First Year’s Advice Through A Third Year’s Eyes

The beginning of my September this year has been markedly different than ones past. In first year, I was an anxiety-ridden frosh, trembling as enthused, well-meaning, bandana-wearing leaders thronged my car and carried my luggage to my residence room in Whitney Hall, and wondering without a clue what the upcoming year had in store. In second year, my parents dropped me off at my new apartment, with my father carrying up masses of my furniture in a Herculean feat and, again, I wondered, what this new step of living truly on my own would be like.

This year was different. This year, I crushed my roommate in a hug, brought just a few bags up the stairs, and then jumped happily on my bed, home again in my little apartment in the big city. This year, I ambled along St. George St., passing a confused, smiling mass of frosh with a smile to match. This year, I’m settled at the University of Toronto, no longer foreign to me, but familiar, warm, and my own. Continue reading “First Year’s Advice Through A Third Year’s Eyes”

3 Things a Keener Wish She Knew In First-Year

Before I begin my post, I would like to clarify two things:

First, I was identified by others as a keener. Prior to coming to Canada, I thought there were only nerds. Apparently there were also over-achievers who were “fondly” nicknamed “keeners” by the general populace. Thus I am one of those. Second, please do not judge the keener community. To me personally, I enjoy slaving and overstudying. So before you think about how “life-less” or “weird” I am, I’d like to say for myself that going to Gernstein and reading my textbook on a Tuesday afternoon is pleasant. So it’s like vacationing in the Maldives, only in Toronto (saving money and time).

Most comments on online forums and websites are about how hard U of T is. So to keeners, I’d just like to say, if you worked your butt off in high school, then UT is not that bad. In fact, for me, it was easier. I actually get 8 hours of sleep per night, as opposed to the six in high school.

#1 It’s not that hard

Trust me. Having to not take courses I disliked such as the sciences, everything in university is much easier. With a wide array of classes and a lot of time to study for it (which, as keeners, I’m sure you will), then getting a 3.7+ should not be a problem.

#2 Don’t trust the ASSU

That was my biggest regret. I wanted to have a relaxing course in my first semester, so I took a super duper easy seminar course. It was super duper easy, except there was one problem: the teacher curved all our grades down since it was THAT easy. Being a naive first-year, I did not know this could happen, so I was super sad when my grade was lower by two grades. It turned out to be my lowest grade and a source of some mourning.

For all the courses that people warned me about, I did swimmingly because I put a lot of effort into them. ASSU is good to gauge the difficulty of the course, but somehow, I managed liking the courses that people gave the lowest rankings to just because I was willing to put in the extra effort.

#3 Take more courses in your first year

There are so many second-year classes you could take that don’t have any prerequisites, so do it when you have time and when university hasn’t fatigued you. I only wish I explored more elective options, such as religion courses with really fun names (Death and the Afterlife? You got me!).

To the keeners out there reading this, you’ll enjoy UT. Even though Urban Dictionary and eons of people bash it, you will be able to manage both your grades and a social life. There are so many opportunities that are just waiting for you to explore, so be excited. If you worked hard in high school, continue. If you didn’t, start now. If you still don’t find the motivation…party hard.

How To Have A Fantastic First Year 101

Your first year at U of T has the potential to be the worst year of your life. You might start university and, after a month of classes, start spending all of your time feeling sorry for yourself because, if you had only gone to Carleton, you’d be getting grades that are 20% higher with half the effort.

That being said, your first year at U of T also has the potential to be the best year of your life.

I’ve complied a list of cool stories about my life things you should try to do during your first year to make it the best year ever.: Continue reading “How To Have A Fantastic First Year 101”

First Year (Arts & Science): Making the Right Choices

That special time of year is just around the corner and for first-year students (and all other students, for that matter), it’s a pretty important time that always requires some planning. Yep, it’s course selection time.

Starting off, first year courses are pretty important. They may not be the most interesting, but we all have face the unbearable one day and first year can be exactly that. For your first year, just have an idea as to what general field you want to get into. For example: Biology, Chemistry, Physics, English, and so on. You’ve got to have a general idea because that determines what kind of courses you have to take to start working towards your Subject POSt/degree. Having to switch part-way through would be frustrating since you’ve already put in so much effort working towards your first choice. So choose wisely in order to avoid such a tragedy. And I mean that. Seriously.

