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Archive for the ‘first year’


f is for friends who do stuff together

Hi I’m starting at uoft soon and I’m an international student so I will literally not know anyone when I start! Any tips on how to make friends?



first of all, welcome to canada! i hope you love toronto as much as i do.

“how do i make friends” is a question we get a lot on askastudent, so if it feels like i’m repeating stuff i’ve said in the past, i apologize. since you’re asking this question, i assume you haven’t read those entries. no worries!

orientation week (or the less politically correct ‘frosh week’) is a place where you’ll be bombarded by hundreds of people from your college. even if some events seem lame, i highly recommend you attend orientation week. people will be talking about it for years and you’ll feel like you missed out on an important aspect of the university experience. this is your opportunity to take your pick. play the field, mingle, and be cool. if you aren’t cool, don’t be cool. just be yourself so the friends you make will know who you are as opposed to who you’re trying to be. after frosh week, if these friends stick, they’ll probably be the ones who will stick around for a while.

if they don’t, that’s okay, it just wasn’t meant to be. here comes option 2 if frosh friends are a no-go.

if you live in residence, attend res events. take advantage of floor bonding activities because they’re literally there for you to meet friends. bond with them.

if you aren’t living in residence, that’s okay too!

participate in an extra-curricular activity or two! u of t has clubs for everything you could possibly think of. join a choir, throw a frisbee around, or play chess! you’re bound to find a club that you’re interested in.

lastly, don’t be afraid to talk to people in class. it’s always good to have a friend in a class in case you decide to sleep in for one of your 9am classes. But you know, aside from using these people for notes, you can actually try be friends with them!

personally, i make friends with people when i find out we dislike the same things. ‘dislike’ is a strong word and emotion but i feel like it’s very easy to make friends if you complain about the same things. but that’s just me. maybe don’t do that. love one another and be kind, like ellen.

not to be a debbie downer, but remember that friends are easy to make but hard to keep. it’s going to take some effort to keep some of these friendships going, just like it’ll take time for you to get used to having long distance friendships with people back home. don’t forget to make an effort to reach out or see each other some time. let them know you care! soon enough, you’ll have a squad, if that’s your kind of thing.

peace and love,



lost in a STEM course maze


I am a first year student from the States and I recently signed up for my courses on timetable. I’ve taken 2 years of AP Physics (algebra-based) and one year of AP Calculus AB. I registered for PHY151 and MAT135/136 and failed to see that PHY151 has a co-requisite of either MAT137 or MAT157. I am worried that my calculus knowledge is not quite strong enough for MAT137. I did pretty well in high school calc but not well enough that I feel super confident. After looking at the course description for MAT137 I can’t tell if it is a good idea to take it in first year. I plan to enter some type of mathematical or physical sciences program which is why I chose PHY151 (plus two years of physics).

Is taking MAT 137 a bad idea? Should I switch to PHY131 and keep MAT135/136? If anyone knows of any major differences between the two math classes that would be greatly appreciated. I am taking CHM151 in addition to physics and math. I thought about dropping physics for first year and taking BIO120 instead (and keeping MAT135/136) because I have no clue what sciences I like best and I couldn’t bear taking all three plus math. I’m in need of advice about the two math courses and about which two of three (physics, chemistry, biology) is most important to take in first year.

Thanks so much


hey there,

if you’re thinking of entering a math/physical sciences program, then yes, it does make sense to take PHY151 and MAT137 or -57. it’s great that you’re being realistic about your abilities and trying to find the calc class that works for you, but you will need to take 137/157 if you’re planning on doing PHY151.

here’s what i would do: enrol in the PHY151 and MAT137. see how the math goes. if you took AP Calculus, you’re probably better prepared than you think. HOWEVER – and this is the important point – if you do find that it is too much for you, you can DROP DOWN to MAT135/136 by early October.

unfortunately, it’s not possible to start in MAT135/136 and upgrade, but at least you can downgrade if you find the 137 to be completely overwhelming.

if you do drop down, however, you will be in a sticky situation with respect to the physics class. since you have to be taking MAT137 or 157 to stay in PHY151, you will likely be removed from PHY151 unless you stay in MAT137. it’s possible to ask for an exception from the physics department, but it would certainly be an exception. it’s not something you can count on. what’s more likely is that you’ll have to make the hard decision of either abandoning physics or sticking it out in MAT137.

that’s all pretty far down the road at this point, though. it’s pointless to stress about it now. i’ve laid out one possible strategy, but you have to do what feels right to you. down the road, if it turns out that the decision you made isn’t working for you anymore, then just change it.

there is this rhetoric about university that makes it out to be this inflexible decision, a once-in-a-lifetime chance. it’s like the decisions you make on course enrolment day in first year will dictate the rest of your life. not so. in my first year, i knew by December of my first ever semester at university that i was in the wrong program. so i changed it. big whoop. four years later, i graduated from the right program and the right school. i’m glad i started out on the wrong path, because it helped illuminate the right one.

