I need help deciding which University would be better...

Discussion in 'Canada' started by Endri, Apr 23, 2004.

  1. Endri

    Endri New Member

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    Hi I am a high school student (in Canada) in grade 12 about to graduate and go to university.
    I have applied and have been accepted by the university of Toronto (St. George) and York university. My average is 92%.
    I would like to go to medicine but don't know which univesity would be better for the first 3-4 years.
    I hear that that in York you can get a higher everage but not do well in the MCAT and in UofT they say you will ont get a good enough average but can do better in the MCAT.

    Could you please give me an advice based on your personal expericies?
     
  2. aric_taylor2000

    aric_taylor2000 Junior Member
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    I am not familiar with those specific university but every univeristy has its advantage/disadvantage. There should be a few factors that I would consider and which I am as I am currently looking into the same matter. You want a univeristy that best suites your needs in a number of perspectives including courses, and financials. In Manitoba where I reside there are two main universities. The UofM and the UofW. The UofManitoba has oversized classes but generally a little less expensive while the UofWinnipeg has smaller classes and is recommended more by students as the smaller classes allow for more individual attention but at the same time the tution is a bit more.

    In the end it comes down to your preference. I suggest asking students at both of the schools and get a better of idea of thier facility.

    Cheers
     
  3. coastal

    coastal Member
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    Where you go to school has nothing to do with how well you do on the MCAT. I took a year off school before I wrote it and wasn't a science major. If you are smart and prepare you will do well. If you are less smart and prepare you can still do well, but it will be harder. If you don't prepare, unless you've just finished most of the classes, you probably won't do well.

    Rather than choosing a university based on what kind of marks it gives out, you should think about where you want to spend four years of your life. Reality is, in first year sciences, if you ask people what they want to do, more than half of them will say they want to go into medicine. By second year it's around a quarter, and the percentage keeps shrinking from there. I'm out west so I don't know how big York is, but I know U of T is monstrous. Ask yourself what kind of class size you want: do you want a class of 500 people in first year, or, do you want something smaller? On the flip-side, U of T's size means lots of research opportunities and well-known professors.

    Remember that marks are only part of getting into medical school. Extracurricular involvement is perhaps more important, just because almost everyone who gets to the interview stage has good marks and a decent MCAT score-at schools like Queens, marks and mcat don't factor into the final evaluation, they are just hurdles you have to pass to get an interview.
     
  4. Black Mamba

    Black Mamba New Member

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    How important are the extracuriculars?
     
  5. silenthunder

    silenthunder Senior Member
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    I'd say that both schools are very similar,

    I would agree with the poster who said that your MCAT results will have absolutely nothing to do with where you went to school.

    Other things I would recommend considering before making a decision:

    -Are you commuting to either school? How long is the commute?
    -Do you want to live in downtown Toronto?
    -is the potential of research a big deal for you? are you considering options in case you don't get into medicine? These should guide your deciison based on what programs are tailored for you.
    -are you planning on minoring in anything? check the available minors at both universities.

    I would recommend NOT concerning yourself with other people's perceptions of U of T versus York. Both grant degrees, Both are good schools that will provide you with sound undergrad science. My brother went to York, and he's a registered chemist now, working in quality management. I went to both Mac and Western, and can tell you that there was very little difference in terms of the quality of education in undergrad science (despite the fact that Mac is perceived as a 'science school') - if anything I felt Western was actually a better all 'round undergrad school.

    while everyone would say to not be concerned with grades, well I don't know what to say. Both schools have similar grading scales; I doubt if going to one would really get you a better average.

    sorry about the long post,

    CHeers,

    Silenthunder

    ps. consider carefully that you may not get into medicine in Canada - consider your options now while you can still plan your options as an IMG - this means to remember to take undergrad English, since it isn't required for the majority of science degrees in Canada, but is required to apply to most american med schools, and caribbean schools, such as St. Georges.
     
  6. Calypso

    Calypso Junior Member

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    Hi everyone,

    I agree that the MCAT depends more on you as a student rather than the school you attend. I say that because the material is actually pretty basic if you're a science undergrad, so you'll cover it no matter which school you choose, plus the AAMC gives you a complete list of all the topics you're responsible for. The MCAT is much more about instant recall under time pressure, so it comes down to the student more than the material.

