Mental Health Studies Co-op at University of Toronto (Scarborough)
Anonymous (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.
I did my research before applying to university and was mainly looking for an institution where I can gain experience before graduating. I chose UTSC because of its well-known co-op program, and quite honestly because UofT has a name. Also another big factor in choosing UTSC is that it's the closest to where I live! I've always wanted to go to University of Toronto because I know it is one of the best in Canada and in the world for research and opportunities during and after graduation. I wanted to do the co-op program to get a feel for what I can expect to be doing after I graduate with my degree, and UTSC had a Mental Health Studies co-op program. It's a great opportunity because you get jobs that are often not available to non-coop students and you're paid for your work (which is awesome) and you're doing tasks that an actual employee out of university would do. Of course, you can always find your own opportunities as a non-coop student which are similar to what a co-op student would get, but I like the guarantee that co-op gives because you know that when you graduate, you'd have at least 2 relevant work experiences in your field. You also have the potential to be hired after your work placement, and you are able to network with the company you are working for! I guess what I wish I did before going to UTSC was take the chance to network and speak with students in my program before I came to campus. I think they would have been able to help me with some questions I had about course selection and so on when I was navigating my first-year.
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.
Big advantage: If you're in great standing in the Mental Health Studies Specialist program, you can do a combined degree program! You can apply to the MSW program at the Factor Inwentash School Of Social Work at the University of Toronto in third year and if successful, get a conditional offer. With this program, you can do into whatever field you want! Social work is a very wide area, and you can even apply to medicine, law, whatever you like! Disadvantage: This isn't my program's fault but I wish I didn't buy physical textbooks in first year. E-books are much cheaper and I found that I didn't really need to use my physical textbook anyways. Make sure to ask an upper year before rushing to buy textbooks, saving money is important!
What was your favourite university experience?
My best experience is getting involved with campus clubs. It was a great way for me to meet like-minded students and a way for me to network with upper year students who were in the same or similar programs as me! I would leave class sometimes and attend a meeting right after and it was just refreshing to enter a room filled with positive people. Planning events and seeing them come to fruition was a surreal experience - like we did THAT? That's awesome! If you already know some people at campus, you can join with some friends for double the fun. And if not, that's okay too because you will definitely make some friends soon! Some groups you should definitely check out: Synapse, MoveUtsc, Student Ambassador program.
What was your least favourite university experience?
It was a little tough adjusting to online classes but after some time, I got the hang of it. I think I just needed to be a bit patient since professors are also trying to adjust and adapt their course content to better suit the needs to students. But set a schedule for yourself, stick to it, and you'll do great in the fall (and maybe winter if online schooling is still a thing)!
What is the hardest part about your program and what were the steps that you took to overcome any difficulties?
The hardest part was having to study for exams constantly. Many of my courses such as PSYB55 (Cognitive Psychology) and PSYB70 (Research Methods) had 2 midterms and 1 final, and in the case of PSYB70 6 assignments and a bunch of other participation components. Sometimes it was hard to juggle all the exams I was having to prepare for. In order to stay sane, I did my best to create a rough outline of my week and what I needed to do for each day. I gave myself some legroom in case something popped up or I wasn't in the best headspace to tackle that task. It is okay to not complete everything you had planned for the day, be kind to yourself! Realizing your limits is also important because forcing yourself to complete a task while you're dead tired won't be effective at all. It's best to give yourself mental breaks every now and then so you can balance your school work with your other personal activities.
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?
My favourite so far are the two introductory psychology courses, these were required for my program but nonetheless I loved them! PSYA01 and PSYA02 were amazing and the professors, Joordens and Danielson, took time to explain concepts in a way all students would understand. No previous psychology knowledge is required, and you don't need PSYA01 to take PSYA02! They are standalone courses. PSYA02 was slightly more interesting for me because we talked about concepts such as intelligence and mental disorders such as general anxiety disorder. Of course, we aren't trained to give diagnoses but its just something interesting to learn about! I think these courses really get people to empathize with others and to realize that these disorders are much more different than the media makes us think. Taking psychology courses give you a chance to think about your own biases and evaluate why they could be harmful towards others. They encourage you to be kind, caring, and to not make assumptions about people because you never know what they can be dealing with!