• The Mentorship Spot

Starting Mac Health Sci During a Pandemic

Updated: Feb 28, 2021

By Bhargavi Venkataraman



How was your first semester?


My first semester was expectedly very hectic, especially since this semester was my introduction to university and I was still adjusting to that workload. I was also trying to figure out a good planning system that would work with my course load and also be convenient to use. While I was experimenting with different planning systems, I did have trouble with organizing and managing my time, but eventually I started figuring out a routine. Everything being online also took a little bit of adjustment with my sleep schedule, how I viewed lectures, how I took notes, etc. However, I used the first semester as a time to try out different techniques so that I’m well adjusted for this semester, which I’m actually finding even busier. Otherwise, I really enjoyed my first semester and I found the courses really interesting.


What was your favourite course?


My favourite course was the Interdisciplinary Problem Solving in Health course, which is a required course in the Health Sciences program. Going into the course, I was not very excited, mainly because the style of learning was so different from what I was used to in highschool. We learnt through guest lectures from experts on three different topics throughout the term and we were put in groups of four that we worked with throughout the semester on three big group projects. However, I found that this class structure was what made me enjoy the course so much. I really found the guest lectures interesting and I learnt a lot about the healthcare field through hearing about the professions of the guest lecturers. I also loved the small group setting and really liked my group members, so working with them throughout the course of the semester was really fun. I also really liked the grading structure of the course which I felt was designed to help us learn, not just stress over grades. Overall, I really enjoyed my time in the course and wish I could take it again!


What was your most difficult course?


I think my most difficult course was, and still is, another course that’s compulsory in the Health Sciences program, called Cellular and Molecular Biology. There are numerous things that make this course so challenging. Firstly, there’s a lot of content to absorb, it’s sometimes difficult to understand pure scientific data and the testing format is unconventional. I’ve found myself going through pages and pages of notes after a 3 hour class in an effort to try to understand what I just learnt. It is a very exhausting class but at the end of the day, the content is interesting which makes it much easier to get through.


What were the biggest differences from experiences with courses in high school?


I found that the biggest difference between high school courses and university courses is the fast pace in which everything moves in university. For example, for the atomic structure unit in highschool chemistry, we spent at least a couple of weeks learning the material. However, in university, the unit only lasted one week. Also, I find that there’s a lot more self studying in university. In highschool we had classes every single day to go over concepts. In university, the general pattern is we look over the material before class using modules, and then go over important concepts in a live class. As a result of this, organization and time management is key. Professors and TAs try to be as helpful as possible, but it’s just not feasible for them to keep track of every student’s work progress because of the large class sizes. Due to this, it’s largely up to the students to keep track of deadlines and submit things on time.


What was the application process like?


The application process was stressful and I was very relieved when I was done with it. The Health Sciences program requires a final average that’s 90% or greater as well as a supplementary application which consists of three questions. The required average was mostly consistent with all of my university applications so that wasn’t the part I was most worried about. I spent a lot of time crafting the supplementary application and came up with ideas well before actually writing the application. I think throughout the process I just had to keep reminding myself that this program was not the be-all and end-all and there were plenty of other good opportunities. At the time, all I could really do was try my best. I’m really glad it all worked out at the end though!


Do you have any tips or pieces of advice for people who are interested in this program?


I’d say the most important thing would be to do your research on whether the program is actually right for you. I think probably due to the competitive nature of the program, everyone thinks it is the perfect fit for them. There is also the fact that there are numerous rumours floating around about the program that most people don’t know the truth about until they’re actually in the program. For example, Health Sciences is not a premed program, and I have many peers who don’t want to go to medical school. Also, it’s not a program where you can easily get a 4.0 GPA and I can vouch for that. It requires a lot of work just like any other program and although the style might be different, it doesn’t make it any easier. I think it’s important to actually know what you are getting into, so that’s one big piece of advice I would give to those interested in this program. I would encourage prospective students to read about the program, talk to current students, and reach out to advisors in the program to ask questions so they are well informed before making such a big decision.


If you could go back to the start of the semester what would you tell yourself?


If I could go back to the start of the semester, I would tell myself to enjoy the experience of being in university. With everything being online and just the general stress of getting good marks, it’s easy to lose sight of why you’re here in the first place. I remember how elated I was when I first got my offer and how excited I was for university to start over the summer. When university started, I couldn’t remember that excitement amidst trying to keep up with my work and worrying about each and every test. So, I would tell my past self to relax a little and try to enjoy being a university student as much as possible because I wouldn’t get this time back later on.


 

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