    For what it's worth, here were my thoughts on U of T, from the start when I was in your position, Endri. I had a 95% OAC average, earned in high school courses that were conducted like university classes, i.e. with a strong emphasis on self-motivation. I chose UT St. George because I felt it was the strongest for an undergrad Science education, and graduated last year after doing a Physiology Specialist degree. But if I had to do it again, I would either choose the Physiology major accompanied by a French major, or not have gone to St. George at all.

    Here's one problem I found: the attitude towards learning at St. George -- because of sheer class sizes, the emphasis is on weeding out their so-called "poor" students instead of testing material that's relevant to the big picture of each course. The Faculty of Arts and Science sets specific quotas for each grade mark (ex. 15% of the class can receive an A, 20% B..), and if these quotas are exceeded, course lecturers must write a letter of explantion to the Dean of the faculty stating why this cohort is exceptional. That's directly from the mouths of my lecturers and teaching assistants. So, exams are set to reflect this push towards the quotas. I think it undermines students and their goals when a place of higher education puts a quota on the number of students allowed to earn particular grades, and it makes you question the validity of the mark you receive. It can be quite destructive, too, because there are so many "poor" students who are so bright and know the material inside and out, but because their marks don't reflect their knowledge, they become convinced they are dumb, lose confidence, and find it hard to recover afterwards.

    The quotas are probably one reason for a lack of interest on the part of educators, which I thought was another problem: most lecturers are dispassionate when it comes to encouraging the potential in their students. Most of them lecture because it's mandated in their contracts, and there's a flood of students each year, so they're not under any onus to take any particular interest -- whomever will fail out, will fail out, there's always another student to take the place. Also, these same lecturers are under incredible pressure from the university itself to publish papers, and some may have contracts revoked if they're not performing up to par. I think it's a shame, given the reputation the university has, and with the incredible amount of funding it secures, it has the potential to be so much more.

    Another reason there's a lack of interest when it comes to learning at St. George -- in the first 3 years of Science classes, most of your day-to-day contact in a lab/classroom is with teaching assistants who are themselves graduate students. Typically, they're primarily concerned with their own research, grant applications, and submitting papers, and end up doing the minimum in the classroom. Cheap labour, unfortunately, is the trademark of a good business.

    Here's another problem I found, specific to the meds process: the personal statement, including extra-curriculars and work experience, is incredibly important in deciding between med applicants post-interview (exactly as someone said before, pre-interview only depends on meeting the GPA and MCAT cutoffs). At St.George, the time away from studies directly translates into lower grades (because of that emphasis on weeding out), but a more complete set of soft skills which, I believe, are equally important to your skills as a physician. So it's like being caught between a rock and a hard place. I'm not sure I would have encountered the same problem had I chosen even UTM/UTS for Science. At the end of it, the science education itself you receive is good, whether you're at York, UTM, UTS, St. George, Mac, Western, what have you -- the difference is that at St. George your grades often don't reflect what you really know, and when it comes to interview, the cutoffs are what matter.

    I think long-term goals are ultimately the most important in making the decision. For sure, if you're thinking of biomed research as an alternative/plan b, nothing can beat back the opportunities available at St. George -- they are phenomenal. But if you know it's meds all the way, then you need to decide on the most important factors in getting you there. And I'm sorry for the long message, but I hope it helps some!! Good luck with the decision.
     
  7. jacksonchan85

    jacksonchan85 Senior Member
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    Hi Calypso,

    That was an amazing response that I (another depressed U of T student) 100% agree with!

    The quota's for marks are really what pi$$es me off ...sigh...
     
  8. Calypso

    Calypso Junior Member

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    J, don't let the bastards win. You're wise to them now, so pull out all the stops: pick the courses you're genuinely interested in plus a few to bring up the GPA, talk to as many people as you can to find out good courses to take, and most importantly, revise the old tests as much as the material. Rather like studying for the MCAT, now that I think about it... Work the system to your advantage, and you'll come out on top.
     
  9. JBA

    JBA Junior Member
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    Endri,
    Everything I am going to say right here is directly from experience. Coastal is right in saying that pretty much the whole class wants to do med in year one...and this number gradually drops. And they are right to say that extra-cirriculars are important. But don't believe for a second that extra-cirriculars are more important than GPA. I can think of numerous people who are now at Canadian med schools who didn't do a day of volunteer work, play a sport, chair a committee etc. but who had 3.9 GPA's.

