University Biology Programs In Canada – The Difference Between Life, Health, And Medical Sciences Programs

You’re now starting your final year of high school, senior year, Grade 12. There are many things to look forward to such as graduation, prom, and making those last few memories with your friends before you head off to start the next journey in your life. Before all these exciting things happen, the first semester can be quite stressful. The time has come to finally decide where you are going to apply for post-secondary whether you choose to take a gap year, go to university or college, or even decide to work, these decisions are all made by you during this one semester.

So you decide that you want to maybe become a physician in the future, or a dentist, someone in the healthcare field, so what program should you go into? There are around 96 post-secondary schools in all of Canada, each having their own unique programs, the campus’, and originality. At the end of this article, you’ll be able to learn about what each of the different programs offers at each university. Here are some programs that I personally applied to during my application process:

  • McMaster Health Sciences/Life Sciences
  • Queen’s University Health Sciences/General Sciences
  • Western Medical Sciences/Health Sciences
  • University of Toronto Life Sciences
  • McGill Biological, Biomedical, and Life Sciences.

Difference Between Health, Life, and Medical Sciences: 

ProgramsInformation About Program
Health SciencesThe Health Sciences program takes a look at health through an interdisciplinary approach. Health Sciences offers students an understanding of health from biological, behavioural and population-based perspectives, by analyzing both health, medicine and the healthcare system. 
Life Sciences/General SciencesThe Life Sciences programs take a look at a general view of life in the world ranging from human health to plants and other organisms. While this program is very broad, one is able to choose a major to narrow down their studies in upper-years.
Medical SciencesThe Medical Sciences program is only offered at The University of Western Ontario. This program looks at the molecular, cellular, and systematic organization of the human body and the biological mechanisms it uses to adapt to environmental changes and diseases.

Schools and Programs:

UniversityProgramInformation About Program
McMaster UniversityHealth Sciences– Known for getting a lot of students into Medical School
– Low acceptance rate (Aim for 240 students, 90%+ with Supplementary Application) 
– Option to specialize in Global Health, IBioMed, and Child Health
– Group learning and inquiry
McMaster UniversityLife Sciences– Target enrollment is 1000
– 87-90% average required
– Opportunity for Co-op
– During the second year, you can specialize your degree and also minor in another program
Queen’s UniversityHealth Sciences– QUARMs Program (BIPOC peoples)
– Flipped classroom format (Learn the material beforehand and come into class to discuss and solidify)
– Low acceptance rate (Aim for 170 students (increases every year), cut off 95% this year) 
– Direct entry into the program and only focuses on human health rather than all organisms
– Fairly new on-campus
Queen’s UniversityGeneral Sciences– Within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, you are able to specialize in Life Sciences as your major and add a minor
– Target enrollment is 1000
– Low 80’s 
– Prepares you for a career in healthcare or biomedical research
– Research/internship opportunities
University of Western OntarioMedical Sciences– A unique program only found at Western
– High acceptance rate due to not direct entry → will have to wait until the third year to meet requirements and continue the degree (Low 90’s, need an 80% + to continue the program in your third year)
– Opportunity to specialize degree and research
– Focuses on human health in the third year, Year 1 and 2 are general sciences 
University of Western OntarioHealth Sciences– More focused on the healthcare system, ethical and social aspects of health
– Can focus degree with specializations and majors
– High acceptance rate → 80%+ average to be considered
University of Toronto (St George)Life Sciences– Low to mid 80’s required for admission
– Around 340 enrolled 
– Opportunity to major and minor during the second year 
– Research opportunities
– Many students want to attend UofT Life Sciences to continue grad school/med school degree at UofT as well
McGill UniversityBiological, Biomedical, and Life Sciences– Cut off 95%
– If you live outside of Ontario, you must apply through McGill’s own system “Minerva”
– Many majors to choose from under this specific program → second year (U1) specialization
– Option to do a more intensive version of the major → honours program, which requires more credits and often prepares students more thoroughly for grad school
University of OttawaHealth Sciences– Focuses on building the program to address society’s health care challenges
– Option to take courses in French → french immersion
– Honours program → option to have a minor 
– Low 80’s

Perspective Panel: Why you picked this program

McMaster Health Science Lucy“After considering what I personally valued from a university program, I narrowed down the factors I considered to be most important to 1) courses 2) facilities and 3) network. I heard a lot about McMaster’s problem-based learning style and as a student who hated taking physics and maths in high school, not seeing those courses listed as mandatory for first-years was a huge plus for me. I also looked into the course descriptions on the Faculty of Health Science website and loved the interdisciplinary + holistic approach they took towards teaching their students about healthcare! On top of academics, I chose McMaster for the amazing research facilities and hospital opportunities they offer students, and also just because I vibed really well with the student environment – everyone seemed super friendly and interesting to chat with!” – Lucy Zhao, McMaster Health Sciences
Queen’s Health ScienceSanchit“The Bachelor of Health Sciences program at Queen’s University was intriguing to me due to the flipped classroom format of the core classes and its commitment to enhancing face-to-face interactions via innovative and engaging classroom sessions. The small size of the cohort in comparison to other health/life science-based programs was another pull factor for me, as I thrive in small group environments where I am able to interact with peers. Not to mention, the beautiful campus and location of the university were what reaffirmed my decision!” – Sanchit Kaushal, Queens Health Sciences
The University of Toronto St. George Life SciencesHenry “I chose to attend the Life Sciences program at the University of Toronto because first, it is closer to home so I can visit my family and friends more often, second, I got into the Trinity One stream which I liked the idea of the small class specifically for those who want to study medicine, third, I think there are a lot more research/extracurricular opportunities, and lastly I received the President’s Scholars of Excellence Scholarship” – Henry Guan, University of Toronto Life Sciences
McGill Biological, Biomedical, and Life SciencesAsma “I decided to attend McGill because of the plethora of research opportunities available both on and off-campus and the ability to choose a specific major under the general biomedical sciences degree that will cater to my individual scientific interests. The option to take the Honours pathway was also greatly appealing as someone interested in attending graduate or medical school. Additionally, I’m excited to explore a city as culturally rich and diverse as Montreal!” – Asma Khamis, McGill Biological, Biomedical, and Life Sciences
Western Medical Sciences“One of the main reasons why I chose to go into Medical Sciences at Western was because of the campus and the community. When I was deciding between programs, one of the major deciding factors was whether or not I would enjoy the campus and the things it had to offer. I also have the AEO status that allows me to graduate with a double degree in Medical Sciences and Business. I found that many of the well established pre-med programs were pretty similar content-wise so it was just down to which campus I liked better” Rose Li, Western Medical Sciences

I hope that after reading through this article you have a stronger understanding of the different university programs in Canada! Most importantly, do not be afraid to apply to programs that you think you may not be good enough for or that scare you. Remember, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take in life.

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