Health Sciences at McMaster University
Jett (Year 2)
What made you choose this institution over all others? Did the university exceed your expectations?
Distance is a make or break deal for me because I like to stay in closer contact with my family. As someone who lives in the town of Richmond Hill (ON), it is a relatively short drive from my parents to Hamilton - and so I am able to see them quite often. One of Mac’s greatest conveniences is it’s personal GO bus station where we have access to a typically rare mode of transport. In terms of campus, some students enjoy large campuses because they believe there is “more to do”, however I personally disagree. I love Mac’s smaller size because everything I want or need is all in one place and I can get to and from in a matter of minutes. It is far easier to reach out and meet friends this way as well.
I’ve also heard in the past that McMaster is one of the friendliest campuses that you can find, and this holds true. Every student (I’ve met at least) has been extremely welcoming and positive which makes social building much easier. Overall, McMaster has exceeded my expectations and I’m very glad to have come to this campus.
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.
Funny but true - One of my greatest regrets is not studying for chemistry enough. Many of you who enter the course will find it a standard review of high school Chemistry, however, as Chemistry being my worst subject I struggled. When entering university I already was not confident about my abilities and it actually prevented me from studying more. I would always think “what is the point if I am going to fail anyways?” or “in class we would learn ABC’s but the test would be XYZ’s, so why even bother studying?”. I’ve found that it’s so easy to fall into a negative mindset and begin a dry season with your work habits. But, I’ve learned that it’s essential to keep pushing against what you want to think. Many of our minds wish to take the lazier way out of things and begin to make excuses for us to ignore the work that’s being called to us. It’s important that we tackle these issues head on and push ourselves to go above and beyond. Whether or not I was discouraged from high school, I should have at least attempted to turn that negativity into a motivating drive. So my advice for any student who may struggle in a certain subject: Don’t succumb to your ignorance - continue to address these problems and make the effort to overcome them. It is simply like lifting weights, just because one is too heavy, does not mean I should give up on it forever. Instead I must keep working at it in order to lift it.
Briefly describe the academic rigour of your program (in terms of competitiveness, courses, professors, etc.)
Depending on your chosen electives, first-year Health Science students typically do not have an insane number of in-class hours (like engineering students). However, we are required to take one specific Cell Biology course alongside iBioMed students and it is arguably one of the most difficult sciences in First Year. There's a huge variety of professors in every course, so the way you are taught is dependent on which prof you receive. Overall, the Health Sci courses offer great profs that I believe you can even contact and in turn, they will show their support - but how you think they are in class is dependent on your learning style. Course grading is weird at McMaster, where we use a 12 point scale - I recommend searching that up.
Describe the social life at your campus based on your own experiences (making friends, clubs + extracurriculars, party culture etc.)
Like I said earlier on, McMaster is one of the friendliest campuses around and I'm saying this through a non-bias perspective (after visiting other universities as well), so it is very easy to get to know people, whether it be directly in class or through mutuals. I'm not sure if they will hold a welcome week this year due to the pandemic, but that was a great time to get in contact with other first-year students - don't be afraid to just go up to someone and introduce yourself, you may make a great friend. I'm not a part of too many clubs but just like anywhere else it's a great way to hang out and get to know some people better. The party culture at Mac is actually on the low, so if you aren't a "partier" like me then you're in for a treat. There are barely any ON-campus parties but there are certain groups of people that may go off to some clubs here and there. Just like anywhere else, if you want parties then you can find them but if you don't then you won't. Fun Fact: I have not yet met ONE person at McMaster that vapes, which is blessed.
What are some of the best and worst parts of your university experience so far?
Best: As cheesy as it sounds, every single day is so fun. I believe a lot of Mac students have found such a great balance between academics and social life. We all care about school and are working towards our goals, but we also care for rest. Every day, usually later, friends will come together and just chill. It's great because there is always something fun to do hanging out or there will be a fruitful conversation.
Worst: Housing. This is a problem that many many first years run into because there will be countless arguments and disagreements. People start house hunting from late fall to mid-winter but it's quite competitive and it's easy to run into problems. Just keep a calm mind and speak rationally with whatever group you decide to live with for the second year.
List three effective study techniques and/or habits:
Balance: This is key because the mind needs rest. As important as it is to be diligent with your studies, we all need time to do our own things and separate ourselves from sole work. This allows us to have our minds refreshed so that we can tackle our studies with greater efficiency.
Preparation: In University, there will almost always be some sort of influx of work (very dependent on which electives you choose). This means that you could have some sort of major test every week during a certain period and you'll have to be sure you're well prepped. I recommend creating a schedule to follow even if it's not easy at first.
Work out: This is personal, but I believe exercising is incredibly beneficial both physically and mentally. By working out, you are bettering yourself in so many ways and releasing any pent up stress. People use this time as their break between study sessions which I also find very effective. It's also fun to go to the gym with friends.
List three pieces of advice for first-year students:
Actually study: As much as I hate to say it, to a certain extent grades matter. A low mark can have a huge impact on your GPA, unlike where in high school you can afford many slip-ups. Tests are much harder and you'll have to be ready for whatever they throw at you. You're granted so much more extra time that you can really put to good use, so I recommend finding that proper balance.
Join Clubs: Don't go all out and sign up for every single club you see, but choose some that you can really see yourself attending. Clubs are a fantastic way to get in contact with people and create long-lasting friendships.
Just relax: Although I am contradicting my first point, grades are important but they're not everything. If you make a mistake then so be it, it's not the end of the world. I remember stressing so much about some of my grades or marks but for what? Me panicking won't help me in any way - so it's best to use that nervous energy into productive work. There are so many paths and opportunities, there is always another way out.
You're not alone: Imposter syndrome (search it up if you aren't familiar with the term), is real. So many students believe they're the only ones struggling with X, but I guarantee you that other people are facing the exact same problem. This is to just put your mind at ease and help you realize it's completely fine to make mistakes.