Comprehensive guide to life at the University of Toronto Mississauga
Some great Reddit posts:
Advice for Life Sci First Years
100/200 Bird Courses (UTSG focus)
Shout out to everyone who gave feedback on the original article, and suggested changes such as Kana and phoenixgaruda!
You’ve applied for your program of choice, received a letter of admission, and dreamt of the days that you could flex that you go to the number one ranked university in Canada (…’s Mississauga campus).
You accept, log into Acorn only to see under Program…
First Year Studies in Computer Sc. Math & Stats
Huh? I applied for Computer Science!
You’ve just experienced your first reality check from U of T (maybe one of many, I still have nightmares of STA256).
You’re not in the program yet.
I’ve just finished my 3rd year at UTM as a CS Specialist, going into my co-op year. I’m writing this with the hopes that it helps some of you incoming first years make an informed decision about university or just to let you know of some useful information going into the school year.
POSt (Program of Study)
At U of T, you are admitted into your program after completing its requirements generally after your first year of studies (or 4.0 credits of completion). There are two periods for POSt acceptance: Winter and Summer.
In order to graduate, you must complete either: One Specialist, Two Majors, or One Major and Two Minors. You can go beyond and graduate with one specialist and a minor, two majors and a minor, etc. However, to graduate those are the bare minimum programs you must complete.
In addition, there are different types of POSts:
Type 1 — Unlimited space, no entry requirements, enroll at anytime on Acorn
Type 2 — Unlimited space, entry requirements, request it during the program request period
Type 3 — Limited space, entry requirements, request it during the program request period
What do I do if I don’t make my POSt?
Right, this is probably the biggest drawback for U of T. There are a few options:
- Re-attempt the courses if you’re short of the grade requirement or take some bird courses to boost your CGPA and re-apply
- Transfer to a different university
- Change your program
For students that don’t make the cutoff, it’s pretty easy to get stuck in a hole where your CGPA is too low to transfer out. I highly recommend you have a contingency plan, such as alternative majors.
In regards to CS in particular, you don’t need a Specialist or Major to be successful in CS! Lots of students get PEYs or New Grad Jobs with just the minor. You should hone your skills, work on side projects, attend hackathons, and make your resume stand out!
For a course, there will be time slots for LEC/TUT/PRA.
LEC = Lecture
TUT = Tutorial
PRA = Practical
Courses will have either tutorials or practicals, and you’ll be required to enroll in a LEC section + TUT/PRA section. Some tutorials or practicals do not have mandatory attendance so you may be able to freely attend any, but check first.
Okay.. how do I graduate?
The requirements for each program are listed in the academic calendar, so make sure that you do your research, plan your courses out, and have some contingency plan assuming you fail a course or don’t meet the cutoff and will have to retake the course.
A semester-long course contributes 0.5 credits, and a year long course counts as 1.0 credits. In general, to graduate you will need 20.0 credits so if you’re aiming to graduate in 4 years then you will have to take 5.0 credits each year.
How many should I take?
This varies from person to person, but most people take 4.0–5.0 credits a year.
You are required to complete your breadth/distribution requirements with 1.0 credits in courses under the Science, Social Science, and Humanities categories. For a program such as Biology, the Science credits will be covered by your courses already.
Extra things you should know
- ALWAYS KEEP NOTE OF THE IMPORTANT DATES! This page will tell you the deadlines for dropping a course for a full refund, dropping a course before it shows up on your transcript, exam periods, etc.
- Classes start at 10 minutes after the hour (aka U of T time). Having back to back classes is fine, and if you’re a bit late just humbly find a seat and don’t cause a disturbance (unless your Prof is uptight about it).
- You should wait a week to buy the textbook to see if it’s actually going to be used in the course.
- If you’re waitlisted for a course, then the general rule of thumb is that 10% of the class size will get in no sweat, i.e. for a class of 300 the first 30 on the waitlist should get in. In addition, there’s plenty of times where this isn’t the case. I’ve gotten into an upper year math course with a size of 90 and my waitlist position was 30.
