It's that time of year again, when schools all across the province are wrapping up, and students who are graduating from high school are starting to look more carefully at their post-secondary future, many of whom are attending UBC in the upcoming winter session. I still remember how I spent my last week in June last year, flipping through and trying to absorb as much information from the UBC Academic Calendar, as I tried to create that illusive, perfect worklist. Back then, I ended up looking through a number of student blogs for some more personalized advice and less dense material to sift through (the UBC Calendar isn't exactly an easy read); I found lots of nuggets of useful info which I'd like to share, as well as some of my own experiences during my 1st year at UBC.
So, first of all, you may be wondering who I am. Well, my name is Vincent Cheng and I'm a 2nd year (I'll be entering my 2nd year at UBC this coming September) Science student, doing a major in CPSC (computer science); in other words, I'm a BSc candidate, class of 2015, but I'll likely be graduating in 2016 instead due to co-op (which typically lengthens your degree by an extra year; more about my co-op experiences in a future post). As such, a lot of my blog posts are going to be specific to Science students and CPSC majors, but my hope is that you'll learn something new from my blog even if you're not a Science/CPSC student.
You're likely most worried about creating worklists and planning out a schedule for the upcoming year, so let's start off by talking about that. (Note: this section is going to be mostly Science specific.) The UBC Calendar has a huge amount of information about course options, degree options, prereqs, etc., but if you don't feel like reading every single page (nobody does), the following graph shows you a concise overview of what you really need to know:
As of right now (June 2012), that flowchart is up-to-date as far as I'm aware, but do note that UBC can of course change any of the requirements for its programs.
Now that you have the "big picture" in mind, here's what I have to add:
1) MATH: You'll quickly notice that you have lots of options for math. First off, keep in mind that math falls under the computational credits requirement (= you need 9 credits from MATH/STAT/CPSC courses, by the time you enter 4th year; apparently, this is one of the more easier-to-forget requirements that trip up people later on). With that said, strictly speaking you are only required to take MATH 100/102/104 or equivalent (1st year calculus, derivatives); the remaining 6 credits can be formed with any combo of MATH/STAT/CPSC courses. However, MATH 101/103/105 or equivalent (1st year calculus, integration) is required for most, if not all, degree options in Science, so I strongly recommend that you take both MATH 100+101 (or 102+103 or 104+105), and that you do so in 1st year. Defer the remaining 3 computational credits for 2nd/3rd year; if the specialization you'd like to choose doesn't require 2nd year MATH courses, and you're sick of MATH and you just want a GPA booster, consider either STAT 200 or CPSC 101.
If you've never taken any Calculus courses back in high school, substitute MATH 180/184 for MATH 100/104 respectively (I have no idea why MATH 102 doesn't have an equivalent option). Basically, it's the same course, except those in 180/184 get an extra weekly tutorial. If you're really, really good at math and you've been invited, you have the option of taking honours 1st year math courses (MATH 120+121), but I'd actually advise against it unless you're interested in doing a major/honours degree in math, or you really, really like math. I know I don't. :P
Some other tidbits: generally speaking, MATH 100+101 has the lowest averages amongst all first-year math courses (but hey, engineering courses always have the lowest averages :P ). MATH 102+103 have labs that you must attend, whereas MATH 100/104+101/105 involve only lectures. Also, you can mix and match between the various derivatives and integration courses, e.g. MATH 100+105, MATH 102+101, etc.
Personally, I ended up taking MATH 104+105. The averages for these courses were noticeably higher than say, MATH 100+101 (I mean, my 105 section had a 74% average, which is pretty high compared to most other 101/103/105 sections).
2) ENGL: You need 6 credits (2 courses) of eligible first-year english courses, i.e. any 2 of ENGL 110/111/112, ENGL 120/121 (honours equiv. of 110/111), SCIE 113, ASTU 150/300. This is the "communications requirement", and it must be done within your first 60 credits (~ within 2 years). I recommend just getting it over in 1st year so you don't have to worry about it, i.e. take 1 english course per term, but of course you can defer it for 2nd year if you wish.
Be wary of SCIE 113; it's a relatively new course and not all other faculties consider it to satisfy 1st year english requirements (e.g. med). You'll also likely have troubles with this if you choose to do a degree at another school.
My recommendation: ENGL 110+112, or ENGL 111+112 (I found 112 (focus on writing) to be easier than the literature-based 110/111, but that's just me I guess). I myself ended up taking 112 in term 1, and 110 in term 2. It doesn't matter in what order you choose to take these courses.
3) BIOL/CHEM/PHYS: BIOL 140 is infamous for being the course with the heaviest workload you'll encounter in 1st year (and it's only worth 2 credits). General consensus is that if you have AP/IB credit for it, don't bother with 140. Otherwise, I don't have much to say about these courses; I'm doing a CPSC major, and I only took the minimum amount of BIOL/CHEM/PHYS credits as required by 1st year science requirements, i.e. the biology, physical sciences, and laboratory sciences requirements (i.e. I took BIOL 111, CHEM 121, and PHYS 101, and I never have to take another BIOL/CHEM/PHYS course ever again...CPSC major, remember? :D ).
Most 1st years in Science, however, will end up taking BIOL 112+121+140, CHEM 121+123, and PHYS 101+102. First-year honours phys stream is PHYS 107+108+109, but again, my advice is to avoid honours courses unless you want to do a major/honours degree in that field, or you're really, really passionate about the subject, as with the MATH and ENGL honours stream courses as well.
Lots more detailed information about Science lower-level requirements can be found here.
I think I'm going to stop with course recommendations right here. Hopefully I've helped a few UBC Science 1st-years with their worklists, or at least given them stuff to chew on for a while. Anyways, I'm going to talk about some more general stuff in my next blog post, which I hope will help all those incoming students who aren't going into Science.