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paperbag846

2nd Degree or Non-Degree (Understand this is a common question)

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Greetings,

 

I completed my undergrad at Queen's a direction-less soul. I was not committed to my work, and pulled off a rather mediocre 75.5 average (that would be *just* below 3.3). While not terrible, this GPA is functionally useless.

 

I have developed a strong interest in neuroscience over the intervening years, as well as the possibility of becoming a neurologist. While I enjoy theoretical neuroscience, my passions lie in the clinical applications of this pure work.

 

This semester, I returned to York to try out a half-semester of non-degree work. My average is currently 85+, so I know that with dedication I am capable of much higher grades. With a 3.3 behind me, would I be correct in suggesting that a year or two of a 3.8 GPA would bring me closer to my goals?

 

I am also unsure of the most efficient way to bump my GPA. Some medical schools will not allow me to erase my dark history, while others will look at my two previous years in isolation. I am unsure if those 2 previous years must be towards a degree, or if it is acceptable for them to be non-degree years.

 

I have read through the sticky, but it remains unclear to me exactly how to *maximize* my chances of acceptance. If all schools will look favorably at a second (non-completed) degree, but only some will look at non-degree work, I suspect this would be the best course of action.

 

Is there any advantage to me beginning a second undergraduate degree in Biology (my first was in Psychology), or would it be equally appropriate for me to pursue those biology credits as a non-degree student?

 

Thank you in advance,

 

Joseph

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In the beginning of starting a second degree, I think it would be most beneficial to start as a non-degree student, but some schools will only allow you to register if you are intending to complete another degree.

 

This is only becuase some schools will not allow you to apply without finishing your degree once you have declared it- off the top of my head it's NOSM and McGill? I thnk the second degree thread has more info on this.

 

Please look at the website for Western for advice on how to choose courses in your second degree. Course selection will be VERY important for you at this time, so choose wisely, and feel free to ask here if you need help in this respect.

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In the beginning of starting a second degree, I think it would be most beneficial to start as a non-degree student, but some schools will only allow you to register if you are intending to complete another degree.

 

This is only becuase some schools will not allow you to apply without finishing your degree once you have declared it- off the top of my head it's NOSM and McGill? I thnk the second degree thread has more info on this.

 

Please look at the website for Western for advice on how to choose courses in your second degree. Course selection will be VERY important for you at this time, so choose wisely, and feel free to ask here if you need help in this respect.

 

Thank you for your prompt reply.

 

Are you referring to the Western Med program or undergraduate program?

 

My local schools (McMaster, UofT, York) will allow me to register as a non-degree student. My only concern is if one will be looked at more favorably than the other during the application process.

 

I think that non-degree would be preferable so I don't have to take more "problematic" courses than necessary, and to leave me room to take courses related to neuroscience that would not necessarily fit well with some program's requirements.

 

Am I thinking the proper way? Would you think that my plan is realistic (i.e., 2 years of approximately 85 average, lab experience, volunteer --> high chance of acceptance).

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With "Western" I am referring to Western Med.

 

I think it is a realistic plan. Remember, GPA is king, so don't go piling really tough neuro courses on your plate without a little bit of balance. :)

 

Thank you for your prompt reply.

 

Are you referring to the Western Med program or undergraduate program?

 

My local schools (McMaster, UofT, York) will allow me to register as a non-degree student. My only concern is if one will be looked at more favorably than the other during the application process.

 

Aside from taking relevant courses, I think that non-degree would be preferable so I don't have to take more "problematic" courses than necessary, and to leave me room to take courses related to neuroscience that would not necessarily fit well with some program's requirements.

 

Am I thinking the proper way? Would you think that my plan is realistic (i.e., 2 years of approximately 85 average, lab experience, volunteer --> high chance of acceptance).

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Thank you for your prompt reply.

 

Are you referring to the Western Med program or undergraduate program?

 

My local schools (McMaster, UofT, York) will allow me to register as a non-degree student. My only concern is if one will be looked at more favorably than the other during the application process.

