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McMaster BHSc vs. McGill vs. UPenn

A photo of acecanada acecanada
Hi there everyone, I'm new to this forum!

I've been admitted to the McMaster BHSc program (I live in Alberta so I've already heard back) as well as McGill Biomedical Sciences and the University of Pennsylvania. I haven't heard very much about McMaster hear in Alberta (its not very well-known), but remember hearing its quite an excellent program while at Shad Valley. Can anyone tell me a little bit about BHSc or help me with my decision? I am really torn between these three choices (leaning away from McGill a little to be perfectly honest), and don't know what to choose. I really want to go into medicine after I complete my undergraduate degree. Penn seems to offer amazing resources and a top-notch experience (83% medical acceptance rate as well), and my parents can definitely afford it, but I'd like to hear more about McMaster before making a final decision.

Thank you all for your help in advance =)
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A photo of Tyop Tyop
McMaster has fairly good placements into medical school to the best of my knowledge, as about half of their graduating class earn admission. But, much of that can be attributed to the calibre of the students that are within the program. At the end of the day, if you work hard, it won't matter whether you go to a Canadian or an American school. Although, there seems to be more options if you attend an Ivy League school, such as UPenn.

On a side note, I hope to see you in Philadelphia next year!
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A photo of comebackkid comebackkid
If you want to study in a Canadian institution for your undergraduate degree, then go to America or elsewhere around the world for medicine, McGill has the best global reputation of all Canadian schools. If you want to go to a Canadian medical school, going to Mac for the BHSc does not guarantee anything at all. However, everyone in the BHSc class is very motivated, and being in that environment can be very supportive.

UPenn and McGill will provide you with the highest level of education, but the BHSc program at McMaster and the entire faculty of Health Sciences is ranked 16th in the world.

It is up to you, entirely.
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A photo of inthemaking inthemaking
Congrats on your acceptances!

All 3 programs are great and I don't think you could go wrong choosing any of them. If possible, I would suggest visiting the campuses so you can get a feel for what the student life is like, if you could see yourself living there for the next 3-4 years etc.

I graduated from Mac BHSc and would be happy to answer any questions you may have about the program.
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A photo of acecanada acecanada
Thanks for the super speedy replies, I really appreciate it =) I'm really considering Philadelphia right now haha so its a legitimate possibility, just trying to determine if the differential in cost is worth it for the AMAZING university experience that it promises (so many extraordinary people in the Penn16 group!)

I did Shad Valley at McMaster and really loved the university itself but Hamilton seems like it may not have as much to offer as Montreal or Philadelphia. What is volunteering like at McGill, if anybody knows? I'm not very good at French and would like to do a lot of volunteering at local hospitals and around the community if possible, will this be a problem?

I actually do have a number of questions about the Health Sciences program! I was wondering firstly if all of the rumours about grade inflation are true? I like to be challenged, but would really like to have options open to me after my undergrad degree so I wouldn't mind a bit of help with my GPA. What kind of opportunities are there to get involved in medicine? This is he biggest stopping point for Mac for me, as I don't think Hamilton has the same calibre of hospitals or research institutes as some of the bigger cities and fear this will limit what I can get involved in at university. Beyond this, how isolated is BHSc from the rest of the McMaster community? My IB program is quite isolated from the rest of the school and I don't like the feeling at all =(

How does Health Sci differ from Life Sci or Biomedical Science elsewhere?

And lastly, does anybody have any success stories of students doing undergraduate degrees in the US and going on to top American or Canadian medical schools? I don't have any friends who've gone stateside for premed, but its really been my dream for all of high school!
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A photo of inthemaking inthemaking

@acecanada wrote

I actually do have a number of questions about the Health Sciences program! I was wondering firstly if all of the rumours about grade inflation are true? I like to be challenged, but would really like to have options open to me after my undergrad degree so I wouldn't mind a bit of help with my GPA. What kind of opportunities are there to get involved in medicine? This is he biggest stopping point for Mac for me, as I don't think Hamilton has the same calibre of hospitals or research institutes as some of the bigger cities and fear this will limit what I can get involved in at university. Beyond this, how isolated is BHSc from the rest of the McMaster community? My IB program is quite isolated from the rest of the school and I don't like the feeling at all =(

How does Health Sci differ from Life Sci or Biomedical Science elsewhere?