    I went to Queen's and did LifeSci. I graduated with a GPA of 3.68 and MCAT of 31. A little weak on the MCAT but still not a bad score. I didn't get an interview anywhere in Canada. At this point I should mention that the reason I was told my application was not successful was because my GPA was not high enough. I had so many extra-cirriculars that when I look back now I hate the fact that I spent time volunteering in lieu of studying. My advice to you....GO TO A SCHOOL THAT WILL GIVE YOU THE BEST GPA POSSIBLE!!!!!!! If you have a solid GPA and some token volunteer you will be in a very good position for med school. My buddy left Queen's after first year and went to Lakehead where he proceeded to excel in what he described as "lower academic expectations" and he is now in third year back at Queen's med school! Maybe not the norm but something to consider.

    But like someone else said it is important to think of options outside of Canada. I was able to get into two schools in the US and to the University of Sydney in Australia which is where I go now. Anyways good luck with your choice and trust me....go where you feel that you can succeed! UofT is probably more prestigous as a degree but remember it's only an undergrad and what really counts is where the MD comes from.....
     
  10. CanuckPAGirl

    CanuckPAGirl That girl needs therapy
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    You know, I started college in the US, and now I am going to PA school in the US. I am orginally from Canada though. The biggest shock was realizing how UNCOMPETITVE UoT is here compared to how competitive it is in Canada.

    Where 92% is an A in Canada? That's an A- here. Maybe you already nkow that though.

    I have heard the its better to goto York because you can get a MUCH higher GPA like you mentioned, and that its very tough to get high grades at UoT. When it comes down to it, you just want the highest grades as opssible and the highest MCAT possible. If you take a mcat prep course and study enough is what predicts your MCAT score. Sure maybe a more rigorous course would prepare you a bit more, but in the end its how much you study right?
    I'm not sure how much prestige has to do with it, because Uot is not considered very prestigious in the US, it might not make much difference. Of course it all depends where you want to goto medical school. That's only relevant to US med schools. Are you think staying in Canada? Hey to get into Mcmaster you dont even NEED the mcat, and I've heard they still get very competitive canadian residencies. Oh, and if you do attend a US med school, you have to do your residency in Canada I think, because they dont consider them equivalent.

    Hopefully I'm not talking too much out of my ass here, I fully admit a lot of it is hearsay from my fanatical premed days.
     
  11. Calypso

    Calypso Junior Member

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    lol Basically, I think we all agree that if you want to stay in Canada, and certainly want to get into an Ontario school, you'd better do what you have to in order to get the highest GPA possible. Because no matter what, if you don't make those cutoffs, you won't make the interview, and they will not even glance at your (equally valid) work experience, skills, and extra-curriculars if you don't make the cutoffs. Period. It's one of my biggest problems with the North American process, but that's another thread.... :D Good luck! Hope we've helped!
     
  12. cholecalciferol

    cholecalciferol Senior Member
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    Endri

    As an U of T grad from St. George Campus, there is a maxim that goes something like this:

    100% of the first year life sciences students want to go to medical school.
    50% change their minds.
    The other 50% have their minds changed for them.*

    * This is due to the grading scheme U of T uses, where bright students end up with mediocre gpa that hinder their chances of acceptance to medical school. Please excuse the fuzzy math, as U of T students do get into medical schools. :)

    It's all a numbers games because it is easier to compare numbers like GPAs than fuzzy accomplishments on a resume.

    A 4.0 from Trent in Peterborough is more impressive than a 3.5 from U of T to admission officers. But I think that a 4.0 Trent student may have great diffculty achieving a 3.5 at U of T

    If medicine is your goal, go the a University that will maximize your gpa. Pick the cushsest and easiest one. Lakehead (see above post) and Trent would be good choices. Look into U ot T Erindale & Scarborough. I heard it is easier than the main campus. I did not attend there, however.

    Good luck! Otherwise, you may end up in the US, Australia, England, or the Carribean which will hinder your chances of coming back to practice in Ontario.
     
