your student life specialists

Sep 01

humanities vs. social sciences: THE SHOWDOWN

Two questions: 1) which area has the most admissions on the st george campus 2) which is easier humanities or social sciences?


hey there,

are you asking which stream is the least competitive? because uoft is silent as a dead cat about admission stats for undergrad arts & science students.

however, if you want to see how you may measure up to your peers, you can take a look at the anticipated grade ranges for fall 2014 in both the humanities and social sciences for incoming students. just remember that those numbers may change from now to whenever you’re planning on applying to uoft.

as you’ll see, the anticipated grade ranges for the humanities and social sciences are the same. this leads me on nicely to your next question:

the humanities and social sciences are, for all intents and purposes, the same. yes, they’re formally distinct in uoft’s vernacular, but once you get into first year, there’s not much of a difference between humanities and social sciences students.

if you look at the course calendar, you’ll see that the courses are not divided by stream – they’re listed by department. occasionally, maybe there’ll be a priority for social science or humanities students for a certain course, but practically speaking, a humanities student and a social sciences student could have the exact same schedule in first year.

the real difference is in the faculty name: arts and science. if you’re a science student or a computer/mathematical/physical science student, you will have very different courses from most humanities/social science students.

if you’re trying decide what you want your program to be and trying to figure out levels of difficulty, the thing you want to be looking at is our subject POSTs. they vary widely in competition, popularity, and how many people they admit. you’ll be required to pick one or more subject POSts by the end of your first year, so it’s worth it to peruse them now!



Sep 01

too many stats to keep track of

hey! i was just wondering if you know if it is acceptable to take STA215 (applied statistics) as the requirement for the a psych major, because on the degree explorer on ROSI it says that I can either only take STA220/ STA218 or STA219, however in the details of STA215 it says that the course qualifies for the program. So i am a confused on what I should take. Any thoughts?


hey there,

this is an student-sponsored PSA: pleaaaaase tell me what campus you’re on in your questions, y’all.

you’re right, this is confusing. the listing for the psych major says the only stats courses you can take for that requirement are STA218H5 or 220H5. however, PSY215H1 lists 218H1 and 220H5 as exclusions, which might lead you to believe they’re equivalent.

in this case, I’m inclined to say that you can’t take STA215 for the major (especially if degree explorer agrees with me). the course seems to be one in a list of intro. to stats courses which focus on a different field or difficulty level.

just from the description, STA220 looks more involved than 215, while STA218 is obviously geared towards management students. each course is slightly different. while they may be exclusions of 215, they might cover things that 215 does not, and that could be why psych doesn’t include it in its list of acceptable stats courses.

i mean, this is just my guess. i highly recommend you call the psych department to double-check, but generally, i would stick to what the academic calendar’s listing for the major says to be safe.



Sep 01

how hard is hard

How hard is u of t humanities to get into? Average of 84.


hey there,

it’s hard as a rock grinding against a religious fanatic. it’s hard as a final exam on three hours of sleep. it’s hard as a watermelon a week before it ripens. it’s hard as carbon nanotubes. it’s hard as your mother’s rules about watching tv when she’s tired. it’s hard as holding hands with an elementary school crush. it’s hard as long division after a decade of having a calculator on your phone.

just read this document and make a judgement call yourself, dude.



Aug 29

it’s ok to be scared but maybe try to not be so scared: a motivational speech

this one goes out to all my first years out there who are quaking in their boots at the thought of starting school. listen up, ’cause aska’s about to explain why a bit of quaking is okay.

if you’re coming into first year, you’re allowed (even expected) to be afraid. in case you haven’t noticed this yet, it’s normal to be apprehensive about new situations. if we didn’t, our species would’ve died out the first time someone tried to tackle a mountain lion and everyone just charged in after the dude instead of running in the other direction, and that would’ve been embarrassing and bloody for all of us.

if you’re afraid that university will be too difficult, or that everyone else will be smarter than you – that too, is normal, and a result of high school teachers’ unfortunate tendency to make their students behave by instilling in them a mortal fear of THE ALMIGHTY UNIVERSITY.

still, being afraid is sensible if you handle it the right way. the important thing is NEVER to let your fear get so big that it makes you stick your head in the sand. you may come to school in september and find that classes are harder than you thought, or you’re lonelier than you expected to be. life might throw you some curve balls.

but if/when a curve ball does happen, you SHOULD NOT BE AFRAID to seek out help. the problem will only get worse if it’s not dealt with, like a particularly unfortunate boil.

