• covid-19,  failing,  first year

    sending hugs to all the first years <3

    Hi I’m a first year life science student and to be honest this entire school year has not been great. I only passed one course and failed the rest of my courses. I don’t know what to do next to be honest. With COVID-19, online learning, online tests, online exams, online classes, the constant staring at my screen, trying to keep up with work, to be honest its too much. I don’t know what to do next with course selection and choosing majors. I plan on talking with a academic advisor. Any advice?

    ——————————————

    hey there,

    thank you for your patience with this answer! i’m really sorry to hear that things have been so rough for you. back in december, i heard from several other first years who were in the same boat as you, and it seems like this year was a phenomenally difficult one in which to be adjusting to uni life. i hope that you’re able to take some time to rest now that the academic year is over — please be kind to yourself!

    i’m not sure if you’ll already have spoken to an academic advisor at your registrar’s office yet, but this is the advice i can offer you. i expect that you’ll be placed on academic probation since your CGPA is likely less than 1.50. maybe you’ll have been notified of that already, or maybe this will serve as a heads up for you. in either case, i’d ask your registrar what that means in terms of your course and subject POSt selection. there may be stipulations that i’m not aware of.

    in terms of choosing majors, you’ll need to have selected the minimum program combination (a specialist OR two majors OR a major and two minors) to register in second-year courses. i’m not sure if the programs you’re interested in are open enrolment or limited enrolment, but for now you’ll need to select open enrolment programs that don’t require you to meet a specific threshold. if they’re not your actual program choices, think of them as placeholders that you can swap out next year if your CGPA is higher.

    i’m not really sure what advice i can offer you regarding course selection, as that’ll depend entirely on your program goals and what requirements you need to fill. if you come up with any specific questions, let me know and i can try to help! otherwise, your registrar’s office is always a good place to go.

    finally, i’d like to recommend some other resources that may help you moving forward:

    • your college should have a learning strategist that you can book an appointment with. learning strategists can help you re-design your study systems, plan schedules that work for you, give you personalized time- and stress- management tips, and more. if you’ve never visited one, they may be useful to you as you try to pull your GPA up.
    • i’m not sure what type of classes you’re in, but writing centres and math learning centres are also great places to visit for paper/homework help.
    • if you’re feeling overwhelmed, u of t runs the ‘My Student Support Program,’ which is accessible 27/7 in multiple languages for confidential support. university is really tough, and resources like these have been invaluable to me as i’ve tried to make it through. i hope you access MySSP if you need it.

    be Boundless,

    aska

  • first year,  one programs,  seminars

    first new admit of the year!!

    hello! recently got admitted to utsg under socsci. 90% sure i’ll accept. i was thinking currently i’d like to possibly double major in bio and psych once first year ends. i am considering applying for vic one bc it seems super cool but my question is, would it be foolish of me to apply to a vic one stream that doesn’t relate to my intended major (life sci ig)? for ex: applying to vic one frye? would i be better off just taking a couple regular courses that interest me along with my prereqs?

    ——————————————

    hi!

    i love this time of year because of all the good news about admissions that pours in — and you’re the first of 2021! congrats on getting in. i’m so excited for you!

    i don’t think it’s foolish to apply to a vic one program that doesn’t relate to your intended majors. here are some good reasons to still take vic one:

    vic one will offer you smaller, discussion-based (i think) classes, which means it’ll be a great way to make friends. many people i know made the friends that got them through their degree in a ones program, like vic one, trin one, or innis one. this is true for me too! u of t can be isolating, so an investment in friendships is worth it. a lot of the coolest people i know now were actually in vic one.

    speaking of getting to know people, since class sizes are smaller, it’ll be easier for you to connect with your instructor and make sure they know your name and face. who knows — they might be a valuable connection for you down the road.

    apart from that, first year is a great time to explore subjects of study outside what you think you’re interested in. you might find a new interest or learn something that will supplement your growth as a person! programs like vic one will be closed off to you once you become a second year, so if you’re interested, now is the best time to take the plunge.

    finally, your degree will require you to complete breadth requirements, which i explain in this post if you’re not familiar. special first-year classes, like ones and seminars, can often be counted towards breadth requirements. you can check out what breadth reqs your potential vic one courses fulfill here.

    tl:dr vic one isn’t useless to you just because it’s not related to your programs of study! there’s a lot of value that participating in the one program can bring to your degree, and i’d really encourage you to apply. doing first year ones/seminars absolutely changed the course of my degree and university experience — that’s how impactful they were.

    i hope this post helped you, and congrats again!

    be Boundless,

    aska

  • first year,  mental health,  studying

    first years have it rough

    Are we allowed to redo a semester? Bc/ this term has been an absolute shit show. This was my first year and let’s just say I was not prepared. My study habits were terrible, and so was my anxiety. By the time I figured out how to manage these things, it was too late. All I can really do now is study for my exams, but if you have any idea as to what my options are I’d really appreciate them. Also, thx for taking the time to answer questions and gl on ur exams =)!

