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QUESTIONS

For a UWO Med Sci Student...

JUICY

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What is some advice you would give high school students when applying to your program?

The admissions committee looks only at your marks, and nothing

else, so if this program is your goal, focus on your academics in high school. The average increases almost every year, and is in the low-mid 90s usually. Interestingly, I’ve found that high-school averages don’t always correlate with how well you will do in university. Personally, I only managed to get into this program because I took most of my science courses in private school, but now that I’m in university, I consistently perform above the class average on exams. So don’t be discouraged by your grades in high school, don’t compare yourself to others, and just do your best to meet the minimum averages for admission. You will get plenty of chances to perform well here, if you just use the resources available to you and work hard. Also, try to develop effective study habits before entering your first year, because exams here require a lot more time and effort than high school exams. One thing I do want to reiterate is that it is a pretty competitive program, and it doesn’t stop being competitive throughout your degree. To get to do a 4th year thesis in your desired major (Ex. Physiology), you have to keep up with good grades both in 2nd year and 3rd year. I’m only saying this because I was totally bamboozled into thinking admission into the program meant I would 100% get to do a thesis lol! But again, it’s not an unreasonably difficult program, and good marks are achievable with some hard work and a good work ethic.

What's it like to be a first year student at Western?

I loved it! I lived in Medway-Sydenham Hall which has so many fun traditions and events that promote having a good time and making friends. All of the different residences have their own little traditions and mini-cultures, and Western as a whole does an incredible job at creating a warm and friendly atmosphere. There are residence sophs, who live on your

floor and make sure you’re having fun and staying healthy, and there are faculty sophs, who help you with any academic issues you may have. Overall, Western provides so many opportunities for meeting new friends, as well as providing lots of different resources to make sure you have support when you need it. First year was definitely the hardest year for me, because I had to adjust to the academics, live on my own for the first time, and make brand new friends, but I had an amazing time overall and felt super supported. Case in point, I had a little hamster with me on res who died midway through the year (she had gotten old), and my floormates threw a little funeral for her with me! The environment definitely fosters some amazing and tight-knit relationships. On the academic side, the first year studying Medical Sciences is actually a little difficult in my opinion, but I was able to get through it. The courses themselves aren’t horrible, but adjusting to university made things a little difficult at times. There are some boring courses (ahem.. physics..) but you can perform well in these courses if you just do all the assigned homework, seek help when you need it, and really give yourself time to study for the exams (I crammed so much and I regretted it so much). Second year for me was much better, both socially and academically!

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Why did you choose your program? What makes it unique to you?

I am the first one in my family to attend University in Canada, so when I was choosing programs I had very limited information to base my decision off of. My ultimate goal was a career in medicine, but I wasn’t aware of the many paths that could possibly take me there. I was under the impression that I had to pursue a science-based undergraduate degree to be successful, so that narrowed my choices down to life/health/medical sciences. Compared to the many other life and health science programs in Ontario, Medical Science at Western is unique because it offers

a chance at a thesis in 4th year. This enticed me as I thought it might help my chances when applying to medical school, but also because I am looking into a career more on the academic side of science, such as research, getting a PhD, and/or becoming a professor. I had also heard that this program was relatively easy but also offered a high-quality education, so it was almost a no brainer for me! Honestly, almost anyone you ask will give you a similar answer about why they entered this program. Many are interested in pursuing a career in medicine, and this program is rumoured to give you a fighting chance! Unfortunately, rumours are not always accurate and don’t apply to everyone. The reality is that many who enter this program in 1st year either drop out or 

 are kicked out, and only a fraction of the people who initially entered actually graduate. To get the 4th year thesis, you have to maintain high marks and take some difficult courses. So while I definitely think I made the right decision pursuing this degree, I also don’t want anyone to be mislead by what they read online. This is a very fair and fun program, but it is not “easy” or a sure-fire way into medicine.

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Are there many research opportunities?

Yes, tons! There are many professors across faculties that accept undergraduates as research assistants. Beyond the university, there are also labs and hospitals (Lawson Health Center, Victoria Hospital, LifeLabs etc.) that accept undergraduates as well! You just have to actively seek opportunities.

Many people start cold-emailing professors around August before their second year to secure a spot in a lab. Just send over a CV, resume, and a personalized email detailing why you’re interested in that particular professor’s work. There’s also lots of older students who have made resources for incoming students interested in research that detail how to get research positions, where to look, and how to construct professional emails!

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How would you describe the workload and work-life balance in your program?

It genuinely depends on the type of student that you are. There are some people who can study for 3 hours each day and fare well on exams. Personally, I spend a good chunk of time every day just studying. However, I would never say that school has gotten in the way of me having a good time. I participate in a bunch of extracurriculars, I go out with my friends every weekend, I go to the gym every other day, I (sometimes) cook and clean, and I see my friends to study literally every day, all while maintaining some respectable grades. I’ve never found my program to get in the way of my fun time. I do want to stress, though, that it’s really easy to get caught up in studying and think that skipping out on a party, or skipping out on spending time with friends, will lead to a better mark. But the truth is, it’s honestly important to put aside time for yourself and your friends. Even if you’re a little behind in your work, I suggest still giving yourself free time on a regular basis. Personally, taking a break from my work actually increases my productivity, decreases chances of burnout, and helps me actively study and retain information better. My work-life balance was a little hard to manage in first year, but I got the hang of it, as I’m sure you will too! :)

A very special thank you to our interviewee...