as for which sciences you should take: it really depends on what program you’re interested in. if you’re thinking about a more physics-based program, you probably won’t need to take any biology, and perhaps not even any chemistry, either. the astronomy & physics specialist, for example, only requires that you take physics and math in your first year. biological physics, understandably, requires phyiscs, bio, chemistry and math (though they don’t all have to be taken in your first year).

obviously, your ideas about which program(s) you’d like to enrol in may change after first year, but if you can decide which programs you think you might be interested in, then you can get an idea of the first year courses you might want to take.

good luck!




incoming first-years: it’s that time again! except for you guys, it’s “that time” for the first time, because you’ve never done it before. and no, i’m not talking about eating spaghetti meatballs with your sweetie. i’m talking about COURSE ENROLMENT.

you may have heard from older friends that course enrolment is this terrible, harrowing process, that uoft is out to get you and doesn’t want you to get into your courses, and that the system is set up for you to fail.

i’m not gonna argue with you if you want to make yourself out as a victim of The Man. but if you don’t get into any of your courses, it’s probably just because you’re a dingus who wasn’t prepared. that’s the hard truth.

FORTUNATELY FOR YOU, aska wants to help you leave the nest and become a fully-fledged, competent uoft student. so today, i am going to be resolving the most commonly asked first-year questions on course enrolment day – which, this year, is on the 28th of July, also known as TOMORROW.

1. i don’t understand what i’m supposed to take in first year – what are my mandatory courses?

there are no mandatory courses. at many other Ontario universities, the university will enrol you into your mandatory courses. you may be hearing about this from your friends at Western and Ryerson and Ottawa and feeling a twinge of panic, because you haven’t heard ANYTHING about mandatory courses, and as far as you know, you have to do all of your course enrolment yourself.

uoft isn’t a hand-holder. it’s more of a cold, distant parent that gives you abandonment issues. however, like the rich, neglected child who gets to have a lot of pool parties because their parents are always away, what may seem like a frustratingly hands-off approach will actually provide you with freedom and flexibility in the end.

unlike your friends at other schools, you have no mandatory courses, strictly speaking. as a first-year student in the Faculty of Arts & Science (excluding Rotman Commerce students), you have to figure out what courses you want to take in order to apply for programs in your second year. after first year, you’ll need to be in 1 specialist OR 2 majors OR 1 major and 2 minors, so you should enrol in the courses you’ll need to be eligible for whatever combination of programs you’re interested in.

some programs, like the international relations major, require that you take certain courses and achieve certain marks in those courses in order to be considered. other programs have no requirements at all, except for the completion of at least 4.0 credits – the mathematics major is an example of this.

so what you have to do is take a look at the calendar, figure out what program(s) you’re interested in, and see if there are courses you’ll need to take in order to be eligible to apply to those programs. once you do that, you will likely have some credits left over to take pretty much anything else you want. you may consider using them to fill breadth requirements, or simply to take courses for general interest.

2. why is my start time different from my friends’? We’re in the same year/program/board games club!

do not assume that you have the same start time as your friends. do the leg work and figure out your start time BEFORE the 28th. log in to ACORN and double-check. if you’ve never logged in to ACORN before, figure it out now. you will not be able to log in to ACORN on the day of, UNTIL your start time hits. that’s why it’s important to check NOW if you have not already.

you can do it. aska believes in you.

3. i can’t enrol myself into a course even though i meet the prerequisites!

if i were in charge of creating a transition pamphlet for first-year students, it would be a blank 8”x11” sheet of paper with two words on it: ENROLMENT CONTROLS.

if you can’t add a course to your cart on ACORN or enrol into it, and you can’t figure out why, it’s almost definitely because you don’t meet the enrolment control – i.e. the restriction or priority that allows only certain students to take the course.

for example: let’s say you’ve been admitted to Year 1 Life Sciences. you want to take MAT133Y1 because it looks more interesting than MAT135/136. but WAIT! ACORN is not letting you add the course to your enrolment cart! desperate and in despair, you go to the timetable and search ‘MAT133’ in the search bar.

you notice that there is a yellow bar that says ‘Enrolment Controls: Priority (P)’ under each lecture section for that course. you open the yellow bar to see that there is a priority for Year 1 Commerce and Year 1 Social Science students – which is not you. you’re Life Science. still following? good.

what does this priority mean? well, you’ll have to wait until August 5th at noon to enrol in a course if you don’t meet the priority. assuming there is still space, you can enrol in the course at that time. if there is an R for restricted (instead of a P for priority) and you’re not in the group of students listed, then you cannot enrol in the course at all. if there is an E, then you cannot enrol in the course directly, but must apply through the department that offers the course.

capice? good. i don’t want to hear about it any more.

4. i don’t meet the prerequisite for a course but i still managed to enrol in it! did i pull a fast one on ACORN?

no. ACORN can’t tell whether or not you have the prerequisites for a course; it’s not that smart. the main way that ACORN manages course enrolment is via enrolment controls (see above). however, that doesn’t mean that prerequisites are irrelevant. after course enrolment, departments will go through their courses and remove students – without warning or notice – from courses if they don’t meet the prerequisite(s).

you can check to see if a course has prerequisites on the course calendar.

