Biochemistry: Biomedical Research Specialization at McMaster University
Talitha (Year 3)
What made you choose this institution over all others? Did the university exceed your expectations?
I personally tend to thrive in environments that are more collaborative than competitive, which is what I gathered that the atmosphere would be like at McMaster. I also liked that the campus is relatively small and accessible, which fosters a community environment. Distance from home (~1 hour drive) and the overall prestige of the institution and science faculty were also factors in my decision to attend McMaster. In all these aspects, the university did meet and exceed my expectations and I am overall satisfied with my choice.
Do you have any lingering thoughts or regrets in your year as a whole (ex; application process, mistakes going into first year). If so, describe them.
I regret failing to consider other program options. I had only applied to the sciences with the hopes of applying to med school (like many people do) but I do have interests in other subjects that could’ve been explored in other programs (ex. Eng or Arts). That’s a big thing— although it’s never too late, it's definitely important to start thinking about your passions and the general direction of what kind of career you want to pursue before you apply to universities. I was also really stressed in grade 12 which made me skip out on applying to any programs requiring supplemental applications and I regret not trying. In terms of actually going into first year, I was very stressed about my GPA and contrary to a lot of first year students, my social life was not the wildest. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it allowed me to achieve a GPA that I was proud of, but it wouldn’t have hurt to have let loose and gone out a little more often.
Briefly describe the academic rigour of your program (in terms of competitiveness, courses, professors, etc.)
Overall, McMaster has a grading system that has greatly benefitted me. It goes off of a 12 point scale, with a 12 being a 90-100%/4.0 GPA, 11 being an 85-89%/3.9 GPA etc. allowing a comfortable room for mistakes. Most courses have assignments and options (such as optional homework/participation marks) which boost your mark. In most cases, the professors and TAs do grade fairly with respect to the amount of effort you put into your work. Almost all of my professors do really interesting research, and while not all of them are gifted teachers, the majority of my experiences have been positive, and they usually give you the material you need to succeed. And if they don’t, and the whole class performs poorly, I find that almost every time there is a universal complaint, there is a bell curve. There is also an option called an MSAF which can be filed by any student once a semester to relieve a student from any academic work (worth under 20% of the final grade) for a period of 3 days which is really helpful if needed.
Describe the social life at your campus based on your own experiences (making friends, clubs + extracurriculars, party culture etc.)
There are plenty of opportunities for students to join a super wide variety of clubs on campus. Also in first year, everyone is open to making new friends, and everyone that I encountered were super friendly. As for parties, they are definitely there if you look for them, but they aren’t as abundant and as wild as the ones at other universities (at least in my experience, but I’m not much of a party person so I can’t really say too much about that). If you’re trying to go to a “party school”, McMaster is definitely not the first school that I’d recommend.
What are some of the best and worst parts of your university experience so far?
Seeing hard work pay off
Meeting amazing friends who share similar interests (from classes, clubs, residence and intramurals)
Really pretty trails nearby that are fun to explore with friends
Collaborative nature of many courses
Mental health struggles
Learning to live on my own
Learning to balance a social life with school performance
Downtown Hamilton is full of sketchy people
There aren’t too many good restaurants and urban entertainment options near campus
List three effective study techniques and/or habits:
Choosing the right friend group (with similar work/life balance and motivation)
Making schedules and using a calendar to write down all deadlines
Going to lectures and paying attention (I slacked off with this in second year and while in some classes it didn’t make a difference, in others, it really did)
List advice for first-year students:
If you work just as hard or harder than you did in high school, it’s definitely possible that your grades won’t drop and could even be higher (my university average is higher than my high school average because I worked harder in university)
While it’s encouraged to try new things and keep exploring new hobbies, it’s also completely okay to stay within your comfort zone while you’re adjusting to your independence
You have a LOT of extra time on your hands in uni, so it’s really helpful to make schedules to keep track of it
Universities understand the difficulty of the transition from high school, and it’s helpful to know that everyone around you is in the same boat
Remember to get enough sleep, eat well, and drink your water!!!