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ELINA FARAHANI

Hi! My name is Elina and I’m entering my third year at Western University studying Medical Sciences with an Honours Specialization in Physiology & Pharmacology. Some of my favourite things to do in my free time include spending time with friends, my little sister, finding new places to eat, and working out. I also really enjoy acting and theatre, along with reading, teaching, and learning languages! My younger sister (who is 13 years younger than me!) has inspired me to pursue a career relating to paediatrics.... but who knows where I’ll end up!

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QUESTIONS

For another UWO Med Sci Graduate...

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What is some advice you would give high school students when applying to your program?

Choosing an undergraduate program is a difficult decision so don't be discouraged when you find yourself being drawn in different directions or feeling overwhelmed. Start to plan early. Grade 10 is a good time to look into potential programs you may like and their specific course requirements as many university programs require specific courses that you will need to take in Grade 11 and Grade 12.

Stay well informed. During my senior year, I was unsure about what program I should choose. Going to the Ontario Universities Fair was very helpful. It allowed me to interact with representatives from different universities and ask questions about the program. Identify what matters. Engage in self-reflection and understand what you want from an undergraduate program and then carefully compare the potential programs to see which fits best with your goals. 

What do you think is special about Western's campus life?

My undergraduate experience at Western University is something I would always cherish. In addition to helping me achieve my academic goals, the Western university offered an abundance of extra-curricular activities I felt welcomed and appreciated in my classes, research experiences, and intramural sports teams. Throughout my time there, I felt like a part of a community where I

could voice opinions and ideas and learn from people's perspectives. It has a huge emphasis on providing mental health and academic guidance resources, especially for the students in the medical sciences program. In regard to the work-life balance, I think it is important to remember to "Work hard and play hard".

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Why did you choose your program? What makes it unique to you?

For my undergraduate education, I wanted a program that would provide me with a good background in medical sciences, an opportunity to do research, and flexibility in choosing courses outside my core field of study. Western's Medical Sciences program fit seamlessly with my goals and seemed like an obvious choice. The first two years of the program are general years, where I gained a broader understanding, and then the last two

years were more focused on my area of specialization. It also allowed me the opportunity to do a thesis project in the final year which was a great learning experience and a highlight of my undergraduate experience. 

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Are there many research opportunities?

There are plenty of research opportunities to choose from, including research outside your core field of study. There are several faculty-based research days which serve as a great venue to learn about active research projects and reach out to researchers

for the projects you are interested in. Western University also has an academic hospital. Thus, it is also possible to get involved in research with different physician researchers. Additionally, the final thesis project as a part of the Medical Sciences program provides a good opportunity to learn research skills and present a final project at the faculty-based research day. 

A very special thank you to our interviewee...

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JANHAVI PATEL

Hi! My name is Janhavi Patel. I am a first year medical student at the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine. I am interested in healthcare research, advocacy and medical education. Growing up, I have always found myself enjoying doing visual arts including painting, and sculpting, and recently I am developing skills in the field of digital art. My family is my biggest source of support and motivates me to be my best self. I am extremely grateful to all the mentors in my life and look forward to sharing insights about my academic and extra-curricular experiences to any and all interested students. Feel free to reach out to me via email: janhavi.patel7397@gmail.com, if you have any questions!

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QUESTIONS

For another UWO Med Sci Student...

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What is some advice you would give high school students when applying to your program?

The Medical Sciences program is a popular choice for many who have an adequate science background or is looking to go into professional schools or research. To be frank, the program is by no means easy. However, I believe that if you are willing to put the effort and find good studying habits for yourself, you will get a lot from this program. I believe that this is critical to consider before applying. You will spend a lot of time learning about core science concepts in subjects like Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Calculus, etc. If you enjoy the sciences, this is probably the place for you! However, if you find that these subjects are not your cup of tea, I’d advise you to switch into another program (Health Sciences, Kinesiology, etc.). Undergraduate is about finding a place where you belong and a program that you enjoy being in. Otherwise, you’ll likely feel stressed for the wrong reasons. The program’s admission requirements are solely based on your grades. It is usually from 91%-93% I believe. As long as you keep your grades at that range or above it, admission into this program shouldn’t be a problem. In addition, make sure to keep your grade 11 grades at that range or higher ideally! This can help you gain earlier admission. For me, I was admitted in December (earliest round), with an average a few percent above the admitted average. I had taken some of the pre-requisites in grade 11. At the end of the day, many students are able to hit the admission average. However, the admission average is not a clear reflection of the programs’ challenges. But as long as you work smartly, it will be a great experience. Thus, it is important to consider if this program is for you!

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What was your favourite elective in first year?

