Summer Abroad

by Annie

I can’t be the only one dreaming of summer in this dreary winter weather. Luckily, there is good reason to be looking ahead! U of T’s Summer Abroad Program online applications are officially open.

What is Summer Abroad?

Summer Abroad is a program that allows you to earn a full-year U of T credit in 3-6 weeks. There are over 40 courses offered in 20 locations.  Admissions are not first-come, first-served; they are all reviewed equally if received by the deadline.

How do I apply?

  1. First, check out the Summer Abroad 2017 Program Brochure to see if this is something you want to pursue. Review your eligibility and the costs.
  2. Next, research programs, places and courses here.
  3. Attend an on-campus information session for your program.
  4. Finally, apply here.

What is the deadline?

The application deadline for all programs and awards offered through Woodsworth College is February 13th, 2017 at 5:00p.m.

Who can I talk to if I have more questions?

Follow: @UofTAbroad
Visit: Woodsworth College, 119 St. George Street, 3rd Floor

Best of luck, Vic Ones!


Decisions, Decisions: Thinking Ahead to Avoid Stress

by Annie

I know, I know. You’ve JUST settled into your first-year routine and the last thing on your mind is what you’re going to do next year. But deadlines are approaching, so keep reading!

Want to go abroad?

Mark these deadlines down:

  • Deadline for Summer Research Exchange Programs: December 2, 2016
  • Deadline for Summer Exchanges – Round 1: January 13, 2017
  • Deadline for Summer Exchanges – Round 2: February 27, 2017
  • Deadline for Summer Exchanges – Round 3:  March 10, 2017
  • Nomination Decision Date – Round 2: April 7, 2017
  • Fall, Winter & Full year program deadline for all institutions: January 13, 2017 and February 27, 2017 (or earlier)

Important links:

International opportunities

Check your eligibility for an international exchange

Apply for an international exchange

Summer abroad – information for Summer 2017 by mid-December

Not going abroad? What about your living situation?

PRO TIP: PLAN AHEAD if you are considering renting an apartment or house instead of living in residence or commuting. Remember that most leases for apartments are for 12 months, and utilities and Wi-Fi are often separate costs from monthly rent.

In first year, I lived in Margaret Addison Hall residence, but I decided I wanted to make my own food during second year. I currently live close to campus in a two-bedroom apartment with two other girls, where one of my roommates lives in the living room. We started planning in February, toured apartments in March/April and signed our lease in May. Feel free to ask me about it in-person any time!

Helpful links to compare costs of living in residence, elsewhere and commuting:

Sample student annual budget

Estimated living and housing costs

Dropping courses, CR/NCR and GPA

By previous contributor Minnie
Updated June 10, 2016 by Annie

While you’re planning out the next couple of weeks, one date to keep in mind is November 7th: it’s the last day to drop F section code courses from your academic record without it affecting your GPA. After this deadline a mark is recorded for each course, whether course work is completed or not (a 0/zero is assigned for incomplete work), and calculated into the GPA.

To learn about U of T grading policies, click here.

Nov. 7th is also the last day to add or remove a CR/NCR option* for F section code courses. Degree students in the Faculty of Arts & Science may select up to 2.0 full-course equivalents of their degree credits to be assessed on a Credit/No Credit basis. This option is available for Arts & Science students taking courses offered by the St. George Faculty of Arts & Science. Students may add or remove the CR/NCR option on Acorn. See the Faculty’s website for full details of the CR/NCR option.

To achieve a status of CR (Credit), a student must achieve a final mark of at least 50%. Marks below that will be assessed as NCR (No Credit). Courses with a final status of CR will count as degree credits but will have no effect on the student’s GPA. They will count as Distribution Requirements, Breadth Requirements, and degree credits, but cannot be used to satisfy subject program requirements unless explicitly permitted by the program, nor satisfy the 12.0 different FCE requirement between programs for your degree.

Please note: first-year seminars, including Vic One, are not eligible for CR/NCR.

Courses with a final status of NCR will not count as degree credits but will not count as failures, and will also not be included in the GPA calculation.

Students may exercise this option to a total of 2.0 full-course equivalents within the total number of credits required for a degree. The choice is not restricted as to year or level of course.

For more important 2016-2017 sessional dates, you can click here.

*Some courses may not be eligible for CR/NCR – check with the course Calendar or the relevant campus.

