University of Toronto: Bad for undergrad?

In summary, there are rumors about UofT purposely keeping GPAs low and having difficult courses, but this is also seen at other universities. The opportunities for research at UofT should not be overlooked, and grad schools take into consideration the class average and individual grades when considering applicants. It is not likely that attending a different university will significantly impact one's GPA, as grading standards vary among universities. There may be weed out courses, but they do not necessarily indicate the level of difficulty at a university.
  • #1
-Dragoon-
309
7
If I want to go to graduate school in either math or physics? I've been advised against going by my teachers, guidance councilors, and friends who have siblings that are currently UofT students. I've heard all the stories of students coming in with 99 averages into the math and physics stream and having their dreams crushed and failing out, how UofT purposely keeps the GPA's of the majority of the students low, and most courses are designed specifically to fail as many students as possible. Now I know these are rumors and most probably not true, but I never hear the same horror stories of other notoriously known universities such Waterloo, Queen's, Mcgill, and Mcmaster. Is there any hints of truth to these rumors? If I want to eventually go to graduate school, should I transfer out as soon as possible out of UofT?

I'd like to hear specifically from UofT students who are in the math and physics streams. Thanks.
 
Physics news on Phys.org
  • #2
Is it possible your anecdotal evidence is biassed by relative population sizes? Ie. do you think you may hear more UofT horror stories because you know more people who've gone to UofT, or because more people simply go to UofT

I think you're worrying too much over nothing. These are the kind of stories that are perpetuated by students who get through high school without much effort and who are then faced with more of a challenge in university, don't do anything different, and end up not doing so well. Rather than look inwardly at their own habits, they complain about external factors over which they have no control. It happens at every university.

Try to look instead for the opportunities available at any school you're interested in.
 
  • #3
how UofT purposely keeps the GPA's of the majority of the students low

If the UofT is like the UofA, this doesn't matter much, because the class average is given along with your grade on your transcripts.

So, if the class avg is a C+ and you get a B+, then grad admissions should see that you're pretty good student.
 
  • #4
Choppy said:
Is it possible your anecdotal evidence is biassed by relative population sizes? Ie. do you think you may hear more UofT horror stories because you know more people who've gone to UofT, or because more people simply go to UofT

I think you're worrying too much over nothing. These are the kind of stories that are perpetuated by students who get through high school without much effort and who are then faced with more of a challenge in university, don't do anything different, and end up not doing so well. Rather than look inwardly at their own habits, they complain about external factors over which they have no control. It happens at every university.

Try to look instead for the opportunities available at any school you're interested in.

That is what I thought, too. That, those who were complaining were the ones who did poorly and blame their shortcomings on the university, and that those who don't whine usually don't have time to dispel false statements. The problem is, I don't hear any of this from other historically rigorous universities, such as Waterloo and Mcgill.

On the plus side, there's plenty of research opportunities at UofT offered to students throughout the year. But, wouldn't all that research be meaningless if I end up with a sub-par GPA?
 
  • #5
General_Sax said:
If the UofT is like the UofA, this doesn't matter much, because the class average is given along with your grade on your transcripts.

So, if the class avg is a C+ and you get a B+, then grad admissions should see that you're pretty good student.

Do grad-schools really take that into consideration, especially the competitive and top grad-schools? Isn't it about raw numbers at first and having to make it past a certain cut-off before the subjective process of admissions can take place?
 
  • #6
Retribution said:
On the plus side, there's plenty of research opportunities at UofT offered to students throughout the year. But, wouldn't all that research be meaningless if I end up with a sub-par GPA?
I don't think you're going to end up with a significantly, or at all, higher GPA if you go to a different university. Even if they do weed out people, those aren't people that would otherwise excel at other universities.
Retribution said:
Do grad-schools really take that into consideration, especially the competitive and top grad-schools? Isn't it about raw numbers at first and having to make it past a certain cut-off before the subjective process of admissions can take place?
How is where you place among your fellow students not a raw number? There's nothing subjective about it.
 
  • #7
Retribution said:
Do grad-schools really take that into consideration, especially the competitive and top grad-schools?

Yes.

Isn't it about raw numbers at first and having to make it past a certain cut-off before the subjective process of admissions can take place?

There is usually a drop dead cut-off but it's set low enough so that you aren't likely to hit it unless you have no hope of getting in anyway.
 
  • #8
Ryker said:
I don't think you're going to end up with a significantly, or at all, higher GPA if you go to a different university.

