#MyFirstYear at Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier was a very exciting and unexpected experience. After spending the last year and a half of high school online I had no clue what to expect returning in person, to a new school, in a new city, hours away from home. Entering a double degree program had its ups and downs and many questions in between, but I learned a lot about myself and navigating post-secondary, which I can’t wait to share!
Hey, y’all! 👋 My name is Khloe, and I’m going into my 2nd year of the CS/BBA double degree at Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier.
Here’s a picture of me in front of the iconic University of Waterloo sign!
Throughout high school, I had my mind set on Computer Science, with math being my favourite subject and my love for the problem-solving involved in coding. I applied to several CS programs at different schools but within the last year decided to apply to CS/BBA as well. I always liked entrepreneurship and took business electives when I had extra courses. After getting accepted into both programs at Waterloo, I was very confused about what to choose 🤔. Through a lot of research later I came up with some pros and cons:
In the end, my decision came down to this: If you’re on the Waterloo side of the program, switching to CS and dropping the BBA part is a very quick email to an advisor so if you have even just a little bit of interest it doesn’t hurt to try it out for a term and decide afterwards.
One thing I liked about the program was the structure. Almost everything is picked for you in the first year but with dramatically different courses and some potential overload involved it’s important to stay on top of your courses
📚 Here are some of the typical courses taken by a first-year Double Degree student:
Quick note: Many of the Waterloo courses have different level options.
The 11X or 12X versions are generally a bit easier and more introductory.
The 13X versions are the average and most students take these courses.
The 14X versions are the advanced versions and have some contest or grade requirements to take (though generally a request can be made if you’re below that requirement). These are generally only recommended if you have a genuine interest or passion.
Throughout the term, there are drop-down deadlines where you can switch to a lower level if you wish. It’s recommended to take at least the 13X versions for your major courses. For example, CS/BBA students are told to begin with 13X in CS classes and Math/BBA students are told to begin with 13X in math classes
✏️MATH 135 - Algebra for Honours Mathematics
This was less of an algebra course and more of a Proofs 101 class.
The content was relatively simple mathematically but you need to do as many example problems as possible to get used to writing proofs and identifying solutions to each question.
🧊MATH 136 - Linear Algebra 1 for Honours Mathematics
Personally, I thought this class was the easiest first-year math class. There are a lot of definitions and relationships to remember but the actual math is a bit easier than other courses.
🧮MATH 137 / MATH 138 - Calculus I for Honours Math/Calculus II for Honours Math
The first half of MATH 137 was very proof-based and difficult, to begin with, but the second half and a lot of MATH 138 were more computational including high school topics like derivatives, limits and integrals.
💻CS 135 - Designing Functional Programs
This course uses a functional language called Racket so everyone starts at the same level. Make sure to keep up since recursion becomes very important but a little bit complex towards the end.
👾CS 136 - Elementary Algorithm Design and Data Abstraction
This course uses C and is known as one of the harder courses in CS.
These assignments tend to be very long relative to other courses and once you reach pointers it’s key to stay on top of your readings.
💼BUS 111 / BUS 121 - The Business Environment/Functional Areas of the Organization
The first-year business classes have relatively simple content talking about external and internal factors of a company without diving into extremely specific details but attend SI and exam review sessions since exams are marked very particularly.
You’ll also have weekly mandatory labs in the evenings for these classes! They can be a bit inconvenient to attend but are a good review in a smaller class setting (~30 students).
💰ECON 120 / ECON 140 - Microeconomics/Macroeconomics
Both economics classes were some of the lighter classes in the first year, complete the review quizzes and homework and you’ll be prepared for tests and exams.
Microeconomics (120) was slightly more difficult in my opinion as Macroeconomics tends to build on past content to help reinforce concepts better.
Remember to visit both the Waterloo and Laurier academic calendars for planning. There are also great course planning guides, checklists and prerequisite charts here!
There is also a super useful student-created website called UW Flow (Course reviews) that can help you arrange your upper-year courses. There are a lot of required courses but you can arrange your Waterloo classes (and 4th/5th year Laurier classes) however you wish once you follow prerequisites. Personally, I use a Notion page to organize my courses to meet requirements since there are some courses required to progress to the next year:
I have a few blank spaces to brainstorm which electives to take!
