Major problems, minor headache relief

A lot of students change their majors. To my knowledge, anyway. You know, common tales of frivolous humanities students bouncing between Greek Mythology Expertise and 11th-Century Novels Written Backwards, neither program enough to get us a parent-pleasing job nowadays*. It can be quite daunting when you can’t find your niche fast enough for the rest of the world, keeping you trapped in a first-year state of mind and looking up those funky codes on ROSI. Course selection becomes a very scary time; God forbid the one sociology class you choose should solidify your disdain for the subject and you need to stay back an extra semester to compensate. The horror, horror, what hast ye done.

I’ve been like that for a bit, doing a major in English and two minors, one being political science and the other… always… up in the air. First year it was Literary Studies. Second year it was the Unspeakable**. Towards the end of last year, and the beginning of this one, I began to wonder why a woman such as myself, easily stuffed into the As-Angry-As-Every-Other-Feminist-Must-Be Box by insecure boys who argue with me, was not involved in the Women & Gender Studies program. Gadzooks. I’d minor in that. Problem solved.

Or not. My never-parting, scalding desire to do visual art somehow, some way, sometime still lurked around in alleyways and parking lots. Switch? No switch? Was switching even possible?

Then, the stumbling happened. Have you ever used the Arts and Science calendar as yet another procrastination device? Just allowing yourself to be lulled by the crazy titles of courses, forgetting actual work would be involved?

I do this. By chance, I clicked on “Equity Studies” and recalled speaking to a student about the program at the Really Really Free Market Block Party UTSU Thing. She said, since I was doing poli sci and gender studies, I had probably taken a whole bunch of equity courses already.

She was RIGHT.

I already have a minor in Equity Studies. Or, I would, if a minor were an option. Regardless, this chance meeting and my chance procrastinating with the calendar led me to learn I’m halfway done an Equity Studies major. With my record of ranting and raving on how “this is sexist” or “that is racist” and “why isn’t anyone listening to me,” why didn’t I think of this program sooner?

Thus, my undergraduate dilemma might be solved.

Now, the question is this: how is a U of T student supposed to know about all the random options available to them?

It seems many students don’t wind up studying what they had planned to in first year, unless certainty (or non-humanities-ness) is on their side. The calendar, aside from the fun course names, is large and not very riveting. One is only going to read it for the specific information one needs, not for everything it tells you.

Two examples of missed information: One, some courses can count towards more than one program. I learned this last year, and I would imagine most first-years are not aware of it. Two birds with one class.

Two, and this might hurt you: You can design your own program. It has to be “substantially different” from any already existing program, and also has to pass a probably hardcore set of criteria. If it passes, it would be “formally adopted by the student’s College on the basis of its academic rigour and coherence”. You can’t (formally) name the program, though; on your transcript, it appears as “Completed Self-designed Programs approved by ‘X’ College.” The calendar also states the process is “necessarily a long one,” and a student has to “discuss this process with their College Registrar immediately after completion of the fourth course in the Faculty.” Ouch. Regardless, this is still a great opportunity for the academically creative. They don’t tell you this in high school.

Despite the basics of all course and program information being online, and the fact that we are no longer required to leave our residences to register, the finer details can still fall through your fingers. Solution: email people. Human beings can give you direct answers. Program coordinators, actual professors, people other than those at the generic Arts & Science virtual info desk. Not because the latter are unhelpful — they will aid you as well — but because they are swamped with simple questions all the time. You may not get a fast, or specific enough, answer. Which brings us to a bonus solution: talk to people. Actual visage-to-visage speech will get you the most direct answer. I think the professors at U of T are getting a bit lonely; many of mine often remind students, “Come to my office! I’ll be in my office! Y’know, I do have an office … NO ONE WAS AT MY OFFICE!” Many are aware of the dwindling of human interaction, so if you have a question about a program or course, find the human in charge!

And this.

This ends my program brain fart. It may seem irrelevant, since we’re approaching November, but I hope some random secondary school student in the prime of youth will find some tiny tidbit of help in this … brain … fart … ***

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- Liesl

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* or so your parents will tell you

** or “Nothing”

*** clearly I stayed up all night