    ——————————————

    hey there,

    thank you for the well wishes on my exams! that’s thoughtful of you :’)

    i’m hearing from a lot of first year students who have had a terrible semester, so if it’s any consolation to you, you’re absolutely not the only one experiencing this. the odds have absolutely been stacked against you guys this fall. first year is normally such an an adjustment, even without a global pandemic. my first year felt a little like this:

    to answer your most direct question, no, i don’t believe you’re allowed to redo a semester. the only way i can think of to do this would be via the petitions system, but i’m not sure that redoing a semester is an existing type of petition. i could be wrong, though! you’d have to ask an academic advisor at your registrar’s office. 

    in fact, i’d really recommend that you get in touch with your registrar early in the new year—even before classes start, if possible. they’re your best bet in terms of finding out what all your different options are.

    here are some of the options i think it would be good to discuss with them:

    you can always always use the credit/no credit option after your grades come out, particularly for courses you won’t need for your program prerequisites. that may help you salvage your GPA. if you do consider applying the credit/no credit designation to a course, keep in mind that the deadline for fall courses is january 15, 2021.

    you can also apply a late withdrawal designation to your courses until january 15, which might actually be a solid option for you. basically, an LWD just means that a course will show up on your transcript, but without a grade. it’s good for courses you’re failing. however, there are rules for applying LWDs. you can find those rules here. if i recall correctly, you do need to request LWDs through your registrar’s office, so you’ll have to discuss this with them anyway.

    “it” being your registrar, lol.

    apart from getting in touch with your registrar, there are two other supports i’d strongly recommend that you check out.

    first, you should book an appointment with your learning strategist. you can do this through your registrar’s office as well. meeting with a learning strategist will help you figure out how to build better study habits and schedules, you can also talk to them about other things related to academic success, like efficient note-taking, staying motivated, and managing your time.

    second, if you’re struggling with anxiety, you should look into either mySSP or health and wellness counselling. mySSP is available to you 24/7 wherever you are in the world—it’s essentially a way for you to get in touch with a counsellor either by appointment or immediately. this service is provided in a variety of different languages, and can be done by chat or phone. meanwhile, health and wellness is a good bet for you if you’re currently in ontario. you’ll be able to book appointments with a counsellor to help you manage your anxiety.

    i struggle a lot with anxiety too, but seeing a counsellor through health and wellness during my second year  helped me develop less harmful thought patterns, which in turn made my anxiety easier to deal with. think of accessing these mental health supports as an investment in your own wellbeing, and in your ability to withstand the various stresses of university. it’s definitely worth the time that it takes, trust me.

    apart from that, here’s a quick list of other things i think might help you:

    • if you’re struggling with assignments, you might benefit from visiting the writing centre or a math learning centre.
    • if you’re seeking a sense of community, look into the student unions of your prospective programs, clubs at your college, or mentorship programs affiliated with either your program or college. university is so much easier when you’re doing it with people who are struggling, too.
    • meet to complete sessions and study hubs are great for getting things done during the semester

    i hope this helped! i’m really sorry this semester has been so rough for you. wishing you all the best in the winter, and you know where to find me if there’s anything else i can help with. wishing you a restful holiday break!

    be Boundless,

    aska

  • failing,  first year

    you must be so tired

    I’m a first year life science student at UTSG and to be honest I feel like a piece of trash. In the beginning of the term, I attended lecture, did my assignments, studied, and did the readings. But by mid October, I just broke down and couldn’t do anything. I felt stressed, overwhelmed, and motivated. All at once I just stopped studying and couldn’t do it anymore. I know I’m going to fail most of my courses. I just want to start next term on the right path. Any advice?

    ——————————————

    hey friend,

    i’m glad you reached out! things are so hard this year with online classes and all, and i can imagine first year is even harder because it’s normally already such a rough adjustment. it sounds like you started your first year on a really solid note, and hit a wall later on.

    you’re absolutely not a piece of trash for hitting that wall. if you check out the recent posts on this blog (and the ones that are sure to come), you’ll see that lots of first years are in similar situations.

    wise of you to come to the elders (lmao) for help. since i’ve been at this school a lil longer than you, i do have some advice for you that i hope will be of use.

    something i had to learn the hard way in my first year is that you can’t get through uni alone. it helps so, so much to reach out to peers, make time for socials, and know where to find more professional help when you need it. here are some resources i regularly use (or have used in the past) that i think you might find helpful:

    the registrar’s office

    it’s common to deal with all sorts of academic challenges at u of t, and your registrar should be your first stop when you’re seeking help with those. an academic advisor there will be able to tell you what your options are moving forward, point you to useful resources, and just generally talk you through your situation. whenever i’ve had to make a hard degree-related decision, i’ve always found the support from the people at my registrar incredibly useful.

    if you’ve never so much as interacted with your registrar before, here’s a lil guide i wrote up that might be useful.

    learning strategists

    you can book an appointment with a learning strategist by calling your registrar’s office. learning strategists are great for identifying any pitfalls in the way you currently approach your studies, and helping you strategize how to do better in the future. they can also help you improve your motivation to study, help you put together a study schedule, and advise you on efficient reading and note-taking.

    i think that visiting a learning strategist early on next term will help you get off to a strong start! you can tell them about your situation and then the two of you will be able to devise a strategy for completing your winter semester.

    health and wellness counselling, mySSP, and other mental health resources 

    the level of stress and overwhelm you’re describing indicates to me that academic resources aren’t going to be enough to really help you get back on your feet. it’s important to be attentive to your emotional and mental health needs as well, and that’s where supports like counselling and mySSP come in.

    if you’ve never seen a counsellor, the first step (for me) was the hardest one: admitting i needed to go and figuring out how to do it. but i think it’s something everyone can benefit from, especially stressed-out students.

    it’s really worrying to me that you broke down in october. i think you’d benefit from understanding how/why it happened, and how you can maybe prevent that in the future.

    i dunno if that gif is the best fit here but i love how dorky and adorable it looks so it’s staying.

    health and wellness counselling is available to you if you’re in ontario. you can book an appointment with an “on-location” counsellor (which basically means one affiliated with your division, ie. victoria college, the faculty of music, etc.). i think they’re doing appointments virtually or by phone right now. to my understanding, these counsellors usually offer short-term support (5 appointments) to help you meet a mental wellness goal.