5. why can’t i enrol in any more courses?!

you are only able to enrol in up to 5.0 credits (that includes waitlisted courses) until August 5th. on August 5th, the limit goes up to 6.0 credits. if you can’t enrol in a course that still has space, and you meet the enrolment control, it may be because you’ve hit your limit.

best of luck on the day of, kids. and remember: no matter how difficult you find course enrolment to be, it’s only gonna get harder from here on out.




killed, or worse, NOT ACCEPTED TO UOFT


Sorry to bother you, but I have few questions about the IB Diploma. I was accepted into University of Toronto Mississauga on December 11, 2015. I completed my IB tests around May and got the results earlier this month in July.
I was very sad to see that I had not been awarded the IB Diploma. I was only one point off.
I am in somewhat of a panic mode and very stressed about what will happen. The letter said that they reserved the right to pull my acceptance.
Does that mean they will definitely pull my acceptance? Or is there a little hope for me?
Is there anything I can do to decrease the chance of my acceptance being pulled at this point?

Thank You!


hey there,

it is possible that your offer could still be revoked if you didn’t meet the conditions of your acceptance. before you get into a full-on TIZZY however, please note that it is very rare for this to happen. a couple of percentage points is not the kind of thing uoft will send you packing for. if there was a severe drop in your marks between December and now, then that may be something to worry about, but usually the kind of kids uoft attract tend to…how shall i put this delicately…blow things out of proportion a little bit.

even after years of answering first year questions, i still don’t entirely understand how IB works, so i don’t really know what “not being awarded the IB Diploma” means. i would say that if that was a condition of your acceptance and you didn’t meet it, you should definitely speak with enrolment services about your concerns. if you were only one point off, however, that’s not usually something to get hugely worried about.

i know that was a lot of waffle with not a lot of certainty, but i wanted to give you a balanced answer. the best thing to do is really to talk to enrolment services, because they can look at the details of your record and give you a much more precise answer than i can.




Yet Another Anxious High School Kid TM

Hey Aska,

Firstly, thank you so much for this site! I’ve been checking it every few days since i found out about it, and thanks to you I’m slightly less likely to have a full on panic attack when i apply to uni.

I’m starting grade 12 in an Ontario high school in the fall, and i want to apply for social sciences at uoft, probably for either International Relations or Peace, Conflict and Justice. My grades aren’t /amazing/, but I’ll probably have an average in the mid to high eighties when I have to send them in, so…ok?

I do a lot of extracurricular stuff- I’m the president of a social-justice-y club, the editor of the school newspaper and I will have
been a “senior mentor” for two years, and I know I can get recommendation letters from each of these. (sorry if this sounds like the pretentious part of a resume, I can’t help it) Even if these positions would be irrelevant with regards to admissions, would they (or recommendation letters) help me with anything else, like getting into the college of my choice, school clubs or scholarships?

Also, do you think International Relations or Peace, Conflict and Justice would be more relevant to a career in human rights?

Thank you so much!


hey there,

i’m glad my sass and bad humour calm you down, kid. i mean, it’s kinda weird, but i’ll roll with it. what’s your deal? are you a sucker for pain? if so, uoft will be the perfect choice for you. it’s a match made in a 9am calculus class!

while i appreciate the vagueness of your question about admissions and the probably unintentional john green reference, i still can’t give you a straight answer. i’m not about to risk going against a decision made by admissions. all i can do is point you to this chart right here; feel free to compare and contrast, and draw your own conclusions.

as for your extracurricular experience, you’re exactly right. it will all mean diddly-squat in terms of admission to the university, but it will come in handy for scholarship applications, the experience may be valuable when it comes to joining clubs in university, and it can – potentially – be useful for college applications.

not all colleges in the faculty of arts & science require supplemental applications. in fact, most don’t. the only colleges that actually require an application are victoria college and trinity college, because they’re kooky like that. if you’re interested in either of those colleges however, their student profile application forms will be your chance to shine.

finally, your program question: IR and PCJ are two peas in a pod. you can’t go wrong with either of them. i wouldn’t worry so much about which one will be more relevant (especially since ‘human rights’ isn’t that specific a goal in itself). a better way to narrow them down is to look at the practical implications of each choice.

for example, you’ll need to determine is whether you’re after the specialists or majors in IR/PCJ. the difference between a specialist and a major is that a specialist asks that you complete more credits (13.0 for IR and 12.0 for PCJ), and therefore, one specialist is enough for you to obtain your degree. majors require fewer credits (both IR and PCJ require 7.5 FCEs for their majors), and therefore if you’re in an IR or PCJ major, you’ll have to supplement it with either one other major, or two other minors.

content-wise, all four options (the IR specialist, PCJ specialist, IR major, and PCJ major) are pretty similar, but there are subtle differences in terms of which courses you would need to take for each. study each program on the course calendar to get a feel for which would be the best fit for you.

if you really can’t decide, consider a double major in PCJ and IR. they complement each other wonderfully.

my final piece of advice is this: keep your options open. all of these programs are type 3 programs, which means that even if you meet all the prerequisites in first year, you still may not get into the program, since there are limited spots for enrolment. what i’m saying is: backups are non-optional, and be ready for plan B to become plan A.

but don’t worry about ANY OF THAT right now, because you still have a year left of high school and subject POSt enrolment is at least two years away. a lot can happen in two years, so take it easy. enjoy your summer break. play pokemon go. try to be a kid again.

you can start by closing this tab and looking at prom outfits in the next one.



