5 Realistic Advice for Students Entering University

dsf3273_-_eit_for_current (1)I realize many advice on the internet are very general and unrealistic. There is nothing wrong with telling readers to “Don’t be shy” or “Enjoy first year” and why, but it would be a lot more helpful if they included how to do so. I am no one in particular, just a recent graduate who wished I was given the following (realistic) advice. I will include my own personal experiences as well.

Selecting Undergrad Courses

screen-shot-2014-08-14-at-10-46-23-pmAs an upper year Science student (now alumni!), I often got asked about which courses were good to take. Here, I put together some points on what I think is important when the time comes to choose courses. At the end of this post, I listed some of my favourite UW courses that I have enjoyed taking and think you may like as well.


12 thoughts on “Articles

  1. Elle says:

    Hi, Sandy! I am a second year student in Health Policy at UTSC and really interested in applying for the P.A. program at Mac. I was wondering:

    1) Since I don’t have background in post-secondary science courses whether I would be at a disadvantage?

    2) I live all the way in Pickering and my mom is against staying on residence. I am willing to commute but I know I have to consider my timetable and how realistic it is to travel long hours. Do you have a sample timetable yet to show?

    3) What kind of clinical science courses are you going to be taking? I saw the sample curriculum but I feel it’s too general and doesn’t show concretely what the courses are like.

    4) What tips do you have to shine on the Supplementary Form? I have a high G.P.A. (3.8+) and I’m only starting to volunteer once a week at a hospital as a Friendly Visitor, and am involved with my university’s Doctors Without Borders program but I feel that I am not good enough seeing that you were President of your science club, and served as a T.A. Anyway that you think I can step up my game? 😦

    5) Is there anyone at the P.A. office you recommend I contact who would be good with questions about the process of transferring to Mac, or any of my further questions?

    6) In terms of financing for the program, did you get O.S.A.P?


    – Elle

    1. spkvuong says:

      Hi Elle! I am glad you are taking interest in becoming a Physician Assistant! Below are my answers to your questions:

      1) No you will not be at a disadvantage. For McMaster University, there are no prerequisite courses you need to take before applying. McMaster welcomes any student who have completed at least two years of undergrad to apply.

      2) I will be starting the PA program this September so until then I will not have a sample schedule to show you. However, it would be a really far commute to McMaster University from Pickering.

      3) The courses PA students will be taking are not your typical undergrad courses. It consists of tutorials where students work in a group on a case study. We also have a class on communications to help us when talking to patients and a course called IER (Interviewing, examining, reasoning) where we learn how to take patient history and examine the patient. So, you see these courses are not like our undergrad courses where we attend lecture and write multiple choice exams for our final grade. This may be the reason why you were not able to find concrete examples of the courses we take in the PA program.

      4) To shine on your supplementary application, you just need to apply what you learned in your extracurricular activities to the questions they ask. Leadership qualities does not only come from being President of a Science Club or being a TA. Recall a time during your volunteer experience where you took initiative or resolved a conflict! If you have never done any of this before, you should try to do so next time an opportunity arises.

      5) If you visit the Physician Assistant Program page on the McMaster Website, you will find the phone number and email address to contact. They are pretty quick with replying and everyone in the office is knowledgeable on the program.

      6) Yes, I did apply for OSAP.

  2. Sarah says:


    I would like to become a physician assistant, however the application for university of Toronto’s program requires previous patient interaction. How would you recommend I achieve this requirement?

    1. Sandy says:

      Hi Sarah,

      Thank you for leaving a comment! This question would be more suitable to the University of Toronto PA Admission office. I am only familiar with the McMaster PA program. There are some information you can get on their admission website if you have not already been there.

  3. Rrrtt says:

    Hi Sandy!

    Just want to start off by saying your blog is great and really answering a lot of my questions. I was just wondering what a competitive gpa is for the McMaster pa program? I have a 3.3 (higher than the min 3.0 but still not very good). Do most accepted students have close to a 4.0?


    1. Sandy says:

      Thank you for your kind words! For a competitive GPA, I do not have a definitive answer other than the higher it is, the better. It really depends on the applicant pool. If most applicants applying this year have a GPA of 3.7, that would be the competitive GPA you’re looking for.

      The average GPA of my class (Class of 2016) is 3.71, which was announced by the assistant dean of the McMaster PA program at the Info night last October. This number will change each year depending on the applicants accepted…but remember, since this is an average, people can have GPAs above or below 3.71.

      As I tell everyone who is worried about their GPA, if you have a cumulative average of over 3.0, APPLY! Let’s not forget that the supplementary application and interview are big determinants on getting accepted into the program as well. So if there is little you can do to boost your GPA, work hard on the other components!

  4. Alyssa says:

    Hi Sandy,

    First of all, thanks for posting all of this information! I am interested in McMasters PA program and have had a hard time finding information about it online.

    I am wondering you are able to specialize in the PA program, or would be able to have clinical rotations in obstetrics and gynaecology? I am interested in obgyn more than any other field, and haven’t seen it listed as one of the clinical rotations that are available.

    Thanks for any information you may be able to provide!

    1. Sandy says:

      Hi Alyssa,

      There are no specializations in the PA program because everyone graduates as a generalist, which is why we are so flexible to practice in any field.

      Ob/gn is not a core rotation but we do get three elective rotations in any field that we are interested in. So, you can choose to do your electives in ob/gn (which students from previous years have done). In addition, during first year, you can do longitudinal placements (that you set up yourself) in ob/gn as well.

  5. Josh says:

    Hi Sandy!

    Your blog is such a great help and an inspiration. Thank you so much for it.

    I was wondering if you knew how many students get offered an interview and what components are used to determine wether we secure an interview spot or not.

    Also would you know if academics wise if they just look at your overall GPA or your marks in specific courses.


    1. Sandy says:

      Hi Josh, I’m happy to hear my blog was helpful!

      Currently, about 75 students receive an interview invite. The number may change in the future as the program expands. In order to be considered for an interview, students must have 1) a GPA greater than 3.0, 2) Complete and submit the supplementary application by the deadline specified and lastly 3) Paid the supplementary application fee. Whether or not an applicant is invited for an interview depends on both GPA and how well written the supplementary application is.

      The program looks at marks from all undergraduate courses taken and they calculate the GPA from that.

  6. Udari says:

    Hi Sandy!

    What type of questions are on the supplementary application and what type of extracurriculars did you do during your undergrad?

    1. Sandy says:

      Hi Udari,

      You can actually view the supplementary application questions online when it becomes available in November/December for the new application cycle. The questions change each year as well.

      In undergrad, I volunteered at Grand River Hospital, worked in a lab as a research assistant, participated in student organizations to a name a few. You can see the complete list on my LinkedIn: https://ca.linkedin.com/in/sandyvuong

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