on the other hand, if you ask for help as soon as you notice there’s a problem, the boil will be gone before you can snapchat a picture of it to unwitting acquaintances.

you’ve got lots of time to drop courses you don’t like (september 21st/january 15th), ask questions about course material (go to your tutorial and prof’s office hours!), get help outside of class (at a math aid centre, writing centre, economics study centre, or with one of the many, many tutors employed by uoft’s academic departments), and speak with your registrar’s office about any questions you may have.

at every step of the way, there is someone available to answer your questions and provide support. even aska will answer your questions, as long as you let me poke fun at you a bit first.

enjoy your first week, everyone!


Aug 28

hey, we have some tips about frosh week!

hey there,

so, orientation week (also known as frosh week) is coming up soon. first-years across the country are about to participate in an outpouring of enthusiasm rarely seen in this city. they’re about to be water-ballooned, gently coerced into huge choreographed dances, and forcibly marched across campus while being made to repeat college/faculty cheers.

it’s gonna be awesome.

and while you bright-eyes first-years get into the spirit of things with rounds of canon-fire and (age appropriate) drinks, upper year students will stay at home for one last week, sleeping in and desperately trying to convince themselves that school isn’t just around the corner.

BUT before aska buggers off and joins the other upper years in this last week of mass denial, i thought i’d draw your attention to our very helpful frosh week tips post, and also to the entire category on this site that is dedicated to talking about orientation week.

give those a browse before you get here for the inaugural week, and remember to GET EXCITED!*



*insert cheesy fist pump and radiant smile of pure benevolence common to all orientation week leaders.

Aug 27

food $$$

hi aska!

so here’s the deal. i started at uoft in 2010 and lived in chestnut. then i took a few years off and i’m coming back in september! only now i’m a
commuter. and i want to use flex dollars for meals and stuff. but…
a) how do i add flex dollars?
b) can i use flex dollars at like new college dining hall etc? how much
does it cost (for a meal, i know it varies depending on time)

xoxo  -hungry commuter


hey there,

a) all i could find was this link, which i guess lets you register yourself and then reload your T-card with money whenever you like. pretty simple!

according to page 3 of this document, you can also add more flex dollars “from the located in the Dining Hall” “from 9am to 4:30pm.” now, i don’t know what FFCo. is (fabulous food corporation? food is fine co.?), but it’s in the new college dining hall, so it probably won’t be too hard to find. how many offices could they possibly have in there?

b) “Flexible Dollars can be used at any of the 30+ participating locations on campus!

what 30+ locations?? these ones. and yes, new college is one of them, to spare you the 10 seconds of reading. so go ahead, gobble up that new food (as in new college food; other colleges don’t serve old food…i hope).

if you don’t have a meal plan but you’re a registered student, i guess the prices listed at the top of page 4 for breakfast, lunch and dinner would apply to you.

bon appetite!


Aug 27

don’t do this: part 2

welcome to PART 2 of aska’s inspiring series on what not to do at university in order not to embarrassing yourself and convince everyone that you are a super cool being. you can find PART 1 of my astounding, essential tips here.


5. DO NOT throw away your prof’s/TA’s e-mail address when they give it to you on the first class.

you’re gonna regret that one day, and sooner than you may think.

6. DO NOT not get a metropass.

if you’re a commuter student, you will almost certainly need a metropass. figure out what your commute will be like BEFORE school starts, and make sure to buy a metropass if it works out to be cheaper for you than using tokens (if you;’ll be commuting every day, it usually does).

7. DO NOT join extra-curriculars just because you think you should.

after slogging through government-prescribed stupidities meant to make you more academically successful (*cough cough* Civics and Careers *cough cough*) for four years, you finally have the chance to completely tailor your life to your own interests.

take advantage of that by getting jobs, volunteering, joining clubs, and taking extra-curricular classes that you actually want to do. this is a huge university and an even bigger city, so you’re guaranteed to find something in it that you like.

8. classes start at 10 after the hour.

so if it says it starts at 9 on your timetable, it really starts at 9:10. 10 extra minutes of sleeping in! whoo!

9. DO NOT stress too much about all of this.

you only get one heart, you know. don’t destroy it with anxiety. and try to have a nice time every once in a while, will ya?

best of luck with everything!