    mySSP is a virtual student support program that’s available wherever you are, 24/7, in a wide variety of languages. basically, a counsellor will support you (via phone or text) with the difficulties you’re experiencing, either by appointment or immediately.

    if you think you might be interested in voice-call or video-call counselling but aren’t in ontario, you can always look into what your health insurance covers and seek out an non-u of t therapist.

    apart from all that that, here are a few study tips from me! i found the adjustment to online schooling difficult too, but i was in school both summer semesters and i’m more used to things now. these are some of the things i wish i’d known earlier:

    1. use a productivity app if your devices are distracting. i downloaded forest a little while ago, and i’ve really been enjoying the app. one of my main problems is scrolling through twitter and instagram when i should be studying, and forest blocks those apps out while letting me plant lil trees to represent my focused time! there are other good apps out there, too, if you do a google search.

    2. study with friends (but the right ones). i’ve learned that hopping on a zoom call with a similarly stressed and overwhelmed friend can motivate me to study. this is my system for those virtual study sessions: we get on the call, chat for around 10-15 minutes, then set a timer for an hour and a half and mute ourselves. when the timer goes off, we check in with each other to make sure we were both productive. turning your camera on and screensharing helps, too— it’s the closest thing i’ve found to a library peer-pressure environment this year.

    3. use a planner. this is a big one that really helps prevent me from getting overwhelmed. i use a monthly planner, so i can see all my deadlines well ahead of time and plan my study schedule out to prevent a crunch. it doesn’t solve all my problems with stress and overwhelm during the semester, but good planning and deadline management does help a little and maybe you’ll find that’s true for you too.

    4. make time for rest. 

    if you’re overwhelmed, pushing yourself harder may actually be detrimental to your ability to do work. find out what refreshes you and block out space for it—you’re allowed to do things that make you feel like a human and not a homework machine. for me, playing among us with my friends and making sure i got enough sleep this semester made me feel like less of a pent-up ball of stress.

    i know it seems like there’s not enough time in the day to finish your schoolwork, but i always find that the more tired i get, the less efficient i am. maybe it could be the same for you?

    i hope this helped! i know the post was long, but i feel a little helpless when i get questions like these and want to make sure i give you the best, most in-depth advice i can. i’m really rooting for your success next semester—i hope you have a good, relaxing christmas break, because you deserve it.

    be Boundless,

    aska

  • failing,  first year,  math

    yerrrrrr!

    Hi! I’m a first year looking to double major in IR/Econ. I am doing okay in my IR reqs, all things considered, but I am failing mat137, like, big time. I’ve spoken with a registrar, and I just want to know, in your experience, is it possible to recover in a full year course from failing in the first term? Or should I drop and retake in the summer? Also, do you know of any reputable tutors that could help, outside of the math learning centre?

    ——————————————

    hello friend,

    IR and econ! a classic combination. very aoc of you.

    i’m glad you’ve spoken to your registrar— that’s always a smart move when you’re in a less-than-ideal academic situation. if you’re open to it, you might also consider booking an appointment with a learning strategist, who might be able to help you identify any challenges in the way that you currently study for math. you can then develop a plan with them to tackle those challenges.

    i’m assuming that a recovery looks like a mark of 60+ in the course, since that’s what’s required for entry into the econ major? i can’t predict how easy it’s going to be to recover in a full year course if you’ve been failing the first term, since a lot of that will depend on how badly you’re failing and what the structure of the course looks like. if there’s more weight in the second half of the course than the first, there’s more hope for a recovery. what i can tell you with some certainty is that it’ll take a lot of hard work to recover, should you choose that path.

    if i were you, assuming you don’t desperately need to devote your time and energy to other courses, i might stick it through for a few more months and see if things get better. you have until february 22 to decide whether you want to drop the course, and that’s some time from now.

    you could also technically request a late withdrawal as late as may, which basically means that the course will appear on your transcript with a LWD notation instead of a failing grade. both of those are good options if you don’t think it’s possible for you to pass the course, although i think dropping is probably better than an LWD since the course won’t show up on your transcript at all.

    unfortunately, i don’t actually know of any reputable tutors for u of t math. tutors will usually post their numbers on bulletin boards across campus, but alas, i’m not sure these are the times for that right now. you might try asking r/UofT on reddit, maybe? although i always warn people to take what they see there with a grain of salt, since r/UofT is a lil chaotic and sometimes unreliable.

    best of luck! i really hope that you manage to turn things around. if you continue to struggle with this decision, you can always head back to the registrar, talk to upper years (if you know any), or seek out trusted friends/family for advice.

    thank you for waiting for this answer—a ton of first years are struggling right now and i have a lot of stuff in my inbox to sift through. you’re certainly not alone in this.

    if you’re not yet done your exams, i hope the rest of your semester goes well. otherwise, have a good and well-deserved holiday break! if you need me, i’ll be watching the heck out of dash and lily on netflix, because hey, if there was ever a year for a sappy unrealistic christmas series it’s this one. don’t roast me. haven’t we all reverted back to our twelve-year-old selves, anyway?

    #dash and lily from we're on pause. future? unsure.

    be Boundless,

    aska

  • academic standing,  failing,  first year

    … so evermore is living rent-free in my head

    Hi! I’m a first year life science student and pretty much I failed this term. My average for sure would be a 0 this fall term. I’m not sure what to do next? Will I be able to take courses next term or would I have to withdraw and re-enrol for 2021-2022 year and re-do first year? Would I be put on academic probation?

