Neuroscience Co-op at University of Toronto (Scarborough)
Stefania (Post-Graduate Studies)
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 graduated recently - in June 2020 from UTSC in the Neuroscience Specialist program. For all incoming students interested in the Neuroscience program, this is a list of courses that you are required to take from first until fourth year - Web link: https://utsc.calendar.utoronto.ca/specialist-program-neuroscience-science. As you can see, there are a variety of courses you can take depending on your personal interests! Personally, I chose to go to UTSC because I was drawn to the small campus and the co-op program (which is only offered at UofT's Scarborough campus). I also liked how we could take courses at different campuses - I took a couple classes at St. George, which was a nice change.
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.
As mentioned previously, I was enrolled in the UTSC Neuroscience Specialist Co-op Program. So I am going to focus on my co-op experience as this was the primary reason why I chose to attend UTSC. In first & second year you are enrolled in co-op courses where you are taught how to prepare a proper resume, cover letter & you also get interview prep. My work term was scheduled for the summer going into 3rd year and it was very difficult to secure a job because there was a lot of competition for summer positions - not only from other co-op students at UTSC, but also from Waterloo co-op students and regular students who are simply looking for a summer job. Only a few students in my co-op class secured a job for the summer by using the UTSC co-op website. I was able to find a co-op placement, but I found the job on my own & not through the school's co-op website. Therefore, I paid an extra co-op fee of 450$ each semester just to find my own job. For this reason, I found that the co-op program was very expensive for the value received. It is a great resource for resume & interview prep but weak in execution especially in landing summer positions. As well, just a heads up - if you decide to join the Co-op program, you will miss one semester of school (possibly more - depending on how long your placement is) and will either have to catch up by doing a summer semester or stay for 5 years of undergrad. I did my co-op placement in a research lab at Sunnybrook Hospital and loved it!! But again, you can definitely find a research position on your own without going through the co-op program & having to pay the extra co-op fees!
What was your favourite university experience?
Frosh/orientation week - Orientation week is such a great way to meet friends, tour the campus, ask questions, and become integrated into the UTSC community. After attending orientation, I was inspired to become a Frosh leader myself. In the summer of 2017 & 2018, I was selected as an Orientation leader and facilitated an inclusive & welcoming environment for all incoming students ... I still keep in touch with my "froshies" & we love to reminisce about the fun times we shared together!
Meeting new people - I met so many amazing people at UTSC and I am honoured to call them my friends! Whether it's a school club, in lecture, laboratories, library study rooms - introduce yourself & put yourself out there! While this may be out of some people's comfort zone, challenge yourself as every opportunity is a chance to grow into the best version of yourself.
What was your least favourite university experience?
Hard to find study space - especially around prime hours (12pm - 3pm)...the con of attending a small campus!
Food options on campus can be improved (recommend bringing your own lunch & water bottle - the school does not sell water!)
It is a commuter school (most of the students commute and do not live on residence) but I wish the campus was on a subway line as it would make getting to campus more efficient and save time.
What is the hardest part about your program and what were the steps that you took to overcome any difficulties?
My best advice is to maintain a good work ethic, review notes daily, go through concepts with friends & do not feel shy to attend professor's office hours!
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?
In terms of electives, I took a variety...I took a couple music classes (my piano background really helped for these), english, ethics and french. You will definitely have room for electives because you are required to take a couple humanities/language/arts/history credits in order to graduate. One of my favourite electives was my music course (VPMA95). It was a creative space where students could share their musical passion and talents. I liked how the course wasn't a typical "lecture" where you sit and listen to the professor but rather it was very interactive and engaging. I also learned how to play the ukulele in this class which was so rewarding! My second favourite elective was english (ENGA11). I took this class with my sister so I liked how we could study, go through concepts and review the material together. We also channeled our competitive spirit to see who ended the course with a higher mark ... definitely a highlight of my undergraduate experience ;)