P.S. thanks for providing the perfect title for this post in your e-mail subject line. i love the self-deprecation. keep it up and you might even be as great as aska, one day.


afraid of breadth categories 4 and 5? say no more!

Hi Aska!

I am trying to pick out my first year courses and am in need of a bit of assistance.

I noticed that the courses you can take have breadth requirements attached to them. Let’s say you are taking a course which covers a Creative and Cultural Representations Breadth Requirement but you are also taking this course as a requirement for your program. Does this course still cover the Breadth Requirement even though it’s going towards your program?

Also, I was accepted to U of T in the Humanities and let’s just say, I’m not that “gifted” in the science and math category. Can you recommend any First Year Seminars or even courses for individuals who aren’t that strong in the sciences and mathematics?

Thanks so much! 🙂


hey there,

oooh, a first year! do you feel excited? do you feel like you have all the potential in the world? does your heart flutter as you page through the course calendar? good. be excited. it’s an exciting time.

chandler no idea excited

a typical first year around course enrolment time

yep, courses can count towards breadth and program requirements simultaneously.

if you’re worried about filling your category 4 and 5 breadth requirements, then i would say: don’t be afraid! there are many, many more courses available at the university than there are at the high school level. you may stumble upon some science/math courses that you’ve never even heard of, but that might just be right up your alley, “gifted” or not.

also keep in mind that you don’t need to fulfil all (or even most) of your breadth requirements in first year. if you’re feeling uncomfortable with taking a category 4 or 5 breadth course going into your first year, that’s a-okay. you have three more years in which to fill them. first year is a transitional period, and it’s not a crime to try and make that transition easier.

since you did ask, however, here is my PERSONAL list of interesting-looking breadth 4/5 courses, divided into 1st year/upper year and by breadth category:


1st Year Courses

Upper Year Courses


1st Year Courses

Upper Year Courses

i hope that’s helpful! best of luck with course enrolment on the 28th. may the odds be ever in your favour.



the CLN scares you? wait ’til you get on campus

hiya,love this blog i got a couple questionsfyi-> incoming full time- first year- engineering- unsettled 1) what counts as honors standing in the engineering faculty for undergrads? they said someone is accepted to transfer to any engineering program even engsci after first year if they finish both first year semesters with honors but it doesn’t say  what gpa that would be or what else is considered…2)…should i be studying during summer as in is it expected or recommended by whoevers recommendations i’m supposed to listen to? 3) when i check my osap application status for full time studies it says i still need to provide documents for both the parent declaration and the student declaration. i printed them myself and uploaded them and i thought that was good enough because its says upload them or submit to your financial aid office. in one column beside the name of the documents  it says received on one side yet there’s a big red X on the other side. for the MSFAA that i mailed in its a green check and it says done instead of recieved. i uploaded them june 1st am i risking getting funding in time by not handing my declarations in to financial aid on top of uploading?! 4)what happens if a dont have enough money, i read a post about UTAPS helping but i missed that feb deadline by a mile 5)work-study only lets you work 12 hours, can i have 2 work-study jobs? or should i just get a part time job without restrictions is is even possible for first years to get work-study in labs or libraries, CLN scares me 6) i will be commuting 4 hours total, i wanted to save the rent money (rent debt tbh since osap would bankroll me) is this doable do commuters grades suffer? like is it too much to sleep in a library then boot and rally to shower at a gym and keep things in a rented locker for lectures sometimes


hey there,

1) i don’t know what you mean by honours standing. as far as i can see, the minimum university GPA to be considered as a transfer applicant to engineering would be a B (which at 5 uoft would be a 3.0). so i guess that’s the answer!

2) i mean, if you feel really insecure about a certain subject or something, it could certainly never hurt to study extra (not to mention how admirable it would be). if you want my personal thoughts, though? i would spend the summer before university travelling if you can, spending time with family, relaxing, and maybe earning a bit of money to help put you through university. you have four years of studying ahead of you. may as well enjoy the time off while you can.

3) that all sounds fine to me? and if you submitted by june 1st you should be assessed in time. however, if anything looks weird or out of place to you, the place to call would be enrolment services. maybe you have to submit the signature forms to enrolment services as well as uploading them, or something. also, some portions of the application are completed by the school, rather than by you, so perhaps those things are showing as unfinished and it’s throwing you off. regardless, enrolment services will be able to walk you through it and sort things out.

4) if you’re an Ontario student getting OSAP, you will be automatically assessed for UTAPS. the February deadline is only for out-of-province students.

