Illustration/ Lena Binnington
Illustration/ Lena Binnington

For those of you unfamiliar with this school, the University of Toronto is a university divided. Each Arts & Science undergraduate student is organized into a college. The college system is similar to the house system of Hogwarts—another famed academic institution—although the consequence of placement is slightly less correlated to evil and general wrongdoing.

For those of you confused about the idea of studying at a University but belonging to a College (or belonging to a University and studying at College?), fear not! To understand your place in the college system, you first have to know why (the hell) we have a college system in the first place.

Spoiler alert: History lesson! The University of Toronto was founded in 1827 from an amalgamation of local academic institutions. University College, St. Michael’s College, Victoria University and (sadly) Trinity College federated to form what we now know as the University of Toronto. The legacy of each federated college lives on in the form of academic expertise, college traditions, and the unique architecture of these institutions.

For those belonging to Woodsworth, Innis, and New College, your college origin story is less exciting. Your college was merely willed into existence by the University—in large part, to accommodate for a growing student population.

Now with that bit of history out of the way, does the college system serve a purpose beyond continuing the memory of a bygone era? Well, the answer to that question depends on how you weave yourself into the social fabric of the University.

In theory, the college system is supposed to be your one-stop shop for all social and academic matters. This theory is much like how you’ll theoretically study every single night to get that coveted 4.0 GPA. Right? In reality, your college is one-of-many milieus of social and academic frolicking. Where you choose to get involved is really up to your personal interests. Student clubs, unions, academic programs and departments, faculties, and campuses make up the University’s social and academic landscape. They offer equally viable, and sometimes more rewarding, experiences than the college system.

Whether or not you absorb yourself into a college identity is really a matter of how well you are connected to a residence community or college council—the pillars of college life. If you live off-campus or simply spend no time at your college building, don’t worry.

You’re not alone.

Thanks to St. George largely becoming a commuter-campus, most students’ interactions with their college shift from having an amazing time during orientation to painful conversations with your registrar. A better indicator of your social and academic ties to the University isn’t what college you belong to, but where you spend the most time on campus.

When the dust from orientation settles, and the signs, cheers, and taunts are put to rest for another year, remember: you are not necessarily your college identity. Unless you are affiliated with Woodsworth—because we are the best.  


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