Planning Tools

By previous contributor Minnie

I am notorious for raving about Acorn, and there’s a good reason for it: all the previously separate tools for planning are now all in one place! When you log into Acorn, on the left side, you’ll see that under ‘Academics’, there’s an option called ‘Planning Tools’. This option guides you to four very important tools:

Degree Explorer

Degree Explorer is the University of Toronto’s degree planning tool. Review your academic history, degree requirements or use the planner to determine how future course choices might meet your requirements. This tool clearly lays out your unique degree and program requirements and indicates which requirements have been met and which are still outstanding. Degree Explorer also has a planning feature that allows you to plan for course selection years in advance ensuring you’ll satisfy all requirements for your degree and programs, because there’s nothing worse than realizing you’re one course short of graduation.  ‘Current Status’ displays the degree and programs you are currently registered in, as well as your estimated progress towards completion. You can see at a glance if you’ve completed the requirements of your degree or program. By expanding the plus sign beside your degree or program, you’ll see the individual requirements and which ones you’ve completed. The ‘Planner’ enables you to see on a time continuum courses you’ve taken in the past and add hypothetical courses in the future. You can create up to five saved hypothetical scenarios that will have no impact on your current registration. When you’re done, click ‘ReAssess’ towards the bottom, to reassess whether courses you’ve picked meet prerequisites.

Course Finder

Course Finder is the University of Toronto’s course listing search engine. Many of you may already be familiar with this, as you’ve already gone through registration and course selection. Here, you can search for courses filtered through the Faculty of the courses you need to find, or the breadth requirements. As you would search via Google, you should type in keywords of the course name.

Transfer Explorer

Transfer Explorer is for:

  • Plans transferring to or within the University of Toronto
  • Checking eligibility of courses taken at other institutions
  • Checking eligibility of courses taken at U of T campuses other than your current

CIE (Centre for International Experience) opportunities can be found here as well!

Program Finder

Program finder allows you search and browse for programs by keyword, title, or subject. You can filter the degrees by type and level. Please recognize that all programs undergraduate or graduate are listed here, so please be careful when you’re searching, that you’re not looking at a program at the incorrect level. All programs for UTM, St. George, and UTSC are shown as well. There are some programs that are specific to campuses.

Exploring Your Degree with Degree Explorer

By previous contributor Nicole
Updated June 10, 2016 by Annie

*Please note that subject POSts are now referred to as programs.

I entered first year with a plan.

I was going to specialize in Developmental Biology by the end of my first year, graduate in three years, participate in a list of extra-curriculars that I personally chose myself, and do well in all of my courses. For the most part, I had my time in university meticulously thought-out. However, life decided to throw a few curveballs and while I’m not where I originally planned to be, I am happy with where I am now.

Academically, one of the best tools I had used to help me navigate the unknown that is university is Degree Explorer. It’s a free (!) service offered online by the university that helps you plan out your degree while making sure you fulfill all of the requirements necessary for you to graduate on time.

To navigate it, first, sign into using your UTOR ID.

The first thing you’ll see is a neat summary page regarding what degree you are pursuing (either Honours Bachelor of Science or Arts, if you’re within the Faculty of Arts & Science), as well as your selected subject POSts.

 Capture 1
All of the programs of study!

Press the plus button in any section to expand it. Since I registered as a first year student in Fall 2013, my requirements will follow what was listed in that calendar, regardless of what changes may accumulate in coming years.

 Capture 2.PNG
These were the basic requirements based on the Fall 2013 calendar. They may have changed since then.

As you can see, expanding the degree program of study will give you a list of all the requirements you need to fulfill, including breadth requirements, major and minor program requirements and number of upper year 300-level courses.

Switch to the planner tab at the top of Degree Explorer and you get this really cool page that allows you to plan out your courses! The best part is that if you don’t meet a certain requirement for a course, the planner tools notifies you when you try adding the course. Furthermore, as your mind changes, you can make multiple versions of the planner. My current subject POSts are Physiology and Global Health, but at one point, I had made a version for Health & Disease and Psychology, Pharmacology/Toxicology, and even Political Science.

 Capture 3
Hoping that the ACORN (ROSI?) gods will be good to me this year with course selection. 

Once you fill out your hypothetical schedule, you can see whether or not your choices will let you fulfill all the requirements you need to graduate!

 Capture 5
Achievement unlocked!! 

Finally, you can access your academic history and see how you did over the years. Degree Explorer is something I wish I had in my first year, but now you guys will have seen it way earlier than I would’ve and can get a head start! Happy course planning!

Course Selection for Smarties

By previous contributor Minnie
Updated June 10, 2016 by Annie

Although most of the things I’m going to write about will be mentioned during the Vic One Summer Advising Session, I’ve always been one to appreciate a “digestion” period (a period in time during which I can understand important information and avoid feeling extremely overwhelmed when everything – especially something as important as choosing courses for your first year in university – is unloaded on me all at once).

