Let’s talk about Queen’s Health Sciences

Despite being a very young program, Queen’s Health Sciences had an acceptance rate of about 4.25% in 2020, rivalling that of McMaster’s renowned and well-established program which came in at 4.8%. While the cut-off average for the Queen’s program is 75%, the average of students who get accepted is in the 90%’s.

So what makes this program unique? Are there any drawbacks? How about the student life, teaching style, or application process? Keep reading for all of that and more.

Before we dive in though, I wanted to thank Ervis Musa, Haleigh Schreyer, Mariah Keeling, Sanchit Kaushal, and some other Queen’s HS students who took the time to meet with me and share their experiences!

What makes it unique?

Flipped Classroom Model

This may be the most unique asi program, the flipped or blended classroom model. Many of the people I interviewed compared it to McMaster’s HS program. As shown in the graphic below, students would begin by going through online modules provided to them for each course and then study the material in preparation for their assessments (more on assessment below).

Then they would go into class, anywhere from once or twice a week to once every two weeks to apply, consolidate, and test their knowledge which could mean anything from group work to labs to case studies and group discussions. In other words, “no three-hour lectures,” as one of the students put it. That means more time for other aspects of life like extracurriculars! While doing extra work before class may seem like a lot of trouble, the students I talked to all mentioned that it was very helpful in solidifying their knowledge in the long run.

Adapted from source.

On the topic of group work, you may be curious how much of the coursework is done in groups versus individually. I had the same question so I asked this from some current students. They all mentioned that it varies a lot based on the class but one of them put the estimate at about 80% being individual work and 20% being groupwork. Keep in mind that all of the core (required) courses have some group work components!

Assessments

No matter how much you enjoy a course, you inevitably have to worry about assessments. Or do you?

Unfortunately, yes. According to the students who I talked to, most of the classes had the traditional structure of midterms and final exams, with final exams often being worth 40%+ of your course mark.

But one standout course mentioned by several students was Anatomy 100, a required first-year course. There was no final exams and instead the students were tested through short, weekly assessments (usually involving multiple choice questions) as well as lab practicals where they were asked to recall parts of the human body.

Another required first-year course, Social and Physical Determinants of Health and Disease, involved creating a research poster while Pharmacology 100 had the students create phase 3 clinical trials posters. And in the History and Philosophy of Health and Healthcare course, all of the students assessments are blog posts. No tests whatsoever. This is all to say that while there are traditional components to the assessments, more unique ones are also present in the courses! As well, there’s a good balance of assignments and tests/exams so people with different learning styles are accommodated.

Learning Tracks

You may also think of these as specializations or even mini “minors”. This isn’t necessarily unique to this program but it is an interesting point worth mentioning! There are 6 different tracks that you can (optionally) enrol in…

  • Anatomical and Physiological Basis of Health and Disease
  • Global and Population Health
  • Applied Research Methods in Health Sciences
  • Infection, Immunity, and Inflammation
  • Molecular Basis of Biology
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology, and Therapeutics

While you may think that each of these tracks sounds like a large commitment, it actually isn’t, according to one of the students I talked to. You could even get all six! This is because a lot of the required classes that are part of the learning tracks are also required for the regular program, without any tracks.

And when it comes to picking your option courses, you can take this approach: first, take a look at which option classes you are passionate about from the regular program. They are likely to fall into a certain group. Then check to see which learning track’s option courses best match your interests!

Completing a learning track also means it gets mentioned in your transcript. For example, if you pursue the Molecule Basis of Biology as a learning track, there would be a mention of it. You can learn more about the tracks here if you’re interested.

Option and Elective Courses

If you’re in high school, you’ve likely only heard of electives — those are classes you choose on your own that aren’t required. But in this program, there are two of those types of courses.

The option courses are ones that are offered by either the Faculty of Arts and Science or the Faculty of Health Sciences. In first and second year, most option courses are offered by the Arts and Science Faculty but the department of HS actually reserves seats in those courses for health sciences students. The courses can be found on this page.

Electives, on the other hand, can be any course from the Arts & Science Faculty, so that includes courses like writing, physics, and more.

