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Ready or not, here comes course selection

Three students reflect on their course selection experiences at U of T

Ready or not, here comes course selection

With course enrolment start times taking place across dates in July, three students reflect on their past experiences and provide tips to upcoming course selectors. They discuss the difficulty of choosing a few courses from hundreds of options, the importance of considering the availability of space, and the challenges that come with balancing the course load with part-time work.

Narrowing down courses

U of T has so many great courses to choose from that perhaps too much choice becomes a burden. Of course, the most basic priority of us as students must be to fulfill program requirements which can fill most of our limited five to six credits per semester. Programs of Study (POSt) are meant to help you narrow down your studies so you can hone in on what you’re really passionate about, but even then some are far too varied or even too specific.

Take Global Health, for example: how is one to choose between studying world hunger, the effect of AIDS, and the history of dentistry? Even within a single program, it seems like there could be courses made about any individual topic, rendering it even more difficult to make the choices needed to fill our POSt.

On top of that, we need to somehow balance other personal interests and electives outside of our program. But how will we know what we’re passionate about if we don’t take the leap to explore entirely new topics? However, this is only idealistic thinking; with five to six courses to balance, it can be hard to keep up your GPA too. It is difficult to decide whether pursuing a course out of interest would really be preferable to a ‘bird’ course that could save your GPA, especially when paired with more difficult courses to fulfill your POSt.

You could always try taking six courses to maximize the learning experiences you could get from what U of T has to offer in lectures, if you’re really sure that you could handle the course load. Even just being on the waiting list of a sixth course warrants your college registrar dropping you an email to make sure you really thought this through. In any case, choosing from hundreds of courses to narrow down to only a few makes course selection just that much harder.

Casey Qian is a second-year Global Health and Physiology student at Woodsworth College.

Considering space

Course selection every summer is a time of nervous breakdowns and sudden panics — that is, if you approach it without preparations. The worst case scenario is if you forget to enroll into the prerequisite courses you need for the upcoming semester to get into your desired program in the subsequent year. You are then left trying to convince the head of the course department to give you another chance to change your courses before your semester even starts.

However, do not worry: all you need to consider as you head toward course selection is the availability of space. Each course is given a finite amount of space for students in which to enroll. But keep in mind: different programs or majors of study have different entry time to ACORN for course enrolment. Hence, it is important to remember whether you have priority access to desired courses or have to be waitlisted instead.

To share my memory of this time, I was completely unprepared and unaware of what courses I needed for my first year, or what courses would be able to fit in to my schedule of pre-enrolled courses. In addition, I was also unaware of when my enrolment time began, so by the time I was able to access ACORN, most of my courses of interest were either full or nearly full. Ultimately, I had to switch out of three courses during my first week to courses that weren’t really necessary for my program, because the initial courses were either too tedious or difficult for me.

Overall, remember that each course has a different amount of enrolment space and that each field of study has different timelines to enter ACORN. Preparation and research are paramount, or else the courses that you may badly need will only be available to you the next year.

Michael Phoon is a second-year Journalism student at UTSC.

Balancing school and work

Course selection for working students is like playing that Move the Block slide puzzle game — except winning means taking breadth courses you don’t have an interest in or cramming together awful work hours. The real kicker is when a tutorial or lecture time would work perfectly but is full.

Having a full course load and working two jobs, I’ve been fortunate that one allows me to work remotely most of the time. My bosses have deep empathy for students juggling multiple things at once, so when I drop the ball which is inevitable it’s not hard to pick it back up. But I know that other working students may not and do not have that privilege.

Unluckily, I’m also a commuter student and my commute is over two hours long, one way. In first year, I spent hours adding and deleting things from my enrolment cart, trying to craft the perfect schedule. This was before knowing what two-hour lectures and having to write countless papers in one week was like. Optimism got the best of me and I ended up taking three 9:00 am classes and missing half of them after midterms.

So, unless you’re super into an introduction to art history, maybe think twice. In retrospect, I’m glad that I learned that lesson in first year: summer optimism doesn’t translate well to the reality of the school year, and unless you absolutely have to, do not take a 9:00 am class.

Margaryta Ignatenko is a third-year Journalism student at UTSC.