Now, if you’re anything like me, you are probably quite conflicted about what major you want to pursue because you have so many interests. At this point, you might want to do a specialist, five majors, and two minors, all at once! I get it, I get it. You’re preaching to the congregation here (I’m a Frye graduate specializing in Financial Economics). Stop right there and take a deep breath. It’s time to start your preliminary planning.

The choosing of courses is the hardest part. It’s your time to explore the world of academia on your own, and you want to know it all. For this, I’m going to give you one piece of advice: prioritize. Know what you want to study first and foremost, and go after it with full force. If you don’t know what you want to study, make it your goal this year to get a taste of everything you have not yet ruled out and know by the end of the year. The good news is, you’ve got plenty of time from now until when you need to declare your program of study.

If you want to know a bit of the technical stuff, this is all you need to know for now, and this information will make a lot more sense after you’ve attended the Summer Advising session. Come back to this post after the session and reread it. You will have a better understand of what is going on.

Since you’re all Vic One students, you will already have two out of your five time slots per semester set aside for your Vic One courses. This means you only need to pick three other courses. Depending on which type of program – specialist or double major or single major with two minors – in which you wish to enroll in the future, you will be expected to meet certain criteria and take certain prerequisite courses. Take some time in the next couple of weeks to look over what your desired program requires by using the Program Information, the Calendar, the U of T Course Finder, and the Course Timetables. By consolidating the information from all of these sources, you can create for yourself a preliminary timetable.

Update by Annie: The new Timetable feature is very useful at this step!

You can then make a list for easy reference when you go online to enroll in your courses. For each course include the correct course code (e.g. ENG140Y), section code (F, Y, or S), and meeting section(s) (e.g. Lecture L0101, Tutorial T0201, and Practical/Lab P0301).

The reason this planning process is very important is because in university, you may not get your first choice. Have some back up courses planned in case any of your first choices are unavailable.

Some of you may be inclined to use Griddy to plan and have an all-in-one organizer. Please take note: Griddy is not connected to U of T in any way and we do not support the use of Griddy because there is always a possibility that the information on that website is inaccurate. Please take caution.

Update by Annie: The Timetable feature on the ArtSci website is like Griddy, but it is directly connected to U of T.

Lastly, be sure to pay the minimum installment or defer your fees (if you’re applying for OSAP) by August 23rd*. Congratulations. By August 23rd*, you’ll officially be a registered U of T and Vic One student.

*Update by Annie: This is up to date for the 2016-17 year.

Study Smart, Not Hard

By previous contributor Nicole
Updated June 10, 2016 by Annie

This textbook is literally bigger than my head. 

In first year, I met up with a learning strategist at the Academic Success Centre who told me that in an ideal situation, a student would spend 2-3 hours of time outside of class to review 1 hour of content covered inside class. Now, when I first heard this, I thought this was ridiculous.

In university, your time is precious. There are only 168 hours in a week, and if you’re already spending 15 – 30 hours in class (for lectures, tutorials, seminars and practicals combined), being told to spend even more time outside of class seems kind of absurd. For many first years, that would be equal to 45 – 90 more hours, and you would effectively have no time for anything else.

But this was the point. You won’t have time to do everything you’ll get to do; you have to decide which things are most important to you and what would be the most efficient use of your time.

University is comprised of more than just the learning that takes place within the classroom, and it’s highly encouraged that everyone takes time to explore different avenues, take risks and stay open to new things. But if you’re constantly worried about trying to catch up on every single reading or trying to do every single thing your prof recommends, then you may feel like you won’t be able to do that.

So here are a few strategies that have worked for me when it comes to maximizing information retention from lecture and staying as efficient as possible:

Before Class:

If you have time, do the assigned reading; otherwise, skim over it. If you know your prof uses a Socratic method of teaching and requires you to participate, choose at least one key idea from the reading and jot down a few points from it, or a few arguments to back it up. That way, while you may not know everything about the reading, you’ll have a really strong foundation on that one point and you’ll still get the participation marks you need. If your class is more memorization heavy, look over your lecture slides and match up the figures on the slides with the figures in the textbook. Usually, the textbook should have a caption that explains whatever process is being illustrated by the figure, and it’ll do so succinctly.

The time you use to prep for class should only take ten minutes, but it’s important that you do take at least a little bit of time so that you won’t go into class entirely confused.

 intimidating lecture slides.png
Case in point?

