• Nada Elhossiny

Bishop Reding Alumni Discuss: What was First Year Like?

By Nada Elhossiny

As the June 1st deadline is approaching, it is time for Grade 12s to complete their research on post-secondary institutions, if they choose to pursue it, and begin thinking about making their decisions. Without the luxury of visiting campuses, meeting with faculty members and talking to students in our programs of interest, making such a crucial decision becomes even more difficult. For this reason, we invited several Bishop Reding alumni to discuss their first-year university experiences at various universities and programs!

Mechatronics Engineering- University of Waterloo

Sarim Muqeet is a Mechatronics Engineering student who is on his co-op (work) term.

Q: How would you describe your post-secondary experience so far?

A: Well, having completed 1A, I can say that getting used to managing an 80-hour workload from high school was definitely difficult at first, but I got used to it. Now on my co-op term, I'm finding it really cool and sometimes enjoy even just having fun with people I work with. Personally, although the first term was very stressful, I really enjoyed the content I learned and am loving my co-op term so far. The experience would definitely benefit from being in person, but I think it’s been very educational, especially from a general life standpoint.

Q: What do you like about your program/institution?

A: I love how versatile my program is. I really like how we're learning such a wide skillset, and I'm able to understand and contribute towards multiple different aspects of one project, from drawing and designing to coding, to professionalism in general. I'm not great at art, so I would never have guessed that my favourite subject would be Engineering Graphics and Design in my first term! I am looking forward to learning in person rather than online so we can get some hands-on experience through labs. In regards to the institution, I really like the co-op program and personally feel that it’s more important to development than study terms. I really appreciate being able to gain industry experience and a chance to actually apply knowledge from enlightening courses like linear algebra…

Q: What do you dislike about your program/institution?

A: I can't really say much about this since it’s only been one term, but the workload is definitely something I wasn't a fan of since it’s a big jump from high school. Other than that, I would appreciate more electives in my program, but it’s a similar case for most other engineering programs.

Q: Are there any things you wish you knew before starting your program? Any advice for current Grade 12s?

A: I'll say that the AP program definitely helps. About half of my first term chemistry course and pretty much the entire calculus course was AP content, so I could save time by skipping lectures (not sure if I recommend that though) if needed and still maintain high marks. In grade 12, I wish I knew some of the skills that employers were looking for so I could have time to build them. I found that finding co-op in first-year stream 4, in COVID circumstances, was very stressful. On the topic of co-op, it’s normal and okay to not get any interviews after even 100 applications (don't worry, it took me like 150). There's going to be people who get a job after 10 applications but dislike it and people who find one after 300 but love it. I recommend taking things at your own pace; you'll have a better understanding of how things work after your first term. Also, don't worry if your marks drop, because it’s going to happen. Exams are worth much more than an assignment so I suggest not wasting time worrying if you get a bad mark on one assignment - chances are it'll be worth nothing compared to your exam. Finally, use reading week! By this, I don't mean to study, but to find time to relax, cool down, and collect some thoughts about the first couple weeks of university. I also recommend starting some midterm prep because all of my midterms were within 10 days after reading week. That's about all I can think of for now, I'll probably find more as life goes on.

Thank you, Sarim!

Computer Science and Business Administration- University of Waterloo & Wilfrid Laurier University

Saniya Kulkarni is a double-degree student. She is studying Computer Science at the University of Waterloo and Business at Laurier. She reports on her experiences with both institutions.

Q: How would you describe your post-secondary experience so far?

A: My post-secondary experience has been pretty good so far! I didn't know exactly what to expect from my first semester but it taught me a lot, especially in terms of the difficulty of course content and time management. Being at home because of COVID can sometimes feel pretty isolating, especially when you are fully reliant on yourself for motivation. It can make you feel stressed too, since the content and the assignments are a lot more difficult than high school. I would say I enjoyed the majority of the course I had in the first semester, especially economics and computer science. Overall in terms of workload, first semester was pretty hectic, but that was expected from what I'd heard from other students. Now that I know what a typical course looks like, I've enjoyed this semester a lot more. It's been less chaotic as I created a better study schedule, and I try to give myself time to relax. I'm excited for the rest of the semester!

Q: What do you like about your program/institution?