Since the first year of Medical Sciences has many mandatory courses (2 semesters of Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Calculus and/or Applied Mathematics), there are only 1.0 units left for an elective! A popular elective that many students take is Psychology 1000, which is a 1.0 course. This course is quite enjoyable, as there is a ton to explore in the field of psychology. Not to

mention, the professor I had made his lectures engaging and he was caring towards his students. Psychology is an intriguing and useful course that gives you a broader perspective of human behaviours and the complexities that come with them. While there is quite a lot of content to absorb, if you put in the right amount of time and effort, getting a good mark is achievable! Overall, my advice would be to find an elective that you’re genuinely interested in because you tend to do better in courses where you find them enjoyable.

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Why did you choose your program? What makes it unique to you?

To be honest, my first choice program was another program. However, I have no regrets choosing this one. I’ve found a program that is suitable for my learning style and enjoyable in terms of what I gain out of it — that’s all that matters! At first, I thought that the Medical Sciences program was daunting after hearing about how “hard it is”. However, I survived first year and worked a lot harder in university compared to high school. I found myself getting better results than I had expected. What I enjoy about this program is

that you are taught many science courses such as Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Biochemistry, Genetics, Cell Biology, etc. I personally enjoy learning about them and I find them as helpful assets when establishing a science background. The courses at Western have been carefully crafted by many professors, and through a multidisciplinary approach such as in-person learning, virtual learning, labs, or textbook use, my learning felt very enriched. Whenever I needed more support, I would attend office hours held by professors or teaching assistants, which I found super useful. Moreover, the Faculty of Science at Western offers a ton of opportunities to help build yourself up, such as research or extracurricular activities. There is a wonderful support system associated with this program and the peers that I’ve encountered have been kind and supportive. 

The Medical Sciences program is unique in the sense that in third year, you will be able to choose a specialization. Afterwards, in fourth year, you have the chance to write a thesis for some specializations and hence, it is an excellent independent research opportunity as an undergraduate student. I believe that this is one of the most valuable aspects of this program, and I’m really looking forward to it!

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What do you think is special about Western's campus life?

Western University is known for its effort in creating a positive and spirited student experience for everyone! The campus is quite large, but easily navigable. It is pretty and gives you an “old-style university” feeling. Most importantly, there is a space for everyone!  I personally liked to hang around Taylor Library to study because it was near my classes and there were many cubicles perfect for focused study sessions. I also had a lot of extracurricular meetings around that area. The University Community Centre is also a popular place for social interaction (when it was possible!). Many clubs have their activities in that building and students can find a grocery store, walk-in clinic, merchandise store, academic support areas, study rooms, and more. Western’s food catering is also quite diverse — there are many options to dine in on campus such as Tim Horton’s, the Spoke (run by the University Student’s Council), sushi shops, Subway, and more. Western’s campus is convenient when you need to grab a bite before anything! First year was an incredible experience for me. I lived at Delaware Hall, which is a popular traditional residence. I was able to meet many of my close friends and great people during my time in residence and gain special memories with them. The beautiful thing about Western’s campus life is that there is ample room for social interactions. You will likely not feel alone, and if you do, know that there will always be people who are supportive and care about your mental health, such as your Sophs (upper year leaders). Overall, I believe that the campus itself and the experiences I’ve had with fellow Western students made me feel very welcomed. I was able to enjoy myself and find people to talk to wherever I went on campus!

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What was the biggest challenge in transitioning from high school to uni and how have you overcome it?

The amount of coursework in university is a lot more than in high school. In high school, I was able to relax and not study for assessments

until the last minute and still yield a decent outcome. However, in university, the stakes are much higher in that sense and you should always aim to be up to date with your course contents. This way, you will feel less overwhelmed! I believe that you need to find what works for you and be in a proactive mindset when approaching your studies. Set a specific amount of time each day to absorb all the content that you are fed with. Then, take a clear break and do something else such as relaxing with friends. Go to the library or a quiet place if you need. Find a group of close peers to study with you and to keep you feeling accountable for your own studies.  To be quite honest, university is not easy and sometimes, it is too hard to do things by yourself. If you are willing to cooperate with others when mastering a concept or help others out, I’d highly advise it! I promise that you will learn so much and miss less things when discussing with others. It’s all about the network and finding good people who could share resources with you. Overall, I would recommend being on top of your courses because it actually takes time to absorb the knowledge. If you aim to be on track, you will find yourself in less time crutches and last minute grinds. They still happen (oops), but you will honestly be in a better place mentally if you have your notes ready or have reviewed things already. This is really important in university!

A very special thank you to our interviewee...

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VICTORIA LEUNG

Hey! I'm Victoria and I'm a second-year Medical Sciences student at Western University. I'm hoping to specialize in Physiology & Pharmacology in my third year. In my spare time, I enjoy learning new languages, creating artwork, volunteering at local organizations, pursuing research projects that I'm passionate about, and hanging out with my loved ones and dog. I've done my best to give a transparent account of the Medical Sciences program, and my personal university experience. Feel free to connect with me if you have any questions!