Keep in mind that in first and second year, you have 2 options and 2 electives. Also, if you’re really interested in, let’s say, 4 option courses, you can take all of those and 2 will count as electives. You don’t get too many electives or option courses so make sure you’re really passionate about the required ones.

If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, check out this video featuring Queen’s HS students sharing their experiences!

Extracurriculars

Queen’s is known for having a great number of extracurriculars, and coming to this program gives you access to them. Everything from Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE) to Canadian Improv Games to the Canadian Association for Research in Regenerative Medicine, you can find at Queen’s! You can actually view this club directory for every single club available at the university.

There’s even an event called the Tricolour Open House at the beginning of the year where you get to see the booths of all of the different clubs and sign up to get notified about the opening of their applications. Plus, as mentioned before, having a flipped learning model gives you a bit more flexibility to participate in these different activities.

Students at the Tricolour Open House in 2016. Source.

Online Degree

Another interesting and unique facet of this program? The option to get a degree fully online. According to their website, this is “Canada’s first fully online health sciences degree offered by a top-tier university.”

It’s an option worth exploring for those who learn best in an online format or who aren’t able to be on-campus for different reasons. You have the ability to get a great education from the comfort of your home!

Small Class Size

Comparing McMaster’s HS program to Queen’s, the class size in this program is twice as small (McMaster: 240 students, Queen’s: 170 students at the Kingston Campus). Pardon my constant comparison, but it’s one that many are bound to make when choosing between health science programs!

This likely means closer relationships with your peers and classmates as well as even more opportunities to interact with professors and faculty in general in a one-on-one format.

Studying in England

The program also offers a study-abroad experience for the first year, partnering with the Bader International Study Centre in England. The blended style of learning is also kept in England but the class size is even smaller at only 35 students.

What’s not to like?

A few things, apparently. Everyone I talked to was very happy with their experience but shared a few things they thought the program could have.

No Chance to Minor

As mentioned on their FAQs page, students are not able to minor in any subject area, and that can be a negative point for those wanting to expand their skills or simply pursue their passions. One of the students I talked to directly mentioned this as a drawback but they also mentioned that there are a wide array of electives offered which means students can still explore their passions, in a slightly more limited capacity.

Courses like Ancient Humour, World Musics, and Paris Through Literature, Painting, Cinema, and Photography are bound to make anyone excited regardless of their ability to minor.

Very Young Program

This seems to be both a blessing and a curse. There are two sides to this: the students mentioned that they have a very active role in shaping the program which means you’re contributing to future students’ lives and even bettering the program for your future self. But on the flip side, there are fewer mentors to help you since the oldest cohort is just going into their third year. The program may be seen as less established than others but that seems to be changing quickly as Queen’s Health Sciences is making a name for itself.

Along with this, there aren’t too many research opportunities directly related to the Faculty of Health Sciences but this is something else the program is actively working on.

It’s important to mention that no student I talked to thought this was a huge deal and still enjoyed their experience, and there was a fairly well-established online-only health sciences degree at Queen’s which turned out to be quite successful, leading to the creation of the on-campus program.

How to apply

Now that you know a fair bit about the program, it’s time to dive into how you can apply!

General Requirements

The general requirements for the program are as follows…

  • You must have completed, or be in the process of completing, a secondary school diploma
  • You must have or complete a ENG4U (or French) course with a minimum 80% average
  • You must have completed or complete 4U biology, 4U chemistry, and any 4U math (that means MDM4U, MHF4U, or MCV4U)
  • You must have completed or or complete an additional two university or university/college mixed (U or M) courses
  • You must have a minimum cumulative average of 75%
  • You cannot be enrolled in another post-secondary program

Supplementary Essay

Before this upcoming application cycle (for the class of 2026), a PSE or Personal Statement of Experience could be submitted alongside your grades. However, it wasn’t mandatory and one of the students I talked to simply submitted their grades and with those being high enough, they were accepted and are currently enrolled.

