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McGill GPA

Heisenberg27Heisenberg27 Posts: 2 Harvard Champion
edited May 2013 in McGill University
Hi Everyone

Please excuse the fact that I know several threads similar to this one already exist but, as they have yet to answer the questions that have been plaguing my mind for awhile, I decided to start my own.

Alright, so I'm a prospective U0 McGill student accepted to the Faculty of Science as a Computer Science major and I have a significant concern. How feasible is it to achieve a high GPA (e.g. 3.6 to 4.0) in McGill sciences?

As I eventually plan to apply for med school (with bioinformatics as my fall-back undergraduate field of study), I am drawn very heavily to McGill's joint bachelor's degree in Biology and Computer Science. However, while I am relatively satisfied with the notion of applying computer science to medical research in case I'm rejected from medical school, my biggest fear is that, by pursuing a degree at McGill, I will effectively minimize my chances at earning the appropriate grade point average for medical school admissions.

Now, in anticipation of claims that "grade deflation exists at all major Canadian universities", I should note that I am also considering applying to a small, semi-local university where I am reasonably certain it is in fact easier to obtain higher grades (ie. less competition).

Nevertheless, there are certain aspects of McGill which appeal to me greatly. Abundant research opportunities, an excellent location, solid MCAT preparation, and a reputation which would carry much clout for an undergraduate degree are all strong pros in McGill's favour. But I'm still not sure if its worth it...

Any thoughts?

(Thanks in advance for taking the time to review/address any of the above information. Any advice/insight is hugely appreciated.)
Post edited by Heisenberg27 on

Replies to: McGill GPA

  • qcmaudelemaireqcmaudelemaire Posts: 1 Harvard Champion
    edited May 2013
    Heisenberg27,

    Here's my take on McGill thus far after doing a year in the biology program (also thinking about applying to med school) and then transferring to Honours Software Engineering within the Faculty of Science. I'll be starting my third year in September and really feel as though I've found the right field of study.

    U0 classes aren't particularly difficult -- if you've done IB or AP and you aren't planning to send your scores to McGill in order to redeem them for credits and course exemptions, then you'll most likely have less difficulty than the other U0's. I took PHYS 101 and 102 in my first year and did well despite having very little experience with physics in high school.

    If you start in the Life Science stream, then you'll quickly realize that about 60% of the U0's you're interacting with are seriously considering med school. This starts to dwindle off after the first year.

    I'd seriously consider the Biology/CS track -- there are quite a few professors in the CS department that are recognized for their work in Bioinformatics. They teach some very interesting seminar-like 400 and 500 level courses.

    In regards to computer science, I can tell you that it's not easy. I warn you against taking two many COMP courses in the same semester -- each course has at least 4 assignments, sometimes a final (group) project, a midterm and a final exam. Multiply that times 4 or 5 and you have a very hectic semester ahead of you. There are some very, very bright students in computer science that manage to pull off the 4.0 but most of them have a great deal of pertinent programming experience prior to taking some of the basic 1st and 2nd year courses. You're competing with people who have been programming since they were 14 or 15. With that in mind, I've noticed a strange phenomenon in regards to GPAs in computer science. I know quite a few people who have GPAs below 3.1 and quite a few others who have GPAs above 3.6. For some reason, it seems there's barely anyone in the 3.1-3.6 range. That speaks to how the material overlaps and if you have trouble with a particular aspect of one course, it's bound to come back and haunt you in another course.

    I'd also highly recommend into taking a 396 COMP or BIO course -- these are individual research projects with a professor in your chosen department. This might really help you determine whether or not you want to go into research and if you choose to pursue a medical career, these courses give you an advantage over other applicants who haven't done any independent research.

    The most important piece of advice I can give you is not to treat your undergraduate degree as a "stepping stone" to medical school.

    If you have any more questions, feel free to PM me. :)
  • Heisenberg27Heisenberg27 Posts: 2 Harvard Champion
    edited May 2013
    Hi qcmaudelemaire,

    Unfortunately, I don't have 15 posts yet so apparently this site won't let me PM you for some reason (I really don't get that but ok, whatever).

    Anyways, first off, I want to thank you immensely for the extensiveness/thoroughness of your response as you've given me a great deal to consider with regards to McGill and I genuinely do appreciate that very much.

    So, on a comparatively down-to-business note, I wanted to know how plausible it is for someone with no prior experience in Computer Science (disregarding some dabbling in basic Java to ascertain that I was, in fact, interested in computer science) to succeed in the program. I have no qualms with working to earn that 3.6 and above but I do fear automatic relegation to the range below 3.1 primarily on account of my inexperience.

    Also, I should note that I have never had the opportunity to participate in any IB or AP classes as these options do not exist in my local area. I have done very well in the base courses I have taken (98% high school GPA with strictly academic timetable) but it's hard to judge what this means with respect to standards at other Canadian high schools. In particular, I am worried that I may be at a huge disadvantage because I've never taken an AP course before.

    Another thing I'd wondered about was how to go about gaining a research position. I notice that, in the COMP/BIO program, an undergraduate research project is incorporated into the curriculum (so I assume this implies some level of guarantee that one will receive a research role) but what is the process for getting a professor to take you on for a given field of study. Also, how significant are the "instructors" in the research process because, to be frank, I've not read very good things (ratemyprof) about the CompSci research instructors and I'm unsure if that's anything to worry about.

    Finally (and thank you for your time if you're still reading this btw), I was curious about how homework functions in CompSci. I mean, I am HEAVILY interested in computer science so maybe I won't mind as much BUT normally I hate courses that are primarily homework-based. Personally, I find that I work best when I can focus on studying/reviewing the course material as opposed to spending hours doing practice questions all afternoon (even in math).

    Whew, ok, well thanks again for taking the time to look over all my trivial high school anxieties but I am very grateful for your help. It is nice to see someone with a similar mindset to myself (ie. interested in software but still strongly considering medical school) because I've yet to encounter it until now.

    Regardless, good luck with your junior year.

    Best regards,
    Heisenberg27
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