I’m afraid with exams right around the corner it feels a bit like things are going south. But lucky for you this blog is not a pity party about that.
A few weeks back I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity as part of this blogging to head down to Dunedin for the National Young Leaders Day where I got to share some of my uni experiences with the high school students there. It was my second ever visit to Dunedin, all I can remember from the first was visiting the Cadbury Chocolate Factory so my perspective has probably changed a bit since then.
As a year 13 I spent a large part of my senior year debating between going to Otago or Auckland to pursue my med dream. It was a huge decision and at the time I soaked up every piece of information I could to help me decide (which is how I stumbled upon the inside word blogs) but it wasn’t till quite late in the year after applying to both that I finally made the choice and ended up here at the UoA.
I had the chance while down in Dunedin to catch up with a good high school friend of mine who is doing Health Sciences First Year. He gave me a great tour of the University considering it was about 10:00pm freezing cold and pouring with rain. So now I’ve got kind of got the inside word on Otago I thought it was my duty to blog about it in the hopes of helping any other students who are now in my old shoes and undecided on where to pre-med next year.
At Otago you take Health Sciences First Year (HSFY) and the grades of all of your papers are considered for med entry. In the first semester you take a physics paper, cells, human body systems and chemistry, and in the second you take human body systems round II, public health and biochemistry. In addition you can choose to take a fourth paper to bump up your GPA.
In Auckland you can take Biomedical Science (that’s me) or Health Science and there are four core papers that are the same in both. These papers are population health, chemistry, biosci 107 (human and cell biology) and medsci 142 (also human biology) The grades for these 4 core papers are considered for med entry and you need to maintain a B+ average for your other papers. For biomedical science the other papers are physics, biosci 101 and biosci 106 (more general biology) and for health science 2 more population health papers and a health psychology paper. In addition as for all UoA degrees everyone does a General Education paper of your choice totally unrelated to your degree.
From what I have gleaned, HSFY covers very similar content to biomed just split up differently. Their human body systems is like our biosci 107 and medsci 142, their cells is similar to topics we do in biosci 101 and 107, and their chemistry and physics also cover very similar topics, therefore its only really Health Science in Auckland where there is quite a difference in the stuff you learn (i.e no physics and lots more population health)
In saying that there are some important differences in how this content is assessed. Both biomed and HSFY have fortnightly 3 hour labs, lectures, online quizzes, midterm tests and exams, but the big difference is a lot more of the biomed marks are in the labs and midterm tests throughout the semester. This means that for us, our final exams are worth about 40% – 50% (at most 60%). In contrast HSFY exams are worth about 70% which is a lot of pressure riding on one test. Also all their exams cover the entire semester’s work but our biosci exams are split into two, so we only have to remember the second half of semester for our exams. (which is plenty enough) I also discovered that my timetable is a lot friendlier than my friends with my day being an 8am start at the earliest and always done by five, whereas I was shocked to hear some in HSFY have labs from 6 – 9pm! (no thank you)
Before all that though you have to meet the entry requirements to take the course. Biomed has the highest entry score of all premed options, and to take either premed course at Auckland you need to get a minimum number of NCEA credits in one ‘english based subject’ from Table A and one ‘maths/science based subject’ from Table B which limits some people. So make sure you check the entry requirements on the uni websites ASAP rocky to ensure you are taking the right subjects.
The key difference is the interview for med in Auckland which is not in Otago. This means in Auckland your grades are worth less of the overall entry in that you just need to do well enough to get an interview and there are about twice as many interviews as spots in med school. In both places your UMAT score also contributes but it is weighted more in Dunedin. Word on the street (a.k.a Auckland med students) is the UMAT is pretty irrelevant up here. But don’t quote me on all this, you can read up about the official details, exact weighting and GPA’s required on the relevant webpages.
Obviously its pretty common knowledge that Otago is way colder than Auckland which is tropical paradise most of the time. My trip to Dunedin certainly confirmed that I have acclimatised to the warmth of Auckland and so a mild day Dunedin felt veeeery cold. There’s probably not a lot more to say other than this is a pretty important factor to consider. Especially if you’re doing a long degree like med where you may find yourself in a dodgy dunedin flat for at least 6 years of study. That’s a long time to be cold.
Social Scene/Student Culture
In a pre-med course where you are serious about good grades there isn’t a huge amount of time to party, nonetheless it’s all part of the student experience and so it may be something on your list to consider. There’s no doubt Dunedin is a student town, and in my opinion it probably has a student culture unrivalled by all other uni’s in NZ. That being said the Auckland nightlife is a good time too and there’s a lot more to see in Auckland city outside of the uni. I feel as though everyone I have encountered at Auckland uni is here first and foremost to study (and I can’t say the same about Otago) so if your study is your number 1 priority (which it really should be because you pay mega $$$ for it) Auckland is probably the place to go.
If you care about how your surroundings look this may be something to consider. I think the Auckland city campus if great. It is really modern and new, most of the buildings are quite large with a sleek, glass and metallic kind of thing going on. Theres amazing views of the domain, the city and the ocean. As for Dunedin it is quite a lot different. They have really neat old stone buildings, their library is way nicer than ours (but we have better views) and and this amazing river rushes right through the middle of their campus which I am really jealous of. That being said, my brother studied our student services building (a.k.a The Clock Tower) which used to be a church as part of his course in architecture so the Auckland campus has some neat heritage too.
There’s plenty of other things that people will consider important when making their decision. Such as the options after first year, where their friends are going, finances, accommodation, scholarships and so on.
At my high school it’s pretty uncommon to go to Auckland and very common to go to Otago so I was challenging the status quote a little bit so to speak. When making my decision I knew I would be happy at either university and things like scholarships and accommodation didn’t sway my decision either way. In the end I chose Auckland ultimately because it was closer to home and I have family there and for me family is an important part of my life. So far no regrets so I must’ve made the right choice.
Whatever your decision is, I hope this ramble has helped you in one way or another if not
Courses and Careers day is coming up on the 27th of August and is well worth a visit!
Till next time, stay warm