Surviving and Thriving Undergrad Life

Thoughts from Recent UofT Undergrads
Barry Wellman, Professor of Sociology
June 2013
Crowdsourced These Guidelines
 I mostly asked smart & wise recent UofT students
 Many – like me –worked their way up from the streets
 Thanks also to
 Mary Chayko (Rutgers prof)
 Nancy Baym (Microsoft Research)
 Dedicated to the memory of Prof. Ann Sorenson
 Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies
Died May 2013 – who always cared about students
Anna Brady, 25, Hotel Exec
 “I think if I could tell my grade 12 self anything it would be
to really dive into the University experience”
 Mistakes are just as valuable as successes in character
 Learn the right path by experience rather than by theory
 Find a professor who helps you to understand that
Chang Lin, Ph.D. student. 26
 Join affinity groups – like Chinese/South Asian
students associations for extra curricular and help
 Or dance groups, or science fiction – Network!
 Form study groups
 Best with someone a little better than you
 If allowed, bring a voice recorder
Esther Sok, graduating UofT, 23
 Don’t be shy. Make contact with faculty members during office
 Sit in the first few rows – no hiding in the back
 Get to know your TA (teaching assistant) too
 Volunteer to work with a faculty member as an intern
 Even in boring jobs, keep your eyes open & ask Qs
 Be an active learner
 Do the readings before going to class
 Ask questions in class and review notes
 (Almost) always go to class: Prof emphasizes what’s important
Esther Sok (2)
 You will never have enough time IF you do not prepare
and manage it before hand. It is likely that tests and
projects will be due around the same time
 Do NOT plead for mercy – just deal with it
 Long term memory is not formed by cramming one or
two nights before a test, and especially without sleep
(that’s the worst)
 Stress inhibits learning
 When you cram and worry, you won't learn anything
 Give yourself plenty of time to study
Esther (3)
 When studying for tests, don’t just memorize
 Being an active learner means getting yourself to
understand the material and be able to link points and give
 However, you must know the basics
 Never leave an answer blank – when in doubt, say anything
Esther (4)
 Have a life outside of the books
 It’s not only about getting knowledge and becoming smart
 It’s also about developing wholly as a person
 It's about creating an identity
 Seek your passion and build other skill sets
 Go out and volunteer in the community; get a hobby
 This will allow you to meet people and release stress
 You gain opportunities such as becoming a leader
 But, grades outweigh “participation” for acceptance to law
school, etc.
April Domingo, graduating UofT
 Establish networks
Join extracurricular clubs to explore interests
Participate actively in class discussions
Make friends in class
Attend talks and other events to learn and meet a variety of individuals
 Know academic options and resources
 Research academic interests to make confident and informed decisions
about programs and scholarships
 Use the university’s workshops on essay writing and research skills
 Read academic journals in your areas of interest
 Time management
 Be adaptive and resilient to any changes and demands in your academic
and non-academic schedules
 Work hard to meet due dates and goals
 It’s foolish to get substantial late penalties – no excuses!
Jenna Jacobson, Ph.D. student, 26
 Go to class, even if there is no attendance taken
 There is only so much your textbook can teach you, but class is
where the ideas come to life
 Be strategic in the courses you pick
 Know your best time to work
 Some people love evening classes, but others find it hard to
concentrate late in the evening
 Plan
 Plans can change, but at least you will have a guideline of the
direction you are taking when you feel lost
 Set daily, weekly, and monthly deadlines for yourself
 Reward yourself (even in small ways) when you achieve your goals
Jenna Jacobson (2)
 You are smarter than you think
 Don't be afraid that you don't know everything
 Half the fear is just starting
 Your peers will keep you sane
 Don't be afraid to bounce your ideas off others (colleagues,
other professors, family members)
 The power of collaborative learning is amazing
 Others may suggest things you never would have thought of
 You’ll find they have the same problems and fears as you do
 Save, back up, print and email your notes/papers regularly
 Have fun with university
 Appreciate and soak in the experience because it will be over
before you know it
 Be scared at first
 As you learn the ropes, you’ll relax into it
 Choose by profs. as well as by courses
 Your Facebook pix & tweets will live after you
 Your first year is important for setting the right tone
 If you mess up, you can redeem yourself
 Easy to catch cheaters
 Never whine over grades, but ask how you could do better
 Extensions only for doctor’s notes or death certificates
 80/20 rule key to success
 You can often do 80% of the work in 20% of your time
 Especially when you outline papers & learn to edit and rewrite
 Say thank you to profs and TAs. We appreciate it!!

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