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  • Writer's pictureThe Mentorship Spot

The Scoop on Co-op x Health Science at Waterloo

Updated: Jul 30, 2020

Written By Tanveer Randhawa

My name is Tanveer Randhawa and I am a second-year Honours Health Science Co-op student at the University of Waterloo. To accentuate my degree, I am doing a minor in Medical Physiology and a specialization in Pre-Clinical. Both the minor and the specialization allow me to take a wide variety of courses that will assist me in further pursuing my interest in a health profession. I am an aspiring Pediatrician or an aspiring Neonatologist — either way, I know Medical School is the path for me.

This article will mainly focus on my ongoing experience with Health Science at Waterloo and the story of how I landed my first co-op placement.

In high school, I graduated from the International Baccalaureate program, and the idea of ‘being prepared for university’ was drilled into our minds early on. As a result of that, when I was in the process of applying to university, I made sure to do a lot of research and prepare myself in every way possible. I knew exactly the type of program I was looking for, and that made it easier for me to narrow down my choices instead of applying to a bulk of programs. I applied to McMaster, UTM, Queens, Waterloo, and Western. I was fortunate enough to get acceptances from all of them, but Waterloo stood out to me because of the flexibility of its co-op program.

Waterloo Health Science x Co-op:

Health Science at Waterloo gives you the option to apply to the regular program (admission average in the low 80s), or into the co-op program (admission average in the mid-80s). The regular stream follows the pattern of 2 academic terms from September to April, and the summer off. The co-op stream is a bit different in the sense that you alternate between your academic term and your co-op work term. This alternation starts in your second year — you get 3 four-month work terms and 1 eight-month work term.

Ultimately, if you are in the co-op program, in order to complete the academic requirements for your degree, you will need to spend an extra year — making it a total of 5 years, instead of 4. Within the 5 years, you will get 2 years of co-op work experience, and more than 2 years of essential skills development through the numerous Professional Development Program (WatPD) courses co-op students are required to take. Currently, I’ve completed 2 courses; Career Fundamentals and Reflection and Learning in the Workplace. These courses are designed to help students build their resume, build networking, interview, and other essential skills you need in order to be successful in the real world.

Given that, it is important to keep in mind that not every co-op program is designed the same. I would highly advise you to do your research — call the university, email advisors, and, if possible, visit the open houses. You’ll be surprised by how much more you’ll learn from actively looking for answers to your questions.

The reason why I love co-op is because it allows me to gain real-world experience in my field. It’s like a taste test. Coming out of high school, I was strong-minded about my interest in the healthcare field, but I was terrified of the idea of rejection from medical school. If in the future I do not want to apply to medical school, I can leverage the experience from my co-op placements and find a job in the same sector. Moreover, I wanted to earn money to help me pay for my expenses throughout university — so co-op was really the best of both worlds.

A Story About My Co-op Experience:

Now, imagine this:

You’re sitting in a lecture hall full of 300 other students and a notification pops up that distracts your attention from those around you. Suddenly, the background noise falls quiet, your heart starts to beat fast, and you can feel yourself shaking ever so slightly. You do not know how to understand the emotions that fill your body.

“Congratulations! You’ve been matched with a job for the upcoming work term.”

If you’re a co-op student actively looking for a placement, you know the feeling of anxiety mixed with excitement running through your body as you read this news.

That was exactly my experience. For my first co-op work term, I was given the opportunity to work with Trillium Health Partners — a highly reputable hospital system serving the public from three different locations throughout Ontario. I worked with a department that went by the name ‘OneTHP’. This department worked to prepare for the transition from Meditech — an old Hospital Information System — to the implementation of Epic — a newer Hospital Information System.

My job title was a ‘Project Analyst’, but over the course of the three months of my employment, I was exposed to numerous projects that allowed me to expand my contribution throughout the organization. The different project streams that I worked under included Meditech Consolidation, GoLive Harmonization, BioMed Integration, Event Planning, as well as Epic Training.

Initially, I was contracted to work up until the beginning of May, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, my work term ended a month earlier. I continue to give back to the community, helping to flatten the curve, and now sit on the Executive Team of ‘Steps for Health’. In support of the Trillium Health Partners Foundation, Steps for Health was formed. We are raising money for the hospital and its staff as they fight against the COVID-19 outbreak. Check us out on Instagram @stepsforhealth_.

But…how did I land my placement?:

Two words — planning ahead…and two more — getting involved.

I knew how important it was to get involved within my community, so when I started high school, I began to volunteer in various departments with the William Osler Health System, and I started my own part-time tutoring business. In first year, along with both of those things I was a Councillor and First-Year Health Science Student Representative for my faculty. I have also been involved with the Waterloo-Laurier Punjabi Association as a Bhangra Dancer for two years. Aside from that, I held the position of an Administrative Assistant for a multinational company, a Social Media and Marketing Coordinator for a Real Estate Broker, and a part-time retail sales associate at Tip Top Tailors.

