Introduction

Dear New Students

Dear New Students

Congratulations! You made it!

It’s been 3 years, almost to the day, since I accepted my offer to U of T. Wow, that makes me feel old.

Me, circa 2009.

I still remember my dad picking me up from school and handing me the thick envelope. He was grinning, and making me hurry up and open it. I started screaming in the car and then, when I saw a friend who got her acceptance a week before me, rolled down the window and screamed at her. I was a jumble of nerves and since it was the day before my birthday and convocation ceremony (our grads happened before we wrote our diplomas), I was convinced it was a sign. Or at least one of the most exciting birthdays ever.

That said though, it was hard trying to decide which university I was going to in the fall (I got three offers). And once I decided, it was difficult trying to figure what I had to do in order to prepare. I don’t remember many details, but I do remember being worried that I hadn’t done everything I needed to. I was relocating, moving across the country by myself. I do not exaggerate when I say there were six suitcases full of my stuff. My whole family was coming with me to send me off, so, with eight allowable pieces of baggage between the four of us, I stuffed as much as I could into them.

It’s nerve-wracking, but there are some things I was glad I did while preparing to move and start university. Sorry if this seems to be directed to students who are moving here from far away. I swear that every student can take something from of this!

1. Make a list.

Do it early. Over the next two months, the list will grow. Things to remember to bring with you include all your personal ID (health card, SIN card, bank cards etc.) and your teddy bear. Go to your doctor and make sure you have all the prescriptions you need. Better yet, make a note and remember to visit the campus’ Health Services to start your chart while you’re here.

Also list all the deadlines you need to meet. Student loans, course enrollment, tuition payments, and residence registration are very important.

2. Start looking at Ulife and Start @ UofT, and thinking about extracurricular activities.

Clubs Day is great, but they don’t show every thing there is on campus. Start looking at clubs you might be interested in now. You don’t even have to email them! Having an idea of where you might want to go is enough to get you started.

Clubs Day

Not only does it look great on your resume, being part of a club gives you time off from studying that is spent productively. If you’re not much for “productive” time, then think of it as a chance to make new friends. One of the hardest things for me was meeting new people. I was new to Toronto and grew up in Edmonton, so the pace of the city made it hard for me to form long-lasting friendships. I met some of my closest friends at my club, whichย I emailed before I even got here.

3. Reach out before you get here.

If you signed up for residence, you’ll be getting your room assignments before you arrive. If you are sharing living space, you might also get your new roommate(s)’ email. Talk to them! I started emailing my roommates before we moved in, and met up beforehand to figure out who was bringing what. It gives you time to get to know each other. It also helps to not have 6 of everything in the dorm.

Before you embark on your U of T journey, ground yourself. It’s exciting, but don’t let that excitement go to your head too much. U of T is tough (Get it? University of Tough?), but with a bit of elbow grease and lots of perspective, it won’t be as bad as the scary upper years make it out to be. Think of us as that one great aunt thrice removed who likes to talk about how hard life was back in the day.

If there’s one thing I want you to remember from this letter, remember this: When even optimism feels dark, remember the excitement you felt when you got your acceptance letter. As the absolutely gorgeous British boy band The Wanted so aptly put it, some days stay gold forever.

All the best,

Crystal

P.S. Seasoned UTians reading this, add your thoughts and comments below! You can’t have too much advice.

P.P.S New students, if you’ve got any questions, comment below and I (and our readers) will do our best to help you out!

8 comments on “Dear New Students

  1. Stumbled across yr blog before my UT-bound dear kid — we’re headed to the Vic orientation this weekend and will go to appts., etc. on Monday. What’s your advice on what would be wise to do on campus NOW in those few May days in TO (we’re in the US). And advice on possible part-time jobs? Advice on what to do or ask now, esp. what people usually forget to do, or on what to bring? We’ve spent time in TO, but are not as familiar w/ campus. All advice VY welcome, and I’ve shared blog information w/ my daughter.

  2. @NewUTsMom

    First off, congratulations to your daughter!

    Something I forgot to mention on the blog post is to get your TCard. The TCard office can be found on the second floor of Robarts library. http://www.utoronto.ca/tcard/

    I would first visit the registrar her college, even before Monday. Ask about things like a to-do list for new students (I vaguely remember receiving one in my acceptance package), financial/scholarship information and tips to getting settled in.

    The next place to look would be our Start website: http://start.utoronto.ca . There is also a first year checklist here: http://start.utoronto.ca/organized/first-year-checklist.htm

    I’m not familiar with Vic’s orientation, but to become more familiar with the campus as a whole, you might want to do a campus tour. I took my family on the tour last year when my cousin was trying to decide what university he was going to apply for. http://discover.utoronto.ca/connect/campus-tours/u-of-t-st-george-campus-tours

    The best place to look for student jobs is on our Career Centre website: careers.utoronto.ca. The Career Centre is located in the Koffler Building, corner of St. George street and College street. However, until your daughter gets your UTORid and Tcard, she will not be able to access the service.

    If your daughter is an international student, she might want to take a look at her health insurance plan, called UHIP. All international students are enrolled in the insurance plan for the duration of their studies here. I’m not too familiar with the details, but more information can be found here: uoft.me/uhip.

