After spending five years at U of T, yes five years (one more than I should have and four more than I wanted to), I’ve accumulated some knowledge that had I known earlier would have really saved me some money, time and sanity.
U of T is a big school with a ton of different programs, services and activities just waiting for you to find, the only issue is – you don’t know what you don’t know.
So here are some secrets and tips to making your years on campus (however many it turns out to be) smooth and steady.
1. Each U of T campus has an app and interactive maps!
If you don’t already know about the interactive maps and apps available to you on your phone and desktop, then you’re missing out. With just the click of a button, you can find places to eat, study spaces, student services, washrooms, and more. While you may already know your campus like the back of your hand, it can be used when visiting other U of T locations.
2. You can pre-book a study room.
Wandering around the library looking for space to host your group study session is hell, especially during exam season, so be proactive and book a study room in advance. Rooms can be booked online up to 2 weeks in advance for up to two hours. Just google your school and "study room booking" to figure out the process- every campus does it differently.
3. Preloading T-Bucks on your student card will save your life.
You never know when you’ll have to print something in an emergency or need a quick snack. Having some extra Tbucks on your T-card can really make a HUGE difference in your day.
4. Thursday is the day for picking up all drug store essentials.
The Shoppers Drug Mart on Bloor and Bedford offers U of T students a 20% discount on Thursdays. Sadly the promotion excludes high-end cosmetics and fragrances but that’s what optimum points are for! Be sure to flash both your student and optimum card at the checkout counter to receive the discount.
5. Metro, Sobeys, and Bulk Barn offer student discounts.
Speaking of store discounts, everyday Sobeys offers 10% off to anyone with a student card and a store rewards card. Every Bulk Barn #blesses students with 10% off on Wednesdays. Also, the Metro on Bloor and Spadina gives students a 15% discount on groceries every Wednesday and Thursday. So pack your T-Card to eat more and spend less.
6. You can edit your Google Scholar to link up with the UofT Libraries website.
It's easy to do and makes researching so much quicker. Also, you’ll have access to articles from databases and journals that are otherwise only available with a paid subscription. Check out this YouTube video to figure out how to do it!
7. You'll lose money selling your books back to the bookstore!
Anyone who’s done this before will tell you that selling your books back to the bookstore is a ripoff. You can make almost double the money selling textbooks directly to other students. Tusbe is the mecca of textbook selling in Toronto and if you can’t find any takers there, be sure to hit up the U of T Textbook Exchange on FB.
8. Learn your TA's names and use it.
These people are usually the ones marking your work so they can obviously help you write an A+ paper. Don't be afraid to e-mail them about your assignments, lecture questions, or accommodation needs. After all, that's what they're there for.
9. Forward your UTmail to your regular email or link it to your phone- THIS IS A MUST!!!
You won't believe how many times a prof will cancel class 1 hour to 30 minutes before your lecture is about to start. Save yourself some bus tokens and time by having your utoronto email sent to your phone.
10. Make the writing center editors your best friends.
The writing centers are these magical places that edit and improve your essays for free. Take your papers here to make sure you're not throwing away marks on silly errors or citation mistakes. The only catch is that you need to have your paper done in advance... #difficult.
11. Don't be afraid to book an appointment with counselling services.
It’s almost impossible to go through four+ years of university without ever hitting a snag. So if you find yourself having a harder time than usual or just dealing with the messiness of life, be sure to book an appointment with a certified counsellor. They can offer advice, an unbiased opinion, and in some cases help in rearranging your workload. UTSG, UTSC and UTM all offer free counselling and psychological services on campus.
12. This may sound obvious but remember that there’s a difference between a degree requirement and a diploma requirement.
Just because you've finished your degree requirements doesn't mean you're eligible to graduate! Login to your Degree Explorer frequently to make sure you're staying on track. You can also book an appointment with Academic Advising or sit down with your program’s department head to make sure everything is looking okay!