    ——————————————

    hey there,

    i know this term has been rough for a lot of first years, so i want you to know it’s all right to have had a ! not great ! time this sem. it’s bad enough being a first year, let alone being a first year during a global pandemic.

    it’s good to look ahead, and you came to the right place with your question about what to do next. what i can tell you is that academic standing isn’t assessed until the end of fall/winter, meaning that you won’t be placed on academic probation just because of this semester. you won’t be forced to withdraw unless you get suspended.

    so, as far as i know, you should be able to continue taking the courses you’re registered for next term (winter 2021). however, if you’re not able to pull your GPA up to at least a 1.50 by the end of fall/winter, you will unfortunately be looking at probation.

    that sounds like a threat or a warning, which really isn’t the message i’m trying to send! it feels like my responsibility to explain how the system works, but i believe you can recover from this and i’m rooting for you all the way. do as taylor does and come back stronger than a ’90s trend.

    in order to make sure you have the best shot at getting back on your feet, though, i’d really recommend that you reach out for some support. first year is hard, but it’s harder without help.

    here are some things that have helped me in the past:

    1. your registrar’s office should be your first stop. they’ll be able to help you understand your options, let you know about anything you should be aware of as you move forward, and perhaps refer you to more resources (or more appropriate resources) than i’m able to. please give them a call and book an appointment with an academic advisor! if you move forward with ONE of my recommendations from this post, i hope it’s this one.
    2. book an appointment with a learning strategist, who will help you identify better study, productivity, and organization methods for your next semester. you can usually book one of these appointments by calling your registrar.
    3. if you’re having trouble with papers, seek out your writing centre. the math help centres are great if your problems are more numerical (the page i linked you to gives you in-person addresses, but if you click the names of the offering divisions you’ll see virtual options).
    4. seek out mental health help if you need it. i know a lot of students are struggling with anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns right now, which are making it SUPER difficult to get through the semester. i’m certainly one of those students. if you’re interested in what mental health resources are available to you, you can check out previous posts i’ve done on this subject, this u of t mental health site, or beacon (which is free if you’re in ontario).
    5. reach out to your friends (or even chill acquaintances!!), and schedule virtual study sessions where y’all keep each other accountable. i started doing that at the beginning of december, and you wouldn’t believe how much it’s helped me.
    6. look into mentorship programs within your program, college, or faculty. in my first year, it was really helpful for me to have an upper-year that i could ask about academics and university life. so much of success at u of t just comes from knowing how to navigate the school!

    anyway, i’m not sure which of these resources you’ll find a good fit, and whether there’s something i didn’t mention that might help you more, which is why i really think you should call your registrar. try not to procrastinate too long on that, since the university does close on the 23rd!

    other than that, i hope you have a good and restful holiday break, and that things get better next semester. let me know if there’s anything else i can help with.

    be Boundless,

    aska

     

  • first year,  midterms

    i’m not even in first year and my grades still hurt my feelings

    Hi! do you have any advice for handling midterms and feelings of disappointment? I have two more left now and every time I finish one, I feel like I did a good job but I get sorely disappointed with the grades I receive — especially considering I’m genuinely working hard and studying for 2 weeks for one test, etc. I know university is NOT like high school, so I’m trying to keep that in mind, but floundering in first year does not feel good at all, haha! Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!

    ——————————————

    hey there,

    i honestly really feel you on this. during my first semester of first year, i was really overwhelmed and it took me a good many months to adjust to uni. i’d been warned that grades tend to drop by at least 10 percent in the jump from high school to first year, so rest assured that you’re not the only one struggling with lower grades than you’re used to. it’s a common first year experience.

    here’s what advice i can offer to make this easier on you:

    first, it will probably be helpful for you to take inventory of what resources you have to support you through this. first year can be particularly difficult because you’re not used to navigating university yet, and don’t know about all the different ways you can receive help.

    i’ll divide the resource recommendations in this post into two sections. first, let’s start with resources that will help you handle your midterms better:

    1) learning strategists

    while i’ve never visited a learning strategist myself, i’ve heard that they’re really great for helping you reach your academic goals. a learning strategist will be able to give you tips on managing your time and stress, evaluate your study plans with you, and just generally talk you through better ways to learn and thus improve your grade. if you’re in arts and science, you should be able to call your college registrar and request an appointment with the learning strategist. otherwise, i think CLNx also allows you to make appointments.

    i do think this is one of your best bets for learning how to handle midterms well, and whatever skills you learn from your learning strategist will carry over to finals as well.

    2) writing centres

    if any of your midterms are midterm papers, the writing centre will be a godsend. my college’s writing centre has helped me improve my grades on many, many papers. a highly recommended resource. if you’re unfamiliar with the writing centre, this past weekend i did an advice post for first-timers, which you can check out here.

    3) librarians

    if any of your midterms include a research element, you can actually live chat with librarians for research help here. also, i think u of t still does the personal librarian system, which should mean that you’ve gotten an email from a campus librarian who’s offered to help you with research and show you different tools to make your life easier. my personal librarian is my college librarian.

    you’d really be surprised how much wisdom librarians have— they can be super helpful for finding books and papers you might not have come across otherwise, and can also give you tips on how to parse a whole ton of information.

    4) office hours

    if you’re studying really hard and still don’t find that you’re getting the grades you hope for, that’s usually a signal that you should reach out to your profs or TAs for an office hours appointment. clarify their expectations, ask them how they’d recommend that you prep for a midterm, and see if you can sus out what they care most about. what topics do they see as most important? should you memorize things or know how to apply them? only your course instructors will be able to tell you. they’re being paid to teach you, so you might as well ask.

    now, for resources that will help you handle the disappointment (no matter how hard you try, it will still hit you sometimes. that’s what i’m learning as an upper year).