    As for what to bring, when she starts school in the fall, remember to bring ALL documentation. What my parents did for me was put all documents in a durable envelope for me to keep in my drawer. It included my acceptance letter, student loan/finance information, banking information, healthcare information, proper ID etc. I know it helped me to have everything in one place, especially during the move.

    Of course, one of the most unique things about U of T is that our campus blends in with the rest of downtown. Explore the areas around campus, like Chinatown, Kensington Market, The Annex, Yorkville, etc. Use the few days you have to do some sightseeing.

    If anything else comes up, I’ll be use to post it here! Have fun, and all the best!

  3. Advice on part time jobs for me would be not to have one. First year was so busy, and learning to get a grip on the workload and keep productive is hard with a job. If its completely necessary, try searching for one on campus through the uoft career centre online! Internal jobs on campus would be easiest because they’re close and understand the importance of school.

  4. For students wishing to work during the school year, I would encourage seeking out work-study opportunities: these jobs provide the chance for students to work for the university on a part-time basis as part of a subsidized program designed to provide experiential learning. Visit the U of T career centre – as far as I understand the eligibility criteria is expanding to include opportunities for part-time as well as international students, which is new for work-study. Check out details and when postings will be up on the career-centre site – the current page still only lists the summer program, should be updated soon:http://www.careers.utoronto.ca/jobsearch/workstudy.aspx?tr=
    It was a life saver for me to gain work-experience with the U of T, it is an on-campus job that provides valuable learning in an environment that is supportive of students’ academic pursuits. Check it out!

  5. Hey!
    Just finished my first year at UTSC and recently got accepted at the downtown campus for Woodsworth.
    Still deciding whether to go or not.
    I’m hearing lots of pros and cons about both campuses but if you could clear some up, I’d greatly appreciate it!
    Is it true St. George is unbearably hard in comparison to UTSC?
    I heard people get lonely at St. George and it’s hard to make friends because the campus is so big and you never see anyone twice. (yes? no? depends on person?)
    UTSC has small classes and an even smaller campus so it’s pretty easy to build relations with profs and TAs; how is it downtown?
    Any other positives/negatives/lookoutfor will help too!
    Please help! Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Hi UTSC Transfer,

      First off, congratulations on your acceptance! I’m in Woodsworth too ๐Ÿ˜€

      I’ve heard the rumour about St. George being unbearably compared to UTSC too. I think that rumour circulates more in the sciences circles. That being said, I have no idea how difficulty compares, or if that is even true. I’ve only ever taken classes at UTSG. There are many factors to consider: what your program is, what classes you’re taking, how competitive your program is… However, all that is relative to how much work and elbow grease you put into school, and most of all (and this is probably most relevant to people) how well you adapt to life on St. George campus.

      As you said, our downtown campus is very big. I’m not going to sugar and coat it and say that I didn’t have a hard time finding my niche – because I did. When I first got here, it did seem like I never saw the same person twice. That was only at the beginning though. Soon enough, you’ll be sitting next to the same person every class, and realizing that maybe it’s a good idea to make friends with your seatmate. I think that’s the same for anyone who’s in a new place. You might have to spend more time looking for things you can get involved in because we have so many choices, but once you find it you’re set. So to answer your question, it depends on the person. The best advice I can give you on that department is to get involved with groups and actively create study groups – that’s how I met some of my closest friends.

      To your question about building relationships with your profs and TAs – my first two years were standard life science years, where I had many classes in Con Hall. It’s not easy get a hold of your professor after class unless you sit right in front of the stage. That said, profs have office hours. Make use of those. That would be the best way to build relationships with your prof. If they don’t hold office hours, email them. If that means putting their office hours into your timetable, then that’s the way to go. With TAs it’s easier because you’ll be in a small classroom setting. I’ve gotten to know some of my TAs just by participating more during tutorials. They also have office hours. I’ve had one TA tell my class that she wished we visited her during her office hours because it could get boring – so the want your company too!

      I can definitely understand why you’re a bit apprehensive about moving from a smaller campus to a giant one. I moved from a smaller city across the country to one of Hulk-like proportions (in Canada, at least). It will take a bit getting used to because it will be very busy. It will seem like it’s hard to get to know people because everyone is off doing their own thing, but the opportunities are there.

      Some tips: Learn how to schedule really well. I already alluded before that it might be a good idea to schedule in your professors’ and TAs’ office hours. Also set out time for things like study groups. Don’t forget to leave time to have fun and be spontaneous! I’m saying this as someone who wishes I started learning how to effectively schedule my time earlier. If I’d had learned that in my first and second years, as opposed to at the beginning of my third, I would have been less stressed.

      The take home message: If you don’t work hard at school and on getting a feel for the campus, everything about this campus will seem hard. It may take a bit more effort to do the same things in a smaller campus, but it isn’t hard to get used to if you like the idea of being on a campus that is constantly bustling and buzzing. Just keep putting yourself out there, trying new things, and (most importantly) smiling and you’re golden. ๐Ÿ˜€

      Hope that helps! This is just my own two cents. Any other UTSG students care to share?

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