What factors contributed to you choosing your program(s)?
Initially, I was directly accepted to UTSC's Co-op Specialist Mental Health Studies program from high school. I always learned best through application and so co-op felt like a necessary part of post-secondary education for me at the time and I had felt like I knew "exactly" what I wanted to do after University...but I changed my mind! I'm grateful for the two years I was in the Specialist Co-op program. I had the opportunity to network with current professionals in the Mental Health field and learn more about it, and through it I learned that I wasn't exactly sure what I wanted to do anymore. So I took a two year break from school. I went to work co-founding a dog walking business and thinking a lot about who I was and what I wanted my future to look like. I knew coming back to finish my degree was the right thing to do. Still very interested in the course material and perhaps pursuing it after school, I kept Mental Health Studies on as my major, but I expanded my fields of study to Women and Gender Studies and Creative Writing - two of my life long passions. The University of Toronto presents opportunities for networking and professional development in whichever field you choose. Now that I'm back, I understand I don't have to sacrifice the rest of my passions to pursue just one. Having a more balanced program choice contributes to my success in a BIG way - I am more interested and involved in my own education, and find it much easier to engage in course material.
Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like?
Mental Health Studies are my biggest lectures by far. I have no science background so that presents a challenge for some of the more “sciencey" based courses. There's typically one textbook per course and it's very much independently motivated. The professor won't track you down personally to tell you to hand something in. Women and Gender Studies have small (around 20) to medium sized (100-200) lectures. Participation is THE KEY. All my professors and teaching assistants will learn names. There are discussions every class that centre around readings and course material, but also personal anecdotes. Creative Writing involves....a lot of writing. Surprise! Well, I actually was surprised at the amount of material I'm expected to produce for each course. They are small classes (under 20) with students of all ages and academic backgrounds. I haven't yet encountered a multiple choice question and I work very closely with my peers in these classes. Opportunities for extracurricular activities seem to be more easily accessible than my other programs - example, poetry readings! Publishing events! Student groups!
What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?
1) Take advantage of office hours, tutorials, and help centres on campus. They exist to assist in learning and are well worth the time invested to actually go.
2) Build relationships. This goes for anyone you encounter - professors, students, peers, other University employees, alumni, community partners, etc. It will help in areas you didn't even know you needed help in.
3) Take care of yourself. This is a controversial statement but....nothing is worth an all-nighter. Get your sleep. Eat properly. Exercise. Drink water. It will make life easier and your grades will almost definitely thank you for it as well.
What will you do with your degree after graduation?
I'm not totally sure, but here are a few options: 1) Apply to midwifery programs 2) Write for a feminist-y blog (ie, Shedoesthecity) 3) Work in communications, perhaps for a non-profit that focuses on mental health initiatives 4)Apply for a Masters 5)ALL OF THE ABOVE?
What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?
First year, I took a wide range of courses despite being in a Specialist Program - Intro to International Development, Psychology, Studio Art, Intro to World Religions, etc. This year was really about getting the study, listening, note taking, and critical reading skills needed to succeed while also determining interest. I also met loads of new friends this year. I didn't focus on extracurricular and/or community involvement until second year. I worked as a Residence Advisor on campus, attended more events, volunteered off-campus, and took courses more specific to my program. This was also where I decided I wanted to change things up a little. Third year I changed my program and did some academic catch-up for my new Double Minors, so it was a little bit like first year all over again. However, it was invaluable - I got some sweet practice improving those basic academic skills I learned in first year. Now I feel ready to tackle whatever is coming.