  13. Dr.BadVibes

    Dr.BadVibes Membership Revoked
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    I wrote the following about my experiences at UofT in another thread, but I believe that it is also relevant within this thread, so Ill just cut and paste it:

    as a UofT grad, I thought going to UofT was totally useless cause my grades have been horrible...but as I graduated, the flurry of opportunities appeared. Unfortunately, much of the world is based on connections and who you know. Going to a prestigous university like UofT will put you in touch with professors who are the top in their field. Personally, I have had some very top-notch profs, which have helped me through their connections, get internship opportunities, bursaries, research skills, which ultimately paved my way to grad school. Through my UofT connections, I have been able to gain an internship working in Costa Rica all summer working with health policy.....I was told by the guy who made the decision that only two students were chosen from numerous applicants from prestigous Ivy League universities and both were from UofT, because the company in Costa Rica has very high praise for UofT....Just think about it...For example, imagine if you are in political science and your instructor is Preston Manning (who teaches at UofT).....think about the connections that guy has and what a LOR from him would mean!! The real world can be quite superficial sometimes, but this shouldnt be a suprise to anybody.

    I guess for med school, it doesnt matter, and you're GPA is the only importance like many people have said, but you must understand that you most likely will not get into med school and must think of alternatives, and like you said, getting a degree from York could be considered a "crummy" degree. Of course, this all depends on the field you are in. If you are into Law, Business or Social work, York is #1. However, I believe that all across the disciplines, Uoft is strong in every one.

    Also, if you applying for anything in the US, the name of your degree is a big thing. Getting an Ivy League degree in the US sets you up for life, no questions asked. UofT's reputation is worldwide....I did an exchange in England, and at my university, both my physics and biochem prof told me that they were "honoured" to have a student from UofT in their class.....at my US grad school interviews, and my 2nd year English prof (who was American) have all stated that UofT is considered the "Harvard of the north" and as close to the Ivy League as Canada has. By the way, they were also saying that this praise applies to McGill as well.

    So, its really a tough decision....going to UofT WILL hinder your chances at med school, but your chances have already been hindered due to the sole fact that you are Canadian...good thing about UofT is that it really gives you a solid foundation to land on if the med school thing doesnt work out, and if you go talk to any upper year science student at any university, you'll see that this is usually the case....Thats my 2 cents from my experience.....take it for what its worth.
     
  14. redshifteffect

    redshifteffect Senior Member
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    I have had a lot of friends that have gone to St. Georges and York for various courses (Kinesiology in York), Eng Sci, Life Sciences, Economics @ St. Georges. I know this is probably not a very representative sample but I'll share what i've heard from them anyway. The ones that went to York were probably the ones with the lower averages (in highschool); the ones @ U of T were the high achievers with the high marks (the Eng sci guy had a 95% OAC average and he worked full time so no one knew how the hell he studied...anyway) I kept in touch with them over the last few years and suprisingly the St. Georges ppl. have had a very difficult time maintaining "good" marks. Most of them are getting Cs and Bs simply because their class sizes are big, and because of the push to weed out the "poor" students...and on top of that they have a really strange curving system. The Eng Sci guy even had to drop out cause he couldn't hack it and ended up going to University in the US...where he says its much easier. The York ppl. on the other hand seem to be doing a bit better with Bs and some As even though in highschool they weren't the smartest bunch and most are happy with the marking system - but there are some complaints I have heard about TAs.

    I know that most ppl tell u that getting a degree from any school is good but honestly from what i've seen in the last few years both from my friends experience and my own is that the people who go to a school for it's prestige value usually get burned out worse (even though they may have higher marks in highschool). If i were you I would think about looking into unis with smaller class sizes, and where you can get a good interaction with your profs and TAs which makes all the difference come exam time.

    Anyway best of luck.
     
  15. Calypso

    Calypso Junior Member

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    Re: U of T's reputation, from the experiences of friends and family who have studied abroad (different parts of the States and Europe), they've found that the UT prestige factor really only kicks in at the post-graduate level. Schools seem to be impressed by Masters and PhDs that were earned at UT, whereas at the Bachelors level, there's little difference -- overall undergrad GPA seems more important rather than school. With Medicine in particular, apparently McGill has a much better international reputation than Toronto. So I've heard anyway....
     

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