 

I think that non-degree would be preferable so I don't have to take more "problematic" courses than necessary, and to leave me room to take courses related to neuroscience that would not necessarily fit well with some program's requirements.

 

Am I thinking the proper way? Would you think that my plan is realistic (i.e., 2 years of approximately 85 average, lab experience, volunteer --> high chance of acceptance).

 

Hey there,

med schools don't care about the university you attend... if you get a solid gpa and score well on the mcat you'll be putting yourself in a good position.

 

best of luck!

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Hey there,

med schools don't care about the university you attend... if you get a solid gpa and score well on the mcat you'll be putting yourself in a good position.

 

best of luck!

 

Great.

 

So to clarify: with the exception of, I believe, one school, none of these programs will care if I am a non-degree or degree student during these two years?

 

Thanks!

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With "Western" I am referring to Western Med.

 

I think it is a realistic plan. Remember, GPA is king, so don't go piling really tough neuro courses on your plate without a little bit of balance. :)

 

Don't worry, I won't make that mistake. Thank you though.

 

Why would it be best for me to base me course selection off of Western?

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Best to base course selection off Western becuase they're the only one that has guidelines.

 

It's different, though, if you're starting a 2nd degree vs. doing a "5th yr"/"special year".

 

I'm sorry, i have to go but I think others can elighten you better than I can. :)

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Greetings,

 

I completed my undergrad at Queen's a direction-less soul. I was not committed to my work, and pulled off a rather mediocre 75.5 average (that would be *just* below 3.3). While not terrible, this GPA is functionally useless.

 

I have developed a strong interest in neuroscience over the intervening years, as well as the possibility of becoming a neurologist. While I enjoy theoretical neuroscience, my passions lie in the clinical applications of this pure work.

 

This semester, I returned to York to try out a half-semester of non-degree work. My average is currently 85+, so I know that with dedication I am capable of much higher grades. With a 3.3 behind me, would I be correct in suggesting that a year or two of a 3.8 GPA would bring me closer to my goals?

 

I am also unsure of the most efficient way to bump my GPA. Some medical schools will not allow me to erase my dark history, while others will look at my two previous years in isolation. I am unsure if those 2 previous years must be towards a degree, or if it is acceptable for them to be non-degree years.

 

I have read through the sticky, but it remains unclear to me exactly how to *maximize* my chances of acceptance. If all schools will look favorably at a second (non-completed) degree, but only some will look at non-degree work, I suspect this would be the best course of action.

 

Is there any advantage to me beginning a second undergraduate degree in Biology (my first was in Psychology), or would it be equally appropriate for me to pursue those biology credits as a non-degree student?

 

Thank you in advance,

 

Joseph

 

Hi Joseph,

 

Are you sure about your GPA? Did you actually calculate it out for each course? I am just curious because that GPA seems a little weird for the average - I would expect someone with a 75 average to have a GPA around 3.1 - 3.2, not 3.3.

 

The program and university you go to does not really matter. Choose a combination of the two that most interests you, you'll do better in it.

 

You should consider doing a full second degree. I think only one non-degree year counts at Western; Queen's and Ottawa may accept more than just one non-degree year, but you would lose out on opportunities at NOSM and McGill (which are ridiculously hard to get into) - but I would think at this point you will need to do at least 2 more years, maybe 3. Might as well get a second degree out of it. This keeps all schools onside.

 

To maximize your chances of getting in, you must maximize your GPA in your second degree. It should be as close to 4.0 as possible. Any year less than about 3.6 will drastically decrease the chance of getting in. Aim for at least 3.8 - if you can do 3.9 even better (this keeps McGill as a possibility and makes Ottawa possible).

 

A lot will depend on your MCAT. Make sure you study as hard as you can for it - if you hit cutoffs your chances will increase substantially.

 

Also make sure you are challenging yourself with extracurriculars. Develop your first degree into a theme - maybe start some sort of organization that fights academic apathy. Just a thought.