I don't know where everyone gets their info from but I can tell you from personal experience that I typically did better in my non-health sci than health sci courses. A lot of the health sci courses are subjective in nature (you're graded based on presentations, groups projects, and interviews rather than midterms/exams) so there's a lot of room for debate. The mark you feel you deserve may not be the mark you end up getting. That's not to say that I did poorly though, I still ended up graduating with a 3.8+ GPA, so it's not a GPA killer by any means.

Mac has a hospital on campus and there are tons of opportunities to get involved. In health sci, it's mandatory to complete an "inquiry project" in 3rd year (basically like a mini-thesis complete with your own research project, lab presentations, lab report etc). So everyone has research experience by the end of 3rd year (unlike in other programs where you may not be exposed to research until 4th year thesis), and you can choose to conduct both lab or clinical research. I worked in the Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine of the Mac hospital for my 3rd year project and continued working there the summer after 3rd year as well. If you want, you can also start getting involved earlier. Some of my friends have been working in the pediatrics ward since end of 1st year. Mac is one of the biggest research schools in Canada; I can't really compare it to McGill/Penn since I've never visited either of those schools, but I imagine it may be harder to get involved at those schools since they have a larger student population and competition will be much higher as a result.

I was in IB in high school as well and BHSc is similar in that they are both very small and tight-knit communities. At times I did feel ostracized by the rest of Mac but never by people who actually took the time to get to know me and were my friend. There are people that will stereotype you because of your BHSc student label but it happens. Most people just said "wow you must be smart then" when they found out I was in BHSc.

Health sci differs from life sci because it's very much focused on human health care, including both science and social science aspects. You take anatomy & physiology, psychobiology, and cell biology along with critical appraisal of medical literature, health policy, epidemiology etc. In life sci, you are free to pursue whatever science you like and it's very broad (taking courses like gen bio, gen chem, etc). After 1st year, you major in your field of choice, whether it's physics, psych, molecular bio, chem, etc. You don't have a major in health sci (the major = health sci). I would say biomedical science at UWO is the most similar to BHSc (don't know much about other biomed sci programs).

I hope this helps!
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A photo of Jsonga Jsonga
Congrats on your acceptances.

As mentioned earlier if you're gunning for med in the US it would probably be better to go to Penn as school rep matters down there, though if you're leaning towards coming back/staying in Canada you can't go wrong with either of your three options.

That leaves cost which you said isn't an issue. The university experience you'll get in the States is supposedly better than what you'd get out of any Canadian institution.

If I was in your situation I'd probably go to Penn as it would keep both American and Canadian options open after undergrad.
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A photo of uncharted1111 uncharted1111
Congrats on your acceptances!

I was kind of in a similar position two years ago (currently a sophomore) when I was deciding between committing to Yale and waiting to hear back from BHSc. I committed to Yale pretty soon after I got my acceptance and didn't end up getting into BHSc so it all kind of worked out in a way. I was pre-med when I applied and I'm still pre-med now--although I did change my major a couple of times--so I can share some of my perspectives from the past two years.

Penn is going to be way more liberal artsy than any Canadian program you could go to. You'll basically get the first two years to take whatever you want and then you declare your major at the end of sophomore year, although if you're pre-med you should begin fulfilling those requirements starting from your first semester. A lot of people come into college with a pre-professional mindset, meaning that they think they have to be pre-law, pre-med, engineering, PhD track etc. but then after a few months of taking classes and exploring new fields they realize they don't have to follow one of those tracks and end up switching/changing majors and career paths and such. I know so many people who came into Yale who said they were pre-med and by the end of freshman year they figured out it wasn't for them. I don't know what the pre-med attrition rate is at BHSc, but if you suddenly decide you aren't pre-med anymore and want to do a complete change of your undergraduate education you'll probably have an easier time doing that at Penn.

