Health Science First Year- The Beginning

Brynn OngHealth Science First Year4 Comments

Why Otago University?

To be honest- I am not 100% sure at the start. I knew that there were 2 medical schools in New Zealand: Otago University and Auckland University. Both have excellent reputation for training quality doctors. Hence I asked myself “Which of the two would be easier to get into?” Below is a list of similarities and differences between the entry to the 2 medical schools.


  • Highly (in fact-extremely!) competitive first year course – medical students are selected based on their exam results, UMAT +/- interview
  • Need top grades (at least > A) and excellent UMAT score


  • Auckland University has an interview process (candidates are selected based on their exam results and UMAT)
  • Auckland University has 2 entry courses – Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Biomedical Sciences
  • Otago University only has 1 entry course – Health Sciences First Year

Note: post graduates have different route of entry and if I am not mistaken- they still have to do the first year course. But the cutoffs for entry to medical school are much lower.

Looking at the differences between the universities made my choice somewhat clear – I hate interviews. I would avoid interviews if possible because I know I will suck at them. Of course to some people- location, facilities, comfort of home etc. play a more important role in decision making. However, I told myself that if I was to spend 6 years of my life studying a course, I better do it right the first time. Doing post grad degree = more loans, more time spent. Hence, I chose Otago University based on the fact that they do not have an interview process. Wise decision? – Yes for me but probably no to some people.

What Next ?

Once the decision is made, then comes the tedious part – Applying for university entry (in my case Hell Health Science First Year), student loans, student allowances, getting a whole bunch of documents signed, hunting for accommodation and buying textbooks. The process is fairly standard for everyone and if done early, you will definitely sort it out easily. A few mistakes I made during this step were

  1. Accommodation: I tried applying halls of residence around January when the applications had already closed (my dumb mistake!). In the end I had to hunt for flats/ studio room. I was lucky enough to find a relatively cheap and close studio room but that meant I had to cook my own meals, pay extra bills and less first year studymates. Cooking your own meals can be a real pain especially if you suck at cooking and clueless when it comes to grocery shopping. Therefore, I would highly, highly recommend to apply for halls of residence ASAP. There are only limited spaces and will run out if you do not apply early. Saves time from cooking, surround yourself with enthusiastic first year friends and spam heating (yes crank that heater up!)
  2. Textbooks: If I could rewind back time, I personally would have not bought ANY textbooks for ANY subjects. The university courses recommend textbooks as part of effective learning but to me it was a waste of money.
    1. Most of the things that you NEED or EXPECTED to learn are already in the lecture slides and usually textbooks only supplement certain aspects of the lectures
    2. It costs >$500 to obtain all the textbooks
    3. I did not have the time to do the readings- time was scarce, I prioritised studying lecture slides. Eventually those thick heavy textbooks became my door stoppers.
    4. IF you are a textbook person, you can always borrow them from the library- they have lots and cost nothing to borrow
    5. There were however, some very useful study resources that I will elaborate on in the next post.


Flight tickets- checked, studio room- checked, textbooks-checked, university application- completed. At this stage I was feeling nervous but extremely excited as well! First few lectures were about orientations and introductions. I remember furiously writing notes along with other 1000+ naive students. Reflecting back, I probably should have sit back and listen attentively instead.

First few weeks was rough, messy and inefficient – everything from deciding on what to study, when to study, how to study, grocery shopping, cooking, finding lecture halls and even sleeping was a total mess. The most difficult part was deciding on WHAT and HOW to study. Everyone is different and I had real difficulties with deciding which part of lecture slides/ textbooks to study.

Should I take notes during lectures when the lecturers are talking at the speed of light?

Should I just sit back and listen?

Should I study my lab materials?

Should I make flash cards?



Trust me, the list goes on and on. If you started Hell Science First Year, be prepared to face uncertainties and difficulties. However, just remember – YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Even the best student struggle initially. That is why I hope this site can (at least partially) prepare and guide you through this challenging time.

In the next post, I will discuss each subjects and lectures in detail- from how I study for each subjects, how to prepare for exams, time management and many more.

If you have any questions or recommendations, leave a comment below! Tell me what do you want to see in the next post!

4 Comments on “Health Science First Year- The Beginning”

  1. Hey! I was just wondering what the best kinds of timetables are for health science. Should I refresh and wait for a timetable that starts but finishes later in the day or should I go with one that starts early but finishes early so I don’t waste time sleeping in? During your lectures how do you balance note-taking and listening? Also what was the general reputation of Te Rangi Hiroa among Health Science students? Thanks!

  2. Hey Kezia, personally I would wake up early and finish early. In saying that, the trend shifted to wake late and finish late as the semester goes by. Do what works for you- if you finish late then study late and sleep late. Make sure you have adequate 8hr sleep each day (very important!)
    For taking notes while listening- it comes with practice. You will get better at it eventually. For me, I am used to listening and handwrite my notes but others prefer typing or recording. Te rangi hiroa is a very new college. Looks flash from outside but I don’t know much about it!

    1. Hi Jessica, yup you can apply to multiple different program (medicine, dentistry, pharmacy and physio) after hsfy

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