A: Program — I'm extremely happy with having chosen a double degree program. I love getting to study and gain experience in two different yet interdependent fields. You'd be surprised at how closely related business and computer science are in the workplace. In high school, I always knew I wanted to pursue business, and my program allows me to do just that. As for computer science, I had barely coded before going to Waterloo, but I loved the computer science courses I took in first semester. This degree helps me get more exposure to the technology sector. My program also has co-op which is fantastic since I get real work experience in both business and computer science jobs.

University of Waterloo — I like how organized and structured the courses are at UW. There are a lot of ways you can learn the content for the courses at UW. For example, you can just read from the textbook, watch voiceover videos, or go to live zoom lectures. It's asynchronous so it gives you an opportunity to choose how you want to learn. I also like the mindset of a lot of the students I've met at Waterloo. Everyone is academically driven but always willing to help.

Wilfrid Laurier University — One thing I instantly noticed about Laurier was how friendly and welcoming the community is. The Laurier business courses are very interesting and manageable. The professors are experts on the content they teach, which has made me enjoy business even more. I appreciate how the program is the perfect balance of challenging while not being immersed in an overly cutthroat environment.

Q: What do you dislike about your program/institution?

A: Program — There's not much I dislike about my program, but if I had to choose something, it would be the lack of electives I get over my five years of studies. I get four electives in total. This is understandable as most of what would be my elective spaces' are filled with courses I need to fulfill the second degree. Also, some of my semesters have more courses than the traditional 5. This semester, I have to take 6 courses (as does any other Double Degree student) which can be overwhelming at times.

University of Waterloo — My courses at UW are significantly more intense than my courses at Laurier, so a lot of the time, I don't have time to even fully process the course content before getting started on the assignments. To give you an idea, each week, for one Waterloo course, I have to watch lecture videos, do a quiz, and do an assignment. Though it may not seem like a lot, the work accumulates pretty quickly. Sometimes I feel like I'm scrambling to get the work done without being able to absorb what I've learned.

Q: Are there any things you wish you knew before starting your program? Any advice for current Grade 12s?

A: Things I Wish I Knew — One thing I wish I knew before starting my program was what a "week-in-my-life" looks like for a typically Double Degree student. Everyone I had spoken to told me that university is a lot of pressure, but I didn't understand exactly what they meant by pressure. For me and for a few of my friends I've talked to, the pressure of getting super high grades is a lot less than high school, but the pressure of balancing work is a lot more. Seeing a week-in-my-life wouldn't have changed my decision about choosing this degree, but I would have been more ready for the workload.

Advice For Gr 12's — Some of you may have already gotten into your program (congratulations!), and some of you might still be waiting on an offer. Either way, keep working hard like you already are, don't stress about admissions, and enjoy your last year of high school! I know I sure did. Also, remember to pursue a degree that you want to do. There are going to be a lot of opinions from other people on where to go, what degree to get, and what university to go to. It's really good to listen to these, of course, because you get new perspectives and insights. At the end of the day though, you're the one doing the degree so pursue something that you know you will enjoy studying!

Thank you, Saniya!

Health Sciences- McMaster University

Shanzey Ali is a first-year Health Sciences student at McMaster. She shares a little bit about the university and the program.

Q: How would you describe your post-secondary experience so far?

A: Amazing!! My post-secondary experience has been great so far. There have obviously been lots of times where I have been stressed, worried about academics, or gotten myself involved in a busier schedule than I can handle. Still, you get to grow as a person, learn more about yourself, gain this new sense of independence that makes you feel like you’re more than just a student and explore different fields through all the fun courses offered at university.

Q: What do you like about your program/institution?

A: There is so much support provided to students! My program is comprised of only 250 students, so while it may make sense that I’m feeling supported in my university experience because of my smaller class size, the larger university itself also provides so much support. There are several resources provided by different departments and the overall university as well. The professors and the TA’s are so supportive, helpful and kind. There are no unreasonable expectations in my courses, and so many people, whether they work for the university or not, are willing to put in extra effort to help you succeed. My program, specifically, is also designed to develop you into an entire person, instead of just developing your knowledge in health sciences. There is a strong emphasis on reflections, self-directed learning, and becoming a better person. They don’t just test you on your cell biology knowledge, but also if you’re taking active steps to fix your sleep schedule, growing your soft skills, etc. We literally have a three-hour-long weekly class where we learn to be better people and make friends.

Q: What do you dislike about your program/institution?

