first year

I hear U of T eats first years alive

Dear askastudent,
I’m in grade 12, and live in the GTA. I’m conflicted as to whether or not I should apply (and eventually attend) UofT. Why, you ask, would I not automatically consider the university ranked as the best in Canada when it is 2 hours away from home? Well, lets just say that the only word on the street about UofT is somewhat… frightening. Could you help me dispel some rumours?
Apparently, UofT has little community atmosphere, and the classes are so large that the profs simply don’t care, and you just feel like a number.Apparently, the grades are curved in such a way that the fierce competition makes it nearly impossible to get As compared to other universities in Canada.Apparently, a very large number of first year students drop out or transfer.
Is UofT really a lacklustre undergraduate experience?
Do the rankings only reflect the research, not the teaching?
Thanks for your help,
-Dazed & Confused


Yo yo D&C

I’m going to be straight with you. It depends on your field but the odds are in first year, you’re going to be in massive classes (ie the glorious Con Hall). These massive classes are awesome for the morning after fatigue because you probably won’t get called on to answer a question. BUT the school does realize that classes with a couple hundred students can be lame-o for incoming students.
So here’s what they did
1) Prof office hours (great way to kiss ass)

2) Multiple TA’s that are assigned in relation to the number of students (Can answer any and all your questions – if relationship based, it would probably be better to ask here wink. wink.)

3) First Year Seminars – If i could preach these I WOULD. You know what …I’m going to. These are small courses designed so students could interact with their profs one on one. Awesome? topics – who doesn’t want to take a course on Vampires or Lord of the Rings. And generally you get killer grades in these. Only first years are allowed to take these babies

As for that lovely bell curve, the odds are that you’re going to encounter at least one. But they are used when the class as a whole is suffering, not just a couple people. So the odds are you will be suffering with them (sorry to burst your bubble). In any case, curves are calculated the same at all schools and they will only happen if a class desperately needs it (I personally have only ever had one, and it was only for 1 test)

Honestly man, all of the concerns you have are going to occur at all schools, not just U of T. People drop out and transfer at all schools, for different reasons. And first- year experiences differ based on the person. I’ve known people who have partied too hard and failed (that’s their fault, not the school), and people who have partied like a monster and studied like a monster too and are going to be graduating this year. People drop out and travel, or go to college.

Cheese ball line: Your experience is what you make of it. The school is there for you, with endless help resources and if you make an effort to be noticed and get good grades, you will (I promise).

Peace and Love Baby,



  • Stop Censoring comments ASKA

    SAVE YOURSELF AND DON’T ATTEND UNDERGRAD HERE! I say this after much suffering and am thrilled you at least bothered thinking more on the matter. I wish someone had outlined for me the hell I would have to endure prior to making the biggest mistake of my life (and I’m not even failing courses so it’s not a case of “oh that’s only the case for crappy students/slackers”). Honestly, you want to attend UofT? SAVE IT FOR LATER/GRAD SCHOOL – that way at least UofT won’t murder your undergrad ass’s marks so that grad school fails to be an option. Even if you don’t plan on grad school, just don’t. It’s not even the large class size that gets you – it’s the systematic way they screw students over (unfair marking, impossible course registration process, dropping courses you NEED TO TAKE TO GRADUATE ON TIME with no further notice even after fees have been paid, profs and TAs who act like the only people who take academics seriously are themselves + even in office hours acting like they’re doing you a favor just by being present etc.) and get away with it because guess what – THAT’S UOFT. You will find yourself questioning why they bother teaching – and eventually what twist of fate shat you out here of all the universities in the world. Oh and you’ll never be able to transfer out when you realize your mistake because guess what? UOfT will murder your marks fast/by first year. Yeah, hell begins the moment you hit “accept”.

    Bottom line: Go elsewhere for undergrad, you will still have some semblance of sanity and self-esteem left to live your life as a normal, sane person rather than as a PTSD sufferer. And you will still have a chance to attend UofT/other grad schools if you wish so long as you balance your life with studying. UofT is hell for undergrad, you will get nothing out of it – it will get everything out of you. I wish someone had done me the favor of telling me the truth.

