Political Science and History at University of Toronto (St. George)
Karen (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 wish I did more research on courses for my programs. I did plan what to take and had a rough idea of my next four years but didn't take the extra consideration to seek reviews about the classes or the professors. Even taking a glance at platforms like Reddit could have provided some insight on things like the class average, course materials, and other expectations. Although it didn't hurt my first year, it would have helped me feel more prepared and eased some nerves.
Additionally, the downtown location was essential for me since I commute. Between classes, I could also explore downtown and seek other spaces to study in or to destress. In the future, I plan to take advantage of the location to seek internships and other relevant opportunities.
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.
When entering UofT, I was a general Arts and Science student. This allowed you to choose an array of courses within the first year before enrolment period. Unfortunately, I overwhelmed myself with various different courses and it was difficult to settle on my current majors. In the end, I wish I had a smaller list of programs to choose classes from to save unnecessary stress.
What was your favourite university experience?
I loved frosh week. It was informative but also fun, which eased my nerves before diving into lectures. I met a lot of great friends and was able to connect with likeminded people from around the world <3. But throughout the year, many of my favourite moments were thanks to my extracurriculars. It allowed me to develop my interpersonal skills and really encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone. I was also able to make amazing professional connections and develop close friendships too.
What was your least favourite university experience?
There were many ups and downs throughout my first year, but the toughest was near the end of the winter semester when lectures migrated online. I spent a lot of time on campus and, as a commuter, it was tough for me to suddenly adjust to studying at home. I was feeling overwhelmed with final assessments and my plans had essentially been derailed. I had to re-evaluate my upcoming years and seek alternatives.
What is the hardest part about your program and what were the steps that you took to overcome any difficulties?
The content in my programs was manageable and also something I enjoyed, but the hardest part was changing the way I approached essay writing (honestly, this applies to most of my assignments). I was stuck and unable to achieve the grades I used to back in high school. I knew I needed to re-evaluate my overall study habits and revamp my study schedule. This was concerning because my majors are very writing heavy.
To overcome this, I booked appointments with writing centres on campus and emailed my TA's for review. I was rigorous with editing and planning. I also sought out upper years and asked how they adjusted to academic writing.
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?
I enjoyed VIC181 with David Wright the most. I found his lectures engaging and very insightful, but this may be because it aligned directly with what I'm interested in! Most of the lecture consisted of him sharing his personal experience and inside knowledge of historical events. VIC181 reaffirmed my interest in global affairs and encouraged me to seek opportunities in similar fields.
Note: I was a part of the Vic One program for the Pearson stream, where lectures were focused on politics, history, and social sciences. One's programs are first-year foundations which help Arts and Science student's transition into university. Each college offers it.
Vic One is one of the programs that require a separate application. However, there are some One's programs where you don't need to!
My biggest advice for incoming students (and current!) is to get involved. Since UofT can have a rather competitive academic environment, I believe it's important to establish another community outside of your study groups. As a commuter, this was essential and was one of the biggest reasons I had an active social life while staying on top of my studies!