- There is a shuttle bus to the St. George campus that UTM students can use for free. Just make sure you have your Tcard + bus pass. It’s located at the back of IB/Instructional Building.
- You can find past exams on the UTM Library site
- Credit/No Credit (CR/NCR) — U of T students can choose to CR/NCR a course. After completing the course, you will receive either CR if you passed or NCR if you failed on your transcript. However, it will not affect your CGPA. CR/NCR courses do not typically count towards Program Requirements, however there was an exception made last semester due to COVID19.
- Late Withdrawal (LWD) — If you choose to drop a course after the deadline has passed, you will receive a LWD (Late Withdrawal) on your transcript. You must submit a form online to the registrar, and it has to be approved.
- Exam Deferral — Unless explicitly stated in the syllabus or by the instructors, you can defer an exam as long as you provide a doctor’s note or adequate information. Make sure you print out the Verification of Student Illness or Injury form and have your doctor fill it out.
- Here’s how to defer an exam:
- Within 24 hrs of the exam, go to Acorn -> Profile -> Settings -> Absence Declaration and mark your absence
- File the exam petition online here
3. Pay the fee
- GPA at U of T is calculated as follows:
Your overall CGPA is calculated by converting the grades to their GPA, and then that value is averaged.
Frequently Asked Questions
- When do I do my course selection?
Check the Important dates site! For this year, you will receive your course enrolment start time on July 17th, 2020. The course enrolment date is July 21st.
2. How do I plan my courses?
- Look at the required courses for the program you intend to apply for
- Add them in! Make sure you select a LEC + PRA/TUT/LAB for each class.
- If you have any space left, then you’re either gonna wanna fill them in with courses that satisfy your distribution credits OR take some courses that you find interesting!
Some helpful resources for this:
3. When do I have to pay tuition fees?
August 18, 2020. Last day to pay minimum amount to register for the Fall-Winter, as indicated on ACORN invoice. Minimum payment can be deferred if you are applying for OSAP.
4. Do I have to make an ACORN account?
It should be provided, you’ll receive information on how to login in your email.
5. Can I take courses downtown?
Yes, after first year. Specifically, you need 4.0 credits however this isn’t strictly enforced so you can give it a shot.
6. Does the number of my LEC and PRA/TUT section have to match?
In most cases, no but courses that do will explicitly state it in ACORN/the timetable planner.
7. I got accepted into X, but want to apply for Y, what do?
You can do this, you just won’t have priority enrollment. Just take the courses for the program you want to, and apply for Y during the POSt application period.
8. How much will I have to study? Can I maintain a social life?
This varies per program and per person, but it is definitely possible to have a social life during uni and I highly recommend you do! You’re only in uni once, take advantage of it and make friends! Just make sure that you stay on top of your deadlines, review often, and cram when necessary.
Frequently Asked Questions: CS Edition
Lots of students coming from Reddit are interested in CS, so here you go.
- Learn outside of school! The content in first and second year are foundational only. Apply for internships, work on side projects, and attend hackathons!
- What courses should I take?
For a CS Spec/Major you should take the following
Fall: CSC108, MAT132/MAT135/MAT137
Winter: CSC148, MAT134/MAT136/MAT137
Either term: MAT102 (I recommend you take it in the fall since it’ll be easier to take with CSC108)
- STA107 (Allows you to take CSC263 if you fail/drop STA256 which can be a major roadblock for people)
Note: Those who have taken it and are currently taking it have informed that it’s a pretty poorly managed course, and “the stats professors even told us that it’s not great preparation for sta256”
- MAT223 (Required for a good amount of math courses and the info sec program)
Then, fill up the rest of your courses with stuff that interests you or fulfills your distribution requirements.