    My well-intentioned rant being over, if you do choose to attend UofT for undergrad, I still wish you and every other high school senior considering it the best of luck.

  • aska

    First off … aska only censors links to kiddy porn in the comments from your pretty little innocent eyes. Every opinion gets a say. I would like to double underline and bold the word opinion.
    Everyone has a different U of T experience. Some people can’t handle the challenge that comes with attending a university like U of T while others take it on and kick its ass.

  • Peter

    “Some people can?t handle the challenge that comes with attending a university like U of T while others take it on and kick its ass.”

    Quote of the year.

  • Lianne

    Just don’t come here, period. Unless you were recieving 93+ in highschool, and know you were gifted among your peers, dont come here. Some people do kick a** but the majority fall around the C average. Then again, it depends on your program (i’m speaking on behalf of life scie and engineering students). Go to grad school here, undergrad is hell πŸ™

  • John

    Even if you did have a 93 in high school, don’t come here. I had low to mid 90s in high school and now I’m barely sitting at a 3.5 GPA. I’ve gotten three 60s already, whereas I didn’t have anything under an 80 in high school. SAVE YOURSELF!

  • Shahin

    Wow this post is super old, surprising that people are still commenting on it. But for anyone who’s just shown up and read these and is now scared out of their mind about coming to UofT, here’s my humble opinion as a guy who just finished first year:
    Come on guys, this is university. If you expect to come here and find it just as easy as you found high school, you’re clearly deluded about the whole university thing. Sure, UofT is harder than most universities, but that’s what you’d expect out of the best university in Canada. If you come here with the mindset that you’re gonna be slacking off the whole time, you’re gonna be in for quite a surprise.
    The main to thing to consider really is that uni is not gonna be like high school. You’re gonna have to put in a lot of effort. But all the things that people say about UofT being a dark dark place where everyone just works constantly is untrue (though I must admit, there are people like that here). The main thing that you gotta do here is just balance your time. You can party, you can have fun, you can have a relaxing weekend of just doing nothing, but you have to make up for it at some point with some extra work. Sleep does seem to be deprived fairly often, but you know, coffee and stuff.
    UofT’s pretty awesome, I’m incredibly proud to go here. I’ve met some incredible people and had what is quite possibly the best year of my life here, and I fully intend to make the next one even better. Hope this helped!

  • Mohsin

    It is a fact that uoft grinds its undergrads. My tutor (a PhD student at uoft) said if u get a C in uoft u would be getting a B+ in any other uni in Canada. However i will disagree with others here and say if you want to do your grad here then u have to do your undergrad here as well. Because u will need the uoft proff reff letters.

    its easier to get a high gpa in US ivy league schools then uoft. MIT level of grinding but with much less of a pay off lolz.

  • Anon

    Honestly, it depends on your program, too. If your program is big, like English or Poli Sci or Life Sci or Psychology, it’s going to be a little unfair because they *can’t* have everybody doing well. Modern language programs will screw you over too, because who doesn’t want to major in French when they’re not sure what to do with themselves? But there are some small, well-organized programs (Classics and Linguistics are the ones I’m familiar with) that are extremely good to their students, and often reward hard work fairly. There are probably other departments like those at U of T, so try to find your niche!

  • T-dog

    There are some pros and cons for coming here if you lif-sci. The pro is that there are a lot of amazing hospitals and labs here you could volunteer in although to get in a prof’s lab is hard as hell. This is a great experience that you will want. However, the undergraduate education at the university is absolutely shit. In first and second year, they make it hell because they have to keep the averages in certain courses down to a C plus and the learning experience isn’t great because of the huge class size. It doesn’t get better in higher years although you grades will. They don’t allocate any resources in the learning labs. They make us use a lot of out dated equipment. In the labs that they teach us sth rather new, they always don’t or just have barely enough reagents. Aside from the great opportunities in the research labs or hospitals like SickKids, UHN, etc, the undergraduate education is horrible.

