit of being a DD is in the skills and insights you gain from both sides of the program. Some hiring managers know that any student they interview can technically code the system they want. The difference is that some people can see the impact of that system on the business goals and processes. By having both areas of education you can apply technical skills to business problems and use business insights to improve technical projects.

Your program does not speak for you. If you want coding jobs, learn to code and apply to those jobs. If you want finance jobs, learn to use Excel and a Bloomberg terminal. If you want XYZ type of job, learn ABC skill that job uses. (hint: you can fill in those blanks with stuff you learn outside class). Soft skills are also critical; be personable, realistic, not too nervous, and (most importantly) prepared for your interviews. Especially in your early co-op terms there isn't a whole lot of previous experience for employers to base decisions on, so a lot comes down to the interview. It can't be said enough: be prepared for your interviews.

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Will my grades affect me getting a co-op job?

Yes and no. They will have more impact in your first co-op term than later years. This is because you will have less (if any) relevant work experience, and most first year students take similar courses and look the same on a resume. In all honesty employers don't typically notice/comment unless they're abnormally high or low. If they are low, have an explanation or more importantly have side projects/skills to show off. Just because you have high grades doesn't mean you have a job sewn up. Make sure to back up high grades with strong soft skills and personality. High grades might get you an interview, but if you can't back them up in an interview then they mean nothing.

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How much will I make at my co-op job?

Pay varies a lot based on the job you have, and in some cases how many co-op terms you have completed. Jobs in the U.S. or in the financial industry will pay significantly more than those at not-for-profits or in the government. Average salaries can be found online:

Pay careful attention to both the averages AND the range of salaries/wages presented. You might be at the high end or the low end.

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What opportunities are there to get a CFA?

Many DD students express an interest in getting their Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation, and many complete Level 1 (of 3) before graduation. Although there is no formal program for such students, there are many recommended courses across both universities for students interested in pursuing a CFA.

The CFA Institute requires for the Level 1 exam to be written within 1 year of graduation (at the earliest), and for Level 2 to be written only after graduation. Getting two undergraduate degrees makes it theoretically possible to write both Levels 1 and 2 before graduation, although this is extraordinarily rare.

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What kind of Finance-related co-op opportunities will I have available?

Many employers greatly value the contributions that Double Degree students have made to their organizations in the past. For this reason, all of the big Canadian banks, as well as consultancies and investment banks, favour Double Degree students over students from other programs. Some DDs even work overseas at companies such as Barclays Capital Management during co-op and full-time employment.

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What opportunities are there to pursue Actuarial Science?

Actuarial Science (Actsci) is the study of risk management, typically practiced in the insurance industry (life risk), but increasingly in other aspects of Business and Finance (credit risk, market risk etc). For more information about Actsci, visit the UW Actsci Club.

An Actuarial Science major is pursued by a large percentage of Double Degree students, and these are students in high demand by major employers in the Actsci industry such as Sun Life and Manulife. Double Degree students are in high demand in this field because employers value students' business acumen and the communication skills learned through the business side.

It is more difficult for WLU-based Actsci majors to get an Actsci co-op job, but employers are realizing that there are a handful of WLU-based DD students pursuing Actuarial Science, so they are beginning to post a few jobs openings through the WLU co-op system. Unlike at UW, DD students looking for an Actsci job have no competition at WLU. However, Actsci jobs at WLU are still very rare.

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What opportunities are there to pursue a CPA designation? How do this program's CPA opportunities differ from the Math/CPA program at UW?

The accounting program at WLU is an industry approved and recognized accounting program. By concentrating in accounting, DD students can complete all of the university courses required for the CPA designation. Note that this will take one additional term of accounting courses above and the DD program requirements. Additional requirements such as the Common Final Examination (CFE) and work experience would then still need to be completed.

In comparison to Math/CPA at UW, the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics provides CA students more than just accounting knowledge. Courses in marketing, operations and business policy, as well as other aspects of the Laurier BBA program, better prepare students for the case-based CFE. The Math/CPA program also builds in some exemptions from the CPA designation modules, and students graduating from the Masters of Accounting program directly after the Math/CPA program only need to write the CFE (and complete their work experience) to qualify for the designation.

Note that UW-based DD students pursuing a CPA designation do not automatically have access to the same co-op jobs as Math/CPA students.

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I am a Math/Bus DD Student. What opportunities are there for me to study Computer Science?

A few BBA/BMath DD students pursue a CS Minor through UW. Note that this may require transferring into CS for a term.

For more information on CS at the University of Waterloo, visit the CS Club at www.csclub.uwaterloo.ca

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Does anyone from DD go to grad school?

Students from DD have gone on to pursue further education in various different fields. Some proceed in the Math path and acquire their Master's in that field. However, other DDs in the past have also gone off into different fields, such as Medicine and Law. Being a DD student differentiates you when applying to grad school (in the case of law school or med school), and these schools value diversity. Because of the uniqueness of our academics and co-op process, professors at American Ivy League universities are frequently impressed at the educational and vocational background that DD provides.

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Can I go on an International Exchange as a DD student?

Yes you can, but only in your 4th or 5th year and if you are a Canadian Permanent Resident. DD students can have difficulties getting transfer credits from their host university (because of the unique nature of upper-year courses). Also, many universities don't have semesters that line up with those at UW an WLU: For example, The City University of London (City)'s Winter term is from February-May, while UW/WLU's is from January-April. Fall terms tend to line up better, but some don't: City's Fall term is from September-January, while UW/WLU's is from September-December. While this does not bar you from going on exchange, it does create problems, given the restrictive nature of the Double Degree program.

For more information on foreign exchange, visit the exchange website of your home university.

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What advice would someone who has just completed their first year provide?

  1. Get enough sleep. Staying up until the late hours of the night to finish an assignment that is worth less than 2% of your final grade may not be worth it in the long run. Pulling all-nighter after all-nighter during midterm season and skipping class will only jeopardize your results on your final exam. Getting 8 hours of sleep a night (and making appropriate trade-offs) prevents you from getting sick and keeps you at the top of your game.
  2. Go to class. Particularly for the Laurier side of things, if you go to class and take good notes, then exam studying is much easier because you aren't trying to learn the content; you're merely reviewing it. For the Waterloo side, the profs can explain things another way if you don't understand a concept and they also stress what steps are important for assignments and tests.
  3. Use your resources. The Math Tutorial Centre is an excellent resource when working on math assignments. Tutors are available to help you with any questions you may have. It's hard to suck it up and ask for help, because it will likely be the first time you struggle with math, but don't feel bad about it. Also, the textbook often has very similar questions to those on the assignments and can provide excellent guidance. Finally, professor office hours are there for a reason: though they are not commonly used by peers, they are extremely helpful.

And the most important one:

  1. Make friends with people in your program. It helps so much to have the strong support system of your friends who are going through the exact same thing as you when times get tough. In the first few months, you will be very stressed. It helps as you can share notes, work on assignments together, and you can ask each other for help if someone doesn't understand the material. As well, surrounding yourself with like-minded and motivated individuals will keep you on track with school.
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