5) you can only work one work-study job at a time, and to be honest, that’s probably a good thing. 24 hours a week is bordering on excessive for a full-time student, ESPECIALLY a first-year student. that’s just my two cents, though. if you’re determined to work two jobs or need to for financial reasons, you can. you can get a work-study and a non-work-study job, or even get your second job off-campus.

as for how difficult it is to get a job: i’m not gonna lie, lots of lab/research opportunities go to upper-year students with more specialized knowledge. on the flip-side, there are a TON of work-study jobs that go up for September. whatever it is that scares you about the CLN, you gotta get over it, because it’s a treasure trove of opportunity.* try and think of the job listings as a fun adventure (and i know this is hard when you’re strapped for cash, but it is the only way to get through the horror of a job search in my experience; otherwise, you’ll checkout mentally and not be as alert in the hunt). there are lots of opportunities here, and maybe even a couple that are perfect for you.

6) commuting is rough. i commuted for my second year only, and my total commute was three hours long. it was not fun. i felt exhausted at the end of every day. however, having now finished my degree, i’ve looked back  and realized that my highest annual GPA happened in my second year, the only year i had that brutal commute.

how did this happen? well, it’s certainly not because the people snoring softly in the quiet zone of the GO train inspired me academically. it’s because commuting forces you to be really smart about how you spend your time. a large part of that is time management, i.e. studying in the library between classes, setting up a weekly study schedule that you make sure to stick to, etc., BUT it also forces you not to overburden yourself. when you live close to or on campus, you can sometimes convince yourself that you can do everything, because it’s all so close by!

by contrast, knowing that your commute takes up time/energy forces you to be realistic about how much you can do outside of school. in second year, my participation was meaningful, but modest. i was part of a few clubs, each of which only required a couple hours a week of my time, i had a work-study, and that was it. and i did really well in school! fancy that.

by sharing my experience, i don’t mean to imply that yours will be exactly the same. everyone has a different experience at university, especially one as big as uoft. i just want you to know: it’s possible. if you’re smart and organized about it, you can do it.

finally: you may want to check out these tags if you’re already thinking about sleeping in libraries; there’s a lot of info there about the best places to study, rent lockers, cry without being noticed (hopefully you won’t need that one), nap, etc.



*i know that this makes me sound like a greasy capitalist. i’m sorry. i feel slimy.


just go with it


i applied and somehow got into materials engineering for 2016, i was just wondering if its possible to take courses that are focused on other core 8 majors outside materals eng, kinda like a personalized general first year experience that focused on the materials eng (the program i’m in) or electrical eng (the program i’m sorta in to but not really sure about) without having to take a course more geared toward something like industrial that i’m not terribly interested in, uoft’s website doesn’t say much about priority or open slots or taking courses that are only for kids in core 8 programs you aren’t in or transfers other than…have good marks. the courses in first year are pretty similar across the board to deal with people like me but i want to take all the specialty courses you get to take when your in a core 8 programs for 2 possible majors, not the general ones that are less particular. is it even possible to just take any engineering first year course anywhere regardless of your designated program to explore another program more in way kids  actually majoring in that program get to?

thank you,



hello T-T

i have to admit, T-T was the face that i made when trying read and answer this question. the working title of this post was “k wut” for a while.

the calendar has a list of all the specific courses you have to take for materials eng and it looks like you have to stick with them. your only other options are the approved course substitutions listed under each course list. they have every course for every year written out for you and you’re kinda supposed to just go with it.

you're jenn aniston and u of t engineering is adam sandler.

we recommend that you take these courses for now and if you aren’t happy with them, you can consult your engineering registrar’s office or the undergrad student counsellor. honestly, the registrar’s office is super helpful with any kind of academic concern you have. i feel like every time i visit them, i feel a lot better about moving forward in my program. if you’re really confused or not happy with what you’re studying, you should definitely make an appointment to sit down with your registrar. good luck!




don’t be sure. it’s better that way.

hi there, ive recently been accepted into life sciences at u of t st george campus and am wondering what to do next.(course wise). ive heard stories about how the courses you take first year have a huge impact on the later years in university. thats whats stressing me out because frankly im not sure what exactly i want to branch off into. also what can i specialize in further along the road? thanks


hey there,

whoever’s been telling you that is talking a bunch of bologna. i mean, yes, first year is an important adjustment period and you shouldn’t take it lightly. the foundational life science courses (BIO120/130, MAT135/136, CHM135/136 and sometimes PHY131/132) are very important for your later years. a solid foundation in these courses will serve you well in pretty much any program in the life sciences that you decide to pursue.

and yes, you’ll likely have one or two courses in your first year that completely shake up (and possibly even reorder) how you think about the world. however, that doesn’t mean that those courses will set you down a certain path. if anything, they will open your mind to many more possibilities than you were previously aware of.