 

In any case, to get in remember that at a minimum, your second degree needs to be as competitive as current applicants are. You will need solid ECs, good MCATs, and a high GPA. That will get you some interviews at least.

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No, you are correct. It would be a GPA of just under 3.3, likely a 3.2.

 

The idea of a second undergrad is a little daunting for a few reasons. There is simply no assurance that I will be admitted to medical school after another 3 years of undergrad. Will that confer any advantage over non-degree years?

 

With all of these rejections coming back - 3.9 averages, 500+ ECs, 33 MCATS, I'm very concerned that no matter how competitive I make myself, that I will simply not get in with little options as far as back-up plans go.

 

Thank you for your advice, I really appreciate it.

 

With an 85 average from York, I sit at about 3.7. Is this going to make a likely candidate? I know so many people who had even better transcripts, who were unable to make it in.

 

Anyone interested in Neuroscience here? I am curious what you would suggest as "2nd choice" options in the field.

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No, you are correct. It would be a GPA of just under 3.3, likely a 3.2.

 

The idea of a second undergrad is a little daunting for a few reasons. There is simply no assurance that I will be admitted to medical school after another 3 years of undergrad. Will that confer any advantage over non-degree years?

 

With all of these rejections coming back - 3.9 averages, 500+ ECs, 33 MCATS, I'm very concerned that no matter how competitive I make myself, that I will simply not get in with little options as far as back-up plans go.

 

Thank you for your advice, I really appreciate it.

 

With an 85 average from York, I sit at about 3.7. Is this going to make a likely candidate? I know so many people who had even better transcripts, who were unable to make it in.

 

Anyone interested in Neuroscience here? I am curious what you would suggest as "2nd choice" options in the field.

 

If it's any consolation, I have interviews with a 2.1 cGPA from my first degree. But it's absolutely the truth - the application process is fickle. You can be a stellar applicant and not get offers. You can be a barely adequate applicant but get lucky with interviewers and get in.

 

The reasons for doing a second degree are many. First, some schools will not accept multiple nondegree years (i.e. Western), and other schools will only look at your second degree (and ignore your first degree) if you have two (i.e. McGill, NOSM). Second, you can do a second degree in a program that actually has a reasonable backup, such as nursing. Even if you don't get into medical school, you've built yourself a second career. Or if you love neuroscience, you can transition into graduate school in neurosci.

 

And as I mentioned earlier, a lot really is dependent on your MCAT. You can recover to the point where you could get in even with a bad MCAT score, but your chance would be much lower.

 

I'm also going to be honest here - and I hope you take this advice with a grain of salt because it could be completely wrong. It's just my perspective. When I read your description though I got the sense of a very common applicant - someone who lacks direction in a first undergrad and, potentially realizing they have no career after graduating, seizes the idea of medicine because it offers what many believe to be that guaranteed career choice.

 

Especially with potentially a 3.7 from York - this is a fine GPA, and if your entire first degree was a 3.7 I think you'd be in pretty good shape right now. But why would a medical school want you? Why would they reject one of those candidates you mentioned with higher stats for you? Your motivation to enter medicine isn't apparent from your post nor is the contribution you might make to the field. I don't say this to insult you - it may be that you have an amazing background but didn't or chose not to share it here. That's totally fine.

 

I would just think that, if you haven't considered it already, make sure to think about whether medicine is actually a career you want. If it is, how are you going to convince an admissions committee of that? How are you going to convince them to take you over an applicant who is younger and has higher stats? There are many ways to do this (excelling in another field such as graduate research, becoming successful in another career, overcoming hardship and finding success, demonstrating lots of creativity and initiative through strong and unique extracurriculars, etc.). All I'm saying is, if you're serious about medicine, I would start thinking about the answer to these questions now.

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Personally I would want to have something to show for 2 years of coursework by getting a second degree. Yes, there is more rigidity in course selection when you do a second degree vs. no degree, but for me I would feel better knowing I spent the last 6 years or so of my life completing two degrees rather than 6 years of my life on what technically has been a very long single degree.

