By Lee Gass
I’ve realized over the years that success in high school physics is a better predictor of success in university biology. There may be many reasons for this, but among them is that physics (when well-taught) helps people learn to think mathematically, mechanistically, creatively, and rigorously. It is much easier to survive high school biology by memorizing than to survive physics, and learning anything by memory alone is poor preparation for real success in any of the sciences.
Consider the fact that, for many university biology students, the first major intellectual crunch comes in second or third year when they encounter their first genetics course. Genetics is mathematical, mechanistic, and it requires creative thought. Therefore, it cannot be done without intellectual rigour, and of course, genetics is biological to the core. Many, many biology students have great trouble in genetics, not because it is especially difficult but because the rigour that it requires is, unfortunately, new to many students. Consequently, grades suffer, grade point averages suffer, and opportunities shrink for students who are not prepared for it.
Polish Your Reading and Writing Skills
The second great group of essential skills for biology is linguistic. Reading well and quickly and writing well are absolute requirements for real success in biology.
By Dave Berry
My discipline is Chemistry, but I am sure that my answer will apply to many of the other sciences. In short, there are no special pre-requisites that a typical Grade 12 course will not cover. In many cases, Grade 11 will be an acceptable minimum, but that does start you off at a bit of a disadvantage relative to your peers and it would be expected that the gaps in the curriculum would be made up by the end of a first-year program (possibly with a supplemental course).
From the lab perspective, most students’ backgrounds vary so much that little practical experience is generally assumed. To speed up your learning curve, I would suggest that you get very familiar with Excel (or something similar). Using such a program can speed up your report writing at a time when you might have three or four lab classes and it is a program that you will eventually be required to use, if not in the first year. Creating templates of data sheets and report outlines can help enormously when you are learning the specific requirements for each sub-discipline (yes, we can be very picky about the format, unfortunately). By modifying the template after each report is returned, you can eliminate repetitive mistakes and speed up the reporting and manipulation of data sections of subsequent reports.
By Rick Schwier
There’s no easy answer to this question. It depends on the university and program. Some programs are direct entry from high school, but they are few. I like them. I recommend them. A four-year program focused on your professional and academic goals is, in my experience, the best way you can go about becoming a teacher. So look for a four-year program when you leave high school. It takes time to become a teacher.
But most teacher education programs require you to take at least 60 credit units toward a general B.A. or B.S. degree before applying for a Bachelor of Education degree. Some require that you complete a B.S. or B.A. before applying. Don’t be put off by that. In most cases, you will want a strong academic background before beginning your work in education. But given a choice, I would select a four-year program (and my own university doesn’t offer one). In any case, you will need to find a major and minor you can teach. Don’t let anyone tell you what these should be. Yes, employment might be easier to find in some areas such as math or physics. But find something you are passionate about sharing; it will make all the difference when you’re in the program.
Now, how do you qualify for admission? Most colleges of Education are very competitive. The reality is that your G.P.A. will matter. Do as well as you can in your undergraduate work, or in high school. But you should also get volunteer experiences in schools, in coaching, in training, and in community service. All of this can demonstrate your commitment to education and learning.
Most universities will also require an interview for their program. In almost all cases, they will want to know why you want to be a teacher, what brought you to the profession, and why you think you are suited to a career in education. These are not easy questions, but you should be clear, concise, and truthful in your answers. It is easy advice to say you should “be yourself”, but it is also good advice. Your goal is to let the interviewers know that you are passionate about becoming a teacher and committed to the process. I recommend you practice the interview.
Have your parents or friends throw questions at you about why you want to be a teacher and what you hope to accomplish. Record your sessions. Look at yourself and listen to what you say, and how you say it. Are you clear and economical in your language? Are you passionate and do you project your love of education, teaching, and students?
But be honest, and be open. Are you really committed to teaching? Do you love serving other people? Are you passionate about the opportunity to work with learners to find their own skills and find their own passions? Can you contribute? Do you want to?
So do I.
I can remember being exactly where you find yourself now. And some decades later, I am still passionate about learning and thrilled when one of my students does something extraordinary. Every morning I wake up knowing I have the chance to do something important for someone else. It isn’t about me; it is about them. Can you say the same thing? Then being a teacher might be for you.
A long time ago, I was lucky enough to choose this profession. Now, I realize how lucky I was that the profession chose me.
By Ron Marken
English is usually a required course in the first year. Going beyond the 100 level, to a BA, BA Honours, MA, or Ph.D., typically requires an overall average of 70% or higher. Achieving excellence, in English or any other discipline, is far from easy, but it is easy to advise you on how to go about it.
- Care passionately about the quality of your writing. Realize that Hemingway was right when he said, “The first draft is always rubbish.” So is the second draft. If you are a luke-warm, so-so writer, your grades will reflect that attitude. Writing is damnable hard work; achieving clarity, economy, and precision means labour.