Aug 26

the theory behind the system

I am very familiar with the fact that U of T requires students to  pursue (at the very least) a specialist, a double major or a major and double minor – I have spent many days pondering specialists, majors, minors and switching subject POSts. I am just now wondering why this is required. I have never heard of any other universities that require this. Is there any special reason for the requirement? Do they just like us to be well rounded? If you know the answer, please enlighten me.


hey there,

wellll my friend, uoft is a bit different from other canadian universities in that it takes its inspiration from many different university systems. for example:

most canadian universities follow the U.K.’s ‘course’ model. in this model, students enrol in a course (translated into our vernacular as ‘program’ for most canadian unis). the ‘course’ is very prescriptive, and dictates all or most of the classes you have to take.

uoft follows the american model, in which students can mix and match ‘majors,’ ‘minors,’ ‘specialists’ etc. the terminology can change slightly for uni to uni, but it’s pretty much the same deal everywhere. notice harvard has a ‘concentration’ (essentially a major or specialist), ‘electives’ (which allow for something like the completion of a minor) and ‘general education requirements’ (similar to our breadth requirements).

there are pros and cons to each model. the U.K. model allows for very focussed study, and provides structure that some people find to be a relief. some programs at uoft find this model preferable – for example, uoft law or rotman commerce.

the american model allows you to pursue multiple interests, even if they are very different. you can double major in math and philosophy, if you feel so inclined. a U.K. university course would make that very hard, unless you could find an interdisciplinary ‘course’ specifically called ‘math and philosophy.’

the american system is also very flexible. at uoft in particular, you have one whole year to figure out which program(s) you’d like to apply to, which is really helpful to lots of students who don’t have a CLUE what they might like to study.

it’s my opinion that this flexibility, as well as the breadth requirements, do create well-rounded students. however, some specialists are so intensive that the well-roundedness is lost, and some students pair together very similar subject POSts, resulting in essentially the same degree as someone who follows one specific ‘course’. i guess the the point is that the choice is theirs, and i think that’s important.

anyway, i’m not an educational theorist, so i don’t have any definitive answers. it’s interesting to think about, though.



P.S. i know that the U.K. and the States are not the countries that came up with these models – obviously both countries are based on cultures and traditions that go much further back and spread across the globe. also, not every university in the U.K. or the States are exactly like this, it’s just a general trend. i just used those two countries as examples because most of us are familiar with their universities more than we are with other countries’.

Aug 26

gasp, indeed

Hey Aska,
I just have a few first year questions that have crossed my mind since it’s almost time for school again. *gasp*
1. I’m taking a first year language course that requires me to attend an interview on September 2…which is also during frosh week.  The interview is used to basically confirm that my language skills aren’t higher than the course that I signed up for.  My super awkward questions is: Do I have to dress up for this interview like I would for a job interview? I’m not sure if this is a casual quick interview type of thing.  As it’s during frosh week though, I don’t want to ditch the frosh activities and show up in my frosh t-shirt.
2.  I’m looking to find a Work-Study job.  But I’m having difficulty finding jobs that are geared towards first year students because most of them list “knowledge of campus and clubs and blahblahblah”, which obviously I have no experience with yet. Can first year students apply to be Askastudent? Are there any other jobs for first years?
Inexperienced First Year


hey there,

some excellent questions! frosh is definitely all about the big t-shirts and cutoff shorts, so formal wear won’t be very practical. i’m guessing (though i could be wrong) that your interview is for EAS100, because it has a september 2nd interview date. if that’s the case, there’s nothing on their site that indicates business/formal wear is required.

i think these interviews are more to test competency than anything else. just to be safe, you may want to pack a button-down shirt in a duffel bag and take it with you on that day, but i doubt it’ll be necessary.

(also, you can miss some – or all – frosh events, if you need to. just FYI.)

as for work-study, there are a LOT of work-study positions. i would steer away from research-based positions, which tend to go to upper year or graduate students. on the other hand, positions that require multiple people (for example, if a whole team is being hired) often take first years who can then be mentored by upper year students on the team, and groomed to take over in the following years.

as for askastudent, it has typically attracted upper year students because it requires strong writing skills and a good knowledge of the school (experience with WordPress is an asset). however, it’s entirely possible that a first-year student could completely SLAY any upper year candidates in any or all of those areas.

askastudent may not be hiring any new people this year, but keep an eye out on the CLN! if a position becomes available, it will be there, along with all other work-study jobs on campus.

generally, apply wherever you can. if you have most of the skills listed on a posting, but not all of them, apply anyway. the worst they can do is not call you. trust me, if you apply to enough places, you’ll move on pretty easily.