 

More interesting points have been said already, I just thought I'd give my 2 cents.

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I've been reading these threads for a while now.

 

It seems to me that if you do a second degree, Western requires both of your "best years" to be in the same degree, thus, eliminating the first degree from consideration, plus if you are in the progress towards a degree you can apply with a single "best year".

 

Anyway,

 

I see everyone else mentioning their statistics, and questioning what other people think they should do, moving forward.

 

I have a first degree in Medical Science, that I started at 17 (fairly immature), which I graduated with perhaps a 2.6.

 

I am now doing a second degree in Political Science, which I love, and I am getting about a 3.86.

 

I haven't yet written the MCAT. I am mostly worried about the Physics section.

 

I haven't done much in the way of volunteering:

 

I worked at a summer camp with adults with developmental disabilities

 

I volunteered for 2 years during my first degree tutoring adults with developmental disabilities

 

I lifeguarded at a community pool in low income areas.

 

I was in the university marching band for a year

 

I worked full time as an environmental analyst intern, testing the chemical abnormalities in ground water for 8 months

 

I worked full time as a research assistant intern with pesticide resistance

 

I also worked part time in a lab doing diabetes research, where I was mostly lab monkey, and excel, chart making person.

 

I have interests in politics, and I intend to volunteer this summer at CUSO-VSO, while studying for the MCAT.

 

I very much care about my community, particularly people with special needs.

 

I fully accept that I am likely a dark horse candidate, but I enjoy reading some of the stories of people who may not have been great candidates early on, but have turned that around through several years of hard work and success.

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I would just think that, if you haven't considered it already, make sure to think about whether medicine is actually a career you want. If it is, how are you going to convince an admissions committee of that? How are you going to convince them to take you over an applicant who is younger and has higher stats? There are many ways to do this (excelling in another field such as graduate research, becoming successful in another career, overcoming hardship and finding success, demonstrating lots of creativity and initiative through strong and unique extracurriculars, etc.). All I'm saying is, if you're serious about medicine, I would start thinking about the answer to these questions now.

 

This is a fine question. Perhaps I should make my case here - I would like to hear your opinions.

 

I "stumbled" onto medicine, not because I wanted to be a doctor, but because I was interested in depression and therapy. I looked into Clinical Psyc (which has incredibly high admissions requirements as well), and subsequently social work.

 

I should state that my interest in depression led me to an interest in sleep-medicine and anti-depressant treatment. The relationship between sleep quality, and brain plasticity, also led me to develop an interest in stroke recovery and Alzheimer's disease.

 

The courses I took in social psyc were not satisfying. I realized that I am fascinated with the nervous system, and how its malfunction can lead to sickness (mental or physical). I am much more of a reductionist than psychology would allow me to be.

 

The only clinicians who specialize in the nervous system are neurologists and neurosurgeons.There is no alternate route. Research does not interest me as a career because I am not interested in research as an end. I want to work with people.

 

Any guidance is greatly appreciated. I have had a lot of trouble finding good advice (I've either heard good for you, or you're crazy... not exactly constructive thoughts).

 

Am I off base?

 

EDIT: My cGPA, non-weighted, is 3.1075. That mark is drastically effected by two 60's.

 

I have a number of 3.7s, a few 3.9's, and mostly 3.3s.

However this semester at York, every class I have achieved a high 80 or a full semester of 3.8's.

 

I really appreciate your help. I do not have many people to turn to, and many of you have so much knowledge to share with me. Unfortunately, I did not have my act together (and should not have entered University straight out of highschool). However, I am where I am, and I am curious if my strategy is reasonable, or a simple pipe dream.

 

Please help me. I am unable to sleep... the amount of *unknown* in all of this is very trying.

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This is a fine question. Perhaps I should make my case here - I would like to hear your opinions.