    1) dons, mentors, and other upper years

    upper years have been through it. most of them know how you’re feeling, but have also had more practice putting their failures into perspective and moving on. if you have access to residence/commuter dons, a mentorship program, or any upper years in general, i wouldn’t be afraid to start a conversation with them about dealing with disappointing grades! as an upper year myself, i’m always happy to talk younger students through the emotional struggle of first year. i guess that’s why i run this blog lol.

    2) friends

    honestly, my current favourite way to get over a bad midterm grade is to play an hour of among us with my friends. there’s nothin like a little friendly space murder to make yourself feel better.

    but hey, even before the pandemic, i found that it helped so much to take some time off my studies with people that i like, so that i could come back to studying refreshed and ready to work.

    don’t know anyone, since you’re still in first year? check out your prospective program’s student associations, your college, mentorship programs, and clubs. there will be friendly people going through the same thing as you— don’t be afraid to approach them. some random girl from my class added me on facebook, and now we rant to each other weekly about how frustrating our assignments are. ten times better than slogging through alone.

    3) embedded counsellors and MySSP

    if your disappointments begin to make you feel anxious or depressed, please reach out to one of the mental health supports on campus. you have five free appointments with your college’s embedded counsellor, who will talk you through your negative feelings and help you identify how your patterns of thought might be holding you back. you can call health and wellness to make an appointment with your embedded counsellor. if that doesn’t sound like an option for you, you can also chat with the counsellors at MySSP in different languages, 24/7, even outside of North America. your mental health is very important!

    in case it’s not obvious yet, i really think that reaching out to other people in the university community is the best way to pull yourself through what you’re dealing with.

    other than that, i think there’s value in maintaining a sense of perspective. first year is an adjustment. there is no shame in not doing as well as you hoped to, and things will get better once you figure out what the heck is going on in university. i really had to overhaul my study habits in order to get on my feet. you’ll learn. it’s why you’re here.

    sending you tons of encouragement for the rest of the semester— i’m proud of you for working so hard. keep it up, you can do this!

    be Boundless,

    aska

  • cinema studies,  first year

    first year, what a TIME, truly.

    hi! so i’m currently a first year student at u of t and it’s been a bit rough.

    i’m finding that i hate the majority of my courses and wish i hadn’t enrolled in the ones program i’m in. it’s making uni life a bit difficult, and i’m trying to push past that (because i know uni is what you make of it) but imposter syndrome and these feelings are making it difficult and stressful. do you have any advice for dealing with those feelings?

    i also recently did a midterm and got a 74, which put me in a bit of a shock because i expected and wanted higher. i’m also upset because i’m finding that i’m interested in working in film production and such, but i didn’t take any cinema studies courses and cin105 seems to be the prerequisite for the majority of courses after first year. it’s too late to switch courses now, since cin105 is a full year course. how should i manage that? do i just take it in second year? will that cause me to fall behind for all the requirements of a cinema studies major? i know this ask has a lot of questions, and i’m really sorry about that! i just really want (and need) some advice 🙁 thank you in advance ????

    ——————————————

    hey there,

    welcome to u of t! i can definitely relate to first year being rough— holy crap, i mean, i didn’t know anything about how anything worked. everything scared me. i never felt like i belonged and i had no idea what i was doing program-wise. what you’re feeling is not uncommon, especially in first sem of first year. uni feels like a plunge in the deep end when you’re new to it. so i don’t want you to feel that it’s your fault things aren’t going perfectly!

    anyway, buckle up. since i can relate to your situation, this is gonna be a long post, and i’m gonna throw everything i got at you.

    all right. let’s start with impostor syndrome. from my conversations with fellow students, i’ve found that it’s super common to experience impostor syndrome at u of t. even though i’m an upper year now, i still struggle with it on the regular: do i belong here? am i good enough? why does everyone else seem so cool and smart and capable?

    there’s something about the intensity of u of t and the calibre of other students that just sows doubt in your head. but here are some ways to start nudging that doubt away, so you can focus on what you’re here to do. (small content warning: mentions of anxiety!)

    1. don’t be afraid to reach out if you need help! a lot of my first year struggle could have been reduced if i’d known how helpful people at U of T are. your profs, TAs, academic advisors, learning strategist, embedded counsellor, etc. are all getting paid to help students like you out! chances are that you also have peer supports available to you, via dons, mentorship programs, course unions, and clubs. for almost every problem you run into during first year, there’s someone in the university community who can help you work through that problem. re: your midterm, i know the feeling of that first time getting a disappointing uni grade, but it will be easier to bounce back if you go to office hours and chat about the exam with the prof!
    2. invest in a sense of community. in my experience, isolation amplifies impostor syndrome, and university is so much easier and more fun when everyone struggles together! if you have trouble meeting people (because ZOOM UNIVERSITY), check out college/student union/newspaper/club events. there are definitely some running over discord and zoom. add the people you meet there on social media and start a conversation! and don’t be scared to approach people, many of us are down to make new friends.
    3. surround yourself with good people, who see your value and hype you up instead of tearing you down. in my experience, people who experience impostor syndrome tend to be ones who are sensitive to external affirmation or a lack thereof. if someone makes you feel crappy, give yourself permission to take some space from them. if someone makes you feel like you can handle anything that comes your way, be conscious about checking in with and supporting them, and allow yourself to receive that support back.
    4. don’t push yourself too hard. remember that outside of your GPA and classes, you’re a real person! not a machine! be gentle with yourself accordingly. you’re a person and you’ll make mistakes. you also deserve to sleep, drink water, eat properly, and spend some physically-distanced time with your friends.
    5. don’t put others on a pedestal. this is something i catch myself doing all the time! you know gerald over there with the 4.0 GPA, who’s president of two clubs and already has a summer internship lined up? he probably looks great on paper, but we don’t know anything about what his life is really like. it’s not fair to yourself to compare your full reality with a slice of his. many of the geralds in my life have debilitating anxiety and also feel like impostors, but you wouldn’t know that unless you were very close to them.
    6. look after your mental health. if your impostor syndrome intersects with any type of mental health concern, however mild, i’d really recommend that you give health and wellness a call and book an appointment with your college’s embedded counsellor. i finally caved and saw my embedded counsellor last year, and i wish i had gone earlier. to my understanding, all u of t students get 5 free appointments with an embedded counsellor, who will walk them through cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) with the goal of helping them overcome a mental health challenge. CBT taught me to ask myself if my anxious thoughts were grounded in reality, and if they were moving me towards my goals. spoiler alert: they all were not.

