The toxic notion that the only recipe for success consists of all work and little to no play is embedded into the minds of Rotman Commerce students right from the start. 

Rotman students start their university career under the assumption that they must solely focus on academic competition, networking, and joining clubs to build their resumes, so that, in four years, they will land their dream job in consulting, capital markets, and more. 

The Varsity interviewed a number of fourth-year Rotman Commerce students to find out about how they have been coping with Rotman’s hustle culture. 

“There is a toxic hustle culture at Rotman, predominantly in the first two years that is cultivated in the student community. There is a mindset that there can only be one winner,” said Adnan Khan to The Varsity

Overcoming Rotman’s hustle culture 

Engaging in resume-building activities can be healthy in moderation, but the problem starts when this mindset takes over every decision to be made. It leads to stress and the feeling of burning out. There is a reason behind why people say that too much of anything is a bad thing. This toxic mentality prevents students from exploring their passions and making the most of their time in the Rotman Commerce program, while taking care of their own mental health. 

“In first year, you are like a sponge. You absorb everything you hear, and all you have been told is that you need to network, you need to work hard, you need to do this, you need to do that,” said Vera Frantseva, a fourth-year Rotman Commerce student specializing in management. 

Oftentimes, students go through the first couple years in the program living the life they are told to live in order to achieve success. They later discover that there is a better path that can be curated by no one other than themselves. They learn that not everything they do has to directly advance their career. By creating a healthy balance, such as by joining a club they are passionate about and taking care of their mental health, they construct a gateway to succeed in all aspects of their life. 

Although this ‘hustle culture’ does drastically die down in a student’s upper years due to students gaining more experience and becoming more in-tune with their own personal strengths, the base of the mindset has always seemed to be around. However, if balanced, this can be healthy and used as motivation to better oneself. 

“There’s that one season in the year where you can see everyone posting on LinkedIn and that feeds into the intense culture of the program,” said Georgia Neufeld, a fourth- year commerce student specializing in management. Neufeld is also an athlete on the Varsity rowing team at U of T. She explained that although it is nice to know where you stand, it is crucial not to constantly compare yourself to others. 

One piece of advice Neufeld has for incoming and current Rotman students is to “try to enjoy  the process through university because it does go by really fast.”

How some students found their place 

Khan is the vice president of the Rotman Commerce Students’ Association (RCSA) — a club based on student advocacy and university experience enrichment. He explained that his passion for the student community is why he committed to the club right from his first year to his fourth. 

Satvik Gupta is a fourth year commerce student specializing in accounting. He is also the current director of finance for RCSA. In an interview with The Varsity, he explained, “RCSA is a place where everyone is like family, people come from different specializations, but no one talks about work and networking.”

Activities beyond the Rotman clubs could also be the key to personal success. Frantseva takes pride in taking care of herself by doing things she enjoys alongside pursuing her degree. Recently, she  became a part of a Toronto based running community called “Midnight Runners” where like-minded individuals meet every Tuesday at 7:00 pm to run six kilometres, participate in group stretches, and just socialize. 

“It is something that I am committed to doing every week, and I love it,” said Frantseva.