12/29/09: The epic reviews on the colleges at U of T have been completed! Whoo! Quick links for you. In order of date posted: Victoria College; University College; Innis College; Trinity College; New College; St. Michael’s College; Woodsworth College. You can also find an overview of all the posts related to this saga under the “college guide” tag. Don’t forget to check out the FAQ at the bottom! I just found the answers to how you can transfer colleges.
Does choosing which college to attend at the University of Toronto seem daunting, confusing or mystifying? Or if you’re already a student here, have you ever wanted to learn more about your college?
If so, worry/wait no longer! In the upcoming weeks, I’ll be commencing “THE COLLEGES OF THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO—ST. GEORGE: AN EPIC, HEPTADIC* SAGA.” Just from the title alone, you can tell it’s going to be epic. It is so fierce that I have smized** usurped Lucy‘s regular Thursday post for the first installment of TCOTUOTSG-AEHS.
* To be honest, trilogies are so much more epic. Alas, there are seven colleges, and they don’t divide well into threes.
** Couldn’t help it. I’m sorry. I’ll be less silly now.
Methodology (a.k.a. “What is said saga?”)
This is probably the longest comparative assignment I’ve had (or will have) the pleasure to write, and is the first of its kind in all of U of T’s history. You’re creating history with me, dear readers. Isn’t this exciting? The premise is thus: I want to compare all seven colleges as objectively as possible so that you can find out which college is the best for you — or, if you’re already here, what sort of college you got yourself into.
How am I going to make this objective? I mean, unless you’ve experienced all seven colleges for yourself, you can’t really make a proper comparison, right? Plus — and I can already hear your objection — as a student, I’m tied to a college, so I must be biased in its favour. Well, first off, I’m not affiliated with any of the colleges as a blogger, and so I’m not going to favour any college over another. Actually, let’s make a list:
1. I’m not college-biased as a blogger. In fact, I’m a Student Life blogger; if I’m going to be biased, I’m going to be biased for the collective student body!
2. I’m asking all seven colleges the same basic set of questions. The answers will be provided by a representative of the college itself, and I’ll be transcribing the interview for you. You’ll also get the same set of pictures from me for each college — the exterior, what the registrar looks like…
3. I will describe my experience and personal impressions after you see the answers, so you’re not going to be primed by my views.
That being said, I wanted to get some background info out of the way, as well as a guide of sorts.
*UPDATE! My first TCOTUOTSG-AEHS post was longer than one of my essays, and that cannot be. So, I’m going to be cutting out information that you can find through Wikipedia or Google, and answering three questions that I cut because everybody gave me the same answer. Check out FAQ #2, 3, and 4.
Background Info (a.k.a. “What is a college?”)
A college, as the official U of T page points out, is a place to call home. If you choose your courses from the Arts and Science (St. George) calendar, then you’re going to be affiliated with a college. It’s both a historical legacy, and also U of T’s answer to having an insanely large student population. It’s not unlike Harry Potter: your college is your house, but without the pumpkin juice. It’s a place to hang out before, between and after class; it’s a place to get involved, to gain experience, to practise leadership; it’s a place to meet people; and it’s a place to call your own.
There are seven colleges at U of T St. George: Innis College (“Innis”); New College (“New”); St. Michael’s College (St. Mike’s); Trinity College (“Trin”); University College (“UC”); Victoria College (“Vic”); and Woodsworth College (“Woodsworth”). When you apply to the Faculty of Arts and Science at St. George (as opposed to UTM or UTSC, which are significantly smaller in population and don’t need the college system), you have to rank the colleges in your preferred order.
Speaking of choice, here are five dos and don’ts in choosing your college:
5 reasons NOT to choose a college:
1. “Cuz *insert college* is where all the hot guys/gals at!” Because it’s different every year, obviously. UC (as a hypothetical example) may have had the luck of the draw last year, but that doesn’t mean they won’t get the short straw this year. Besides, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so your subjective view of which college has the hottest people may not equal my view. Also, you meet people in class, where you spend at least some of your time, and classes are very rarely college-specific.
2. “Innis, because Innis is alphabetically first.” You’d be surprised at how many people I met who chose Innis because it was first on the list. Innis is great, it’s true, but please at least do some cursory research to make sure the other six aren’t for you. Similarly, Eeny Meeny Miny Moe does not constitute a legitimate way to generate your college choice.
3. “Trinity, because they are respectable!” All right, full disclosure: I’m a Trin kid. I chose Trinity after my research and found that it was the best fit for me. Look, Trin gets its share of good and bad rap, and I’ll be exploring those issues further when I interview the college, but just because Trin seems “impressive” or “dignified” or whatever people tell you isn’t a good reason to choose Trin. Having a separate application makes it seem prestigious, a place where only the elite few make it in, but like all colleges, Trin has its share of good and bad people. Ultimately, having an environment where you are comfortable to be yourself while you explore and learn is more important than whether or not your great-aunt May can tell her neighbours that “my niece goes to the University of Toronto, downtown campus, at Trinity College!”