  • Maryam

    Hi, I want to apply for architecture for 2013-14. This OneIdea essay thing is really intimidating me. I have no idea what to talk about and the application deadline is Jan 15, 2014! Could this be about any challenge I faced in my life? What are they generally looking for with this essay? Some tips will be greatly appreciated.


  • vishu

    Hey guys

    I just have applied to uoft and I really want to attend uoft for kinesiology ..I am not sure if thats a good idea. So many people say uoft is going to kill me idk if I should believe it. I want to attend uoft b/c it is a really well known uni but I dont want to drop out half way what should I do? ( if i work really hard would I still flop)

  • Em

    Au contraire, U of T has not killed me. I’m now in my fourth year and have not been significantly “killed” over my time here as an undergrad. There are things you can do to avoid crashing and burning, which a lot of students don’t realize, so when they don’t do well, they whine, blame the university, prof, peers, and the Illuminati for their failures. There are a few things you can do to succeed at U of T, or at least get decent marks:

    -be prepared for a shock: university is very different from high school. Give yourself time to adjust to the change, and don’t beat yourself up during first year. I did the worst in my first year, but I chalked it up to adjustment, and by year 2 I knew what to expect and how to hit the ground running.

    -Know what works for you: high school does a really bad job about teaching you about yourself. During the first few weeks and months of uni, figure out how you learn best. This may mean taking notes by computer or by hand, drawing mind maps, recording lectures and replaying them, studying in groups or alone, in silence or to music. I discovered early on that I am a visual learner; I was doing really badly in some of my classes because I was just typing notes and listening; then I started drawing mind maps and I understood concepts a lot better. The great thing about U of T is there is a lot of opportunity to discover how you learn best, and tools to help you succeed, provided you take the initiative to use them.

    -push yourself: it will be hard. There will be times you will complain about having no social life. That is normal anywhere. Do what you have to do.

    -Dazed and Confused, I am a commuter, and have lived at home for all my 4 years (It takes me about 1.5 hours on a good day to get downtown). Use the time to read, whether that is for school or just for fun, if that’s your thing. I’ve just discovered the exciting new world of podcasts, so I’ve been listening to TED talks on the subway.

    I realize that U of T is not for everyone, but at least apply. Shadowing a friend or older sibling and going with them to class and checking out some of their assignments is a great way to also see if its for you. It is not an easy school, but for people who are motivated, driven and enthusiastic about their field it is a great place to be and a great place to learn. Good luck!

  • Alen

    Americans beware don’t attend UT. I became ill my first semester, and I was not allowed to cancel, or get my tuition refunded. I can’t file a complaint against a Canadian entity in any small claims court in the USA. To file in Canada I must file in the City in which the complaint originated. Imagine my fileing a complaint in Toronto against the University of Toronto. I would lose and have to pay UT’s defense costs. There are too many schools in the USA, and Europe, than to have to be ripped off by UT.

  • mimi

    I wish to pursue an English degree (Bachelor of the Arts) at U of T. Any advice regarding my specific field of study? Also, I am debating U of T with Carleton, amongst others. Any suggestions?

  • etc

    I want to play devil’s advocate to Em’s comment because while I think they brought up a lot of really useful, valuable advice, I want to take a different perspective.

    The university is structured to systematically increase their own profits, research and international visibility. They are, sadly, a business. This means that U of T, as a large system, just doesn’t have undergraduate students’ needs at heart. That the TA strike last year struck a chord with professors and undergraduate students in addition to the grad students was just one example of the far-reaching dissatisfaction with U of T. So yes, U of T is not on your side and this can make it hard. It is very easy to become “just a number”, to become isolated in class, to have a hard time finding people to reach out to when you need support, whether academic, financial, psychological, or vocational. It’s easy to get lost in there!