 

I "stumbled" onto medicine, not because I wanted to be a doctor, but because I was interested in depression and therapy. I looked into Clinical Psyc (which has incredibly high admissions requirements as well), and subsequently social work.

 

I should state that my interest in depression led me to an interest in sleep-medicine and anti-depressant treatment. The relationship between sleep quality, and brain plasticity, also led me to develop an interest in stroke recovery and Alzheimer's disease.

 

The courses I took in social psyc were not satisfying. I realized that I am fascinated with the nervous system, and how its malfunction can lead to sickness (mental or physical). I am much more of a reductionist than psychology would allow me to be.

 

The only clinicians who specialize in the nervous system are neurologists and neurosurgeons.There is no alternate route. Research does not interest me as a career because I am not interested in research as an end. I want to work with people.

 

Any guidance is greatly appreciated. I have had a lot of trouble finding good advice (I've either heard good for you, or you're crazy... not exactly constructive thoughts).

 

Am I off base?

 

EDIT: My cGPA, non-weighted, is 3.1075. That mark is drastically effected by two 60's.

 

I have a number of 3.7s, a few 3.9's, and mostly 3.3s.

However this semester at York, every class I have achieved a high 80 or a full semester of 3.8's.

 

I really appreciate your help. I do not have many people to turn to, and many of you have so much knowledge to share with me. Unfortunately, I did not have my act together (and should not have entered University straight out of highschool). However, I am where I am, and I am curious if my strategy is reasonable, or a simple pipe dream.

 

Please help me. I am unable to sleep... the amount of *unknown* in all of this is very trying.

 

Don't worry too much, paperbag. You're not out of it yet. You have a long and difficult road ahead of you but if you persevere I believe you would have a chance at medicine in Canada. Again, it's far from guaranteed. But it is possible.

 

With respect to your answer, you sound to me like someone who has just put their first step onto a path. You have some ideas but they're not fully fleshed out, nor are they supported by much experience. For instance, you say you're interested in a research-type questions, but not research because you want to work with people. Have you done much research? In neuroscience you work with people constantly (both participants and fellow researchers). You work with these people to answer the questions you say you are interested in above.

 

What I'm saying is, for your answer to have real weight, you will need to have more experience to draw on than a half semester of courses. You will want to do some research to (1) demonstrate your interest in what you say you're interested in, and (2) learn more about whether it fits your interests. I'm not sure how much clinical and shadowing experience you have either but it sounds like you could benefit from doing more of both as well.

 

This sort of process is important for most medical school applicants I think. The problem is that with your low GPA, you will need to do MORE than most medical school students. You will want to do research and clinical volunteering, but you should also figure out how to demonstrate your interest in other ways. Perhaps start an outreach program in the community that works to pair volunteers with people with neurological deficits. Something like this that demonstrates commitment, initiative, innovation and perseverance would be good.

 

And of course you'll need to do all of this while maintaining a high GPA. GPA is king, if your GPA in your second degree is not top-notch you may run into trouble. You will also want a very good MCAT score - it's not necessary, but your options are much more open with one.

 

Do take this all with a grain of salt. I could be wrong in either direction - perhaps you don't need to do all of this to get into medicine, perhaps you could do everything here and still not get in. It's a really individual process that includes a lot of subjectivity and competition. I just believe that generally, strong candidates combine academic success with achievement of their personal goals and realization of their interests.

 

Anyway, so to answer your question about whether you're pursuing a pipe dream, you're not. It is, however, going to be challenging.

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Thank you everyone for your thoughtful advice.

 

I have some questions about the possibility of going to the states.

 

Simply, I do understand it is less competitive (as long as you aren't shooting for the big 10).

 

If I was to do another few years as a non-degree, would it make any difference, as opposed to another undergrad, for the states?

 

I would prefer to do non-degree so I don't have to waste this upcoming year...

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AN update - and more advice needed.

 

In the process of finding research experience, I walked into a professors lab and introduced myself to him. Within 30 minutes, he offered that I do a masters program with him (neuroscience, fMRI studies of visual attention).