A: Honestly, there are so many pathways to explore in my program and university and so many resources and opportunities for growth available that my only concern is that I don’t know about them all. For example, I only learned about some volunteer opportunities offered through the McMaster Student Wellness Centre THIS semester.

Q: Are there any things you wish you knew before starting your program? Any advice for current Grade 12s?

A: I wish I knew that university isn’t the same as the way it had been described by many people before me. Professors genuinely care about your learning AND wellbeing, and courses aren’t just about studying! You can take many fun courses too, like astronomy, yoga, and project courses where you decide what you want to do with your learning. Of course, “fun” means something different for everyone, but my point is that university is a time of exploration and growth. You are not coming into university as a fully formed person who will only soak up dry facts; you are coming into university to continue your growth and THEN become the person you’re meant to be. However, it is crucial that every young person understands that this kind of opportunity to grow is not going to be possible if your program is not the right fit for you. That’s why my biggest piece of advice to all current Grade 12s is to make sure that the program you choose to enter is actually going to help you become your best self. What this means is that you should look into the program’s actual curriculum, specialization opportunities, teaching methods, enrichment opportunities, and whether or not you are actually interested in learning and experiencing what the program is offering. Just because a program has received a lot of praise or because your peers or family like the program doesn’t mean that it will be the best decision for you, so make sure you take the time to reflect on that!

Thank you, Shanzey!

Medical Sciences- Western University

Zayyan Wahab and another recent Bishop Reding Graduate report on their experiences in the popular Medical Sciences program. Despite being in the same program, they share unique experiences and differing perspectives.

Q: How would you describe your post-secondary experience so far?

A1: My post-secondary experience thus far has actually been an easier transition than most. Western University did a great job finding ways through O-week and Frost Week to ensure that even though university is online, you still get to meet and interact with new people. However, when it comes to studies, the transition is much more difficult. The first thing my biology professor told us right before the midterm is “don’t worry if you get a 50% or fail in university, because it is normal, and it will happen at least once”. It was honestly great motivation, haha, but also great preparation because that biology midterm was just wild. That being said, I think the AP program at Bishop Reding does a wonderful job preparing you because my first and second-term courses were heavily centred around topics already taught in AP, just to a much greater extent. Post-secondary so far has in many ways been as expected, but also much harder, don’t go into it expecting 90s or 100s like you might be used to in high school. Your average will most likely go down by at least 5-10%, and that’s normal.

A2: Online school has made the transition very difficult. We have asynchronous classes, so you need a lot of discipline to keep up. It is also a little bit isolating. I don’t have a distinct sense that I'm actually a part of the Western community just yet.

Q: What do you like about your program/institution?

A1: What I like about my institution is the flexibility after first year. Right now, I’m in MedSci, but I have the option of internally transferring into CS or Engineering or Business or practically any other field. Each year, Western sends out an Intent to Register form to find out what your plans are in terms of programs for the next year. First-year is very general so you have the option to switch to basically any program if you have doubts about anything or don’t like it. I also like the way they organized O-week and other events to let first-years interact and make friends even online.

A2: There are lots of extracurriculars for students to get involved in. First-year classes are interesting and cover a diverse range of content.

Q: What do you dislike about your program/institution?

A1: I dislike the course load, of course, because it’s a much greater jump from grade 12, in my opinion. You go from 4 courses in 5 months to 5 courses in 4 months. Or, in the current case, 2 courses in 2.5 months to 5 courses in 4 months. The workload increase is just a bit insane. Right before reading week, for example, we had a math essay, bio midterm, physics test, and psych discussion due within 24 hours. I also just dislike the content you learn in first year. If you’re expecting some crazy specific stuff like jumping into anatomy, I’m afraid that doesn’t even get mentioned until second year. First-year is all evolution and math and physics and basic things from highschool in much greater depth.

A2: We have been having trouble with reaching out to and relaying concerns to professors. Also, there is not a lot of flexibility with first-year courses.

Q: Are there any things you wish you knew before starting your program? Any advice for current Grade 12s?