During Class:

Use the original powerpoint slides provided by your professor. There was a study comparing groups of students who used their professor’s original lecture slides vs. typed out their own notes in a word document. The results showed that those who used the original lecture slides provided and just annotated them during lecture were able to retain more information in tests vs. those students who didn’t.

A lot of this boils down to the fact that powerpoint slides (if well made) spatially separate content, as opposed to word documents, which are just long lines of text. This spatial separation is key because humans are said to have good spatial memory, so anchoring concepts to a specific place will help you remember the concept better in the future.

During class, I take lots of notes on my slides, but my professors speak fast and could probably release a mixtape that rival any and all rappers in the game, so (with my prof’s permission), I record the lectures. Something that I do differently though is that when I come across a particular concept I don’t understand in class, I write down the time that corresponds with my recorder and put a question mark beside the slide, so I can minimize how much flipping back I have to do when I go back and revise later on.

By the end of lecture, the majority of my notes look something like this:

This is an actual page from my OneNote notebook and even as I’m typing this, I still have no idea what’s going on for this slide. Something about running gels? I don’t even know. 

As you can see, they’re not prettiest, but I don’t take notes for aesthetics because the textbook already does this for me. My main focus for taking notes is to consolidate the knowledge that I gain in class and make connections, so I can learn the material.

After Class

I go back and relisten to the recordings, usually at 1.5x the speed, and then I fill in points that I don’t understand or may have missed during lecture. If I don’t understand a concept, I’ll go to the textbook and read up more on it, try and read a few abstracts on the material, post on the discussion board or email my prof for clarification. Once I get clarification, I add this to my notes, and then I use different strategies to try and understand the information.

Afterwards, my notes usually look like this:

 Cast study yay for good notes.png
Hooray for having a complete set of notes!

For revision, I mainly use the Feynmann technique, which is to pretend that you’re explaining the content to someone else but using layman terms, and flashcards, which are great for memorizing little facts on the go, like when you’re waiting in line for a cup of coffee or are commuting to school. Finally, I schedule weekly review sessions to look over content so that by the time the midterm comes around, I’m not frantically trying to cram in half a semester’s worth of information in a single night.

This is the routine that has helped me a lot, but I definitely didn’t come into university with this system perfected; it took a lot of experimentation, a few bad midterms and a lot of reflection to end up with this routine. So tell me, what are some study strategies that have worked for you?

This blogger likes disguising her laziness as efficiency and is enjoying looking at nucleotide structures more than the average person. 

Your One Stop List of Resources

By previous contributor Nicole
Updated July 26, 2016 by Annie

All Things Vic One

  • Facebook: Join our Facebook Group and get to know some of your fellow Vic One students!


  • Vic One E-Mentors: Our Vic One mentors are knowledgeable, responsible and approachable upper-year students who were in the Vic One program in their first year. Stay tuned for a link to more information.

Other Great Resources

  • Victoria College Checklist: Victoria College provides a comprehensive list of things that you need to get ready for September.
  • Timetable: First year course-selection isn’t until late July, but when the time comes, U of T’s timetable tool is a great resource and alternative to manually sifting through the Faculty of Arts and Science’s huge calendar.
  • Victoria College Writing Centre:Regardless of what stream you’re in, learning how to write at a university level is key to your success, and the writing centre is a place to help you get to that level. I highly recommend booking an appointment this summer, bringing in one of your high school papers (hard copy) and having a writing instructor go over it so you know what to work on before September. But book early because appointments go fast!
  • Academic Success Centre:I’ve heard too many stories about upper-years discovering the ASC in their final year and wishing they had come across it earlier on. Whether it’s through a workshop or an individual appointment, they can help!
  • Frosh Week: Orientation Week or Frosh, takes place a week before university starts, and is filled with fun activities to get to know your fellow students. Students love it, so be sure to sign up when registration opens!
  • FASt Answers: If you have questions, chances are, other people have asked them before. Check out FAStanswers, direct from the Faculty of Arts and Science.
  • askastudent: Similar to FASt, but way, way sassier. askastudent not only covers concerns about university affairs from the Faculty of Arts and Science, but the professional faculties as well, student life, high school admissions, and others. It’s for students, by a fellow student, and it makes for a entertaining read even if you don’t have questions.
  • Koffler Student Services: You can visit the Student Life centre, drop by the U of T Book Store, then go upstairs to the Health&Wellness Centre, all in one trip!

And there you have it! Most (if not all) of the key resources you’ll need for your first year of university. Hopefully this helps sort things out!