The Mentorship Spot
Updated: Jul 28, 2020
Written By Adham Saad
My name is Adham, and I’m a third year Medical Sciences student at Western. There are a lot of misconceptions about this program, so I hope I can clear some of them up in this article! First of all, Western’s medical science program is a four year program, where the first two years are general, and then you pick a specialization going into third year.
People tend to be confused about the layout of the program, so I’ll give a brief summary of how a typical year is structured. In first year, you’re required to take two physics courses (1.0), two chemistry (1.0), two biology (1.0), and two calculus credits (1.0). With the remaining 1.0 credit, you can take elective courses. See this link if you want more information about first year courses:
Course Selection for Year 1 (en route to BMSc).
If you’re a grade twelve student reading this, I would definitely recommend taking 12U physics in high school, because it makes first year physics much easier. While it’s not a requirement to be admitted into med sci, you’ll make your life easier in first year if you do. In second year, you’re also required to take a group of courses that everyone else in medical sciences has to take (ex: genetics, cell biology, and organic chemistry I). However, you can also take certain science courses depending on the specialization you want to do in third year. For example, if you wanted to do an honours specialization in Microbiology and Immunology in third year, you would take the prerequisite course in second year along with your other science courses. In third year, you mostly take courses related to your specialization along with electives that you’re free to do whatever you wish with.
For the rest of this article, I’ll talk about my experiences so far, and some words of advice to incoming first years.
The first thing I would recommend to do is to make sure you have a decent school-life balance! The workload in first year can initially feel overwhelming and lead you to completely sacrifice your life outside of school (which is what I did). Rather, be efficient and consistent with your studying, but also try to make some time for the rest of your life. So instead of sitting in the library for hours, but spending half of your time on Netflix, dedicate time where you concentrate on studying, and with your extra time do other things — extracurriculars, hobbies, hanging out with friends; anything other than studying. A common mistake first years make is they forsake having fun/de-stressing, which can lead to burnout and a range of other problems. This is an anecdotal experience, but I’ve found that I do better in school when I have a healthy balance between school and the rest of my life, instead of dedicating all my time to studying.
I would also recommend that all students get good sleep, especially before exams! Another thing that students are quick to sacrifice is healthy sleep. While I understand wanting to stay up all night to get some extra studying done, most of the time you’ll be better off getting good sleep instead. Courses like Biology 1001/1002 require a lot of thinking and not just pure memorization, so it’s important you put yourself in the best head space by getting good sleep — coffee can only do so much. Speaking of first year science courses, the classes are huge. For example, many of the first year science biology courses take place in NCB 101, which is a huge lecture theatre. If you’re like me and tend to easily zone out during class, I would recommend sitting closer to the front of the room. Especially with the large classes, it’s easy to sit at the back of a lecture room and sleep through an entire lecture or zone out.
Also, try to go to as many classes as you can. Obviously, sometimes it’s unfeasible to attend every single class during midterms for example, especially with the number of class hours you have in first year, but try your best to attend! I’ve found that it takes a lot longer to catch up on a missed lecture than the hour you saved by skipping it. Going to class also forces you to stay relatively caught up, where skipping class makes it more difficult to be up to date on a course. Especially with the large classes you’ll see in first year, it can be easy to feel like you’re just a number in a class. However, I’ve found that most professors genuinely care about their students and want you to succeed, so don’t be scared to ask a question after class or go to a professor’s office hours and ask them for advice about their class.
Lastly, I would tell you to think about your future, but not obsess about it. Being in Medical Science, that means you may want to be a doctor or some sort of healthcare professional, which is great! Actively work towards that goal and do your best, but don’t let it rule your life. By that I mean to not stress too much about things, but to instead just always try your best and leave it at that. Learn to accept that a bad grade won’t change your life and learn from your mistakes. Also, don’t let looking forward prevent you from enjoying your undergrad!
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