A1: I think I wish I knew how difficult and expensive it would be to switch universities because for example if I didn’t like the Western program anymore and wanted to switch to like Mac LifeSci, I have to pay $50+$80+$30 to switch in, so you’re paying $160 rather than the $50 in high school to go to a certain university. So my advice would be don’t just focus on the program you want, also focus on the university you’re going to, the environment, the flexibility, and most importantly the content you learn and how many career pathways that will actually keep open for you. Also, another word of advice, learn time management. Just because someone told you you have more free time in university than high school and that university is the most fun time ever doesn’t mean that’s true. In order to succeed you have to put more time in than you did in high school, but if you manage that time well then yes, you do have more time to do things you enjoy. Learn to manage your time now before you go into university, or you will be sleeping at 7 am trying to finish an assignment due 7 hours earlier. You will be held responsible because the professors do not care if your laptop broke; deadlines are deadlines. Learn to self-regulate and manage your time wisely.

A2: Not really, Medical Sciences has mostly lived up to my expectations, but the online school aspect is what's made things difficult.

Thank you to you both!

Animal Biology- University of Guelph

Anaya Bhushan is currently enrolled in the animal biology program at Guelph.

Q: How would you describe your post-secondary experience so far?

A: There's been negatives and positives. Online school has made it so that we haven't been able to experience many of the social aspects of university, including clubs, meeting students, etc. However, I appreciate the effort that many professors put into making classes more exciting and having interactive lessons. Those things are what make school a little more bearable.

Q: What do you like about your program/institution?

A: I really enjoy the discussion based classes I have. One of my courses this semester allows for class discussions and debates which make learning about the topic more exciting. I also appreciate the effort that my university has put into maintaining clubs and extracurriculars even through an online platform.

Q: What do you dislike about your program/institution?

A: At times, it feels like many professors tend to claim to care about student wellness, but their workload and expectations don't support that.

Q: Are there any things you wish you knew before starting your program? Any advice for current Grade 12s?

A: Have a plan and a schedule. There are so many due dates for projects, midterms, etc. So if you don't keep track of them ahead of time, you might end up missing them or realizing too late. And make sure to take full advantage of the resources your professors provide you, such as office hours and learning tools. These things come in handy when trying to study for exams. Also, note that not every professor's teaching style is compatible with your learning style. Using other online resources like Khan Academy can come in handy. Stay focused, don't stress, and have fun!

Thank you, Anaya!

Biomedical Engineering- University of British Columbia

Akshay Khale went all the way to the University of British Columbia to pursue Biomedical Engineering! He shares his experience thus far.

Q: How would you describe your post-secondary experience so far?

A: Amazing! Online school has its ups and downs, but most everything has been quite up :)

Q: What do you like about your program/institution?

A: Lots of amazing research opportunities to get involved. UBC has a beautiful campus and a great sense of community not found in many other engineering programs, while still giving an extremely internationally respected degree.

Q: What do you dislike about your program/institution?

A: Honestly, not much. All the people I have collaborated with are amazing, and for the most part, I have had great profs. The exception to this is our Calc I profs are not the best. Maybe that's just me being spoiled by Mrs. Dhliwayo and her legendary math classes, though :)

Q: Are there any things you wish you knew before starting your program? Any advice for current Grade 12s?

A: Don't sleep on going out of province for Uni! University is a great time to explore so apply to everywhere and have fun! Learning away from home is challenging but also extremely rewarding. We have many opportunities to study across Canada so take full advantage!

Thank you, Akshay!

Accounting and Financial Management- University of Waterloo

In a brief interview with Abdullah Chaudhry, we gathered general information on the accounting and financial management program at Waterloo.

In relation to the online experience, he reports that “it has been kind of boring because it is online, but it hasn’t been too hard”. He enjoys the fact that “there are resources available to anyone who needs help”. He also states that “[The University of Waterloo] really care about mental health and making sure students are healthy. There are many clubs for people to join and take part in”. However, the university “can have a huge loud, but that’s expected with each program and university”. To have better prepared for his entry to university, he wishes that he “got in the habit of creating a calendar for important dates.” In his experience, “it’s really helpful to have a schedule for a week and to-do lists”.

Thank you, Abdullah!

Psychology and Health Sciences- University of Toronto

A Bishop Reding recent graduate also briefly discussed her experience with studying sciences at UFT.

It was reported that the University experience so far has been “a fun experience where you have a lot more control over your courses,” which our interviewee enjoyed. They also noted that the professors were very supportive and very nice. However, “the platforms they use are too varied and hard to keep up with”. They advise current Grade 12 students: “Don’t stress too much, every university is good as long as you make your time there count”.

We hope that you benefitted from hearing about the experiences of students who were in your position just one year ago.

Good luck with your decisions Royals!!

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