You’ve also got to look into whether a slightly ‘harder’ version of a course is recommended or needed. What I mean by this is that there can be multiple courses that count towards the same thing. However, certain majors require/recommend one over the other. Let’s take Physics, for example. If you’re taking Physics in first year, you essentially have 2 choices: PHY131/PHY132 and PHY151/PHY152. Both are a set of 2 half-year courses. From what I know (don’t quote me on this), Physics programs recommend PHY151/PHY152 while other Science programs (excluding Computer Science) allow you to pick between either. So if you’re keen and into Physics and want to do a Science program, you can go ahead and pick PHY151/PHY152. The only downside, if it even is a downside, is that not a lot of people in the same program take the ‘higher’ and ‘harder’ (note the quotes = not literally) courses. PHY151 and PHY152 are ‘harder’ and more in-depth than PHY131 and PHy132. So yeah. That’s pretty much the main thing you have to watch out for. Usually, though, the majority of people are indecisive when it comes to what they want to do, so it’s nothing to get too uptight about. Just keep some ideas in the back of your head.

Lastly, even though it’s a minor thing, is deciding whether you want to do a specialist, major, or a minor. Specialists are more in-depth versions of majors. And minors are… well, you get the point. Of course, there are pros and cons for each one. In my opinion, majors are more flexible and allow you to do more than one thing. So, if you want to focus on two things, a double major might be best for you. Specialists are for people who are seriously interested in only one subject matter and want to take a lot of courses centered around just that discipline.

Hopefully this helps you out if you needed help on this whole course selection thing. If it did, I’m glad I could help. Until next time!

Click here to see this year’s course calendar.

First Year: The Small Classes at U of T

You’ve just received your offer of admission from the University of Toronto. Congrats! While you may feel excited and hopeful now, there’s still time for you to encounter the dread and anxiety experienced by most students about to start university. You might even be missing high school already. Never fear! U of T knows just how to handle this – let me introduce to you… the seminar course.


I see you.

Continue reading “First Year: The Small Classes at U of T”

Once Upon a Midterm: Sage Advice from a First Year Student

Once upon a time, you decided you were going to go to U of T. Maybe your parents took you to an information evening, and you briefly heard the speaker mention how your 90 average was probably going to plummet, but you were distracted uploading a picture to Facebook of you in your new, complimentary U of T baseball cap. Maybe your guidance counsellor warned you that U of T was a really tough school, and you really considered what they said, and decided you could handle it. You’re a good student. Sure, your marks might drop a bit. But you’ll get back up there.

So, you went to U of T. It was great. The classes were really stimulating, you made lots of friends. Or maybe you hated all your classes and completely overhauled your schedule. Either way, some time in late October or early November, it was time for your first set of midterms.

You were going to be fine. You studied for hours in Robarts. You could practically give the lectures for this course.

Fast forward to today, two weeks later. The midterm marks are up on Blackboard and you’re making a safe bet on an 80. But guess what foreign number greets you when you turn on your screen: 60.

Huh. Never seen that grade before. It’s kind of nice. Very… round.

First year students (with the exception of geniuses, which there are many of at U of T), it is my distinct honour and pleasure to welcome you to the First Midterm Reality Check Club! Yes, it’s true, your 90s have literally FLIPPED OVER into a fabulous new number!

As you embark on the new and exciting numeric journey that is your first midterm grades, I would like to offer you a few reasons why you should NOT panic:

Continue reading “Once Upon a Midterm: Sage Advice from a First Year Student”

Try Not to Panic: Sage Advice from a First-Year Student


Upon my arrival to Toronto at the beginning of September, suffice to say, I was a wreck.  With classes looming on the near horizon, I was already pondering whether I should start my readings, what classes I should drop, and why I ever thought moving to Toronto was a good idea in the first place.  Further to my horror, my frosh leaders thronged my car and led me the basement of Whitney Hall, which strikingly resembles the set of a crime show murder scene.

Frosh Week passed in a blur of brightly-coloured t-shirts, face-paint, bandanas, gratuitous cheers, and new faces, many of which I would never recognize again.  For the first half of the week, I attempted to convince myself to cheer and attend all the activities on the schedule, intent that the first one I missed would be the best one, which bonded everyone unshakably and exclusively for the next four years.

This brings me to my first piece of sage wisdom: Everyone should give frosh week a chance.  If you are into cheering, spirit, jazz-hands, etc., this week may in fact be “the highlight of your U of T experience”, as your frosh leaders will tell you it will be.  For those of you like me, however, who tend towards a more composed temperament, I recommend giving Frosh Week a chance to entertain you; and if/when it doesn’t, don’t be afraid to do your own thing. People will still want to make friends after Frosh Week.  I can promise you that no activity will live up to the hype if none has by the middle of the week for you.  They will continue to all follow the same pattern of running around Toronto, cheering (despite that you are out of breath from running around Toronto), and being generally unsure of your objective. Continue reading “Try Not to Panic: Sage Advice from a First-Year Student”