4. “Because I heard that this college is like (*insert stereotype here*)” I’ll be busting the stereotypes of all seven colleges in the upcoming weeks, so stay tuned for that. For now though, understand this: there are going to be people who epitomize whatever stereotype you may have heard about a college, but those people are going to be at every other college, too. It’s the nature of having so many people at U of T. You are going to find somebody who exemplifies every college (and university) stereotype at all seven college.
5. “It doesn’t matter, because I’m commuting anyways. I won’t be socializing with people. I’m going to be all alone…” Cheer up, emo kid! Being a commuter makes it even more important to choose wisely. Each college has its own resources for commuting students and you’re going to want to find out what those are, and which you’re going to benefit most from. Don’t worry — in my upcoming series, I specifically ask the people I interview what resources their colleges have for you, so hang in there!
5 reasons to choose a college:
1. “I’ve visited the colleges and — feels the best for me.” YES! There is no such thing as a wrong college, but there is the right college for you. There’s nothing like understanding the environment and feel of the college by simply visiting. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the actual experience of going into a college is going to be worth so much more. I know, visiting seven colleges seems like hard work, but make a morning/afternoon of it. The campus is big, but not that big. It’ll be great exercise. And ask the students you see (who don’t look like they haven’t slept trying to finish an essay/problem set/assignment) at the college for their opinion of it. They generally don’t bite.
2. “Because I like the — residence.” YES! If you’re going to be living in rez, one of the most important things* to do is to scope out your home for the next year. Residences are even more important to visit in person if you can. Each residence is different, and you’ll be surprised at how little things like the ceiling height, the materials used in the building, and the way it’s structured make a huge difference. There are residences that I visited which on paper I thought I would love, but after visiting, I found that I preferred another that was less attractive to me on paper. If you can’t make it in person, check out the respective colleges’ websites. A lot of them have virtual tours and photos available. Don’t forget that there’s also the hotel/residence, 89 Chestnut.
*UPDATE! Dear readers, check out Lucy’s perspective on the residence question. Residences are transient, and that should be taken into account!
3. “All my programs are there!” If you’re taking a college-specific program, or are in a program whose courses take place at or near a college, choosing your college based on location and proximity is great. I’m always jealous of the people who can wake up five minutes before a 9:10 a.m. class and just tumble in. Though, a quick word of caution: don’t let this be your be-all-and-end-all factor in choosing a college. What if you change programs? It happens more often than you think.
4. “Because the — at this college are attractive to me.” Whether you’re looking for commuter programs, scholarships and bursaries, or mentorship programs, each college has its own unique offerings and resources. Once you figure out what those are (and I can help you with that in the upcoming weeks), you’ll be able to make a more informed choice. (For askastudent, the huge red couches in UC’s Junior Common Room were a deciding factor.)
5. “Because of all of the above, and more!” If you have more than one reason for choosing your college, all the more power to you! My point — and this really applies to anything you do — is that it’s important to know why you’re choosing something. University is a place to learn how to think, so we might as well start with colleges, eh?
There is no right or wrong answer in choosing your college, as there are people who love and hate the college they’re at. Being in one college does not disqualify you from the resources and services that U of T provides, so you’re going to have access to all things U of T — the facilities, the gym membership, all the libraries, and so on. It may seem like an arduous process, but choosing the right college for you will ultimately make your experience at the university that much better.
PS: I’m starting a FAQ section! Shoot me questions* in the comments, and I’ll add it in.
*please at least try 1) the U of T website; 2) the college-in-question’s website; 3) Google for the answer first?
Frequently Asked Questions regarding the College system at U of T!
1) How I do I switch colleges?
The quick answer is that each transfer is considered on a case-by-case basis. Depending on the college, you can be in any year, and can submit a request for transfer any time of the year*. Colleges monitor students who transfer in, not out, so you only need to contact the Associate Registrar of the college you are interested in transferring to. Email or submit a letter requesting a transfer (remember to include your name and student number) detailing why you want to switch colleges. Obviously, your reasons have to be compelling, and not just “cause I want to” or “my friends are there”. As I said, each transfer is considered individually. Make sure to follow up after submitting your letter if you don’t hear from the college, and if you have any questions, the Registrar’s Office (of the college you want to switch to) will be able to provide you with more information.
*However, it is important to note that each college has a slightly different procedure for accepting transfers. I called them, and here are some additional requests. As always, contact the Registrar’s Office for the most up-to-date requirements just in case.
Trinity College: Submit your letter during May and June. You can be in any year, academics will be taken into account and you will need a recommendation letter along with your statement.
University College: Submit your letter around April-June. There is also a form to fill out and you should be between 8.5-11 credits.
Innis College: Wanting to stay at Innis Residence is not sufficient reason to transfer to Innis College, and you should typically have at least a B average.
2) What is the atmosphere like at ______ college?
– All seven colleges are diverse, inclusive and welcoming environments where students can safely explore and learn about themselves.
3) What’s ______ college’s relationship with the other colleges?
– The consensus is that there are spirited rivalries during orientation, but most students are able to mix their love of their college with support for other colleges fairly well.