13. You can get a free credit through the Explore program.
Looking for a language credit and the chance to spend the summer away from home? Be sure to take advantage of the Explore program. It sounds almost too good to be true but thousands of students each summer are sent to campuses all over Canada for a month to learn French- practically free of charge. The best part about it is that you can take advantage of the program as many times as you want, just as long as you are still a student.
14. Make sure you are opting into student transit discounts.
If you take the GO Bus to school, head to a participating station to get your Presto card set to a student account and save 18% on our travel costs. If you take the TTC make sure you get the TTC Post-secondary Photo ID to take advantage of the student Metropass price.
15. Be brave enough to set up a textbook and note share.
No one can get through 100 pages of readings a week, every week, for five classes. So connect with people in your class and start a notes swap/ textbook sharing group. This saves so much money and time. Just be sure that each person is reliable and weed out the slackers. The easiest way to make it work is to put notes up on google drive.
16. You can chat with a librarian from home.
Use the "Ask Chat with a librarian" icon on any of the U of T library websites to get research help from the comfort of your bed. They can locate sources and articles for you, which is always useful. It doesn't hurt that they know everything about everything.
17. Feel free to indulge in a little class auditing.
Just because you're registered in a lecture on ACORN doesn't necessarily mean that you have to go there. You can go to the lecture for the same course at different times (reasons including a better professor, more review, better timeslot, etc). This is famously called class auditing. Just make sure the lecture content is the same, the class isn't so small that the professor knows everyone's name, and attendance isn't recorded for marks.
18. Utilize the U of T mentorship program so you can actually meet someone doing your dream job.
If you’re feeling a little lost or freaking out about graduating, drop into the alumni office to see if there are any mentorship programs you can take advantage of. With a school as big and old as U of T, you’ll be sure to find someone doing something you are interested in learning more about.
19. Get acquainted with the U of T Reddit page
It's the most useful place online.
20. Ending up with mediocre marks in your first year is NORMAL.
Remember that you aren’t stupid! You wouldn't have gotten into U of T if you were. You might just need to figure out some new study skills that work for you.
Get as much work experience as you can in these next couple of years and if that means having to volunteer then so be it. A ton of people think that having an expensive degree means that you’ll automatically be appealing to companies but that’s not so true these days. Use your time at school to get some real life experience by using the U of T job portal.
22. This one could be REALLY HARD for some students, but resist using your laptop in class.
I used to use the notes section in PowerPoint to take lecture notes but half the slides would end up blank since I spent most of the lecture distracted. I found that I got way better grades by handwriting notes then transcribing them into a typed study guide when preparing for midterms and exams.
23. Download everything important off of Blackboard and Portal
Both sites are annoying AF. To prevent yourself from getting an aneurysm every time they have a scheduled maintenance, make sure to download anything that may be of any use to you on there.
24. Just because you hated a subject in high school doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll hate/ be bad at it in university.
U of T has some world renowned professors teaching courses in their area of expertise. They're passionate about what they teach which makes shit engaging. So don’t be afraid to take a course that’s a little out of your comfort zone.
25. Drop shitty courses - ASAP.
If you can’t keep your eyes open in a class, hate the way the professor talks or can’t manage to crawl into your 9 a.m. lecture, chances are you won't do well in the class. Drop the course ASAP to make sure you get a full refund. If you truly hate the course but need it as a prereq then don’t feel obligated to stay in it. You can always take the class in the summer or in a different year with a new prof- which can make all the difference.
26. There are some seriously sticky rules to taking courses at other campuses, be sure you know all the info before enrolling.
Going to a tri-campus school is pretty cool, you can take classes all over the city and have access to a crazy amount of facilities. However, there are a ton of rules involved with taking classes outside of your "home" campus. According to the UTSC Registrar's website, "students who are pursuing a degree program may take a maximum of 5.0 credits in other arts and science undergraduate divisions at U of T," and "students who violate their registration allowance may be withdrawn from courses after classes have started". So make sure you know the ins and outs of the whole process and read all the fine print.