- Care passionately about reading. If reading is a tedious chore, your grades will reflect it. Train yourself to read with pleasure, attention, and an open, critical mind. Read far beyond the required texts. Read everything you can lay your hands on, with your eyes hanging out.
- Learn to take notes.
- Consider taking a speed reading course. If you read more slowly than 500 words per minute, you are the intellectual equivalent of a couch potato. 250 wpm? You are disabled. 2500 wpm or higher will liberate you and get you running again.
- Discipline yourself to study regularly and hard.
- Try this approach: Every Friday, assign yourself a focused question based on the week’s work and write a one-paragraph “essay” on it. Do this for every class you’re taking, every week. Don’t spend more than two hours, in total, in all five classes. By the time you reach the final exam, you will have dozens of papers, invaluable study guides. By the time you have finished your Ph.D., you will have hundreds of one-page papers, an inspiring record of your academic progress.
Easily said. Less easily done. Well worth doing.
By Arshad Ahmad
Start by building your confidence on the subject. The easiest way to do this is to learn as much as you can about the program and field.
- Take an online personal finance course (e.g. Check out FINA 200 at econcordia.ca).
- Read the press, especially the business section or the Economist. WATCH documentaries (see finance related shows). Most of all, READ whatever you can about the world of finance.
- In your spare time (this summer!) apply for a job as a customer service rep at a bank or local credit union.
- Volunteer time at smaller outfits (say a personal financial services company).
- Join an investment club.
- Ask your parents to introduce you to their friends who work in the field. TALK to your parents and their friends about personal finance, the current financial crisis, and whatever aspects that interest you.
- Call a finance professor at the university nearest to you, or alumni, and take him/her for a coffee or lunch and ask whatever questions you like!
The limit on preparation is the one you set. The opportunities, even in these recessionary times, are endless! Don’t get stuck on becoming a math nerd or limit the breadth of interests that will sustain your passion for the subject.
By Dana Paramskas
The University of Guelph used to offer introductory courses aimed at students who had dropped French in Grade 9, or others with no academic French background. Unfortunately, budget cuts mean a change in policy. Our entry-level is now the equivalent of Grade 11, in a DE version. Immersion students are accepted into the appropriate level depending on how many years of immersion they have credit for.
Students with Ontario Grade 12 French are accepted into our first-year university course. Competition is based on a first-come-first-served basis since enrollment can be limited in those courses.
We do our best to accommodate students with varied life experiences, such as living in a francophone area for at least 4 months, or summer study in Québec or abroad.
Francophone students are normally not admitted to first-year courses, except in cases where those students attended an anglophone high school.
Students with enriched or advanced HS French are placed appropriately.
While we expect that students eligible for the first-year university French course (French Language 1 – FREN1200) have acquired the basics of the language, that course is also designed to remedy language skills weaknesses.
Appropriate credit is given for the summer Explore program courses taken in Québec in the form of advanced placement.
By Clarke Thomson
As far as I am concerned, the major prerequisite for Geography would be any course or courses that deal with spatial patterns. The problem most people have trying to understand Geography is that they keep looking for a particular set of items that they can classify as the subject matter. Geography is analogous to History (and here I must state that some Geographers might differ with my view), in that they are both based on a concept (a way of looking at things) rather than a particular set of subject matter.
History deals with any subject in the context of time whereas Geography deals with any subject in the context of space (read spacial patterns and/or location). People generally have a hard time getting their heads around this idea of a “concept”, a way of looking at things – anything. So you can have Economic Geography, Social Geography, Cultural Geography, The Geography of Climatic Patterns (Climatology), The Geography of Landforms (Geomorphology), Biogeography, etc. Because of the wide range of things covered, the discipline is generally divided into two broad categories, Human Geography and Physical Geography, and scholars tend to specialize in one particular field within those two broad divisions.
The “field data” is generally displayed on some form of a map. I would say that any course that uses maps or displays data on maps would also be a good prerequisite.
I hope this helps, but I should also point out that scholars in the discipline have been arguing about the concept aspect of Geography since the time of the ancient Greeks.
By Alan Morgan
Are there prerequisites?
These days, a strong background in math is essential (and calculus would be strongly advised). Chemistry and Physics would be a distinct advantage. Geology is strongly linked with geochemistry and geophysics and mathematical modeling is also important. However, there ARE places for students with a good background in Geography and Biology if interests lie that way. It would be important to peruse the calendar of the university that you might be considering.
Is entry particularly competitive?
Again, it depends on the department being chosen, but generally, a good student can get into most Earth Science departments. The field is not (at this time) as competitive as (for example) biology for pre-Med.
