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My five tips for Rotman Commerce first-years

A senior student reflects on lessons learned
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REBECA MOYA/THE VARSITY
REBECA MOYA/THE VARSITY

Where did all the time go? I remember my first day as a Rotman Commerce student: waiting outside Isabel Bader Theatre, surrounded by all those awkward and excited faces. If only I could go back to that day and advise 18-year-old me.

Without time travel, the next best thing would be to give that advice to the next generation of Rotman Commerce students. My first days at U of T are gone, but the memories — and lessons learned — remain.

No fear econ

Economics is hard! To tell you the truth, it won’t get easier. If you’re planning on pursuing a finance and economics specialist, you’ll have to embrace suffering. In my opinion, aspiring accounting specialists and management specialists have it a bit easier.

Unfortunately, there is no escape. ECO101 — Principles of Microeconomics will test your ability, and ECO204 — Microeconomic Theory and Applications (for Commerce) will test your soul. Both courses involve a theoretical understanding of commerce. ECO204 will dive deeper into the theoretical, and ECO220 — Introduction to Data Analysis and Applied Econometrics will dive deeper into the practical. Many of the tools you learn in these courses will be applied again in 300- and 400-level Rotman and economics courses.

Don’t be disheartened — there is hope! Office hours and the Economics Study Centre (ESC) are the open secrets to success. While often overlooked as being unhelpful, office hours allow you to gain a better grasp of course content. Likewise, the tutors at the ESC are there to answer technical questions. 

Electives are a gift

Learn something new! Learn Hungarian, Swahili, Python, or medieval art history. What are you interested in? Follow your curiosities and let your passions guide you.

Learning something new will give you an edge when you’re job hunting. Having a non-Rotman or economics course may appear distracting, but studying something outside of the unending gruels of profits and margins is refreshing. Fulfill your breadth requirements and remember that you always have the blessed option to credit/no credit.

As for Rotman electives, take courses in the areas that interest you. Every year, the academic unit offers special topic courses that are meant to diversify the traditional scope. For your upper-year economics elective, try an econometrics course if ECO220 was to your liking. Regression analysis will be used in many mandatory Rotman courses, and having an enriched grasp will be an advantage. 

No such thing as a bird course

Forget about it — there is no such thing as a ‘easy A.’ Every course is difficult, just to different extents. That human resources course might be easier than that game theory course, but if you’re not willing to attend your lectures, do your readings, and study eight to 10 hours per week, you’re not going to be successful.

When a course is labelled a ‘bird course,’ it creates a false sense of security that becomes detrimental. You’re better off taking the course that you find interesting and intellectually stimulating over taking a ‘bird course’ that doesn’t interest you. 

The myth of the 4.0

Everyone has heard stories of someone who knew someone who knew a guy whose sister had a 4.0 GPA — war stories we tell each other to fill our hearts with hope. The smartest person I ever met was a finance and economics specialist with a 92 per cent average and a 3.98 GPA. Earning similar grades is not impossible — but it is improbable.

U of T is harder than other universities and employers know this. To graduate with “High Distinction” printed on your diploma, you will need over a 3.5 GPA or higher. For “Distinction,” you will need a 3.2–3.49.

A 3.2 may seem low to those studying outside of U of T, but there is a reason why it deserves merit. U of T is difficult, and a B+ is considered a great mark. Several students graduate every year with a Bachelor of Commerce without any form of distinction and still land great jobs with top employers. 

Is Rotman for you?

Hopefully during these unprecedented times you were able to do some soul searching. A lot of my friends switched programs and schools. There is no shame if it just isn’t for you. The whole point of university is self-discovery — and graduating with High Distinction, of course.

No one enters U of T and leaves as the same person. You’ll discover new interests, new passions, new opportunities, and new thoughts that would have been foreign to you four years ago. If this program is for you, then you will find a way to get through it, earning the skills and pride that comes with a Bachelor of Commerce from the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.