Arts and Science at University of Toronto (St. George)
Elizabeth (Year 2)
What made you choose this institution over all others? Did the university exceed your expectations?
One unique thing that a variety of UofT programs offer revolves around an interdisciplinary course load. That means that you often have a lot of flexibility when it comes to picking courses (especially in your first year which is treated as a general period - think of it like doing high school all over again for you to get prerequisites to then apply into your program). This general first year period also gives you a lot of time to think about whether you actually want to go into the same program that you may have dreamed of getting into all of your high school life. In that way, the university did exceed my expectations because with the help of academic advisors, I was able to choose what I had originally thought were all random and unrelated courses, and then determine where my strengths and weaknesses lay so I could apply to all the right programs at the end of first year.
Do you have any lingering thoughts or regrets in your year as a whole (ex; application process, mistakes going into first year). If so, describe them.
I wish I would've utilized the writing centers more often in my first semester at UofT. If you attend frosh or a first-year seminar you'll probably hear the profs and leaders constantly telling you to book an appointment at your college and trust me, you will roll your eyes at the number of times you'll hear it. Appointments are booked online and need to be booked weeks in advance because everyone does the same thing and tries to find a last-minute appointment on that really important assignment. Even if you don't like the experience of one-on-one conversation, I'd recommend trying it at least once - writing centres are helpful in transitioning you from the classic 3 paragraph style essays that we were taught to write in high school with no personal pronouns.
Briefly describe the academic rigour of your program (in terms of competitiveness, courses, professors, etc.)
Course grading and the way professors teach is really dependent on three factors for me:
Your prof is passionate about what they teach (if their lecture sounds more than just a script or a dialogue from a textbook they've written then you'll know what I'm talking about)
Their lecture style is interactive, (this doesn't mean that they'll call on you during the lecture, but maybe they include discussions either online or in class for you to participate in - this was especially evident in SOC100 and SOC150 for me and I recommend taking them.
They take the time to provide resources for extra help, give contact information so you may ask questions, or have excellent TA's who are willing to schedule an office hour appointment to discuss issues in your work.
Of course, this doesn't determine that the course will be graded fairly easily. I cannot stress this enough but if you were a 90%+ average student in high school, chances are that your first semester of Uoft will leave you with grades anywhere between 65-80. University is hard, and it's challenging if you don't utilize the tools provided, or ask for help. A lot of times, it requires you yourself to take the bigger step and actually email the prof or the TA for clarification on lecture/reading content or for help on assignments.
Describe the social life at your campus based on your own experiences (making friends, clubs + extracurriculars, party culture etc.)
In all honesty, I was a very shy person, but I pushed myself to talk to people that I randomly sat next to during frosh or in the first week of school. I would recommend going to frosh even if you're not outgoing like me (because you are more than welcome to opt out of events or ditch if you're really not feeling it) but I would mostly recommend it so that it's easy to navigate yourself around campus. St.George is a massive campus and it can get confusing at times, but frosh events were spread out across different buildings that by the time first week started, I already knew which subway stop to get off of so that I could make it to class on time. It will only be hard for you to make friends, find clubs and participate in activities if you don't put yourself out there. Though I made tons of friends during frosh week, I really made my closest friends in my tutorial groups by just striking up a conversation outside of class and asking if I could sit with them during the tutorial. Another thing I would recommend is joining a FLC (First year learning community). I not only met people who were in a majority of the same classes as I, but I also got to receive help for navigating different educational tools to succeed in university.
What are some of the best and worst parts of your university experience so far?
Some of the best parts was making friends in larger classes and joining facebook group chats - most times they consist of jokes about the prof, lecture content and readings, but once in a while you can also hear a wide variety of views on a certain topic or issue that you may not have understood in class. The worst part of my experience so far was not getting into my dream program. I can't apply again this year (typically there are two rounds of applications for programs but this program I wanted to get into had limited enrolment and only accepts at the first application period). Despite this, I immediately contacted my academic advisor to see what I could do and she reminded me that not getting into your dream program isn't the end of the world. There are tons of similar courses and programs that I can take and I can still reapply next year by improving my marks, qualifications and application materials.
List three effective study techniques and/or habits:
Download the Canvas app to help you log into your student account and keep track of what courses you have, all the homework you have yet to complete, and get access to your readings and syllabus online
Keep a calendar of everything you have to do - rank it either by most important - least or whichever you need to get completed first.
Don't just read or skim your readings, make notes and reference page #'s - it will be so useful for essay writing or exam/test/quiz prep
List three pieces of advice for first-year students:
Make friends with upper year students and don't be afraid to ask them for advice or help
Either join a FLC or a seminar (they provide in-class access to resources like field trips to useful centres like the computer lab for example).
Go to your college website and look at what they offer on their site (My college - New College offered a one hour program one day last summer on how to read course codes and know what to apply for if you want to get into your program in second year)
Don't be stressed if you think this is overwhelming you right now. I'm still learning about the university experience and everything it offers. Take the time to split up your tasks. Start with where you see yourself at the end of your first year and work around those goals each day. If you have any questions or just want to reach out because you need someone to talk to, you can contact me on my email and I'm more than happy with connecting on social media or over text if you feel more comfortable with that.