Applying to UBC: Which program? Which campus?

Question (edited for brevity):

“I’m applying to UBC this year and there are so many choices for programs. Which one did you choose when you applied back then? Is general sciences offered on the vancouver campus or is it only at the Okanagan campus?”

Ooh university applications season is such an exciting time!

At other schools, I was applying to many neuroscience programs but at UBC, you don’t choose a major when you apply. You only choose a general program/faculty to apply to.

I applied to Science program on the Vancouver Campus and the combined Commerce/Computer Science program on the Vancouver Campus. In retrospect, I think I would have also been happy in the Kinesiology or Lands and Food Sciences degree.  I ended up picking Science as my first choice because I was interested in the pharmacology major (disclaimer: as some of you know, I am majoring in Integrated Sciences specializing in Pharmacology & Neuroscience).

You don’t have to know your exact major but I highly suggest that you think about the coursework and several majors that you would be interested in and then look carefully at the program that these majors are in. For example, if you are interested in Nutrition, you may be drawn more to the Faculty of Lands and Food Systems. If you want to study Pharmacology, or Microbiology, Science might be the best fit. If you’re interested in Physiology and Anatomy, Kinesiology or Science would be both good fits so then dig deeper in the coursework offered by each faculty.

Choose your program for yourself rather than blindly follow what your peers or parents tell you. When I was in high school, most of us just followed what everyone else was doing.  This can lead to good things such as a push to join clubs and sports teams. When you’re in high school, your parents likely still have a big influence on your life and may be pressuring you to pursue a particular major and/or career. Your parents and peers can definitely provide good advice but ultimately, you are the one living your own life. You are the one spending 4 years of your life in that major. You are the one spending the rest of your life in a particular career. Therefore, it’s your right to make the ultimate decision.

See Cathy’s Blog about breaking away from her father’ pressure to become an accountant to instead pursue science & potentially medicine: http://blogs.ubc.ca/whatiscathy/2016/12/13/a-reflection/

I know some others might advise you to choose a “safe backup” as your second choice program but I advise against this. Many people do end up in their second choice program so make sure your second choice is something you will be genuinely happy to spend four years in! I’ve said this before in another post, but there is also no “safe backup” because there is no program that you are guaranteed to get into. To address this directly, there is a widespread misconception on UBC Vancouver that the Faculty of Forestry is “just a backup” program. There are many individuals in Forestry that love what they study and Forestry was their first choice so I don’t suggest looking down on any program.

What’s nice is that the application process can also serve as something to help you make a big choice. For instance, I used to be interested in studying commerce/computer science for a while but that interest waned towards the end of high school when I started to get interested in a career in scientific research and/or a career in health care. So I put them both down and used the process as a “let’s see where fate takes me.”

If you absolutely love your first choice program and don’t like anything else for your second choice, you should study as much as possible and get awesome grades in Grade 12 so that you can maximize your chances of getting in.

Which campus: Kelowna or Vancouver?

There is a Faculty of Science in Kelowna. If you’re specifically asking about the “general science major”, it is only offered in Kelowna. We don’t have the general science major in Vancouver anymore. We do have the combined science and integrated science programs instead. My advice for you is to, again, think of your intended major because the majors available are different there. E.g. if you want to study biochem, they have that major on both campuses. But if you want to study pharmacology, it’s not offered there as of the time of this post.

As for picking the campus, that is a really personal choice. I chose to stay in Vancouver because I 1) wanted to stay to support and help my family in Vancouver and 2) made an appropriate financial decision to save money. People told me and I’m sure you’re gotten this advice as well, “Don’t worry about the money. Just do what your heart tells you.” I want to counter that and say that the ~ $10000  or more for rental costs per year is a big financial consideration for some families, including mine . I didn’t want to spend the money renting a place for my undergraduate education because I wanted to save the money for my post-undergraduate education.

But if finances is not concern to you, I would say both campuses are beautiful and there is a lot to do and experience. I’ve visited the Kelowna campus and it’s awesome. Both of my cousins study in Kelowna and have had a pretty good experience.

I wish you the best of luck with your applications! Maybe we’ll see you here at UBC Vancouver next year!