R2AC x AlumNav Webinar 2021
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We partnered with AlumNav to provide you with this University Webinar.
This webinar gives you the chance to hear from stand-out students in the worlds of STEM and entrepreneurship.
The dos and don'ts of high school
How to stand out in applications
Choosing extracurricular activities
Research, internship, volunteering and co-op, and jobs in the stream
With panel topics such as General Admissions, Schulich Scholarship, Science, Pre-Med, Tech + Engineering, Business + Finance, this two day, 3 hour R2AC x AlumNav webinar is jam-packed with important and exclusive information.
If you missed the Webinar be sure to check out the video replay of the 2-day event below! Furthermore, ensure you check out the FAQs for answers to common questions asked in the webinar.
INTRODUCING: THE SPEAKERS
Day 1 - August 15th
Schulich Scholarship Panel
Dhruv is a First Year Mechatronics Engineering student currently studying at Waterloo University.
General Sciences Panel
Zanieb is a Third Year Biochemistry student currently studying at McMaster University.
Olsen is a Second Year Health Sciences student currently studying at McMaster University.
Day 2 - August 16th
Tarj is a Second Year Mechanical Engineering student currently studying at Waterloo University.
Avleen is currently in her Second Year at the Schulich School of Business.
Computer Science Panel
Satwik is a Fourth Year Computer Science student currently studying at Waterloo University.
VIDEO REPLAY OF THE 2-DAY EVENT
2:10 Schulich Scholarship
28:50 General Science
1:04:22 Computer Science
Is the Schulich Scholarship only specific to the 5 universities you mentioned or is it applicable to all universities in Canada?
The Schulich Scholarship is offered to 20 partner universities across Canada. The five I had mentioned were of special interest because they were in the top slab of nominations, meaning that they received five scholarships for engineering, and five for science. The next five universities received six in total (three for each), and the final ten received a total of two (one each)
The number of scholarships allotted to the universities every year changes depending on the number of nominees that apply to those universities.
You can find the full list of partner universities and other information here: https://www.schulichleaders.com/#slide-universities
Did you only apply to big scholarships or did you apply for the smaller ones too? What do you wish you knew before you started the process? Was it hard to manage?
I tried to apply for all the scholarships I was eligible for and remotely matched the requirements for. This is because the smaller scholarships often are less well known and thus, have less applicants. This increases the chances of winning these scholarships. Most of these scholarships are valued at a few thousand dollars, which is still a significant amount and is very helpful. Only applying for the large scholarships is like putting your eggs in one basket, and I would definitely recommend applying for as many as you are able to manage.
Before starting the process, I wish I was more aware of the resources available to me. At the very beginning, I would write my applications, look them over maybe once or twice, and then would submit them. However, I realized the merits of asking others to look over your application and getting feedback when my parents looked over my applications, giving me suggestions and feedback that I had never thought about, and allowing my application to stand out in ways previously thought unimaginable. From that point onwards, I always ask for third-party feedback - from my parents, teachers, friends, etc.
It was hard to manage at times - juggling school, extracurricular responsibilities, and applications. However, that is why it’s important to manage time beforehand. For instance, completing your university supplementary applications during December break (regardless of when they are due) will give you time for many of the scholarship applications that go on when school is running as well. Additionally, trying to finish your schoolwork during lunch or spare allows you to have time after school for extracurriculars and scholarships. Doing so will also allow you to cool down and make some time for yourself at home.
If I only have a few extracurriculars compared to a lot of extracurriculars, how can I still stand out when applying for scholarships, and what is the best way to talk about my passion for these extracurriculars?
It’s totally okay if you have a few [ecs]! The scholarship committees are always looking for quality over quantity, and what matters more is what impact you bring in the extracurriculars you are involved in. Even if you are only a part of a few, the best way to stand out is to take initiative in those organizations and attempt to bring transformative change. As a personal example, as part of my region’s environmental advisory council, I could’ve gone to the meetings and come back without participating. However, I chose to start new programs with the support of the council. This demonstrates an effort to make a difference, and will help you stand out. Immersing yourself this way in the activities you are involved in, however many, will make you a very strong candidate.