    so those are the pointers i can offer. beyond that, there’s also some really helpful writing on impostor syndrome in campus newspapers, that i think it would be worth taking a look at. khadija alam at the strand wrote a beautiful reflection on working through impostor syndrome last year. willow cabral and adina heisler at the varsity also have some useful insights on and stories about the subject.

    as for your cinema studies dreams, you can totally take cin105 in second year! i know a ton of people who change their mind about their program of study during first year, and then have to take the intro courses later on. i’m not super sure how much that would cause you to fall behind, though. that would be a conversation to have with an academic advisor at your registrar’s office.

    i will note that, even if taking cin105 in second year does mean falling behind, i wouldn’t let that stop you from majoring in cin studies if you’re really interested in working in the film/tv industry. like i said, first year is a normal time to change your mind, and switching program plans before you start second year is much better than sticking with a program you’re less excited about. plus, the cinema studies program is really cool! i know a girl who just graduated from it in the spring, and already has a production credit on a film.

    this post got long. hope you made it to the end, and that my answers were of some use to you. wishing you all the best this year <3 hope you can tell how much i mean it by how many words i threw at you lol.

    be Boundless,

    aska

  • enrollment,  enrolment,  first year,  one programs

    baby’s first uni course selection

    I’m going into first year Life Sciences this year at U of T in the fall. I know three courses I want to take because of certain admission requirements: BIO120, BIO130, CHM135, CHM136, MAT135, & MAT136. I am not sure to take PHY131 and PHY132 for first year. I want to keep my options open for other programs, but I’m not sure. I have an interest in taking PSY100, but I’m not sure if I could take it. I want to do 5 FCEs but I am not still sure. Course selection is very overwhelming. Any advice?

    ——————————————

    hi there!

    course selection. my favourite time of year. it’s like christmas.

    do i have any advice? hmm. let’s see. if you’re certain about your bio, chem, and math courses, those should occupy 3.0 FCEs. which means you have a few course slots to play around with, even if you choose not to take 5.0 FCEs. i found the adjustment from high school to university a little challenging, so i didn’t take 5.0 FCEs and found it helpful. whether or not that’s the right decision for you is something only you know. i will note, though, that uni can be quite different, and taking a lighter courseload will give you more space to figure things out, like how to prepare for exams and how to use the libraries.

    if you’re undecided, you can always register for 5.0 FCEs and then drop courses later on. u of t has pretty generous course-drop periods, so you’ll have a good amount of time to decide whether or not you want to stay in your classes. plus, that’ll give you a chance to sus your courses out to see if they’re actually worth taking — if you decide to drop down from 5 to 4 courses a few weeks into the semester, you can just drop the elective you like the least.

    regardless of courseload, i always recommend that first years take either a first year foundations seminar or something in the ‘ones’ program, just because i personally had really good experiences in both. the idea of these courses is that they’re meant to help you transition from high school to university. the classes tend to be smaller, the program material is specially selected to be super interesting, and the assignments are more fun/less difficult. you can only take these courses in your first year, so they’re definitely something to take advantage of now. something to note, though, is that you won’t be able to apply the credit/no credit designation to these courses — i assume because they tend to be easier to do well in.

    here’s something else for you to consider: first year is a great time to get your breadth requirements out of the way. if you’re a life sciences kid, chances are you’ll have breadth 4 and 5 knocked out, but you’ll need to take a few classes that are breadth 1, 2, or 3. you can use the calendar to filter through different breadth requirements, in order to find the relevant courses for each category.

    here are my personal recommendations, either drawn from experience or conversations i’ve had with other students. none of these have prerequisites, so you should be able to take them in first year:

    you can also check the u of t reddit or the first year foundations seminar listings for other ideas!

    other than that… first year is a good time to explore different interests and take a few risks! i wish i’d done that more when i was in first year. it’s easy to be drawn to the big, generic classes like PSY100, and miss all the quirkier offerings like “introducing religion: blood, sex, and drugs” or “how to study video games.”

    you mentioned keeping your options open for other programs, and that’s a smart consideration to make as well. if you know what backup programs you might want to take, it’s a good idea to squeeze some of their prerequisites into your schedule, especially if they overlap with some of the courses you’re already taking.

    i know course selection can be overwhelming, but if you use the tools at your disposal— the timetable, the calendar, degree explorer, etc. — hopefully it will be a little easier! that’s about all the advice i can think of right now. i hope this helped, and feel free to send another question in if you’re confused about anything specific regarding course selection!

    be Boundless,

    aska

  • first year,  FLC,  one programs

    tfti to first year courses :(

    Hello, I hope whoever reads this is doing well! I will be joining Physical and Mathematical sciences at UofT this fall, and I wanted to ask about the One’s program vs. FLC! I heard FLC was pretty suitable for those doing LifeSci, so I don’t know if the same would apply to someone not doing LifeSci. So, my question is: which one is better? And, can I do both? Also, is there a cost to the One’s program? How many times do they meet up? Thank you!