the great thing about uoft is that you’re not actually in a program in your first year. you can make mistakes, you can change your mind, you can not like any of the courses you’re taking – or you can love all of them. after you have a year under your belt, you can then approach the question of what program you’d like to apply to with a lot more context. in fact, you’ll only be able to sign up for programs in the summer after your first year. if anything, I think that not being sure what you want to do is better than being set on one thing, because it means you’ll be open to new paths, rather than going through first year with blinkers on.

as for what you can specialize in, your options are fairly extensive. assuming you decide to stay in the life sciences, just a short sampling of programs you might take includes: biology, biochemistry, cell and systems biology, chemistry, cognitive science, environmental science, forest conservation, human biology, immunology, molecular genetics…you get the idea.

your undergrad will prepare you to enter postgraduate programs like pharmacy, nursing, veterinary school or medical school, as well as research/graduate studies, or more non-traditional paths. ultimately, the longer you’re in school, the better you’ll be able to elucidate what it is you’re actually passionate about.

sometimes it takes four years of schooling to figure out that you don’t want to continue going to school; sometimes, it confirms that school is where you’d like to stay all your life. it takes time, and i think the major takeaway here should be: as long as it takes to figure it out, that’s not too long. and if you never figure it out, all the better, because that means you’re always learning.




changing track before you even start

I recently got admitted to UTSG for studies in life sciences. However, I recently realized that I don’t want to study life sciences, and that I would rather study humanities/social sciences (intl. relations and Spanish). How do I go about switching this? I emailed the New College registrar just because I didn’t know who else to email, but it’s been a week and they haven’t emailed me back yet.


hey there,

you can’t switch into the humanities or social sciences right now. you’ve been accepted into the life sciences, and there’s no way to change your offer of admission. the silver lining is that you’re not actually in a program (what we call a subject program of study or subject POSt) at this point. you’re in a degree POSt, which is the general stream of life science. you’ll be required to pick a program (or programs) in the summer after your first year.

the good thing about being in a life science degree POSt in your first year is that it doesn’t mean very much at all. no one will force you to take any life science courses in your first year. you’re free to sign up for SPA100Y1 and ECO100Y1 and HIS103Y1/HIS102Y1 (all of which you will need to be eligible for the Spanish and international relations majors in your second year).

the only thing that could cause a minor hindrance is that some of those courses that you need may have a priority, which means that you would have to wait until a later date to enrol into them. since course enrolment goes so fast, it’s always possible that those courses that have priorities might fill up before you get the chance to enrol in them.

however, not all courses will have a priority, and many of these first-year, introductory courses are very, very big. that means that they are less likely to fill up, and also that lots of people are likely to drop them one week in, and free up space for YOU to sign up.

and one final tip: priorities (and other enrolment controls) are why it’s a good idea (for everyone, not just for you) to have backup courses. try and arrange as many different schedules as possible that still allow you to complete the prerequisites for your subject POSts of interest. you may not get your ideal schedule, but you’ll get one that does what it needs to do.




when you’re at uoft and you’re blossoming like a flower

Heya Aska!

So I’ve navigated successfully through the Daniels site and gotten myself an offer for Architectural Studies! Yay! Since I’m most likely going to accept, I got a few questions for you!

1) How big is the Daniels faculty? Around how many undergraduates get accepted each year? I’ve tried looking but I can’t really find a solid number and I really want to know approximately how big my class sizes might be!

2) Which residence is most popular for Arch students to live in? I don’t live in Canada so I can’t come to residence tours to see what it’s like and feel the vibe…

3) (A more general question but) How can a super shy introvert like me get involved in dorm life, making friends, life around the campus etc. etc? I really want to work on improving myself as a person but at the same time it takes a lot of effort to shove me out of my shell :/

Thank you so much! I always love reading your responses!

– A smoll high schooler from across the globe


hey there,

1.   the reason you won’t find any numbers on this is because it’s not reallypractical information in the way that you probably think it is. it’s true that Daniels is a faculty separate from the faculty of arts & science, but since the undergraduate division only offers one specialist (visual studies), most Daniels students are also taking a program (or two) in the faculty of arts & science. that means you’ll be taking courses with artsci kids, which means that the class size kind of just depends on the class.

most first-year classes are pretty massive; i’m talking several hundred students, sometimes close to a thousand. if you take a more obscure class or a second-year course, it may whittle down to under a hundred. i don’t mean to imply that there isn’t a separate culture and hub of community and resources at Daniels – because there is. it’s just that there’ll be a lot more crossover than you think.

2.   again, because architecture is so small, i don’t know that there’s a specific residence for architecture students. there is certainly a vibe, as you put it, to each college residence (plus Chestnut), which is very hard to articulate. since that vibe is so ephemeral, i think it makes the most sense to make a decision based on concrete things, especially if you can’t come to campus for a tour.

bad vibes american horror story

sometimes, a residence tour can help you get a feel of where you’d prefer to live

some questions you may want to ask yourself include: do you prefer dorm- or suite-style? what’s your price range? where is the residence located in relation to your classes, libraries, and other amenities? would you rather live in a tall, modern building like Woodsworth, or an old, castle-esque building, like those at Victoria and St. Mike’s? do any of the residences or colleges run an activity or program that particularly interests you? these things can all help you make a decision.