Why do so many people drop out of pre-med? Several reasons. I think the main reason is that people get exposed to a bunch of new fields and opportunities in college that they didn't think of in high school, and they only said they were pre-med because they thought it was some sort of "safe" choice. Another reason why people drop out of pre-med is because being pre-med at a school like Penn or Yale is honestly pretty difficult. Not everyone who takes a pre-med class is going to get an A, and think about it--everyone who got into Penn or Yale was near the very top of their class in high school and there's no way people are going to start slacking off. Even coming from a school like Penn, you'll still need a pretty good GPA (3.7-3.8) if you want a good shot at a top US medical school. It's not impossible, but don't expect to be able to slack off much once you get there.

And about the GPA thing--American university GPAs do not convert very well when applying to Canadian medical schools, so it will be pretty difficult applying to a school like UofT where the average accepted GPA is a ~3.88. While a 3.70 from Penn is VERY good by Penn standards, Canadian schools don't care that it came from Penn and you'll be at a disadvantage from a raw numbers standpoint. American schools are way more holistic when it comes to med school admissions so you can end up at a pretty good med school with a 3.7, good MCATs, letters of rec, volunteering/research/shadowing experience, etc.

I'm not sure how it is at Penn, but getting research experience here at Yale was ridiculously easy. You pretty much just email a few professors you might be interested with working with and chances are at least one of them would be interested with you joining their lab. Last fall I emailed 14 professors and by the end of it I had to pick between 5 labs. I'm pretty sure that you can apply for fellowships to do research after your freshman summer if you really wanted to. I'd say getting research at Penn would definitely be easier than a school like McGill. I think Penn has 3 affiliated hospitals with its medical school so that's a huge plus with getting volunteering and shadowing experience as well.

I personally plan to take a year off between college and med school, so I'm going to apply after I graduate and not during my senior year. I know of a Canadian who is graduating this year and got into Dartmouth for medical school in December, but I don't personally know him so I can't tell you what other schools he got into or where he's going next year.

You can't really go wrong with any of your choices and I'm sure that you'll succeed wherever you go. I've had the best two years of my life here at Yale but if I'm sure I would have said the same thing if I got into BHSc and chose it instead of here. Hope this helps!
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A photo of acecanada acecanada
Thank you all so much for the AMAZINGLY informative replies!

inthemaking, yeah I've heard that pulling a pretty amazing GPA isn't nearly as bad at BHSc as it is at say McGill or UofT, just because its so hard to get in that you end up earning a little bit of grade inflation in the long term. I'm glad its so easy to get involved, but still a little worried about being in a group slightly apart from the rest of the university. I'm definitely still considering it though, I've pretty much ruled out McGill though at this point.

Jsonga, I'm just worried I'll reduce my chances for admission (however slightly) at Canadian medical schools by heading down South. I think the advantage gained might be worth it though.

uncharted, wow, what a super useful post =) That's just the thing, I think the whole college experience would be very different in the States, with you getting a much greater opportunity to just learn what you want rather than being forced into a streamlined path to take certain courses. I do have one question, I've heard that only around 200 international students go to American medical schools every year. Just how difficult is it, given a 3.7-3.8 at a school like Penn (I'm more than willing to work and work hard haha, this has been my dream for a VERY long time and I've never been more motivated) to actually get into an American medical school? I fear I'll spoil my chances in Canada and end up biting off more than I can chew, given the ridiculous statistics for American med schools. I've heard the same about research at Penn, its literally there for whoever wants it, you don't have to go around hunting professors down or washing their cars or anything, and you have a great deal of choice in whatever research positions you take.

Penn definitely seems to be the best fit for me, and probably the school where I'll be happiest and the decision I'll regret the least. I'm just a little afraid of ending up with no options after 4 years simply because of the rigour of the institution.
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A photo of uncharted1111 uncharted1111
Well most American medical schools require that you complete your pre-medical classes in either a Canadian or American university, which combined with the fact that the majority of internationals studying in America and Canada aren't pre-med might explain the low number. I just looked at Yale's career services website and it said that 4 out of 5 internationals who applied for entrance fall 2011 got into a medical school. Also, Canadians have a slightly easier time applying to American medical schools compared to "real" internationals from what I've researched, and it definitely helps coming from an American school like Penn.

