The Mentorship Spot
Being in the First Cohort of Students in a Program
Updated: Jul 30, 2020
By Niroshini Mather
Hey! My name is Niroshini Mather and I am currently going into my second year in the Bachelor of Health Sciences program at Queens University.
Could you briefly describe your program?
The Health Sciences program at Queens University was initially offered as an online degree however, the first on-campus cohort of the program was introduced during the 2019–2020 year. Our program is unique not only in its course offerings but also in its teaching style as it follows a blended learning format. Instead of being taught the content through lectures and tutorials, students are expected to learn beforehand through modules. During class sessions, we then participate in group activities, such as discussion and labs, to ferment our understanding of the concepts presented throughout the modules. The course requirements are a mix of your social science and life science courses such as statistics and social & physical determinants of health.
The Health Sciences program at Queens University was initially offered as an online degree. However, the first on-campus cohort of the program was introduced during the 2019–2020 year. Our program is unique not only in its course offerings but also in its teaching style as it follows a blended learning format. Instead of being taught the content through lectures and tutorials, students are expected to learn beforehand through modules. During class sessions, we then participate in group activities, such as discussion and labs, to ferment our understanding of the concepts presented throughout the modules. The course requirements are a mix of your social science and life science courses such as statistics and social & physical determinants of health.
Were you concerned or worried going into first year about being the first cohort in your program?
My biggest hesitation before accepting my offer to the Health Science program at Queens was the fact that I would be part of the first cohort. There were no upper years to provide advice on courses or professors nor was there any indication the actual running of the course would parallel their initial promises. However, my faith in the potential of the program and my love of Queens in general is what finally persuaded me to accept my offer.
How do you think being the first cohort has benefitted your learning experience?
There are definitely many perks to being a part of the first cohort that I didn’t initially consider when selecting my degree. Everyone, from the teaching staff to the program directors, are keen on promoting the success of the program. Thus, I found we had access to more resources and opportunities that helped us achieve academically as were the administrators willing to take into consideration our concerns/feedback. Furthermore, our program only consists of 120 students. I loved the smaller class size as it created a more intimate educational setting and allowed us to form lasting relationships with our peers and professors.
How do you think being the first cohort has negatively affected your learning experience?
The biggest difficulty of being a part of the first cohort is that you are going in blindly. The lack of upperyears/alumni to provide any advice or resources on a course or a professor is definitely a disadvantage. There is also the ongoing concern that the program will be nothing like what it was projected as being. Another disadvantage is the lack of recognition our program has gained as of yet and the nuclear indication on how graduates from our program will fare in graduate program acceptances, for example.
How do you think your program is going to change going forward?
I believe our program hopes to expand in the coming years and will establish a class of Health Sciences students at the Queens Bader International Study Centre in England! The program is continuously changing and acting on feedback provided by this year’s students in terms of the courses, examinations, activities, etc.
Would you recommend your program to those going into first year? Why or why not?
I would definitely recommend my program for anyone applying this year! One of the things I love most about my program is the encompassing curriculum. I prefer our anatomy or physiology of cells courses over your standard biology course as I find it to be more interesting and in-depth. I also have grown to love the blended learning format. One of the hardest transitions in university is leaving the personalized learning setting in highschool to the more individualistic learning style of university. I found it hard to concentrate in lectures with over 600 other students and many opportunities for distraction. As an individual learner, I learned better by going through the content myself and then applying it through our group activities in class. Finally, I love how small our program is as with only 120 students, we have been able to form a tight knit community.
Would you recommend someone to be in the first cohort of a different program? Why or why not?
Of course! Don’t get me wrong, it is most definitely intimidating to think about attending a program without much information and not knowing how successful it will be. However, if you truly love the principles of the program, its goals and the university itself, go for it! Every successful program had to start somewhere and if you don’t take the risk, you might find yourself looking back and wishing you did. Also, don’t forget that your decision for your first year isn’t permanent. You always have the opportunity to transfer to another program or to another university all together.
Do you have any general tips for someone going into a relatively new program?
1) Don’t be afraid to voice your concerns or questions. Your program administrators want the program to be successful, as do you, so they appreciate and welcome any ideas you may have to offer!
2) Take advantage of the smaller class sizes to build connections with your TAs, professors and program administrators.
3) Take the time to make your mark on campus! As the first cohort you have the unique opportunity to create new traditions for incoming first years and establish a program society/council.
4) Stay open-minded! Accept the fact that the program’s success will require some trial and error but remember to remain optimistic and take any obstacles that arise in stride!
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