Life Science at University of Toronto (St. George)
Rayan (Year 2)
What did you wish you knew before going to your university? What made you choose this institution over all others? What are advantages and disadvantages of your institution or campus? List any advice for incoming first-year students about your university.
UofT is a commuter school. It's not really a closed knit community so don't expect everyone to stick around after class as a lot of people take 2 hours to get home. However, being downtown makes it really easy to secure volunteer and research assistant positions due to the many hospitals located 5 min away from campus. UofT is great if you really want to do research as there are many research courses and work study positions. Plus the massive campus makes it easy to find quiet study areas, cheap good food and clubs for whatever you're interested in. However, a disadvantage for some people might be that the class sizes in first year are really big (some lectures have 1000 students) so don't expect a lot of one on one time with profs even in office hours.
What did you wish you knew before choosing your specific program? What are the advantages and disadvantages of your program? List any advice for incoming first-year students about your program of study.
Choose your electives wisely. In order to get into a competitive life science major your first year biology, chemistry, calculus, and physics marks must be high so pick electives that aren't as time consuming and something you know you could easily do well in. For example, I did psychology and sociology in high school so those were the courses I took as my electives. Also try to attend program fairs as this is a great way to network and ask upper year students about their specific life science major. Additionally, a good thing about life sciences at UofT is many of the majors have overlap in terms of the courses you have to take. So don't be afraid of switching your major if you don't like it or aren't doing well in.
What was your favourite university experience?
The first week of the semester right after frosh. Sitting down and attending in your first lecture really settles in the fact that you are now a university student which is honestly exciting. Also during that time there were many events that made the downtown experience fun. It was really fun walking around campus that first and being filled with so much hope.
What was your least favourite university experience?
Finals week of my first semester. Like many it was my first time having to study for 5 exams while at the same time completing assignments. It's a super stressful time and you need elite time management skills to study effectively. Plus having exams back to back can really suck. Luckily before finals week, I stuck to a study schedule so I wasn't behind on material but even then it was a lot to study. Also, Libraries get filled up so I was stuck studying at home which I didn’t really prefer.
What is the hardest part about your program and what were the steps that you took to overcome any difficulties?
The hardest part of life sciences is the amount of material you are expected to know for the assessments. Not only is there memorization, but also a lot of application and problem solving. The best way to do well is to do past tests. After reviewing the content try to do previous year midterms and exams. This is a great way to see the types of questions your profs like to make and what material they emphasize. This technique isn't really mentioned by some profs or TAs but doing past tests of a course really helped me do well on midterms and finals.
If you were able to take electives, what was your favourite elective? If you were not able to take electives, what was your favourite course and why?
Animal physiology is a really good course. This is a second year course that provides a good foundation and is a good introduction into the field of physiology. Doing well in this course will set you up for success in third year physiology which is often referred to as a difficult course by many life science students. There are 11 two hour lectures, and two labs. The labs are really easy to do well and the TAs in this course are really helpful and explicitly say what they expect in lab reports. There are also mini quizzes which are mark boosters assuming you studied. The profs for this course are also good as they explain concepts simply and don't want you to memorize unnecessary info.