    ——————————————

    hey there,

    congrats on accepting your offer of admission, that’s some pretty cool stuff. let’s unravel your question:

    Cat Fumbling GIF by Originals

    are FLCs suitable for people who aren’t in lifesci?

    yes! i suspect you may have heard that they’re good for lifesci students because there’s lifesci first year learning community (FLC) group at every college, making lifesci the most common FLC. but the thing is that there are all sorts of FLC groups to match a range of interests. you can join a humanities group, or a social sciences group, if that’s the kind of thing you’re into. want to hang out with a bunch of actuarial science, compsci, math, psych, or econ kids? apparently there are enough of them that those programs get their own FLCs.

    Matt Leblanc Wow GIF by Friends

    in short, if your interests line up with one of the FLC groups offered, whether lifesci or otherwise, joining an FLC in your first year is at least worth considering. since you mentioned that you’re going into the physical and mathematical sciences, you can probably look into the mathematics FLC.

    which one is better? can i do both?

    which one is “better” honestly depends on what you’re interested in, experience- and outcome-wise. i think FLCs may be better for meeting other first years with similar academic interests to you, and growing a sense of community in that way. you also get some pretty solid guidance if you’re part of an FLC, since you have access to senior-year student mentors as well as staff/faculty advisors. however, with FLCs you’re bound to a specific set of courses for your first year, which can feel a little restrictive. it’s great if those courses serve as prereqs for programs you’re interested in anyway, as i assume is probably true for FLCs with a more specific focus. however, if you were registered in a humanities FLC but planed to take a super niche humanities program with different prereqs, i can’t imagine that would line up very well. it may also be important to you that FLCs offer CCR recognition, while ‘ones’ and first-year foundations seminars (FYS) do not.

    the ‘ones’ program, though, lends you quite a lot of flexibility in terms of subject matter depending on which course you choose. registering in a ‘one’ won’t take up more than a single slot in your timetable, and there’s no extra meeting on top of the courses, unlike with an FLC. it’s true that you’re less likely to meet first years with similar interests because all sorts of first years tend to register in ‘ones,’ but they’re still great places to make friends! in my first year, i chose the ‘ones’ program over a FLC for its flexibility, and ended up meeting some of the people i’m now closest to at u of t. plus… honestly, in terms of how cool the subject matter is, i would rank ‘ones’ above FLCs, and FYS courses over both of them.

    can you take both? i know that there are exclusions for FYS courses and the ‘ones’ program, but i’ve never run into any exclusions for FLCs and ‘ones.’ i’m relatively certain that you can do both, but if you wanna be 100% certain i’d check it over with your registrar. 

    is there a cost to the ones program?

    jerry maguire money GIF

    not unless you take a course with a travel component, like this seminar that involves a trip to california. i think the only ‘ones’ with a travel component are the SMC ones, though– if there’s a fun, expensive field trip involved, usually you’ll know just by looking at the course page. and anyway… who even knows if those field trips are gonna be able to run for this upcoming school year?

    how many times do they meet up?

    not sure which one you’re referring to here. generally, outside of regular classes, FLCs meet up 13 times over the academic year. on the other hand, ones operate like regular classes (you meet for the designated class time every week for either one semester or the full year).

    anyway, hope this was helpful and you have a great first year! good luck making a decision.

    be Boundless,

    aska

  • breadth requirements,  first year,  religion,  wait list

    oh the agony of being waitlisted

    hi! i’m a 1st year and i want to fulfill br 2 this sem. i want to take rlg101 but i’m 15th in a class of 250. do you think i have a chance of getting in anytime soon or should i just go with my 2nd choice (rlg 235 – also does anyone know anything about this course? would you recommend it based on workload/evals/etc?)?

    —————————————— 

    hey there,

    the general rule for waitlists is that if you’re in the top 10% of the waitlist, you have a good chance of getting in. what that means is that as long as you’re in the top 25 of a waitlist for a class of 250 (as you are) you’ll probably be fine.

    i would note that this depends on when you joined the waitlist, as well. i don’t really know how this rule works (it’s just been repeated to me by so many people that i’m assuming it’s legit) but it would make sense that if you join a waitlist relatively late in the game, perhaps the top 10% will already have moved? if you’ve been on it for a while, you’ve got a higher chance of moving up, i think. because i don’t know much about your situation, i don’t know what to recommend you do– maybe just decide based on what i’ve told you, or book an appointment with your registrar if you really need help making the decision?

    unfortunately, i’ve asked around and came up with nothing on rlg235. you can try messaging the religion undergraduate students’ association on facebook, because i figure if anyone knows anything, your best bet is someone there. there’s nothing on ratemyprof for the prof, either. sorry i can’t be of more help, but i do think you should try reaching out to the rsa!

    be Boundless,

    aska

     

  • first year

    it hasn’t even started but please make it stop

    when is the first day of school? I’m an undergrad in artsci at st george

     

    ——————————————

    hey friend, 

    welcome in advance to u of t! according to the updated calendar for this year, the first day of classes for you should be sept 5. that’s a thursday. just about a week away. yikes. 