The hardest part about schools like Penn and Yale is getting in. Of course you'll have to work hard and hit the ground running, but you wouldn't have been admitted in the first place if the school didn't think you were up to the challenge.
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A photo of acecanada acecanada
uncharted, that was a very encouraging statistic =) would you mind linking me? I couldn't find it and would love to read as much as I can about this in general. I think I'll go to Penn, it honestly seems like a very rare opportunity. BHSc is a great program, but I doubt the program itself is what gets kids into med school, probably more just the kind of people that choose BHSc
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A photo of Aeria Aeria
Hey,

I'm in BHSc too, and I concur with inthemaking. Healthsci classes are subjective, making it harder to get a perfect GPA. Also, something else you should know is that it is much easier to get into an American med school than a Canadian one (you're chances are much higher).

So choose the option that will leave the most doors open for you i.e. is best for American med school admissions. I'm not sure whether a Canadian or American undergrad is better for this, but if you do the research I'm sure you'll find out :)

Also, inthemaking, do you mind clearing your inbox a bit so that I can send you a PM? Would love to talk to an ex-Healthsci! :)

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A photo of inthemaking inthemaking

@Aeria wrote
Hey,

I'm in BHSc too, and I concur with inthemaking. Healthsci classes are subjective, making it harder to get a perfect GPA. Also, something else you should know is that it is much easier to get into an American med school than a Canadian one (you're chances are much higher).

So choose the option that will leave the most doors open for you i.e. is best for American med school admissions. I'm not sure whether a Canadian or American undergrad is better for this, but if you do the research I'm sure you'll find out :)

Also, inthemaking, do you mind clearing your inbox a bit so that I can send you a PM? Would love to talk to an ex-Healthsci! :)





Oops sorry, I didn't realize it was full. Freed up some space, PM away!
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A photo of uncharted1111 uncharted1111
Oops I probably should have specified a bit more. 4 of the 5 Yale College internationals that applied got into a medical school in fall 2011, so a total of 5 internationals applied from Yale and 4 got in. I didn't mean for it to sound like 80% of all internationals that apply to American medical schools get in haha.
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A photo of acecanada acecanada
A school like YALE only had 5 internationals apply to medical schools? That seems rather unusual =/ is there a particular reason?
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A photo of WKHC WKHC

@acecanada wrote
Hi there everyone, I'm new to this forum!

I've been admitted to the McMaster BHSc program (I live in Alberta so I've already heard back)



You are probably one of the first who got accepted. Care to post your sup app so that we can see what does it take to get in?
Thanks.
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A photo of uncharted1111 uncharted1111
In a lot of other countries, medicine is usually a direct entry program out of high school, so if people are sure that they want to go into medicine then they go straight to medical school in their home country instead of going to college and then applying to medical school. Also there's the issue of trying to obtain licensure in your home country with a foreign medical degree, overall cost, etc.

In my year I know there are 6 internationals (including me) who are pre-med. 3 of us are Canadian and I think another one has US citizenship so he's not really considered international when he applies.
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A photo of ilikebones ilikebones
sorry for thread hijack but this thread just made me reconsider mac.. so healthsci at mac is actually not that good? should i just go to western biomed if it's easier to get a perfect GPA there? i really dislike subjective marking and i really want to get away from that when i graduate high school.. english, and in general, courses like social sciences with presentations were my worst marks.. i don't hate presentations itself but when i get a "90%" on a presentation (not saying it's bad) i just think.. where did the other 10% go? i mean that's like getting 5 answers wrong on a math test out of 50 :x

i was under the impression that mac healthsci was easier than other programs thus higher gpa.. and i also thought the only presentation/group work course was inquiry, which was self-marking? could someone please answer for me, thanks!

oh and last question is what percentage is a 4.0? i know at western it's 90%+ = 4.0 but i'm wondering about mac courses
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A photo of rosered93 rosered93