Page-turners for year-long learners

Your summer reading list for science books has arrived

Page-turners for year-long learners

Summer is the time to read all the books you didn’t get to during the school year because you were too busy ‘reading’ all those chapters your professor assigned. The following science books will quench your thirst for knowledge even during the hottest of summer days.

Whether you study plants or politics, check them out — these titles can be found at University of Toronto Libraries or your local Toronto Public Library branch.

Future Arctic: Field Notes from a World on the Edge by Edward Struzik

Read this book to arm yourself against the next climate change denier who tries to tell you that global warming is #fakenews. In Future Arctic, Canadian author Edward Struzik spares no details about the dire state of the Great White North. While some passages about environmental change are more chilling than the Arctic temperature itself, Struzik does not end the book without leaving readers with a hopeful solution on how to mitigate harm to this delicate ecosystem.

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach

Do you ever get so overwhelmed with Earthly affairs that a one-way ticket on a SpaceX ship seems like the best option for escape? If your answer is yes, you may want to read Mary Roach’s hilarious but educational Packing for Mars first. Roach investigates deep into the world of space travel prep and shows readers how the life of an astronaut is not always as glamorous as it seems. Roach explores everything from the psychology of isolation and confinement to the physical limitations of zero-gravity copulation.

Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam

This one is for all you current or future medical students. Toronto doctor Vincent Lam won the Giller Prize for this collection of stories about a group of young doctors as they work through med school at U of T and join the fast-paced world of being a Toronto doctor. Read passages about how personal ethics cloud judgment during a cadaver dissection and what it was like to be on the front lines of the SARS crisis.

Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food by Paul Greenberg

Journey on fishing trips around the world with author Paul Greenberg as he outlines society’s relationship with four major commercial fish species: salmon, cod, sea bass, and tuna. These trips are no family fishing excursion at the cottage — instead they are a peek into the fragility and bleak future of commercially harvested fish populations. If you eat seafood, take reading Four Fish as your duty to understanding how complex and problem-ridden the fishing industry is.

The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years by Sonia Shah

The next time you curse the swarm of mosquitoes buzzing around your head this summer, remember
that an itchy bite is a whole lot better than what you might get from a mosquito if you lived where malaria has yet to be eradicated. Sonia Shah, a science journalist, outlines the history and impact of malaria in The Fever without overwhelming data. According to Bill Gates, if you read one book about malaria, let this be the one.

The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration in the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery

A book that is equal parts about the science of cognition and a personal memoir, The Soul of an Octopus details the relationship between a woman and several octopuses at Boston’s New England Aquarium. This humbling story will make you rethink whether these intelligent invertebrates ever belonged in tanks in the first place.

Treating Health Care: How the Canadian System Works and How It Could Work Better by Raisa B. Deber

Written by U of T professor Raisa Deber, this book examines the Canadian healthcare system from different lenses such as economics and ethics. In an interview with the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, Deber explains that she wrote Treating Health Care as a toolkit for understanding our current system and how to make it better. With talks of universal healthcare on the horizon and a new Ontario premier in office, you may want to read this book to prepare yourself for the certain changes to our healthcare system ahead.

Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway

The book that inspired the documentary of the same name, Merchants of Doubt remains as relevant as ever in today’s global political climate. The book outlines several historical scandals between science and politics ranging from cigarette smoke to acid rain to global warming. Citizens and scientists alike should read this book to understand why it is important to be both informed and critical of issues that mix science, politics, and money.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Transport yourself to the edges of the galaxy with Douglas Adams’ ever-popular and side-splitting novel. The book centres on a man named Arthur Dent who is saved from the demolition of planet Earth by his alien friend Ford Prefect. The two hitchhike throughout the galaxy, meeting friends and foes alike. Wherever you go this summer, don’t forget to bring your towel!

The ROM Field Guide to Birds of Ontario by Janice M. Hughes

Whether you are an experienced birder or can’t tell a sparrow from a swallow, check out the Royal Ontario Museum’s (ROM) field guide to the birds of Ontario — you may just find a rare species in your own backyard. Birds not your thing? The ROM also puts out field guides for fish; reptiles and amphibians;  butterflies; and wildflowers.