This is NOT the Horrorscope.
Pre-registration (or what is now called course enrolment) is coming up next week. Needles Hall has done it again. It's changed things so subtlely to keep us at its heels. If you are in 1B or 2A (or 2B, if you are in regular), it may be time to think about what field you want to major in (if you are in 2B, your time is almost out. Otherwise, you still have a couple of terms to think it over). Here are some of my insights on the matter. Hope this will answer (or add to) some of your questions.
According to my resources (my two-year-old First Year in Math booklet), you can only get into this program before the 1A term begins, so the door of entry is basically closed if you are not in Accounting right now. If you are currently in Accounting, then your job prospect is pretty good. After all, in spite of the advancement of accounting software, accountants are still wanted by all sectors. Also, until there is a place where no taxes are levied, many are going to need accountants to help them fill out their tax forms (a very pleasant chore). You will be bombarded by so many numbers that by graduation, you and decimal numbers will be sworn enemies (yet you can't live without them).
As an ActSci major, you will spend numerous hours (maybe even days) learning about financial models and why the NASDAQ index can fall by more than 60% in only one year (by the time you read this, it might be 70%). Statistical analysis (don't we all love it) will be relied on heavily. When you leave UW, you may have so much confidence in your prediction ability that you start to think that you are Nostradamus. Although various models will be introduced, all of them will only stimulate your brain, not your eyes.
[I AM AM — Pete Love]
There is only one true pre-requisite to the program — a love of calculus. If you hated Math 137 and differentiation and/or integration to the bone, then AM is definitely NOT for you. In AM, you eat physics for all meals. AM and physics are highly related, but not entirely. In AM you get to have exposure on subjects such as differential equations (which we all like), quantum mechanics (how can they formulate these theories, you can't even see if they are true), and more. Before you think of going in AM, be warned — Calculus 4 is a REQUIREMENT.
You have to have a high tolerance for pain AND a high amount of endurance and stamina to complete this program. The program requires you to pass 52 courses (or 11 school terms) and to commute back and forth between UW and the "high school" down the road (Laurier). Unlike most of the mathies, you actually earn two degrees, a B.Math and a B.B.A. (not as well-known as the M.B.A., but it's still a degree). You will spend so much time in school that, by the time your friends graduate, you are only three quarters through the program. So the final couple of terms could be painful (due to workload/loneliness) for some.
Many of you probably have no idea what it stands for when you first came here. Of course, some of you may still be wondering "What's that?" C&O basically makes the things you have seen in kindergarden much more difficult. For example, connecting the dots is now called "Graph Theory". Counting is now named "Enumeration". There is also optimization, which many of us apply (without knowing) everyday. For example, one often impulsively optimizes which route to take, what time to leave for school/the Bomber, etc. There is also every hacker's favourite — cryptography. C&O is the place to be if you want to build an impregnable firewall or getting through any firewall you want.
Most of the Mathies are CS majors. This is for those who aren't in CS and want to be in CS. Before you can get in CS, you are required to work very hard and basically have taken ALL second year courses for CS majors. Tough work, isn't. CS is such a huge department that the line-ups for consultation with advisors often extends through the DC hallway, although there is more than one CS advisor. CS requires a lot of sacrifices. You often have to give up sleep, inter-personal interaction, liquor in order to finish the assignments/projects on time. By the time you graduate, your favourite pet will be a chameleon because you have to be as adaptable as a chameleon.
This "major" is for you if you can't decide which field do you want to major in, or if you detest all the other programs (or plan, thanks to Needles Hall) offered in Math. Unlike other majors, there is only one requirement — you need to pass three different sets of courses (four in each set) to graduate with a B. Math degree (the 60% average requirement remains, but that shouldn't be too hard to archive). It means that you can take as many second-year courses as you want. If there is such a thing as a "Lazy Man's Major", this has to be it.
Many CS majors love to make fun of students in OR. The problem is that they have to find someone to pick on and they target the OR students because OR majors take "general" CS courses. The program is by no means easy. One needs to take courses in Probability, CS, AND Optimization (what a lovely combination) to get an OR degree. Of course, they get a long (and I mean LONG) list of math electives (NOT MTHEL courses), but it takes an iron will for a person to get in and stay in the OR program.
If you are in any other universities in North America, this is what you study if you are in math. You have to be proficient in BOTH algebra and calculus to stand a chance of surviving. This may be the program that has the most 4th-year courses in its requirement. PMath is definitely NOT for you if you can't grasp abstract ideas as it is filled with, well, abstract ideas. Topics of pure math has many applications, but unless you like to prove anything you see, stay away from it. The PMath major courses require so many proofs that you may find the proof that you DO exist.
This option is for you if you (a)truly aspire to be a teacher; or (b)want to exert power on those smaller/weaker than you. If you DO aspire to be a teacher, nothing will stop you. However, if you want to be a teacher just because you want to be a bigshot, be warned. Most of us can testify that each generation of school children is smarter than the last (street smart). If you are the power-hungry type, you can be beaten at your own game if you are not careful. This program requires a broad range of courses. You would need to know everything from programming to analysis to probability to optimization. You also get bounced around a lot, so you have to be very flexible.
Many of us dread statistics. However, without it, we won't know who's leading in the polls, what kind of beer is more popular, etc. Many of you will find stats to be a flat, boring subject (I do agree with that). However, there do exist those who like the subject. You get to work with many different types of distributions and probability models. Having a good memory is definitely a plus because there are so many types of different models and distributions.
Don't take this route unless it is absolutely, positively necessary. Once you get into general, it takes a huge effort if you want to get back to honours. You have to apply through the S&P committee, and it is not a guaranteed success. However, if you don't enjoy the theory part of the Honours courses, then it might not be such a bad idea, as they throw out most of the theory in the general math courses.
(Disclaimer: The previous article is purely for entertainment purposes only and should not be considered seriously. The author bears no responsibility in the event that someone makes a bad decision in picking a major. After all, who actually takes advice in choosing majors from a 2nd year undergrad student.)
Jason "the Screamer" Lau