@ilikebones wrote
sorry for thread hijack but this thread just made me reconsider mac.. so healthsci at mac is actually not that good? should i just go to western biomed if it's easier to get a perfect GPA there? i really dislike subjective marking and i really want to get away from that when i graduate high school.. english, and in general, courses like social sciences with presentations were my worst marks.. i don't hate presentations itself but when i get a "90%" on a presentation (not saying it's bad) i just think.. where did the other 10% go? i mean that's like getting 5 answers wrong on a math test out of 50 :x

i was under the impression that mac healthsci was easier than other programs thus higher gpa.. and i also thought the only presentation/group work course was inquiry, which was self-marking? could someone please answer for me, thanks!

oh and last question is what percentage is a 4.0? i know at western it's 90%+ = 4.0 but i'm wondering about mac courses



"Not that good" depends on your definition of "good". From what you wrote, I'd say yeah, you'd be disappointed by the evaluations we get. You don't get clear-cut expectations and "know this and you will get 100%". There is a LOT of subjective marking involved in our courses.

I don't think it's easier--it's just different. Really different. If you say it's easier because we have fewer exams, then sure, it's easier. But you're not given a high mark simply because you're in the program--you're in the program because you're capable of adapting to the new environment, working hard, and expanding your understanding of the learning process. And you get good marks because of that. Inquiry is not self-marking: your facilitator gives you your mark. You write a self-evaluation/-reflection in which you assign yourself an A/B/C, but you have to justify the hell out of that grade, and if your facilitator disagrees, then no dice.
Groupwork is involved in every Health Sciences-run course. A LOT OF IT. Like, a lot a lot.

4.0 is 90+ aka a 12. McMaster uses a 12 point grading scale. You can google "McMaster grading scale" for clarification.
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A photo of ilikebones ilikebones

@rosered93 wrote

@ilikebones wrote
sorry for thread hijack but this thread just made me reconsider mac.. so healthsci at mac is actually not that good? should i just go to western biomed if it's easier to get a perfect GPA there? i really dislike subjective marking and i really want to get away from that when i graduate high school.. english, and in general, courses like social sciences with presentations were my worst marks.. i don't hate presentations itself but when i get a "90%" on a presentation (not saying it's bad) i just think.. where did the other 10% go? i mean that's like getting 5 answers wrong on a math test out of 50 :x

i was under the impression that mac healthsci was easier than other programs thus higher gpa.. and i also thought the only presentation/group work course was inquiry, which was self-marking? could someone please answer for me, thanks!

oh and last question is what percentage is a 4.0? i know at western it's 90%+ = 4.0 but i'm wondering about mac courses



"Not that good" depends on your definition of "good". From what you wrote, I'd say yeah, you'd be disappointed by the evaluations we get. You don't get clear-cut expectations and "know this and you will get 100%". There is a LOT of subjective marking involved in our courses.

I don't think it's easier--it's just different. Really different. If you say it's easier because we have fewer exams, then sure, it's easier. But you're not given a high mark simply because you're in the program--you're in the program because you're capable of adapting to the new environment, working hard, and expanding your understanding of the learning process. And you get good marks because of that. Inquiry is not self-marking: your facilitator gives you your mark. You write a self-evaluation/-reflection in which you assign yourself an A/B/C, but you have to justify the hell out of that grade, and if your facilitator disagrees, then no dice.
Groupwork is involved in every Health Sciences-run course. A LOT OF IT. Like, a lot a lot.

4.0 is 90+ aka a 12. McMaster uses a 12 point grading scale. You can google "McMaster grading scale" for clarification.


hanks!

do you think you would be doing better (higher gpa) at, say, western biomed though?

if i get accepted, it's just one of those things you don't want to pass up on.. but at the same time, it seems like i won't like the program that much if it's that hard to get marks. don't get me wrong, i love working with people, love group projects and such, but i dislike the way marks are given out there
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A photo of inthemaking inthemaking

@ilikebones wrote

do you think you would be doing better (higher gpa) at, say, western biomed though?

if i get accepted, it's just one of those things you don't want to pass up on.. but at the same time, it seems like i won't like the program that much if it's that hard to get marks. don't get me wrong, i love working with people, love group projects and such, but i dislike the way marks are given out there



It's not impossible to do well, most people who receive the Provost Award each year (for students who have a 4.0 GPA) are health scis. If you work hard then you will get the A+. If you don't, then you won't. The marking is subjective but not unfair.
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