Some good ones I have taken:
HUM courses: PHL245, PHL247, RLG101
SSc courses: POL111, MGT130
2. Should I take MAT135+MAT136 or MAT137?
MAT137 is really really hard, I apologize for understating that in my original post. However, it will prepare you very well for future proofs courses. If you’re up for the challenge and have a solid foundation in mathematical proofs, then go for it!
3. Can I skip CSC108?
Without a waiver, no. I would suggest you don’t do it even if you have significant highschool experience since it’s an easy GPA booster. This year, it might be a good idea to though, since CSC148 is gonna be offered in the fall and by doing so you’ll be able to fast track your courses!
4. What type of laptop do I need?
Doesn’t really matter, just don’t get a literal potato. Tons of people use lower end laptops like ThinkPads just fine.
Also, people often ask about what laptop they should get for uni. I highly suggest the Lenovo Flex 14 with AMD ryzen CPU. It’s a (pretty) cheap device that lets you write on it with a pen, has more than enough power for 99% of anything you can throw at it, and is a solidly built laptop (made out of metal)
You don’t need to drop $4k on a MacBook Pro
- Ricky_RZ (this is one year outdated but still solid advice)
5. What courses do I take as a 2nd/3rd/4th year?
Check out this infographic from the UTM MCSS
6. What major/minor should I take with CS?
CS IN A DOUBLE-MAJOR
Here are common alternate majors to consider that pair well with a CS major or minor:
Communication, Culture Information and Technology (CCIT)
Geographical Information Systems (GIS)
Professional Writing and Communication
From my experience, the most common ones are math and statistics. Prof. Petersen recommends Statistics.
I decided to do a math minor since CSC236 counts as a 2nd year math course, so all I had to do to get it is take 2 upper year math courses.
Pro tip, if you are doing CS Specialist, you can also do a stats minor at the same time cause a lot of the requirements overlap and you end up with more knowledge and a stronger position out of uni.
6. What are the differences between UTSG and UTM CS?
Courses are generally the same for first and second year, except (from my experience) UTM’s can be more indepth and harder (UTM >>> UTSG lowkey)
7. Do you have co-op?
We don’t offer co-op in the traditional sense, where 4 month internships are offered in the summers between years. We have PEY, a 12–16 month internship that can be taken after 2nd or 3rd year. Check out my PEY guide for more info.
8. Will I have more PEY opportunities going to St. George over UTM?
The PEY portal is exactly the same, but there are more career fairs held in St. George. Nothing is stopping you from taking the shuttle there and attending however.
9. I got deferred to CCIT/[program name here]! What do I do? I really wanna do CS!
Take all the courses that the CS program requires you to, and apply for POSt in the winter.
10. How should I prepare for MAT102 and CSC148?
Here’s a .zip of the success package for MAT102, the course notes should be in there.
In general though, you should do attend lectures and tutorials, do the readings + practice problems, and practice past quizzes/tests/exams.
Other Helpful Resources
Here is a bunch of useful links that you may want to check out in the future, shout out to Kana for sending me these!
https://degreeexplorer.utoronto.ca/ (plan for the future) https://imgur.com/knmI2oW (How to use the planner) https://app.utm.utoronto.ca/rbs/library/BookAResource.action (book a study room)
https://registrar.utm.utoronto.ca/booking/Bookresources2.pl (see if there are empty classrooms) http://studentcare.ca/rte/en/IHaveAPlan_UTSU_Claims_HowtoClaim (instructions on claiming health plan benefits) https://cln.utoronto.ca/students/overview.htm (uni job portal) https://www.facebook.com/groups/birdcoursesatutm/ (find bird courses and also to find course chat groups) https://www.utm.utoronto.ca/asc/study-skills-resources (might be useful, I haven’t used them myself)
Hope that helped, welcome to UTM! Make sure to manage your studies and social life, and try to get out there and learn a lot!
Also shout out to White Van, a UTM CS community Discord full of tons of helpful and nice upper years. It’s pretty active, and we talk about all sorts of stuff from job advice to pc hardware to anime and memes.