Opinion, Point vs. Counterpoint

Point: Should Waterloo Engineering have a general first year?

During this time of year, grade twelve
students are confirming their offers and
preparing for the next step of their lives.
Some of them will go into engineering,
where they will either specialize
immediately, or take a year or two to
decide what engineering discipline
they would want to pursue. Some may
already picture where they will be after
graduation, while others are still deciding
what they want to do.

An unspecialized first year makes it
more difficult for students to transfer to
another engineering program, even when
the two programs are within the same
department. Moreover, a general first
year program with competitive entrance
to certain programs could be a way to
motivate students to get better grades. In
addition, unspecialized first years could
broaden a student’s exposure to other
engineering disciplines, which could
help them become a more well rounded
and interdisciplinary engineer.

One of the advantages of a general
first-year program is that students
are exposed to different fields of
engineering, which allows them to make
a more informed decision when they do
decide to specialize. Even students feel
that ready to specialize in their first year
might change their minds when they get
a taste of what their field is really like.
It would be better for students to be
exposed to different engineering fields
in first-year, rather than discovering that
they did not like their program later and
redoing first year again. Students can
get a better idea of what they would
specialize in if a general first year
program is implemented.

With a general first year program,
first-year students could obtain a base
knowledge in all fields of engineering.
Even though some engineering students
have done work outside of their own
specialized fields, being exposed to a
variety of fields in a more formal teaching
environment would make it easier to do
work outside of their specialization.
In some schools, such as McMaster
University, students specialize in their
respective engineering programs after
first year. However, since the spots in
the upper year programs are limited, the
university offers students with a higher
admission average a free choice to any
of their upper year programs. A similar
system involving first year marks could
also be implemented. Having a general
first year program could be a way to
motivate students to develop better study
habits and obtain higher grades.
Therefore, the general first year
program would be benefi cial for students
who are not sure what they want to
do, and students who want to focus on
one field but are willing to learn about
the other engineering fields. Being
in a general first year can sometimes
motivate students to perform better to get
the specialization they wanted. Overall,
a general first-year program would open
more doors and opportunities for first-year students than specialized first-year
programs. It would make students try
out different fields of engineering before
making a life long decision to pursue a
certain path.

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