Studying for free: Neuroscience, Psychology & Applied Statistics in U of Toronto on Lester B. Pearson Scholarship (Wee Ai Lee Ginnie)

Submitted Aug 2022

Hello! I am Ginnie and I was from 20S7F. I am currently attending the University of Toronto and studying neuroscience, psychology, and applied statistics.

Why this course & why overseas?

I have always been fascinated by the human brain from biological and psychological perspectives. Psychology was an ideal course for me because it requires application of scientific concepts along with skills like writing and analysis. Additionally, studying in North America was one of my ambitions because the university education is more broad-based and gives great flexibility should I decide to switch majors. Universities also offer neuroscience as a major which is not offered locally. 

I pursued programmes outside of school that allowed me to explore my interests. They included the 1000 Girls, 1000 Futures mentorship with the New York Academy of the Sciences and Junior Neuroscience Academy with Hong Kong University. I met students and mentors from all over the world, and experienced university-level classes. My advice for exploring universities or courses is to sign up for talks, programmes, internships and whatever opportunities that may be interesting. Participate with an open mind, ask questions, network, learn, and there will always be useful takeaways. 

How did you shortlist schools?

When I applied to universities, I shortlisted schools in the US and Canada, and chose them based on location, environment, and reputation. I also briefly researched their graduate programmes because I would need to pursue that should I want to become a psychologist. 

How did you manage uni apps with exams?

Managing university applications and all their essays while preparing for exams was one of the craziest experiences I had in JC. I think what kept me on track was having good time management and self discipline. I knew clearly that my goals were to submit good applications and perform well in my exams, and planned my schedule towards meeting them.

If you are interested in applying to the US, I encourage you to start shortlisting schools as early as JC1 and have a range of choices (reach, target, safety) especially if the US is your only choice. Research the school culture, academics, student clubs, or any special programmes available. Start writing your Common App essay ASAP - the process requires brainstorming, drafting, and rewriting which can take months. From there, craft out your application profile with the aid of your supplemental essays.

What is applying to Canada like?

The application process for Canada is more straightforward. UofT does not require essays for most subjects, but UBC (University of British Columbia) requires personal essays. For those applying to UofT, the Lester B. Pearson Scholarship is an awesome opportunity! It is a full scholarship given to 37 international students each year and there will be special programmes and opportunities for scholars. I encourage you to research scholarship selection criteria from both government organisations and universities to prepare yourself for the application and interviews.

Why did you choose Canada over US?

In the end, I was excited to receive offers from universities in the US and Canada, yet making this decision was pretty stressful. I was inclined to the US initially because US schools are way harder to get into and more popular. What made my decision much easier later on was when I received the Lester B. Pearson Scholarship, which meant that I could study at UofT for no cost at all! I never expected to receive this scholarship because the acceptance rate was even lower than some US universities. I also considered where I wanted to continue studying and working post graduation, and I felt that Toronto provided a smooth transition.

Last words of advice?

I always wondered which university and where in the world I would end up in. With most of my classmates headed to medical school in Singapore, I was initially worried that I was going on a path too different when we were finalising our choices. The greatest reassurance was knowing that I stuck with my own goals and passions, and that has given me an amazing outcome. It’s okay to choose a less conventional path, because the road less taken can show you many new sights, give you unique experiences, and eventually lead you to where you need to be!