3.   i’ve used a handy little schematic (pictured below) to demonstrate this question. what it’s illustrating is that there is a good way to push yourself, and a bad way. if you can push yourself just a smidge past your comfort zone, you enter into your challenge zone. in the challenge zone, you gain skills and confidence by trying new things that are challenging but still doable. if you regularly enter your challenge zone, it starts to expand. those things that were previously found challenging become part of your comfort zone. and voila – growth!

however, if you push yourself too hard and end up in situations where you’re very uncomfortable, you may find yourself in the panic zone. in the panic zone, you feel completely unequipped to handle the situation at hand, and you begin to panic. after getting yourself out of the situation, you feel nothing except a greater aversion to that type of situation.

the key to getting out of your shell, i think, is engaging your challenge zone as much as possible, but not pushing yourself into your panic zone. maybe the thought of living with a roommate causes you to panic, but you can challenge yourself to meet everyone on your floor before the end of the first semester. baby steps, and you’ll get there.

other general tips: get involved with extra-curriculars. not only can they lead to opportunities (even potential jobs!) but your network of friends will expand so, so quickly. on a similar note: get a job! you may get lucky and actually become friends with your colleagues. introduce yourself to the people sitting next to you in class. if your residence has a dining hall, sit with people. maybe you can start by sitting with your don, and then gradually add people to your group. finally, hang out in your common room. that’s just a general tip about residence. all you have to do is literally sit there and new potential friends will come TO YOU. it’s the LAY-Z-BOY of friend-making.




sharing life advice (or, giving old people a sense of purpose)

Hi aska, first off you are hilarious and I have spent the past hour just reading your answers to various questions.

I have a few questions today to ask. I am a grade 11 student and i want to apply to the UTSC International Development Arts Co-Op program. However I have not taken any advanced levels of math apart from workplace to get my final required math credit. In grade 12 I will be taking 6 different social sciences courses. How do you think the lack of math will affect my application because from what i’ve heard it is quite a competitive program? Also, how does the year at U of T work, when do semesters start and end?

Mostly, I am just worried that I won’t get accepted to this program and then if I do that the workload will quite literally kill me. Any advice for preparing myself for university and U of T would be nice.

Thank You


hey there,

ME? hilarious? in this economy??? as a taxpayer, i find that irresponsible and unacceptable.

if your top 6 4U/M courses (including English) are strong, then i don’t think that the lack of math will affect your application, since IDS does not require calculus. as with this person, that only is my best guess, but i don’t know for sure because UNFORTUNATELY, i am not responsible for admitting students. if i was, punny stream-of-consciousness personal essays would probably determine whether or not people got into their programs. and i know rotman and computer science would have a problem with that.

the one thing i will caution you, though, is that MGEA01H3 and MGEA05H3 are required for the IDS specialist. neither of these courses require calculus, but “algebra and graphs are used extensively,” and that kind of thing is not covered in workplace math. if i were you, i would consider taking grade 11 mixed math, or perhaps even functions, so you can have a basic understanding of this kind of mathematics before you’re thrown into it in first year.

UTSC is a strictly semesterly campus. the fall semester goes from September-December (with exams in December), the winter semester goes from January-April (with exams in April), and the summer semester goes from May-August (with exams in June and August for half-credit courses, and August for courses worth 1.0 credit).

my advice for preparation is that you 1) really do consider doing as much math as you can stomach. it will help you in the long run. 2) some people have good experiences at university and some people have not-so-good experiences, but i think that the following advice is helpful for pretty much anybody:

  • do not feel like you have to only do school while you’re in school. lots of first-years drop extra-curriculars, jobs, and hobbies in first year because they feel like they need more time to adjust to school and can’t do as much as they did in grade 12. it is true that you’ll need to use first year to adjust to university, but i’ve found that getting involved makes it easier to adjust, not more difficult. you can always drop things if you’ve taken on too much, but don’t hesitate to even try. getting involved helps you feel like you’re part of a community, which can make you feel more invested in your school work – and that’s good, not bad, for your academics.
  • sometimes you will fall asleep on your commute. don’t beat yourself up about it. you can’t always be doing readings on the train/bus.
  • ask questions!!!!! no one else knows what the heck they’re doing, either. you will not look stupid if you ask a question. this applies for classes but also just generally: if you have a question about university policy/procedure, ask it. do not just listen to what your friends are saying, because they are probably wrong. ask your registrar’s office. Google things. double check stuff.
  • take pride in your work. university is hard. you are doing a great job – even if sometimes it doesn’t feel like it.
  • plan ahead. listen, if you got through high school without an agenda or a calendar and you think you can pull the same thing in university, you are wrong. you will 100% for certain be more successful if you have some method by which to schedule your time, so find one that works for you, pronto.
  • let your plans change. medical school and law school are not the only options for your future. there are lots of challenging, fulfilling, well-paying, well-respected jobs that you’ve never heard of and that YOU CAN LOVE. and no one will think you are a failure for doing them. they will think you are an adult.
  • don’t give up. you will get a mark that you never got in high school. maybe you will get a lot of marks that you didn’t get in high school. firstly, that does not signal the end of your university career – first year does not have to foreshadow your second, third and fourth years. secondly: even if you do decide to leave, or transfer, or take a break from school, you are not giving up. as long as you are doing what’s right for you, you’re doing alright.
  • con hall classes suck, but they’re not forever.