Aug 26

don’t do this: part 1

in anticipation of the teeny-tiny elf people who are going to be starting out at uoft this coming september, i have compiled a very helpful list of tips about what NOT to do during first year. because aska’s ALL ABOUT THE NEGATIVE, apparently.

1. DO NOT come to class any later than fifteen minutes early (for the first week).

during the first week of classes, everyone goes insane. the new kids think they have to come super early to class to, like, greet their professor or some craziness, and the old kids are fuelled by the thought that, “this year, it’s gonna be DIFFERENT!!!! i’m gonna get my LIFE TOGETHER!”

obviously, the profs don’t care and the old kids revert to their old habits by week 3, BUT during that first week, everyone gets to class super early. so if you want to get a seat, you’d better get there early as well.

HOWEVER, if you get to class early and there is a class in there before yours, be nice and wait for the other class to file out before you go in. pushing and shoving pisses people off, and it’s pointless; you will find a seat.

2. DO NOT give yourself the first couple of weeks to “adjust.”

when classes start, they start right away. usually the first lecture of the year introduces some background info relevant to the course, or reviews grade 12 stuff (if applicable).

after that, they jump right into it, and the pace of the class will likely be faster than what you’re used to, so don’t give yourself any opportunity to fall behind. the first two weeks are not the time to slowly dip your toe in the water. make sure you’re on top of your workload right from the start, because it is very unpleasant trying to catch up at the end of term.

on the other hand, if you start off strong, keeping up with the pace will completely doable.

3. DO NOT get piss drunk as soon as your parents pull away from rez.

it’s not fun going to ER in a city you’re unfamiliar with, or with strangers. in fact, here’s an insiders’ tip: the strangers will resent you for it after.

4. DO NOT pronounce ROSI “rossy.”

you’re embarrassing yourself. (it’s “rosy,” like “rosy cheeks”.)

come back tomorrow to read the PART 2 of this inspiring series of tips.



Aug 25

book buying 101

i know it may seem like buying books is a simple enough business, but, as with everything in life, it’s much more complex than you initially assume it to be (see: anyone who’s ever tried to wire something up in their house ever).

so listen up, bub, ’cause i’m about to save you a lot of time.

1) should i even bother getting my books?

fair question. textbooks cost several hundred dollars a year, and if you can avoid buying some books at all, that’s awesome.

there are some classes for which you will never even open the textbook/readings, and some for which you’ll carry your book with you all year. for that reason, some students like to attend a couple of classes to see how essential the course materials are.

2) okay, fiiiiine…i’ll buy the books. some of them, at least. but where do i buy them?

most books can be found at the uoft bookstore. you can also use the uoft bookstore’s website to find out exactly which books you need for each of your courses. just click the ‘Find Textbooks’ tab on the homepage, and log in using your UTORID.

some profs will upload their book lists onto the bookstore site sooner than others, so if you’re trying to see what materials you need for a certain course, and you get this error message:

uoft bookstore error message

don’t worry. that just means the prof hasn’t uploaded the course list yet. some profs don’t publish the required course materials on the uoft bookstore site at all, and that’s fine, too. in that case, they’ll let you know what you need during the first class.

but wait, there’s more!

some course materials won’t be available at the uoft bookstore. you may also have to buy course materials from the bob miller book room, from alicos printing, or from other stores/copy centres around the city. and how do you know where in the seemingly endless number of holes-in-the-wall you need to get your incredibly specific edition of Spencer’s The Faerie Queen or Stewart’s Early Transcendentals?

well, it won’t be listed on the uoft bookstore website if it’s not available there, so just sit tight and wait for your prof to tell you where to find it.

you can also buy books through the discount textbooks store across from the main uoft bookstore. the uoft bookstore itself also occasionally offers used books, and has  textbook rental and textbook buy-back services.

3) wow, that all sounds horribly complicated. when should i go to all these places to avoid a crowd?

a few days before or after the first week of class, but never during. it’s positively apocalyptic.

and with that, i wish you good luck!



P.S. a tip: if you know you’re going to be buying a lot of books, a little wagon or trolley may be a good idea if you don’t have the luxury of a car to bring your books from the bookstore to your house/residence.

