(Ellen Murdock, MSc)

As a graduate from the BMath program and a current student finishing my MSc in pure math here at Carleton I have learned three major lessons that have helped me succeed throughout my studies.

First, as much as it is possible, find a major that you are truly passionate about. I was originally going to take an engineering program at Carleton, and when I was asked “why engineering?” my answer was “because I like math”. After giving that answer a couple of times I realized maybe a math degree was the better choice since it was what I was excited about. So, I switched my acceptance to a math degree and never looked back. Enjoying the subject you choose in school makes it easier to learn, study and put in the extra effort needed to succeed. If you don’t enjoy the subject you won’t be motivated to try when things get tough.

The second lesson I learned was to find a group of people in my program that I worked well with. I’ve done this in both my undergrad and my masters; create a group of people to brainstorm with, ask questions to, complain to and celebrate with. These are the people that truly understand the situation you are in. It can be intimidating to find friends in a university classroom, but honestly what worked for me was simply saying “hi” to the person sitting next to me. It was by far the biggest factor in my undergraduate experience that helped me succeed.

Lastly, if you look for it, there are tons of resources for you at the school. I am a huge proponent of regularly attending TA and professor office hours; it was an imperative step to my success in undergrad and my masters. If you put in the effort to seek out the extra help professors will be more than happy to sit down with you and work through any questions or concerns you have. They want you to succeed (shocking, I know). The professors are also excellent resources if you have questions about possible careers, many of them have industry partners that they have worked with and could recommend. As an undergrad I took advantage of the MTC on a regular basis and it was a huge help in my transition into university math. Overall don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether it’s asking questions in class, reaching out to friends, professors or TAs, going to office hours, going to the MTC or using any of the many resources the math department has to offer, all of these things are there to help you and they really work. You have to give yourself the best chance to succeed, you shouldn’t expect to do it all on your own.

(Simona, PhD)

The staff and faculty at our school definitely played a crucial role in my success.  The faculty is extremely helpful, supportive, and friendly. The teaching staff is great. It’s amazing all around.

In terms of TAing, I always looked up to my TAs when I was an ungrad math student and I found them to be very helpful. I also really enjoy being a TA because I love to teach math.

For any potential student I meet, I always encourage them to come to Carleton. And if they like math, they should come enrol at the School of Mathematics and Statistics: we are one of the only universities that offer a Bachelor in Mathematics, we have so many co-op opportunities, our department is big and modern, the staff is incredibly helpful, the professors want you to succeed. It’s a very strong community with lots of academic options. I love Carleton.

  1. Visit your professor during office hours. Part of my positive experience is that professors will take the time to help you. If a time doesn’t work for the student or they need another appointment, professors will accommodate. This has been my experience.
  2. Math Tutorial Centre. It’s open Monday to Friday (or is it open on Fridays?), all day. Go to the MTC. Ask questions (as long as they’re not asking the tutor to solve assignment questions, lol). Take advantage of the resource.
  3. Go and visit your TA during the TA office hours.
  4. The Health Clinic at Carleton, if the student feels mentally or physically ill. We’ve got great doctors and psychologists.
  5. PMC. Why is the student struggling? Maybe there is an underlying issue. Maybe the PMC can accommodate the student.
  6. Scholarships! I think Carleton is one of the top universities in Canada for awarding the most scholarships to students. And Carleton has less rigid restrictions when it comes to maintaining your scholarship during your ungrad (for example, if you lose your scholarship, you can always regain it by achieving the required average the next year). So, for me, having an entrance scholarship when I started my degree, motivated me to keep high marks. Which, in turn, awarded me a scholarship for my Master’s degree. Scholarships and awards motivate students to do well and stay serious about their studies.

(Sung Woo Hwang, BMath)

After spending three years as an undergraduate student at Carleton University mathematics department, this summer I am waiting to graduate. I am about to complete an honours degree in mathematics and economics, which is a combined honours program designed for students who are interested in pursuing economics further. Economics courses alone frequently fails to provide enough mathematical background to learn some deep economics concepts. It’s not surprising that I survived as an undergraduate- or at least I would like to believe so- because I received myriad support from professors and staffs. I received admissions to graduate economics programs at several schools including University of Toronto, Queen’s University, London School of Economics,  Paris School of Economics and University of British Columbia. I hope my experience can attract great students to Carleton University.

Classes are typically small- the largest being the first year classes that typically consist of around 100 students. Upper year classes become smaller, and this really allows students to make personal connections with professors. Most lectures are supported by tutorials which are led by teaching assistants. In case the professor is hard to talk to or is unavailable (which is rarely the case), your teaching assistants are able to answer questions related to the lectures. It’s difficult to comment how much I enjoyed studying at the mathematics department at Carleton University with few paragraphs, so I will say no more than this: If I could go back to first year and choose any school in Canada to study math or economics, I would choose Carleton University Mathematics department again.

(Erica Pierre-Pierre, BSc)

I am a fourth-year student the Mathematics and Physics program at Carleton. In this program, not only do you get to learn about many interesting mathematical methods and ideas, you also get to see how those concepts manifest themselves in the physical world. Classes start out larger in first and second year, and then become more and more refined as you progress through the program. This allows for a much more intimate setting which, in my opinion, renders the lectures much more engaging. Additionally, there is a LOT of help available to students willing to seek it. The Math Tutorial Centre is a great place to ask questions, collaborate with fellow students, or to work independently. Also available to students is the Math Library, which is well-stocked and has many resources available to anyone interested in a different take on one or several topics. While Math and Physics demands a lot of diligence and energy, every day I’m so glad to have made this choice and I would make it again without hesitation. 

In terms of advice to prospective students, I will admit that I wish I’d been more prepared for the level of difficulty of honors math courses prior to entering the program. You’ll realize quickly that you won’t get very far on mere memorization when it comes to working through a proof. The ability to ask for help is critical at higher-level learning; if you don’t understand a particular concept early-on, chances are high that it will resurface at a later point in time (often in a more complicated way) so it really is important to ask questions if you feel yourself falling behind. Overall, I think the keys to “surviving” as an honors math student is having a persistent work ethic and building connections – be it with peers, professors, or members of the administration – the more you do to involve yourself, the more motivated you’ll be to do your best. The world of mathematics is so rich and rewarding intellectually; if you are genuinely passionate about what you’re learning you’ll put in the time, you’ll keep trying and will therefore inevitably find your way.”