With regards to speaking about your passion in your application, the best way to do so is to add an emotional and personal touch to your essays, from which you will establish a connection with the readers and they will be able to tell your passion through writing. Here are some tips that I use for doing so:
Talk about the impact your work has had not only on others, but also on you as a person (how you have changed, etc.)
Try to use sensory words to describe your work and its results - that will lead the reader to feel the same way.
I know this sounds corny, but when you write, actively try to remember the memories and feelings within you when you accomplished/took part in various activities. Your feelings will actively translate into your writing.
What would you recommend to someone who feels like they can’t compare to other applicants and cannot win scholarships?
You are definitely more competent and able than you think you are. It is totally normal to think that you don’t compare to other applicants and winners, but trust me, that feeling is shared by everyone who applies (myself included). However, the first step in applying for these scholarships is taking pride in what you’ve done, and not comparing yourself to other applicants. By focusing on polishing on your application, you will be better off both in terms of your self-confidence, and with regards to winning the scholarships too. I’m sure you will be successful, Good Luck!
As someone who is also interested in humanities and business, are there many opportunities where science can overlap with these? What sorts of jobs are available in those areas?
At McMaster, there is a program that combines science and business, specifically biochemistry and business, called Biomedical Discovery and Commercialization (BDC). Mainly, individuals with a degree in BDC usually work in industry (pharmaceutical companies, executive offices in hospitals, etc).
I am interested in Biochemistry but not so much in physics - are there many physics classes that are required to complete the program?
There is only 1 physics course required in first year. There are no physics courses required in second year and above.
I saw that you entered honours biochemistry after first year, so I was wondering how these specializations work and what the other specialization options are?
During winter semester exams, you apply for your top 4 choices of specialization. In order to be accepted, you need to have the minimum posted GPA, and have completed the required courses. In most cases, there are a limited number of seats available for each program, so specializations are competitive. There is also a cutoff average, similar to [applying] to university from high school. There are many different sciences program specializations offered at McMaster University, many of which combine different disciplines into one program. These include Mathematics and Physics, Medical and Biological Physics, Biology and Mathematics, Life Sciences (Origins of Disease), Environmental Sciences and Biology, Chemical Biology, as well as others. There are also specializations that incorporates one main discipline, such as Chemistry, Biology, Biochemistry, Mathematics and Statistics, and many more. If you would like more information about second year specialization, say McMaster University, visit www.mapsci.ca.
What specific courses should I take in high school that will be beneficial for university in the pre-med/medical field?
From what I have seen, traditionally “pre-med programs” do not usually require all three sciences. However, I do recommend taking all three as chemistry, biology, and physics are all common first year courses and are tested on the MCAT. Therefore, by having a solid background understanding of all three of these subjects, students may have an easier time transitioning to first year and studying for the MCAT. Also, as mentioned in the webinar, psychology is also a good course to take as it is also tested on the MCAT and it may be incredibly useful in your future career. Other than these courses, people should just take whatever they are interested in and try to expand their knowledge!
Did you have to go through with a CASPer test? What is the CASPer test? What was your experience?
I did not need to write the CASPer test for any of the programs that I had applied for. In essence, the CASPer test is an online situational judgement test that provides students with a variety of hypothetical scenarios to see what they do and why they would do it. The purpose of this test is to assess a variety of skills, including collaboration, ethics, empathy, equity, professionalism, and problem solving, among many others. From what I know, the only programs that require CASPer are Nursing undergraduate programs, but it should be noted that it is also required in your application to the McMaster Medical School and Queen’s Medical School.
For people that are looking to apply to med school, what are the benefits of taking a more direct approach (i.e. Health Sciences, Med Sci) and what are the benefits of taking a more generalized approach (i.e. Biology, Biochemistry)?
Disclaimer: Since I do not have personal experiences with undergraduate programs outside of the McMaster BHSc program, there may be several other benefits that I do not mention below.