Are there other requirements specific to Geology?
Geology encompasses such a broad area that it is difficult to say precisely. However, if you intend to work with the mining industry, then a love of the outdoors is advantageous. I would also suggest a working knowledge of Spanish would be a distinct advantage.
By Dr Jim Silcox
Each of the seventeen medical schools across Canada has different admission criteria. Some of them require students to take science prerequisites at a university level while others are not so specific in this regard but simply ask for students to have completed a pre-medical degree or at least three years at a Bachelor’s level. Most schools, regardless of whether they require university-level sciences (e.g., Physics, Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Biology), will require students to write the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) which has a component that requires candidates to have significant comfort with the principles of university-level sciences. Therefore, because marks in university and marks on the MCAT are usually weighed into the admission criteria for medical schools, it pays to have a solid science background regardless of whether you are actually in a science program at university.
All this is by way of explanation that high school students would be well advised to take math and science options whenever offered to prepare themselves for the necessary university courses that will rely heavily on these skills.
Nevertheless, it is also important to have a good knowledge of the arts and languages since medical schools these days are increasingly looking for candidates who can express themselves well and have an appreciation of issues that move people emotionally. I am adding this caveat because sometimes students focus so much on science preparation that they forget that medicine is defined both as an art and a science and that they will need to demonstrate their humanity when it comes time to apply to Medicine.
By Elizabeth Wells
Competition is very competitive. Students need to practice their instruments and get private lessons (if they have not already done so) to make sure that their auditions are top-notch. They also need to study music theory. They can do this privately through a tutor or by self-study. Most programs require Grade II Rudiments or Grade III Harmony (Royal Conservatory system) and there is usually a theory entrance assessment. They also might be asked to sight-read or sight-sing music or to sing intervals after hearing a note on the piano. They should also be prepared to answer some simple questions about music history, general style periods and important composers.
By Dave Cass
My specific field is experimental plant biology. I will list what I think are some things high school students can do to prepare for such a program below:
- strong interest and coursework in biology in general
- strong interest and coursework in plants as living organisms, not just specimens on herbarium sheets (note: plant specimens on herbarium sheets have their place)
- reasonable background in math and chemistry
I think that experimental plant biology is probably more competitive than it used to be; therefore, it is important to approach it with a solid background and interest. I recognize that not all high schools offer specific plant biology coursework. This could be partially remedied by taking biology courses where the fundamentals of biology (cell division, growth, genetics, nutrition, etc.) are presented.
I was successful in my career, but my success would have been greater if I had had a better math (including statistics) and chemistry background. I had a fair bit of biochemistry (4 courses), which was good, but I should have had some physical chemistry as well.
Kinesiology/Human Kinetics/Physical Education
By Angela Thompson
Prerequisites (at my school for BScHK): English, two of math, chemistry, biology, or physics and two other university preparatory courses in gr. 12.
Prerequisites (at my school for BAHK): English, one of math, chemistry, biology, or physics and three other university preparatory courses in gr. 12.
The entry is very competitive because space is limited to ~ 120-130 NEW students per year + 10-15 transfer students (total program numbers = ~ 500). Generally, we fill by the end of February or March for a September start.
In fact, entry is competitive across the country as HK is seen as the gateway for medicine, chiropractic, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, athletic therapy, physical education teacher, health promotion, etc.
FYI – we typically have the highest entry average on campus – and our students maintain this standing!
No other requirements – though a minimum 70% average is required for direct entry AND I would suggest there is a need to be comfortable interacting with people and working with others/community as there is a strong emphasis on service learning – particularly with children and with individuals with disabilities.
Suggestions for students in Grade 11 and 12:
- Physical education in high school (required or elective) also counts as a “university preparatory course” for HK. It makes sense given that our students are expected to take minimally 6 credits of skills courses (= 6 different skills) that they be comfortable moving their bodies in a variety of environments (in the gym, on the field, on the ice, etc.).
- It is also highly recommended that students visit our campus – formally or informally. You should be comfortable with the university you choose – NOT just for the academic learning you will engage in, but also for the social life you will be involved with. During this visit, speak with the Chair of the Department or another representative (perhaps the instructor of the first-year required course) and perhaps you should sit in on a lecture.
- Although the thought may be that HK is just for athletes, it is not. Many of our students do NOT participate in sports – though are physically active in other ways.
By Kim Brooks
The wonderful thing about law is that in many ways it bridges all aspects of human life. A background in science, business, English, or gender studies would all prove useful. Instead, the core advice I’d give a high school student entering university with an interest in law school is that he or she should take subjects that are interesting and he or she should plan on working hard. A student who studies hard in an undergraduate program, who achieves good grades, and who has a fascination with civil society will be well placed when entering law school.
Find the right post-secondary program for you!