 

I see this going 2 ways - I know I will do well in my masters, but I'm also wondering if it will significantly improve my chances of entering medical school?

 

Also, what would the possibility be of me attending school offshore (carib, most likely) and then doing my residency in the states?

 

Thanks, everyone.

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AN update - and more advice needed.

 

In the process of finding research experience, I walked into a professors lab and introduced myself to him. Within 30 minutes, he offered that I do a masters program with him (neuroscience, fMRI studies of visual attention).

 

I see this going 2 ways - I know I will do well in my masters, but I'm also wondering if it will significantly improve my chances of entering medical school?

 

Also, what would the possibility be of me attending school offshore (carib, most likely) and then doing my residency in the states?

 

Thanks, everyone.

 

A masters won't significantly help in Canada. It can give you a very small advantage (but nothing major) at some schools, but can't compensate for shortcomings in other areas (ie. GPA, MCAT). U of T has a separate evaluation for those with a Masters or PhD, but I don't know a lot about their evaluation process. I'm pretty sure you still need to be competitive in other areas.

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A masters won't significantly help in Canada. It can give you a very small advantage (but nothing major) at some schools, but can't compensate for shortcomings in other areas (ie. GPA, MCAT). U of T has a separate evaluation for those with a Masters or PhD, but I don't know a lot about their evaluation process. I'm pretty sure you still need to be competitive in other areas.

 

Marathon is right. I think you should really focus on getting AS HIGH a GPA as you can...Masters doesn't help much in Canada, even if you're fairly productive with your research. I think here are the 3 major rules, once again reiterated from many of the posts.

 

1) GPA IS KING. There are cases for low GPAs...but these are usually offset by AMAZING ECs (think olympian) or MCAT scores. Otherwise, you NEED a high GPA...as high as you possibly can. Think higher than 3.7 cGPA wise, the higher, the better.

 

2) If you can't get that GPA, focus on school first. You can always focus on ECs after you graduate - this is the same for research, MCAT, etc. But GPA is pretty much irreversible.

 

3) Once you get the GPA, focus on other things to make you stand out from the rest Everyone does research; not everyone is an olympian or national champion. I think it's valuable to do what everyone does, and also do something that is special to yourself and noteworthy to others.

 

I hope this helps.

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Hi,

I'm in the same boat as Paperbag. I'm trying to get into Physical Therapy and currently doing pre-requisites.

I started reading threads on this site a month ago and has totally changed my confident level. The positive thing is, it brought me to reality and at least there is a direction, though it can be bleak sometimes.

My education history is very complex and low GPA. My degree is a BA from Australia. If i am not mistaken, my GPA after converting is 3.0. I had no direction, my parents just wanted me to have a degree.

I have 7 years history as a personal trainer and extremely passionate about my job.

I also got accepted to UBC as an unclassified student. But have not decided what course to take yet. It's been a long stressful journey from acknowledging the challenges, facing the challenges and now taking on the challenges.

I do look at BSc in Physio, Australia, UK, US and other countries occasionally and thinking if i should leave study aside and work to apply abroad. But the cost will be 3x of what i will need to pay in Canada.

So the thought of going back and forth is really affecting me sometimes.

Sorry Paperbag, not of much help, but i can update you if i succeed in any thing along the way.

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If the masters wont help me much - is there any way to complete another degree with the 1/2 year I just completed transfered into the program?

 

By non-degree, do you mean you have done a half semester without declaring a major? If Western requires that you complete a degree, just declare the most general degree available to you. Make sure whether they want an Honours degree.

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If the masters wont help me much - is there any way to complete another degree with the 1/2 year I just completed transfered into the program?

 

You're currently at York, right? They will consider courses taken at york as a non-degree student. That is, the courses you took for one semester can be applied towards a degree. Check this link, it says that at the very bottom:

 

http://futurestudents.yorku.ca/visiting%20

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