In a more direct approach, students are often surrounded by like-minded individuals that also have a goal of entering medical school. This can be very beneficial as they can motivate you to work harder and inform you of possible extracurricular, volunteering, or research opportunities to enhance your application. Additionally, since these programs are more focussed towards human health, students can learn topics that may be more relevant to them in the future, such as anatomy. In a more generalized approach, on the other hand, students are able to explore a broader range of biology, which may be particularly useful if students are unsure if medical school is something they want to pursue. Moreover, these programs can also be very research-intensive so it could help students gain publications.
You mentioned what seems like a lot of application based learning. How do you ensure that you are understanding concepts rather than memorizing like high school students fall into?
Due to the design of problem-based learning, this is not something that I often need to worry about. As I had mentioned in the webinar, one of my assessments had presented me with a novel or make-believe scenario that I was unfamiliar with. Consequently, there was not much that I could memorize that could help me with these kinds of assessments. For this reason, it was crucial for me to solidify and check my understanding of the concepts in the problem to ensure that I could present an answer that does not have any major flaws in it.
What led you to choose the University of Waterloo and the engineering program?
Waterloo Engineering had been a goal for me since the start of high school due to my upper-year friends and mentors in the VEX Robotics team at my high school. They would tell me about the amazing experiences they have had there and how hands-on it was. That was a big factor in me choosing Waterloo Engineering as I knew I would gain amazing theoretical and practical knowledge there.
What is the cut off line for the marks if I apply for Mechanical Engineering this year? Also, if I have only a few extracurriculars to write about for the AIF, what is a way that I can still stand out?
I would say the cut off is anything less than 85%, but keep in mind that if you have 85-89% your probability to be accepted is only 10%. But I would recommend not to focus on the averages but rather on the content of your AIF. Because I have seen students who have mid 80 averages and still been accepted to the program. If you only have a few extracurriculars the best way to stand out would be to focus on the most important parts of each extracurricular and go into as much as detail as possible to show that even though you have few extracurriculars, you did learn a lot from them.
Do I have to be good at physics to be an engineer? What can you suggest to those looking to learn how to “apply” opposed to “memorize”?
To be an engineer you don't have to be at physics but rather have the passion to learn it. If you are truly interested in physics and have the passion to learn it then you will be just as good of an engineer as someone good at physics. Also, over time as you keep learning and applying your physics knowledge, you will become proficient in it as well. Memorizing will not work in the university as if you don't know the content then you will be lost at every exam and assessment because they have various versions with a variety of questions. I suggest that you practice rather than memorize. Engineering is an application-based skill meaning that most of what you learn, you can 'do' which means that you can practice those skills. For example, if you are having trouble with calculus, then rather than reading the textbook with the questions and answers, keep practicing a variety of questions with ranging difficulties to ensure you can apply the skill rather than memorizing the answers to the questions.
How does Schulich's BBA program differ from other universities? What advantages does it have over Waterloo's AFM, Brock + Queen's Business?
Although many universities offer amazing programs, I can only speak on the advantages of Schulich’s BBA and iBBA programs. Schulich has some amazing advantages, small class sizes, networking opportunities, case competitions, exchange, and much more! Schulich does not have large class sizes, rather the class sizes are about 50-75 people, and the professors all get to know you on a first-name basis. This gives you the advantage of connecting with the professor on a personal level and allows your voice to be heard due to the small class size, and it won’t get lost in the sea of voices. Having small classes also allows for more interactive, and hands-on classes. Speaking of hands-on classes, Schulich integrates assignments that are hands-on and representative of the course material. Schulich also has amazing networking opportunities and case competitions that go hand-in-hand! There is always an event happening at Schulich, either a strictly networking event or a case competition (which help you develop amazing soft skills and you win cool prizes!). This gives you opportunities to meet representatives from the big 4 accounting firms, banks, consulting companies, food companies, etc. Lastly, Schulich has such an exciting opportunity that really sets it apart, exchange! Exchange for iBBA students is mandatory, meaning you must go on exchange for one term through your four years. BBA students are also eligible for exchange, and over 250 students are sent on exchange every year! Schulich is partnered with 84 schools in 38 countries for you to explore!
Aside from getting involved in extracurriculars and doing well in school, what other activities would you recommend a business student do to succeed?