Quarter-Life Crisis TM, now available for only $40 000!

Hi. I?m a first year student at utm and i?m stuck. I?m in the commerce program and i?m doing terribly! not because i can?t do better but because I don?t feel the need to.

So basically what is happening is that i?m an international student paying international fees which is enough to have me frustrated every single day on my life until i graduate but not like that?s not bad enough, I don?t even want to study bloody commerce. I?m doing it for my parents. They?re both accountants and commerce seems like the least painful way to give them what they want (y?know instead of like medicine or something else they deem important). I don?t see the point at working hard at something that is going to make me miserable in the end. I want my life to have purpose but commerce is definitely not it.

Im into reading and writing and lots of other things that I actually do have a passion for. I have tried to talk to my parents about it but they shut me down everytime telling me that i?m not going to make any money there and won?t be able to support myself or they don?t have any connections with people in that field so i?ll be struggling to find a proper job or just one thing or the other. The hard part is that i get where they?re coming from and I know they?re thinking of what?s best for me but i?m so depressed now that sometimes I go to class and I can?t stop the tears from falling and I just abandon the class all together and go to my room and mindlessly watch movies or just do something, anything stupid to just focus on anything other than how completely sad i feel everyday. Sometimes I find myself getting easily incensed or crying over the simplest of things. I?m paranoid about everything all the time. I basically lock myself in my room all day, most times doing nothing.

I honestly don?t know how long I can do this. I break down frequently and tirelessly. I?m just tired. Really very tired. I feel like I?m fighting a losing battle because even if i do end up doing well which I know I can do with more effort and focus, is there really a point if I?m going to spend the rest of my life doing something I absolutely don?t give a damn about. This isn?t me. Im so confused and frustrated. I don?t even know what to do or how to even begin talking to my parents about this. Sometimes I just feel so overwhelmingly sad. Im stuck and I honestly just fell like there?s nothing I can do about it. I can hardly study either because I feel so burnt out all the time. I mean I can but sometimes it?s hard to bring myself to do it. Im sure I sound like a lazy idiot right now and i?m sorry for how long this is and that i?m potentially wasting your time but if there is something, anything in the form of advice that you can give me it would be greatly appreciated.


hey there,

first of all, you’re not wasting my time. i’d like you to know upfront that this is important and valid, and also that you are important and valid. don’t apologize for your struggles, because they’re a part of your life and your life is important.

i’m going to go ahead and say that your first semester in university is typically your worst one. it’s the first time you’re having to do exams, manage your own schedule, etc. and so it’s going to seem overwhelming and insurmountable. and if you’re in a difficult program you don’t like, it can seem like a rug has been pulled out from under you and you’re hitting the floor over and over and over again.

but it’s important to realize something, something that i didn’t realize in my first year: it’s better to have this happen to you?now. first year is?the time to make mistakes, change directions, do something different from what you’ve always said you’ll do. you still have lots of time to take your degree in a different direction.

obviously, you’re ready to make that change, but your parents are not.?so how do you get them on board? well, the first thing you’ll have to think about is: you may not be able to. sometimes, we have to go a different way from what our parents expected, and that’s okay. besides, you don’t?need their permission to study what you want to study.

of course, i understand that international fees cost a million trillion dollars and many people rely on their parents to pay for their schooling. however, sometimes obeying your parents simply isn’t the best thing for you, and when you’re an adult, obeying is sometimes more of a knee-jerk reaction than a thoughtful, healthy acquiescence.

it would be nice for everyone involved, though, if you could all agree and had support from your parents. and i find the best way to do that is to beat them at their own game.

their concerns are valid. they want to make sure that you’ll be able to support yourself after school. but?despite what they say, a business degree is not the only way to do that. prove to them that whatever else it is you want to do is viable. show them how you’ll earn a living doing whatever it is you want to do.

come up with a plan. if you feel it would be helpful, you can even write out the plan. bookmark websites that you can show them. give them evidence that you’ve done your research and you know what you’re talking about.

also, if you dislike your program so much that it’s making you tired, frustrated and “overwhelmingly sad,” then you are likely not going to do very well in the program. and if you don’t do very well, you’re not going to achieve that success and financial stability that your parents want you to achieve anyway. if you put it to them that way, it might be more compelling.

this is a difficult thing to deal with, and i recommend that you seek out the support of people on campus who can help you. make an appointment with your college registrar’s office; they’ll be a great sounding board to bounce ideas off of. also, i’d recommend maybe speaking with someone at health & wellness (formerly CAPS) or counseline to discuss how you’re feeling. you?must take care of yourself if you plan on being successful at school, regardless of the program.

and if you have any more questions, you can always let me know.



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