By: Maxim Basu
Are you a first year student who is totally lost when it comes to the college system at the University of Toronto? Also a commuter? Not to worry. The college system at the university is meant to make your life easier administratively and also make your university experience more enjoyable by allowing you to form close-knit communities with other students in your college.
There are seven colleges at the University of Toronto: Innis, New, St. Michael’s, Trinity,
University, Victoria and Woodsworth. Everyone has their favorite. Although all of these colleges are unique in their own ways, they all provide the same essential services to their students. Your college registrar is your number one stop for any questions or concerns you may have relating to your courses, finances for school, student clubs and events happening around the
university. The registrar staff will direct you to where you need to go.
Why do students choose certain colleges over others? The answer to that question is that different colleges are known for different things: some pride themselves on students with stellar academics while others are known for valuing and providing programs for students of diverse backgrounds. For instance, Innis College is home to the Cinema Studies department and offers the Innis One Creative City course, which is intended for Innis One program students. New College is known for providing programs related to social justice and equity, while University College—the founding college of the University of Toronto—is home to drama and sexual diversity studies. Trinity, on the other hand, prides itself on its reputation and student achievement: many students who belong to Trinity College have parents and family members who have also gone to Trinity.
The main point to remember is that while you belong to a certain college that you chose before applying to the University of Toronto (or a college that was assigned to you from a ranked list of colleges you stated in your application), you can take whatever courses you would like to take at any college. That means that if you belong to University College, you can definitely take drama courses from your college, but you can also take film courses from Innis, science courses from New, and Peace, Conflict and Justice courses from Trinity. No one will stop you. Also, remember that the college that you belong to does not influence your likelihood of being accepted into graduate programs should you wish to pursue continuing education after your undergraduate degree. It is not a factor at all academically.
Many students express dissatisfaction with the fact that the University of Toronto is so large and lacks a community feel to it. I will not lie, you will not know everyone in your college and you will not take all of your courses in your college. That is why in first year, if you have the chance to take the unique U of T Foundations: One Programs at your colleges, do so, but choose wisely. Some of these courses are hard and unnecessary for completing your degree requirements. However, if you can make it work, you can definitely form a close-knit community in your colleges as a commuter through these programs. I know that many students have formed friendships and these friendships have lasted throughout and beyond the time the students have stayed at the University of Toronto.
Please do not forget to visit the commuter centre at your college. It is designed specifically for commuters to gather together and spend their leisure time among other commuters. University College has a commuter centre located across from Sidney Smith on St. George Street. If you have an hour to kill before another class, why not visit this place? It has cable television, a microwave and a refrigerator, couches to relax on, lockers and study spaces. I would definitely recommend making a visit, and who knows, maybe you could meet a new friend there!
It is definitely easier for students who live on campus to have more ways of interacting with other students from their colleges. They may have more college loyalty. However, commuters can also form strong social bonds with other students—and specifically other commuters—by getting to know the resources available to them and visiting the commuter centres. For me, as someone who has lived on campus in his first year, I am glad I am a commuter now. I have more time to focus on school work and I have made better friends as a commuter—paradoxically you would think!—because as a commuter you are not tied to a certain social group: you are free to choose your own friends from whatever college you want to. Next time, say ‘hi!’ to another commuter and ask them to study with you at Robarts. You could make a new friend, and they could be from any college. You get to choose.
This article was originally published on our old website at https://thenewspaper.ca/the-inside/what-do-the-colleges-mean/.