Getting involved in extracurriculars is definitely at the top of my list of things to do to succeed as a business student, however, grades are also important. Aside from both of these things, I highly recommend developing your soft skills by either shadowing someone in the industry, or getting to know others in the field you would like to pursue. Something that I believe is vital to do as a business student is expanding your network. Creating a LinkedIn profile is the first step to creating, and building your network. Do not be afraid to connect with others in large companies, or even message them a quick “Nice to connect with you!” message, it goes a long way for yourself and leaves a lasting impression on the other person. Attending events is also essential because this is how you make more connections as well as creating personal connections with representatives in big firms. Continuing to build and grow this network by emailing thank you’s to representatives of companies, or follow-up emails are things I highly, highly recommend doing, you are only setting yourself up for success.
What are some traits or habits that are especially important for someone who wants to become successful in business?
Some traits and habits that are especially important to be successful in business is communication, selling yourself, building your network, perfecting your elevator pitch, and being yourself. These traits and habits are vital in my opinion to succeed in business. Being able to communicate not only in presentations, but being able to hold professional level conversations, to casual conversations, to coffee chats, it is important to know how to talk in which setting, what is appropriate to say, and what is inappropriate to say. Being able to sell yourself, especially during networking is super important for someone to remember you, you cannot be afraid to brag about yourself appropriately, such as talking about your accomplishments and achievements. Doing this builds your network, along with doing follow-up emails, connecting with people on LinkedIn, and keeping in touch with people who you think could benefit you in the future. Another habit I believe is important is perfecting your elevator pitch, an elevator pitch is a 30-second pitch either about a company, a product, or even yourself. Perfecting this pitch allows you to present yourself in a clear way to the listener. Being yourself is at the top of my list for habits, companies and representatives do not want to hear answers you think they want to hear, they want to hear your genuine answer! Allow yourself to be yourself in a professional setting, give them answers, shed light on your experiences. They do not want to hear the same thing from 20 people, and they do not want to repeat themselves like a broken record, find a way to stand out!
Waterloo is often known as a very study-based school, where students are always studying. Is this true? How does the school take care of their students' mental health?
This is a tricky question to answer. In particular, with Waterloo engineering and CS programs being rigorous (with the added work that most students experience with co-op), it’s true that students tend to be busier. That being said, I don’t think there’s a lack of a social life at Waterloo, you just have to work a bit harder to find it. There are many opportunities for you to strike a balance between school and fun through clubs and other social events.
When it comes to mental health, the university has definitely tried to step it up. A dedicated committee on mental health (https://uwaterloo.ca/mental-health-wellness/) was established quite recently to help assess what the university can do better on this front. A lot of actionable items have come from this committee which they’ve started to implement (like hiring more on site counsellors for students). From my perspective as a student, the conversation surrounding mental health has gained a ton [of] traction on campus. I know the Math faculty in particular hosts events during particularly difficult times throughout the term (i.e. exam weeks) where they bring in therapy dogs, host coffee houses and game nights, and hold group meditation sessions.
You’re almost done university. What do you wish you knew four years ago when you first began?
To enjoy it while it lasts. Trust me when I say that university flies by. It’s so easy to get caught up in the moment, especially when the going gets tough. I wish I told my high school self to appreciate those moments and to make as many memories as possible. There will never be another time like it.
Does the field of computer science have a lot of job opportunities? Or do you need to specialize in something less theoretical for a job like software engineering?
I hope I can clarify something. While the education you get through a Computer Science degree is a tad bit more theoretical than Software Engineering, the job prospects for both programs are effectively identical. Students from both degrees get the exact same type of jobs.
Again, since CS/tech is such a broad field, there will always be a demand for software engineers/developers to help build different tech solutions in various industries. As such, job opportunities will be plentiful.
Did you face any challenges in trying to find a CO-OP placement?
When looking for my first one, the biggest challenge for me was the uncertainty of it. You’re going to compete in an open playing field, so chances are you’ll be up against students who are older and more experienced than you. So, you’ve just got to do the best you can when it comes to constructing your own resume and your own portfolio. Don’t get discouraged by rejection, because it’s all a part of the process.
Job hunting gets significantly easier as you gain more experience. You’ll have a lot more doors open to you. So, stick with it initially and trust that it will get better.