    However, even though U of T has many structural flaws which block a lot of students from flourishing, a lot of the individual people that work there are incredible and really care about their students. Engineering gets a horrible rap for both the way their classes and courses of study are structured and the attitudes their professors and TA’s have towards undergrads, for instance. But there are good people even there that do care and genuinely want students to engage with them. Many profs want to help if you come to them with a problem, particularly if that problem is symptomatic of you struggling under the weight of being in such a massive maze of an institution. I personally can speak for English, Psychology, Women and Gender Studies, and Philosophy Departments — they are really community based and if you can find the courage to break into that community by doing as little as going to TA office hours, or getting over your fear of speaking with classmates about the material, or bringing up to your professor that you’re weeks behind the material and don’t know why — people will be kind. If you can even go so far as to go beyond asking questions and offer your own take on whatever you’re learning, it’s going to be even better. I promise that it’s going to be really rewarding.

    The best advice I can give a student just arriving at U of T is that even though the university is going to make it an uphill battle, don’t let it erase you! Very few people can make U of T work for them by just working hard, staying isolated, and thinking that the onus is on them alone to figure out their own problems. U of T as a system is built to perpetuate this. If you are having a hard time, it’s easy to become invisible if you stay silent about your suffering. But if you can make that initial move to break through and let your profs and TAs know when you’re struggling, and do that emotional work to connect with others, there is totally a community of people that get it and want to help. If you find yourself getting lost, send an email to your prof/TA and tell them that you feel like you’re getting lost! Some profs suck and won’t get it. But a lot will. You can say hey, I’m in your class, I’m feeling nervous to come speak with you but I have a bunch of questions. Or: Hey I’m falling behind and am feeling really stressed but I find the material so engaging, could you help me with catching up/ managing my study habits? Or: hey, I was wondering if you could give me some tips to connect with other students in class. Even something like this is enough to launch a connection with them and forge a lifeline for when times get tough.

    Best of luck you guys! You can do it, and you don?t have to do it alone.

  • Sanjida

    Hi ! I want to do a credit transfer and I want to major on Science and Engineering. Will it be the right decision to transfer to U of T ? A lot of my classmates are saying how this has the most dropout rate and honestly I don’t want to gait either. An unbiased opinion wuld be very much appreciated πŸ™‚

  • Anonymous

    I want to come to utsc for math, and I’m really scared I won’t be able to make it through, I currently have an average of 92.5 in hight school (senior year). Are there any tips for me

  • aska


    answered this in a post, which you can check out here:
    apologies for the wait, but hope this still helps!

  • Peter

    Currently procrastinating on reviewing for exams looking up people’s opinions from 11 years ago on what will be my life in roughly 3 months, give me a year on the day and ill check back in and see how these opinions still stack up.

  • Kenny

    I can see where OP is coming from.

    Although, I do tend to disagree.

    The sheer size and scale of this institution means that they will need to filter out the wheat from the shaft quickly. But how do you do this when your peers are all A1? Well, it really is survival of the fittest.

    This institution did not gain the recognition it did for handing out easy grades left and right, so the expectation should not be there.

    Personally, it is a shock to the system coming from high-school to an institution like this, but don’t let it consume you. Like anything in life, you have to fight for it.

    You don’t need to be scared to fail or do poorly because EVERYONE will do this at some point. What you do need is resilience, hunger, and patience with yourself to succeed here.

    The school’s grading scheme may seem “fucked” from outside observers or even those who have participated, but I can assure you that it is fair. Having been mauled myself first year, I quickly learned that I was no longer the big fish in the river but a small fish in the sea. Daunting? Sure, but I took advantage of the opportunities given and didn’t sit and wallow. Looking back on my time here brings tears of joy to my eyes. I grew so much not only as a student but personally, to levels I really don’t think I could have done elsewhere.

    You’re competing with some of the brightest minds of your generation, and I think we all need a reality check to realize what it takes to be a top student at the undergraduate level within this institution.

    This post may come off as arrogant, daunting, or obscene, but this is the reality.

    Harsh? Fuck yeah!

    Worth it? Absofuckinlutely!

    Don’t let fear hold you back.

    Fight, grow, and thrive!

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