However, things are going to look a bit different this year. Supplementary essays (SEs) are now mandatory. I wasn’t able to find too much information about how it will differ from the PSE but here are a few more general tips current students who completed the PSE had…

  • Create a story with your essay
  • Show that you’re invested in an issue in healthcare or just in science!
  • Be sure to take not just an academic but personal approach too. Keep in mind that before this year, this used to be called a personal statement
  • When it relates to the question, describe moments in your life where you found your passions and how they tie together into STEM/healthcare
  • For instance, someone wrote about a tutoring program they ran and how that made them realize their love for teaching
  • Prior to writing the application, jot down experience in your life that are relevant (but these don’t have to be healthcare-based!)
  • Give yourself at least 2–3 weeks to get your answers down
  • Get feedback from others! This will give your fresh perspectives on how to improve
  • OUAC opens in November for the essay and can be submitted up until mid February so no need to rush

And before you get nervous about a brand new mandatory supplementary application, it’s good to mention that Queen’s does not seem to weigh the SE as heavily as grades, as opposed to how McMaster treats their supplementary application (you can read our article on their health science program here!).

Let’s get down to business

I’m talking about the cost of the program and possible post-graduate pathways. It’s all about the future.

Future Pathways

The websites mention some future pathways as veterinary medicine, dentistry, graduate research, occupational therapy, pharmacy, physical therapy, and medicine.

But do keep in mind that quite a large portion of students want to go into medical school, based on the qualitative data that I’ve gathered so that will likely be the goals and ambitions of the majority of those surrounding you.

Some possible career paths after Queen’s HS. From left to right: source, source, source.

Cost

When thinking about the cost of your undergraduate program, you want to consider everything: transportation, food, textbooks, living accommodations, tuition, and everything in between.

To keep this as simple as possible and applicable to as many people as possible, I will be going over the fixed costs, that is tuition and living accommodations if you choose to live in-residence at Queen’s.

Tuition: A student normally takes 30 units per year, though this may differ on a case-by-case basis. Each unit costs $202.77 for a domestic health sciences student, coming to a total of $6083.10. It wasn’t clear to me whether this included tax so just to make sure, let’s calculate a 13% HST as well which brings us to a total of $6,873.90.

Living: The total cost for a first-year’s single room along with a mandatory meal plan (including all fees that apply) comes out to $16,025.

Grand Total: $22,898.90

This is pretty comparable to similar programs like McMaster Health Sciences and Western Medical Sciences, at grand totals of $19,772.60 and $22,712.65 respectively.

Resources for You!

Yes, you! These are resources I came across and found super helpful for any students considering this program:

  • QUEENS OF BHSC: This is an awesome YouTube channel created by some Queen’s HS students with videos about all aspects of life as a student in the program. Definitely worth checking out!
  • Virtual Open Houses: These are recordings of previous virtual open houses from throughout 2021. Watch them on-demand and get your questions answered!
  • Program Research and Decision Matrix Worksheet: This worksheet comes from the Queen’s Career Services office and I’ve simply put in Google Docs format for your ease of use! It’s a great resource for your to objectively decide what program is best for you.

TL;DR

  • Queen’s Health Sciences is a quickly growing program offering unique experience such as a flipped classroom model, option and elective courses, online degrees, and very small class sizes
  • The program is nevertheless young which can be both a benefit and a positive
  • In order to apply, you need to complete the now mandatory supplementary essay, obtain or be obtaining a secondary school diploma, not be enrolled in a post-secondary institution, have a minimum cumulative average of 75%, and have the following credits: ENG4U/French equivalent (with a minimum 80%), 4U biology, 4U chemistry, any 4U math (that means MDM4U, MHF4U, or MCV4U), two additional U or M courses
  • Future pathways for those graduating from this program include veterinary medicine, dentistry, and graduate research, though most students intend to pursue medicine
  • The cost of the program is comparable to others similar to it

About the author

Parmin Sedigh is a 15-year-old stem cell and science communications enthusiast as well as a student researcher, based in Kingston, ON. She’s also the Director of Writing at Superposition and is working with the University of Guelph on a research project. You can usually find her on her computer following her curiosity. Connect with her on LinkedIn or email her at parminsedigh@gmail.com.

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