Jennifer (Year 3)
What did you wish you knew before going to your university? What made you choose this institution over all others? What are advantages and disadvantages of your institution or campus? List any advice for incoming first-year students about your university.
I chose UofT St. George as it was one of the universities close to home and had a reputable science program. There are so many research opportunities held at both the hospitals downtown as well as the labs of my professors. UTSG is in the heart of Toronto and because of that, you’re not confined to the space within campus and can explore the various cafés, libraries, and study spaces nearby. Although this is a very prestigious school, I find that there is competition between students (especially in the Life Science program). This environment may be hard to adapt to especially when you are hearing your friends from other schools talk about their various social gatherings. Be prepared to adapt and find your balance because it’s possible to still do well and enjoy your time in this environment. Because of the large campus, there are so many people that attend UTSG in which it may be hard to find a solid group of friends. Make sure to join clubs and/or sports teams as it's harder to make friends in a class of 1300 in Con Hall. For social life, there are your normal fraternity and sororities, but you’re in the heart of downtown! You can always go explore various clubs downtown (if you’re of age!) as the downtown nightlife scene is one I find just as fun as university parties. My advice is to do your research and be prepared to work hard, it’s going to be a different environment from high school and remember to reach out if you’re finding trouble transitioning or have any questions.
What did you wish you knew before choosing your specific program? What are the advantages and disadvantages of your program? List any advice for incoming first-year students about your program of study.
Mistakes I made in my program were most prominent in first year. I treated my classes as I did in high school and that made me realize how different university is and that I would need to commit more time to studying. I corrected my mistakes by reviewing class notes after each lecture and going to office hours and asking questions for clarification. Advantages of my program is that it is one of the largest programs at UofT and because of that, many students are also in the same boat as you so you will have chances to ask each other questions and study together! A disadvantage of my program is its competitive nature. Many people in Life Sciences strive to enter grad school whether that’s medical school, pharmacy, dentistry etc. These competitive graduate schools require a very high GPA which creates a competitive environment amongst students in undergrad in order to attain that high GPA. My advice is to not beat yourself up with super high expectations and to adapt and learn from your mistakes rather than giving up! Everyone around you is going through some sort of difficulty — yes, even those that have 3 different internships in large companies — everyone is going through some sort of struggle. Just remember to keep your head up and continue to work hard because hard work will pay off, even if you don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel yet.
What was your favourite university experience?
My best experience at university is frosh and o-week. That was a time where I made most of my friends and was able to engage in activities apart from academics. Although my university experience has been one full of challenges and trial and error, it has taught me to adapt better time management skills. UofT is a hard school (especially in Life Science) and with that, my social life did take a toll in order for me to focus on my studies. I’ve learned to adapt and learn from my mistakes to improve my learning and find balance in my school/social life.
What was your least favourite university experience?
My least favourite experience at university was in first year during midterm season. In this different environment, I had no idea what to expect during this time, and because of that, I hadn’t adapted a studying routine or a method that worked for me which caught up to me very quickly. After writing 5-7 midterms in my first semester of first year and receiving marks I’d envisioned as 20% higher, it became a wake up call for me to figure out what studying method worked best for me and how I was able to keep up with all 5 courses.
What is the hardest part about your program and what were the steps that you took to overcome any difficulties?
The hardest part of my program is keeping up with all the material while maintaining a healthy social life balance and my mental health. The courses in life science consists of heavy lectures and various lab courses which require you to commit most of your time after classes to review. I found my study method through trial and error and realizing that reaching out to peers and professors for help really improved my learning. Because Life Sciences is a very competitive program, sometimes you may find it hard to find a group of people willing to study with you and help you out. There are always recognized study groups at UofT that are in place for you to join if you’re not able to find your own. Exam season especially for Life Sci is always one I dread because of the heavy content in each course and the amount of time needed to study for each. What worked for me was to start studying earlier and to use practise questions from the textbook and previous exams to help enforce your learning!
If you were able to take electives, what was your favourite elective? If you were not able to take electives, what was your favourite course and why?
ENG100 (Effective Writing) was an elective I took in first year and although it did not provide any breadth contribution, it taught me how to write in many formats (annotated bibliographies, essay writing for science vs. humanities etc.) with the university expectations.
PCL102 (The Art of Drug Discovery) was another elective I took in first year. This course is structured for non science students to fulfill their breadth requirement for the sciences. For science students, this was a very easy elective that talked about drug metabolism and clinical trials in drug discovery. I definitely recommend this course if you have a heavy semester!