McMaster BioPharm: What is it and how can I join this program?
Updated: Jul 28, 2020
Written By Rachel Snelgrove
I am a third-year undergraduate student studying Biology and Pharmacology (BioPharm) at McMaster University. This is a five-year program that will earn you a Bachelors of Health Sciences and will provide you with wonderful work experiences through 12 months of co-op and a 4-month thesis. BioPharm is a third-year entry program, meaning as long as you have the prerequisites, you can apply during second year. The program centers on problem-based learning (inquiry types of classes), encouraging learning from each other and building off of one another’s inquisitive mindsets. For more information about the courses that are taken, you can visit the BioPharm academic calendar at https://academiccalendars.romcmaster.ca/preview_program.php?catoid=38&poid=20706&returnto=8071. For now, this is all I will mention about the program — if you are curious, I encourage you to attend information sessions and follow BioPharm on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You can also reach out to me if you have any questions! For the rest of this article, I will discuss how I got into BioPharm and some important information related to applying.
1. If there is only one thing you take away from this article, I hope it is that the interviewers want to see that you’re interested. You can choose to present yourself however you’d like, however, you should keep in mind that what they are really looking for is a group of students that will get along, challenge each other’s learning, and are passionate about this program and the subjects taught. A student who is interested in the program is a much better choice than a student who just has a high GPA or is highly involved in the community. You should try to make yourself stand out as someone that will truly challenge your group members’ thinking and will be both physically and mentally present, contributing to discussions in class.
2. Go to all of the information sessions and ask questions while you’re there. Even though all information sessions are the same in terms of content presented, attending all sessions will help your chances, as the professors, interviewers, and upper year students will see your face around quite a lot. They will see that you are interested and you will feel more comforted that you haven’t missed some vital piece of information about the program or the application process. Show up with questions so that they know you are interested, and honestly these answers will help you quite a bit when making your program decision.
3. Ask questions! The upper-year students in BioPharm are so incredibly helpful, at least in my experience. Many of them are willing to answer any questions, even through messaging or meeting in person. If you network either through your own circle or through the information sessions, you will have plenty of resources to ask all about the program and application process, perhaps even finding someone to read over your cover letter.
4. Spend lots of time on your cover letter. This is what is going to get you an interview! It is important! Even beyond that though, I would say that the cover letter is your first example of your writing and should be taken very seriously. Even if your cover letter is good enough to get you an interview but is not your best work, I would recommend continuing to work on it because you want to stand out. For me personally, I was very nervous about my application because I wanted to be accepted so badly, so I spent upwards of 10 hours writing and reviewing my cover letter. While I don’t think I needed to do this to secure an interview, my cover letter was complimented during my interview and I truly believe that effort was seen and helped to craft a good first impression with the head of our department.
5. Know all of the details about the program. To keep this simple: you should know that this program is five years, 20 people, lots of problem-based learning and inquiry, has co-op, and has a thesis. Knowing the ins and outs of the program before writing your cover letter and going into your interview will help immensely because you will be able to target exactly why you want to be in the program and you will come across as very knowledgeable and sure about what you’re getting into.
6. Present yourself as employable. Your interview will serve as a chance for you to be vetted, both as a student for the BioPharm program, and to see if you’ll be a good candidate to represent McMaster while on your co-op terms. You should be able to explain why you’ll be a good member of the work force and how you will be able to be useful to the employer(s) that eventually hire you. This is important because the school wants to hold its reputation with employers as a school with good co-op students, so if you do not come across as an employable person, this may be the reason that you are rejected.
7. Be prepared for tough, seemingly off-topic questions in your interview. While I cannot go into details for confidentiality reasons, there have been very specific questions asked in interviews in the past, related to specific things you have in your resume or even the 2C00 class that you are required to take. Be prepared to have an in-depth conversation about any miniscule detail you have on your resume — anything you present to them is viable material to discuss. This is definitely a double-edged sword, as if you are ready to answer these questions, I think it makes you look a lot better than simply being ready to answer the more vague and broad questions that you may expect in a regular job interview.
8. Understand what you are applying for. This program is not for everyone — group work and problem-based learning are much different than the lecture-style learning that has been done in most first- and second-year classrooms. Yes, it is a great program, but you get what you put into it and if you are not the type of person to learn in this environment, it will not give you all of the benefits that you may expect. If you decide this program is a great fit for you and vice versa, be prepared to market yourself as the type of person that will fit well in this program. This means that you should make a point to show that you are good at group work, creative thinking, and are marketable to future co-op employers.
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