You know what they say about the best laid plans…

As I alluded to in my introductory post, I came to U of T with a plan. I cannot emphasize how much I did not follow that plan. To recap, I started university with the intention of doing a specialist in International Relations (IR), with a view towards going to law school. IR is a type 3 subject POSt with several prerequisites, so in my first-year, I had to take 100-level history and economics and a language course. I also decided that, in first year, I would fulfil my breadth requirements by taking astronomy.
A selfie of me in first year at Robarts Library with my face obscured by a pile of books, clutching a coffee and pouting.
Selfie in first year: Robarts, books, coffee, a bit of a pout.
A couple weeks into the first semester, I realized that I was in way over my head. The subject matter in my courses wasn’t grabbing me, and I was struggling with concepts in economics and astronomy. After a lot of anguish, I decided to drop economics and leave the IR plan behind, and picked up a political science course.  I enjoyed my history and political sciences classes - but I did not feel inspired enough by either to commit to a major. I also took a Jewish Studies course, which ignited some academic passion in me, so I decided to double major in Jewish Studies and English the following year. When the new year came around, I was in courses that I found fascinating and that motivated me to thrive as a student.
A selfie with my friend Cameron studying in the Junior Common Room at University College.
Happier second year studying faces! Featuring my pal Cameron.
From the craziness of my first year, I learned several things. The first and most important one is to be yourself, or, as I wrote for BlogUT at the time, don’t fight the current. If you find that you are good at something, or even just curious about something, roll with that! I wanted to be something I wasn't because I thought it would be more prestigious - but when I tried being myself instead, I found that there were tons of exciting opportunities in my own areas of interest. I also learned to be flexible and seek help. If you want to make changes during the course of your program, it can be done. Don’t hesitate to go with that instinct - just make sure you are informed about graduation requirements, that you are consulting with academic advisors and your registrar, and that you are making long-term plans. Yes, in my experience, plans are made to be broken - but continuing to actively map out your degree will keep you on track to graduate while you find your way among the winding academic roads of U of T. Plus, degree explorer makes it easy.
My dog on my bed, sitting in front of my laptop.
Sometimes I sought help from my registrar and my profs and TAs; other times, from my puppy.
Even with switching my plans, I was still on track to graduate in four years going into second year. But in my fourth year, I made the decision to become a part-time student and stick around at U of T for a fifth year. I had a work-study position, working as an editor at The Varsity, was involved in several campus groups, and wanted to maintain my strong academic record. I also decided that I was going to run for editor-in-chief at The Varsity for the next year.
All the newspaper and magazine issues from my year as Editor-in-Chief at The Varsity tacked onto a bulletin board, pictured in our newsroom at Sussex Clubhouse.
All the newspaper and magazine issues from my year as Editor-in-Chief at The Varsity, pictured in our newsroom at Sussex Clubhouse.
In fifth year, I learned that a lot of people take a fifth year. Whether its because they decided not to take a full-time course load to have a more manageable academic schedule or to accommodate working or extracurricular roles, or because they switched programs midway through their degree and had to catch up, plenty of people take some extra time to finish. So advice-wise: take your time! If you find a full course load stressful, if you need to work to fund your tuition, whatever the reason - don’t hesitate to take a lighter course load so you are better equipped to succeed. If you’re thinking about it, talk to someone at your college or in your department for advice. There’s nothing wrong with taking the extra time if it’s the right move for you. For me, it certainly was! I really enjoyed being part-time and having the time to work a couple jobs, pursue my goals at the paper, and dip my toes in different campus groups. I did well in my courses and established lasting relationships with my professors by attending office hours and investing lots of time into my assignments. Next week, I’m graduating with a strong GPA, a lot of extracurricular and professional experience, and a lot of good friends and memories that make me smile.
An image of the U of T Convocation process, with graduates walking across King's College Circle field to Convocation Hall, and a view of the CN Tower in the background. A text overlay reads: U of T Convocation Spring 2015 | #UofTGrad15" and the University of Toronto logo and name is below.
Excited to be in this procession next week!
I’m living proof that the best laid plans tend to go awry - but in my experience, you still seem to end up in the right place for you. Follow your passions, be flexible, stay organized, and don’t rush. You may not land precisely where you set out to go, but I would bet you will end up somewhere even better. Thinking about switching programs? Taking a fifth year? Dropping down to part-time? Making other changes to your carefully (or not so carefully) laid plans? Talk to me in the comments or on twitter at @lifeatuoft!

4 comments on “You know what they say about the best laid plans…

  1. Great insight. Most people don’t listen to their inner voice – you did, and you did at an early age. Thanks for sharing – you will help others.

  2. Hi I am a grade 12 high school student from Ontario and will be graduating this year. I got accepted to U of T life science, and in my conditional offer it said that I in Calculus I had to get an above 75 in order for my offer to be valid. But near the exam my average fell to a 71, but hopefully it will increase in the exam. But my question is will U of T revoke my offer if I falls below a 75?

    Thank You,

    1. Hi there,

      I can’t say for sure! You should call up U of T Admissions and ask them directly. They can be reached at 416-978-2190 and their office hours are here: You should also take a look at your offer and see if there is any contact info or guidance specified on it. It may also be worth talking to your calculus teacher and explaining your situation and seeing if there is anything that can be done to boost your average if the exam brought you below the 75% threshold.

      Sorry I couldn’t be of more help! I think if you go to the source, you’ll get the answers you’re looking for!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *