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 ????
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!)
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.