• Cathy Zhang

#MyFirstYear in Western Medical Sciences

I’m sure you’ve probably read a lot of entries about Western in this series, but I’m still excited to dive deep into #MyFirstYear at Western’s Medical Sciences program, which is one of Western’s largest and most renowned programs!


As a quick introduction, I’m Cathy, currently entering my third year at Western as an Ivey HBA1 student. I’ve always been pretty indecisive, so coming out of high school, I had no idea whether I wanted to go into sciences or business (which was pretty stressful, since they’re completely unrelated). Ultimately, I decided to pursue Western for its Ivey Dual Degree with Medical Sciences, and so far, I haven’t regretted my decision!


But this blog entry is all about Medical Sciences, which has a reputation of being competitive and difficult. However, I actually found that many of the people I met during my first year were willing to help out and learn together with you. I know for a fact I wouldn’t have achieved the marks I had without the help of my peers. Especially after spending my entire second year online, I realized how crucial having a support network was in achieving both academic success and taking care of your mental health. So, I highly recommend all of you to talk to and meet as many people as you are comfortable with in your first few weeks of first year so you can start building that support network that will carry you throughout your post-secondary career. Not everyone will become your best friend, but you’ll never be able to meet the ones that click with you if you don’t take that first step.



My daily trek to class


In terms of the courses that I walked 20+ minutes everyday to during my first year (they were on the opposite side of Western’s massive campus from Ontario Hall, my residence), they were as follows:


Mandatory:

  • BIO 1001A/BIO 1002B: This course had pretty simple concepts that was high school review for me, but their method of testing was a lot more application-focused. It’s a great course to help you adjust to how biology courses are tested for in university with easier content.

  • CALCULUS 1000A: This course was also high school review for me. However, for the people who didn’t take calculus in high school, it was pretty tough. Take very thorough notes and outline the answers step by step.

  • CHEM 1301A/CHEM 1302B: Again, high school review (and I’m super grateful for my amazing high school teachers). One of my favourite first year courses because our profs were so engaged and passionate about their material. The labs were also fun, but make sure you are incredibly careful and precise with your procedures.

  • PHYSICS 1301A: You have a choice between 1301A and 1029A, with the latter being easier and more of an introductory course for people who haven’t taken physics in high school. This course was kind of a mess, haha. I’m also NOT a physics person, so I’m not sure why I chose 1301A 🥴 I would recommend doing more textbook problems in addition to what they assign in class.

  • PHYSICS 1029B: You also have a choice between 1302B and 1029B. I learned from my first term and went with the latter choice 😭


Electives:

  • APPLIED MATH 1201B: We had an amazing prof who cancelled our final because of the pandemic. Very easy to achieve 90s, as long as you do your homework.

  • FILM 1022: Probably my favourite course of the year! We watched a film every week and had two relatively simple exams that were a piece of cake as long as you did your readings and paid attention in class.


When I have to walk 2 miles everyday to class in the winter (from The Shining, one of my favourite films I watched in class)


As you can see, there are a few mandatory courses you will take in your first year. In terms of your electives, you can tailor them to fit whatever module, which is a specialization, you want to pursue in third year. These modules do have specific course requirements, as well as an average grade cut-off (which has been increasing every year 😢). The grade cut-offs for this year ranged from 75% to 94%.


As well, Western requires you to fulfill their breadth requirements, which essentially ensures that you take a variety of courses between the arts & humanities, social sciences, sciences, maths, and so on, including essay courses. Thus, it’s a great idea to plan ahead a few years if you have an idea of what fields you’re interested in.


Things I Would Tell My First-Year Self:

  • Test banks, group chats, study groups! There are so many more resources available to you in post-secondary, but they won’t be handed to you on a silver platter. Your sophs (basically your designated upper-year mentors) will probably introduce some resources to you, but make sure to seek out these methods that will greatly help your academic progress.

  • Bird courses are not guaranteed As. A lot of people in first year Med Sci chose Psychology as their elective because they heard it was easy and good prep for the MCAT. If you’re into Psych, then that’s a great decision, but if you’re like me and found the content dry, then there are so many other courses to choose from. Spend your electives on classes that actually interest you, and that’ll be the easiest A you’ll earn in post-secondary.

  • Don’t miss Club Week! I regret not joining more clubs in my first year because they’re a great way to meet people just like you. They’re also a great way to get free pizza 🍕

  • Comparing yourself to others is the least productive way to spend your time. You might have been top of your class in high school, but in post-secondary, the pool is so much larger that you’ll likely find talented geniuses everywhere you go. Don’t worry about their 4.0 GPAs or summer internships. Use their achievements as inspiration, instead of fertilizer for self-doubt.


Lastly, LEAP also has so many amazing initiatives where you can reach out and learn more about post-secondary life, such as our annual #TuesdayTalks series with post-secondary student panelists, our Mentorship Program, and our Coffee Chat series (where you can book a coffee chat with me!). Make sure to check out what else we have in store, as I’m sure you’ll find something that’ll help you along your post-secondary journey.


I know first year is such an exciting jump (and hopefully in-person this year!), but overwhelming at the same time. It’s definitely one of the best times to explore, make mistakes, and grow into adulthood. Looking back, I think it’ll definitely be the most memorable and fun year of my post-secondary career, and I hope you’ll enjoy your first year too!