Aug 22

crash-course: living in residence

hey there,

after just finishing a three-part guide to incoming commuter students (parts 1, 2, 3), i thought i’d give some attention to those of you who will get to live on campus this year.

firstly, a quick rundown of the residences: st. george, UTM, UTSC.

between these three campuses, there is every kind of living arrangement you could possibly imagine: townhouses, apartment-style residences, single rooms, double rooms, suite-style…etc. however, here are some tips which make communal living a whole lot easier no matter where you’ll be this year.

1. your residence don will likely make you sign a suite/roommate agreement. try to follow that. otherwise, both your roommate(s) and don are totally entitled to speak with you about it and enforce the rules you agreed to. besides, it’s just easier for everyone involved if there are some rules everyone can be counted on following.

2. learn where and how to do your laundry, preferably before the first time you have to do your laundry. it’ll make things go a lot more smoothly.

here are some tips before you get there: most public washer/dryers require either change or, in some residences, a card loaded with money, to operate. dryer sheets are worth it. it’s rude not to clean the lint tray after you use it. finally, leach, laundry detergent, and fabric softener are all different things and cannot be indiscriminately interchanged.

3. school comes first, but investing a bit of time in participating in rez life pays off.

even if you don’t feel comfortable being part of a residence/house council or hosting events, hanging out in rez with your door open on a regular basis is a great way to become more comfortable with the other people in your residence. you might even have fun.

4. talk to your don about stuff that’s bugging you.

that’s what they’re there for. and if they can’t help you, they’ll set you up with people who can.

5. plan for the weather.

even if your building has AC/heating, a portable heater and fan is a great idea. they’re inexpensive, and if you prefer unnatural temperatures that your floor- or roommates aren’t down with, it’s a way to regulate the temperature in your room without affecting anyone else.

just make sure that your residence is cool with you bringing one first, because i don’t want to make life more difficult for residence staff. i’m sure they already have a hard enough time enforcing the no pets policy.

best of luck with your living arrangements, chums,


Aug 22

uoft’s Most Haunted

Hi Aska,

First of all, your website is AMAZING! I’ve learned a lot and I don’t feel as worried anymore about studying at St. George :)

I have a few questions for you though, that I couldn’t find on the site…

1) I’m going to be living in Annesley Hall, which is apparently near Queen’s Park. I read online/heard from friends that it’s really dangerous there. Is that true? Should I just stay away from the park? What are the places considered dangerous near and around the university?

2) What are the professors and classes like? I’m going to be an exchange student from a really small school, so we know all our professors and most
of our professors know us. It’s pretty easy to get good grades too, as long as you do your homework… I know UofT is a really competitive school, and
the classes are large, as well. Do the professors care at all about the students? Also, do people have laptops or do they write notes?

3) I know this is a stupid question, but is Annesley Hall really haunted? I’m honestly kinda worried because I’m going to be in a single room… lol

Thank you so much!
Worrywart ;)


hey there,

i’m so glad i’ve been able to make you feel less anxious! that’s askastudent’s highest ambition. though, don’t push it. you don’t want to be so relaxed you sleep right through your first class. that’s too much.

1) annesley Hall is just north of Queen’s Park, which, yes, can sometimes have not-so-friendly visitors at night. however, i wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s regularly or significantly unsafe.

if you take some safety precautions, you should be alright. if you can, travel with at least one other person at night. if you’re warned not to cross Queen’s Park one night, then don’t. and if you have a late class and have to walk alone, make sure you have your cell phone with campus police’s number on it. walksmart is also a great resource.

2) it depends on the program, but most first-year classes are really big. you probably won’t get to know any profs personally until third year, maybe second year. BUT most huge first-year courses have tutorials, and if you attend them (which you should), you’ll get to know your TA really well. you’ll be in a class of typically under 50 students, and your TA will make a special effort to make themselves available to you should you have questions.

also, many first years take at least one seminar course, and in some cases it’s even required. those classes are very small and typically include a lot group discussion. they’re a great way to interact directly with a prof.

3) well, when i Googled “annesley hall haunted” the only results i got were about this place in nottinghamshire (which is possibly the most English name i’ve ever heard). there aren’t even any mischievous redditors spreading information about annesley’s haunted reputation, which is a good sign.

honestly, if you’re worried about sleeping alone/away from home, residence is the best place to get acclimated. you’ll sleep on a floor full of your peers and a don qualified to deal with all sorts of emergencies. if you ask them to face-off with a poltergeist, they’ll do it.

or you can turn the tables and get the ghosts on your side. then you can become the MONARCH of an awesome UNDEAD ARMY. WHOO.



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