    it probably says something about how unprepared i am that i actually had to google this. i used to be a keener, i swear. first year changed me.

    be Boundless,

    aska

  • first year,  no one asked

    having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a library card

    books!

    to build upon a previous aska’s post, the process of getting your hands on them might be a lot more complicated than you’d think. this is what i’ve learned so far in my time at u of t– hopefully it keeps you from making the same mistakes i did. that’s the idea, anyways, isn’t it? 

    first question: what books do i need?

    hit up this bookstore page and sign in with your utorid. once you’re enrolled in courses, you should get a list of the books you’ll need for each class you’re taking. sometimes it’ll take profs a while to upload those to the system, so there might be blank spaces– other times, those blank spaces mean there are no required books. what will you be reading in that case? i had one prof upload a bunch of pdfs and that was it. i would take that course again just to save money.

    there are other cases in which you’ll need books, but they won’t be listed. that means they won’t be bookstore-offered texts, and you’ll need to take a trip to the bob miller book room, alicos printing, or print city to get your reading materials.

    sometimes, you don’t even need to get books

    there are certain courses that’ll list books but they’ll end up being optional, or you’ll never even crack them open. i haven’t found that this is common, but if you’re concerned about this you can always attend a few lectures before buying. what you risk by doing this is that you’ll be behind on readings, but the potential reward is that you get to save some cash.

    with that said, there’s no way to know whether or not you’ll really need the book til your first class, when (hopefully) your prof will tell you. so it’s not a terrible idea to wait til you’ve attended at least one class to get your books.

    • the bookstore is…okay as an option if you need to buy

    PROS: your books will be easy to find and in one place, they’ll be in prime condition if you’re interested in selling them later, and it’s located on campus so you won’t need to go too far. they also sometimes will rent out or sell used books, if you’re trying not to blow your whole salary on school supplies. 

    CONS: $$$$$, and may not have all your books, especially if you’re in the humanities or social sciences 

    there are many alternatives to the bookstore:

    1. facebook groups: the u of t used book exchange (toronto) is the only group i’m aware of, but it’s quite a good one.

    PROS: negotiable prices and bundle deals, meetups usually on campus

    CONS: can be a bit sketchy so use caution. ask about highlighting and writing before you agree to buy, and check your books before you leave. also– don’t take a seller’s word that the books they’re offering will be what your course needs. pay special attention to differences in edition, because sometimes it MATTERS.

    2. discount textbooks toronto

    i’m not sure how viable of an option this is anymore, as their location recently moved from our campus to ryerson’s. however, i’ve heard that you can get some good deals here.

    3. used bookstores on bloor

    these aren’t a particularly good option for lifesci texts and the like, but if you’re in need of novels or similar assigned reading material and have a bit of time on your hands to search, used bookstores are a good bet.

    there are certainly used bookstores in other areas, but bloor west of campus has some good ones. i like BMV books because i’ve found they have pretty good pricing. the varsity has done a piece on used bookstores, on bloor and otherwise, that’ll highlight a few other options for you.

    4. tusbe, aka the toronto university student’s book exchange

    as with all internet-based exchange sites, please! exercise! caution! to avoid getting clobbered in one of those strange alleys on harbord and any other, similarly unfortunate, things that could happen to you.

    5. amazon

    if i’d known how many of my books were available used on amazon, i would never have bought them off the u of t book exchange or the bookstore. amazon is way cheaper if you get lucky, people. the downside is that you do have to wait quite a bit of time for shipping– a few weeks, i think, in my case? but it can be useful for yearlong courses with texts you won’t need til second sem.

    there are also many alternatives to buying books:

    1.the library — and by the library, i mean the online search thingy. it’s not a bad idea to look your textbooks up in the system before you commit to buying them. i got through a whole semester once by renewing and renewing and renewing a class textbook i got at gerstein. on occasion, you can get even luckier– i heard some of HIS103’s books are available as downloadable pdfs through the u of t library. this is a big win, @ first year IR kids. it’s legal and it’s free. 

    heads up that some local libraries can have online ebooks you can borrow as well. check yours!

    2.course reserves– they’re only avail to you for ~2 hour loans and can be unreliable, but are definitely an open option. if your books are in course reserves, your prof will usually say so or mention it on the syllabus. 

    3.renting books — you can do this either through the bookstore, or rent ebooks from amazon. if you can find your books as ebook rentals on amazon, that’s a real win. you can’t get any more win than that. i once found a textbook for $8 rent, when it would’ve cost me around 70 new. check both amazon.ca and amazon.com, because even after exchange rates .com can have better prices for text rentals.

    4.the lovely lovely world wide web– some novels, like heart of darkness, are free on the web through project gutenberg.

    a new and revolutionary option:

    do almost any of the above, but split it with a friend in some way. obviously, how well this will work depends on what kind of book you’re talking about, what kind of reader you are, and what kind of friends you have. it’s something i wish i had thought of earlier, though.

    my first year, i bought a book new from the bookstore and was so determined to keep it tip-top shape to resell that i never even really read from it, just took pictures and viewed them off my laptop. i did fine learning this way, but later realized i didn’t actually need the book if this was all i was going to do. i could probably have taken photos of a friend’s book and just bought them lunch, or presented some kind of other compensation they were okay with.

    it’s not the best call if you like writing or highlighting in your books, or if you simply prefer paper to a screen, but it’s something to consider. i feel like any other way of splitting a book could get complicated with custody, but maybe there are possibilities that haven’t crossed my mind yet. use your imagination, friends.

    hope this was helpful! go get ’em, friends (or hey, don’t)!

    be Boundless,

    aska