The Graduating Warrior: The Value of Your Degree

Kevin Veloso - 4C Software
Posted on: February 27, 2013

What will your degree mean to you?

Graduating students will be receiving their degrees in a couple of months! That is, if they submit their Intent to Graduate form by March 1. If they choose to complete their degree later this year, this form isn’t due until the Spring 2013 term. Having earned their iron rings, the bachelor’s degree is the next item (and possibly their last item) on their “to do” list during their time at Waterloo. However, what does it mean to have a degree? What is the value of the degree you will receive once you complete your undergraduate education? I believe that most students understand the value of the degree they will receive, but in this article, I highlight various aspects of the degree that contribute to its overall value.

Do you assess the value of your degree from a monetary standpoint? After spending five to seven years here, you’ve given the university tens of thousands of dollars, and thousands more if you’re an international student! As engineering students, you pay more tuition for your engineering degree than almost all other students at the university. However, some lucky students have their parents pay for their education. Others have earned various scholarships and awards to help pay for their degree. Congratulations to you! Interestingly enough, as Waterloo is not a private school, a portion of the tuition is subsidized by Canadian taxpayers. Unless you’ve worked very hard to squeeze every dollar you have to pay tuition, not all students view their value of their degree from a monetary standpoint, especially with co-op assisting with financing tuition.

Maybe you view the value of your Waterloo degree through your co-op experience! As it is required for your engineering degree, you would have completed at least five co-op terms, which means at least twenty months of documented work experience. Some students may find that their co-op experience reflects more of their degree than any other aspect. As mentioned in previous issues, many students take on co-op jobs not directly related to their program, finding that their time at co-op may be more valuable than their time in lectures. There are some students that may have had one or two co-ops that weren’t too pleasing, but still completed all their co-ops to fulfill their degree requirements. Just like the monetary perspective, the co-op perspective might not be the aspect of their degree that some students find as valuable.

Although the co-op program at Waterloo is quite distinctive compared to other post-secondary institutions, some students may feel that their education at Waterloo is what makes their degree valuable. Many students have learned a lot in their lectures and labs, applying what they’ve learned during their co-op terms. Maybe you’re a student that values education as a large part of what makes your degree valuable, aiming for those high 90s, or even 100 if the instructor of the course bell curves the marks. Maybe you’re a student that values your education, but doesn’t get those high marks. My TA for Calculus 1 didn’t care about the marks we got for this course, but he cared if students understood the material taught in the course. There are some courses, whether compulsory or a CSE, that may be about memorization and regurgitating information (CLAS 104 comes to mind) instead of focusing on concepts. However, each course is different, and each engineering program is different. Furthermore, the education you get at Waterloo may be different compared to the other students in your class who may be completing options offered in their program, or even minors if they’re really ambitious. The educational experience one gets at this university can’t be easily compared to others, even among the students of the same class. Some find learning from the textbook more efficient, and choose not to attend lectures or tutorials and still get high marks. Others may rely heavily on lectures and tutorials, even attending additional help sessions and office hours. Those that are getting as much out of their education from this university as they can may appreciate their education as a large part of what makes their degree valuable.

However, for a lot of students, including myself, the value of their degree comes from all the time spent during your undergrad. The degree you receive upon completing your undergraduate requirements will say what school you have attended. The University of Waterloo is a well-regarded school, widely known for its students and alumni starting successful companies, as well as making large contributions to the world around us. Notable former students and alumni include the founders of BlackBerry (formerly known as RIM), as well as the founders of more recent project and companies like BufferBox (a parcel pickup station and service) and Pebble (an E-Paper watch). Probably one of the reasons you’ve enrolled at the University of Waterloo in the first place is your appreciation of work that the students, staff, and alumni produced during their time here. Though you may not have begun a startups of your own, attending Waterloo has given you a large opportunity to participate in activities, clubs, and student societies. For those that aren’t as active with activities and services available on campus, you may have instead spent your undergrad with friends that you’ve made during your time here. For a lot of students, the people they’ve met and the connections they’ve made here is what they find most valuable about their Waterloo degree.

The bachelor’s degree you will earn at the end of your undergraduate may be quite valuable to you. Some people think that their iron rings are worth at least $60,000, but I would like to remind the graduating class that the journey’s not over, that they still have to finish their 4B term before they can properly bask in their undergrad achievement. Whether you think the value of your degree comes from the money you’ve spent on tuition, the co-op experiences you had, the education you’ve gained, the time you’ve spent during your undergraduate years, or all of the above, it’s no doubt that the degree you will receive is very valuable and means quite a lot. Engineering Class of 2013, convocation is less than four months away! Let your dedication towards completing your degree help you through your last several weeks in class! You’ll definitely earn that degree in no time!