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  1. #1
    Resident Snot-Nose GZA's Avatar
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    Default University of Toronto: Yay or Nay?

    I'm looking into changing schools. I've heard a lot of things about the University of Toronto being very difficult because they distort grades to create a perfect bell curve. The reviews I've read online seem to indicate this is true, especially in sciences. I'm curious if it is as true in arts and humanities classes as well (I'm an english student).

    Has anyone attended UofT or know people who have who can tell me a bit about what it is like?

  2. #2
    insert random title here Randomnity's Avatar
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    It has a good reputation. I know people who've attended but not anyone I talk to regularly.

    Bell curving can be positive or negative for you, of course (and often has little effect) depending where you fall in the curve. I have a feeling that bell curving is common for things like essays, regardless of what university you're at.

    One drawback is that Toronto has a VERY high cost of living and tuition is fairly high there as well, I believe.

    edit: why are you changing schools? which one are you at now?
    -end of thread-

  3. #3
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    I do already have classes (at Carleton) that use bell curving, especially for essays. My Canadian Lit prof marks essays for an average of 60% and I usually get about a 70% on them... so far these have been last minute essays and I'm sure I could do better if I tried harder. It seems this is typical of the bell curve practice. If every class was like this, I could still get pretty good grades, but getting exceptional grades would be hard. I have other teachers that mark things pretty hard or at least claim to have exceptionally high standards where I have got very good grades on essays (i.e. 90%, and that one was also pretty rushed), but I think my Canadian Lit prof is the hardest and probably best shows what the bell curve is truly like.

    As far as I'm concerned getting good grades is a matter of me deciding I want to do it. I have the ability, I just don't always do all the work. I hope if I went to UofT I wouldn't have to work a lot harder to achieve the same thing. Perhaps this ultimately means if I was to choose to do well I could use the bell curve to my advantage. The reality is that right now I don't pay enough attention in class, and simply closing the solitaire window would probably dramatically increase my grades.

    I want to change schools for a variety of reasons. Academically I find Carleton's english program is very good for studying literature from around the world but ultimately has a much smaller selection of classes. I switched to english from sociology and I'm finding the english courses available don't really fulfill what I was looking to get out of english. What I want out of english is learning how to write really well, understanding different uses of language for different purposes, rhetoric, ect, which Carleton doesn't really offer. I've looked at english programs around the country and my conclusion is that Carleton is great for anyone who wants to study literatures from around the world and post-colonial theory, but not the best if you are not in to that specifically. I don't think I'll be happy and successful in school unless I'm studying what I really want to, and looking at what classes I'll end up taking in 3rd and 4th year english year I don't feel that excited. Other schools, including UofT, have classes that sound more excited to me and more what I'm hoping to get out of school.

    The reason I'm narrowing in on UofT is because I also want to relocate to live with my girlfriend. I'm very serious about studying something I would be more interested in, and if I did not feel the ache for something that suits me better I would probably not be considering moving at all. But long distance relationships suck, especially when despite the distance they are constantly getting better and better, so I figure if I am going to change schools/programs I should also do something else that will make me happy, which is be with my girlfriend. I'll also be closer to home and around some other friends who have moved to Toronto. What I want to do academically I could also do in several schools in Canada (i.e. UBC, McGill, Western) but I'm choosing Toronto because I'd be with my girlfriend, I'd be closer to my family (in London), without actually having to live there (London is a nice town but I feel it would be a regression to move back longer than a summer. Being close is good cause I wish I could go home more and it can be hard from Ottawa). Plus I actually like moving and becoming established in a new place; I want to do a lot of moving before I have kids.

    Long story short, I feel like ultimately while there would be many sacrifices involved in moving (not seeing my Ottawa friends as much -they're fantastic people), there are also a lot of things to be gained that I ultimately think will lead to me being happier overall (studying what I want, closer to the fantastic people at home, being with my very fantastic girlfriend, the fun of becoming established in a new city, and after all I'd still only be a bus ride away from my Ottawa friends).

    You may recall earlier this year when I was considering going to OCAD. I've since decided I want to start pursuing art on my own time. I've really thought a lot about what I want to school and looked through many different options.

  4. #4
    insert random title here Randomnity's Avatar
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    oh cool, I didn't know you were in Ottawa now! UofO here. (insert required booo Carleton here).

    It sounds like Toronto would be compatible for you, then. I'll let someone else weigh in on the bell curve thing since I have very little experience with that, or english in general.

    Incidentally, my younger sister has just applied to Toronto for art of some kind. Wasn't clear if it was U of T or one of the other universities there.
    -end of thread-

  5. #5
    Resident Snot-Nose GZA's Avatar
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    Haha, sorry Random, but we can't be friends any more if you are a Gigi hahaha

    I think Ryerson's english program is really cool too, but they are just starting it in the fall so I'd have to go back to first year. Not happening! Thank you for your input!

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    Senior Member Owlesque's Avatar
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    I'm a science student at UofT, and class averages are fairly fixed for first and second year courses because they can have upwards of 800 people in them and some "weeding out" is necessary, so the profs will vary the difficulty of evaluations so that the class fits the accepted distribution as the year goes on. Sometimes there's linear adjustment, but only rarely, because there are usually two or three people per class who get within a couple percent of perfect. Smaller classes don't adhere as strictly to an average, but if it changes dramatically from year to year, the professor has to petition the school to justify why his year was so smart/crappy/whatever.

    I can't really speak for the humanities because I only know a couple of non-science people, but the marking will probably be more subjective than the sciences, and I think it will really just depend on the professor and/or the TAs marking them. If you're transferring, though, I imagine you'll avoid most of the serious bell curving from large first/second year classes, and it's a bonus if you're actually interesting in the courses.

    UofT (and Toronto) is expensive, but it's a great city once you learn to live with the TTC or just learn to walk places instead. I think if you can justify the pros being more important than the potential cons (which it seems like you can), it's a good decision. Good luck!

  7. #7
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    I'm already quite familiar with Toronto because I have close relatives who live there, so I have gone there at least once and roamed downtown many times. My grandparents live a block or two away from Union Station and my cousins live in Cabbagetown. This year my girlfriend has lived there, too, so I have become even more familiar with the neighborhood surrounding UofT, Ryerson, OCAD, Eaton's Centre, and the residential area she lives in a streetcar ride away.

    Random, if your sis applied for fine art there is a good chance she applied for Ocad, which is where I was considering going before.

  8. #8
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    During my undergrad years, I took two third-year courses from the history department and as far as I can tell, the grades were not bell-curved at all. My friends who took some other courses from the arts faculty in general said their grades were not bell-curved as well.

    I wish I could help more, but I don't know enough people from the Arts Faculty. Nevertheless, good luck!

  9. #9
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    That is still extremely helpful. There is a plethora of information on what its like to be a science student (after all, the downtown campus is science oriented), but little on the arts. In fact, what you've just said is in contention for the most informing thing I've heard!

  10. #10
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    Hmm maybe it depends on the courses and also where you are grade-wise. I was in the 80's and I thought the courses were quite simple (critical essays + research paper + final exam). I'll try to ask around and if I find new info, I'll post it here.

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