✨ General UW/WLU Tips and Tricks ✨
1. Math Tutoring Center is a lifesaver (but start assignments early!) 🏫
Coming from high school the math classes at Waterloo are quite different and definitely more work-intensive. To make things a bit harder you’ll have 3 weekly assignments from your Math and CS classes in your first year which can make things tricky to balance. Two super important tips:
Start assignments early!! This may seem obvious but you won’t believe how many students procrastinate when they start at university and end up behind. As soon as assignments open take a look through, potentially finish any easier questions and start thinking about the others. This will help save a lot of all-nighters!
Visit the Math Tutoring Center! They have student tutors available throughout the school week offering help with course content PLUS tips and hints for assignments. Many people find this less intimidating than visiting professors' office hours (though those are also a great resource!) If you start early enough you’ll know where you need help and have the time to visit and ask questions
2. Don’t be afraid to attend club and residence events! 🎡
100% one of the best ways to help make friends in your transition. The Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association (WUSA) and Laurier Students Association both have a list of clubs you can join with applications opening before every term at Waterloo and every summer at Laurier. Though you don’t have to join to meet others! Many clubs run speed-friending events at the beginning of terms where you get randomly matched with others to make conversation for a short period of time (and hopefully friends by the end!). I met some amazing people including my closest friend at these events!
3. Prepare for the co-op search ahead of time (never too soon!) 🔍
Co-op is a huge benefit to the double degree program but finding your first internship is usually the most difficult. Try to ease your workload (especially if you overload in 1B like myself) by getting ready ahead of time. Work on side projects or take courses during the summer before university or winter between terms. Attend resume critiques or mock interviews by upper-year students - the Waterloo tech clubs run a boot camp every term for technical jobs! Consider competitions like hackathons or case competitions run throughout the year or join a school club to show off your leadership or job-specific skills.
4. Explore the city and both campuses 🏔
One of the perks of being a double degree student is getting access to both university campuses. There are a ton of great study spaces and great hangout spots between both schools to discover when you’re hoping to get away from wherever you call home during the school year. Lazaridis Hall at Laurier and QNC, E7 and DC at Waterloo are some popular buildings on campus! Also, look around for some of the bridges and tunnels between buildings - they’re a lifesaver during winter!
(Left) A picture of QNC from one of the overhead bridges across campus.
(Right) The entrance and staircase in E7.
Plus outside of your studies, Waterloo is a very student-friendly city so don’t forget to go out and explore. From the petting zoo in Waterloo park, restaurants and shops in Uptown Waterloo and Conestoga mall a bus ride away there are a lot of great places to chill with friends and enjoy your time in the city.
5. Don’t be afraid to change up your schedule, or even your program 🤯
The double degree program can be very strict and sometimes this might trick you into thinking you have no choices on how you design your schedule. However, don’t be afraid to change things around. If you feel overwhelmed overloading on study terms, you can take courses over co-op or if you’re Laurier based you have the first summer off with the potential to take classes instead. You can also swap around your Waterloo courses after the first year to combine courses based on the strengths and skills you’ve discovered through your first 2 terms. The suggested sequence is just that- “suggested”.
Even more importantly don’t feel pressured to stay in double degree if it’s something you don’t enjoy or don’t think you are benefiting from. While there are definitely great things that come with it (picking up valuable technical skills from the CS side or learning important behavioural skills from the BBA side and pursuing 2 different interests in-depth) it can also be a lot of work at times. Don’t let the prestige of 2 degrees or pressure from others persuade you to stay in a program you don’t enjoy. On the other hand, though a large percentage of students end up dropping one side of the degree if you are passionate about it then don’t feel you need to follow your friends and leave either. Being in double degree is something YOU need to enjoy and want to pursue to have a great time!
There is a lot to take in while starting at university! With 2 degrees sometimes it can feel twice as hard to get used to post-secondary life. Fortunately, LEAP has many resources to help you get through your first year from coffee chats to the resource manuals, we’re always super excited to help you LEAP into post-secondary! 🐸
If you have any other questions, feel free to reach out!
👩💻 Khloe Ramdhan
Computer Science & Business Double Degree @ Waterloo/Laurier
VP of Marketing @ LEAP Canada
About the Author
Khloe (she/her) has been with LEAP since 2021 - first as a Graphic Designer, Creative Manager and now VP of Marketing. As someone who loves to over-prepare, she attended some of the first LEAP Canada events in 2020 to prepare for her own transition to post-secondary. A year later, she joined to help others find their path and have a smooth journey into their next chapter.