How do you choose the best optional (or elective) courses in your 1st and 2nd year?
It’s highly likely that your preferred flavour of chemistry will be different from mine. And that goes for interests outside of the discipline too.
Maybe you love the Chinese language, or have a desire to get deeper into physics? Your university accommodates all and lets you try them out!
How heavily chemistry-based do I want my year to be?
Most chemistry courses are demanding, and the optional courses provided by your chemistry department will be no exception. You might choose Environmental Chemistry, Materials Chemistry, or Pharmacology, for instance.
But if you want to broaden your horizons a bit, these courses might not be for you. Electives require dedication and follow-through. So take this opportunity to learn a new language or spend a couple of hours a week philosophising. Once 3rd year comes around, this opportunity disappears.
How do I want my schedule to look?
It’s easier to work around schedule conflicts in 1st year – after all, you’ve got fewer intense lab hours and fewer lectures, and 2nd year gives some leeway as well. But it’s important to go into your first personal tutor meeting about course registration with an open mind – that musical technology course you were hoping to get into clashes with your inorganic lab session?That’s alright! There are plenty of courses throughout the university that will work just as well.
What would I want my CV to reflect?
You might already be thinking of spending your 4th year of the MChem program in industry or abroad at a different university. Having relevant elective courses on your transcript gives you an advantage over other applicants, and this is also true when applying for a job. Of course, that depends on where you are applying, and different employers will value different skills.
If you want to be a science writer, a humanities course may give you an edge. So you want to work in Canada? Taking a course in French is going to work better for you.
Am I even doing the right degree for me?
The 6 million dollar question! As 1st or 2nd year students, everyone is still pretty clueless about what a chemistry degree entails. If you aren’t entirely sure if it’s something you want to pursue, there’s always the possibility of switching degree programs, if you have the course credits. Changing your degree program is far easier to do at the end of 1st year, so start thinking about it sooner rather than later.
Speak to your advisor today, not in 2 weeks’ time. If you decide to go for the 5-year MChem program, you can tailor your degree towards environmental, materials, or medicinal chemistry. It’s good to get a sense of these courses to make the best decision for yourself.
So don’t panic. Explore the options. Use the resources provided by the university. Go to the activities fairs, and the academic fairs, and make sure you create the year you want and are eager to start your courses in week 1.
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