One of the most important things to do, is to build your resume with experience that highlights your strongest skills and abilities. Your passion should speak for itself, and it should also be vocal throughout the committees, the teams, the organizations and the clubs you decide to take part in. But strategically planning your involvement is not always good — you should keep in mind that it is important to have a wide variety of experiences to pull from. That is what makes you well-rounded.

When it was time to start applying for co-op placements through WaterlooWorks (the online system that is used by students and employers), I began fine-tuning my resume. I took advantage of the drop-in sessions that were offered to students and met with numerous advisors to ensure that my resume was in the best possible shape. I allocated at least one hour each day to make a master resume and a master cover letter. I used both these documents as a key tool for when it came to tailor my resume to fit the job description for different employers.

Thankfully, I developed a very strong work ethic in high school, so managing my time with applications, completing my notes, and studying for midterms and exams was never a challenge. Not everyone is the same, so it is crucial to plan out your day when it comes to working on your resume, cover letter and mastering your interview skills, and fulfilling your academic obligations. I would recommend setting aside at least 5 hours every week to ensure you work on perfecting the things that need the most improvement.

Co-op @ Waterloo x Important Statistics:

*disclaimer; these statistics do not apply to other universities*

Here’s a breakdown of the co-op process at the University of Waterloo. First Interview Cycle (Month 1):

• The first wave of Job Postings open and you have the opportunity to submit a maximum of 50 applications. o During this time, I submitted around 37 applications. Trillium Health Partners was one of them. • Around a month later, the first interview cycle begins, and interviews happen on a daily basis — from 8am — 7pm. o During this time, I was selected for one interview with Trillium Health Partners. • After interviews, you will have a chance to rank the employers purely based on your interest with the organization and the job being offered. The employers will also have a chance to rank you based on your resume, cover letter and your interview. o During this time, I ranked Trillium Health Partners as #1. • After the ranking phase, matches will be sent out. This is done through an automatic algorithm that pairs the applicant with the lowest rank number to the organization. o For example, if applicant A ranks employer X #1, and employer X ranks applicant A #1, their total would be 2. But, if applicant B ranks employer X #4, and employer X ranks applicant B #1, their total would be 5. Therefore, applicant A would be successfully paired with employer X. o During this time, I was matched with Trillium Health Partners and I officially secured a job for my co-op work term.

Continuous Interview Cycle (Month 2 — Month 3):

• This period is for students who were not successful in securing a job during the First Interview Cycle. • The second wave of Job Postings will open. Jobs will be posted daily, and you will have the opportunity to submit a maximum of 300 applications. • Around two months later, the Continuous Interview Cycle begins, and interviews happen every Tuesday — Thursday. • Ranks and Matches will happen every Thursday — Friday.

Direct Offer Period (Month 4 — Throughout the Work Term):

• This period is for students who were not successful in securing a job during the First Interview Cycle or the Continuous Interview Cycle. • Jobs will be posted as they are received on WaterlooWorks. • Interviews will be arranged by the student and employer. • Employers will make direct offers.

Students are also given the option to arrange a placement for their co-op work term by themselves. This puts the responsibility of applying, scheduling an interview, and securing a job, entirely on the student.

Most students secure a job within the Continuous Interview Cycle — so if you do not receive anything in the First Interview Cycle do NOT be demotivated. It is also possible that some students will not secure any placement for their co-op work term — this is NOT the end of the world. Take this time to reflect and continue to work on perfecting your resume, your cover letter and your interview skills. You can also consider taking extra courses during this time or expand your experiences by volunteering or taking advantage of other opportunities within your community.

Being able to officially kickstart my career in the field of study that intrigues me is an opportunity that will always play a vital role in my life and future endeavours. Working amongst highly qualified individuals forms an environment that allows for the growth and development of a better version of yourself.

A Reminder:

University can easily drain you, and students tend to be overwhelmed with the amount of new responsibilities they have. During times like this, it is important to keep a healthy school-life balance. Set some time apart for yourself; be social, go out, have fun, find a way to stay active and most importantly — EAT WELL and SLEEP!

You should be your number one priority. Never let the stress of school take you down. It is important to keep a strong mindset, and a drive to do your best without burning yourself out. Trust me, I wish I knew that it is okay to make mistakes and it is okay to let yourself go and give yourself time to breathe. This is not a race, so live your life at your own speed and your own tempo.

At the end of the day, just remember this;

Your intelligence and value are greater than any grade and criticism can indicate. Never doubt yourself. You are more capable than you think.

For Further Reference:

For more information about co-op statistics and important dates, visit the following links: Employment statistics | Co-operative Education

Important dates | Co-operative Education For more information about Health Science and Co-op vs. Regular stream, visit the following links:

Experience: Co-op or Regular | School of Public Health and Health Systems

Health Studies degree | Undergraduate Programs Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions, or if you need someone to talk to. I promise I’m friendly! My Instagram:@tanveer_r

My Email;

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