You might end up with a higher GPA, but since people are aware that universities have different grading standards getting higher grades at a university that is known to be "easy" isn't going to help you.

Even if they do weed out people, those aren't people that would otherwise excel at other universities.

Disagree with this. I know people that got weeded out of physics at UT Austin that I thought would have done just fine had they gotten into MIT. Weed out courses is the only thing that I worry about. Also weed out courses and harsh grading are not necessarily connected. You can have a school that grades very harshly but most people end up making it through, or you could have a school that gives high grades but then the weed out level is set very high.

Also... For the OP.

I've heard all the stories of students coming in with 99 averages into the math and physics stream and having their dreams crushed and failing out

If you are getting 99's that means that the tests are too easy. Physics is harsh and one thing that you have to learn is to get 70's and keep fighting. One problem with getting "easy scores" is that if you don't get used to hard struggles in undergraduate, it gets worse in graduate school.
 
  • #9
One other thing, this might sound harsh, but if physics isn't for you, it's a lot better to find that out freshman year when you still have some time to learn something different than to go through and then find that out later when you have fewer choices.

If your dreams are going to get crushed anyway, it's better that happen sooner than later.
 
  • #10
Retribution said:
If I want to go to graduate school in either math or physics? I've been advised against going by my teachers, guidance councilors, and friends who have siblings that are currently UofT students. I've heard all the stories of students coming in with 99 averages into the math and physics stream and having their dreams crushed and failing out, how UofT purposely keeps the GPA's of the majority of the students low, and most courses are designed specifically to fail as many students as possible. Now I know these are rumors and most probably not true, but I never hear the same horror stories of other notoriously known universities such Waterloo, Queen's, Mcgill, and Mcmaster. Is there any hints of truth to these rumors? If I want to eventually go to graduate school, should I transfer out as soon as possible out of UofT?

I'd like to hear specifically from UofT students who are in the math and physics streams. Thanks.

Most classes at UofT are not deigned to fail as many students as possible, however they are designed to have around a C+ - B- average (at least in first year). From what I've heard the top students in physics at UofT have GPA's around 3.8.

Also since when are Waterloo, Queen's, McGill, and McMaster known to be notoriously difficult (especially McMaster and Queen's)? The only university I've ever heard horror stories about in Canada is UofT.

Don't worry too much about the 'horror stories' you hear about UofT - I'm sure most of them are unfounded.
 
  • #11
Retribution said:
If I want to go to graduate school in either math or physics? I've been advised against going by my teachers, guidance councilors, and friends who have siblings that are currently UofT students. I've heard all the stories of students coming in with 99 averages into the math and physics stream and having their dreams crushed and failing out, how UofT purposely keeps the GPA's of the majority of the students low, and most courses are designed specifically to fail as many students as possible. Now I know these are rumors and most probably not true, but I never hear the same horror stories of other notoriously known universities such Waterloo, Queen's, Mcgill, and Mcmaster. Is there any hints of truth to these rumors? If I want to eventually go to graduate school, should I transfer out as soon as possible out of UofT?

I'd like to hear specifically from UofT students who are in the math and physics streams. Thanks.

I am going to the University of Toronto (UofT) this fall for physics and mathematics for the first year as well. I do not believe those stories you are writing about. UofT is the best school in Canada. Since it is the best you will most likely hear stories of how hard it is for the students just like I hear stories like that in the top schools in the USA such as Harvard and MIT. People in the past have receive good grades in the school and my friend who went last year had a good grade.

Like everything in life, it is a manner of how much you want it. Good grades in university, or so I've been told, is not as easy to obtain as they are in high school. If you want good grades for physics and mathematics in UofT I would recommend you to do what I am going to do. Use this and other website forums to learn what you don't fully understand in class or in private study.
 
  • #12
It's funny how people instead of studying harder, complain that the class average is too low. Let me just say that outstanding people are outstanding everywhere. They do not drop from 4.0 to 3.0 as they move on to college. If that happens, you are simply not good enough. If you have faith in yourself, you should not be afraid of going to a competitive university. :)
 
  • #13
Ryker said:
I don't think you're going to end up with a significantly, or at all, higher GPA if you go to a different university. Even if they do weed out people, those aren't people that would otherwise excel at other universities.
Though this may be true as a general rule, the problem is that students taking the advanced first year math and physics students at UofT are all, for the most part, brilliant. These are the students coming with averages in the high 90's and the class averages ranging from a D to a C-. That is quite intimidating to hear, personally. I have also heard from numerous sources that UofT professors aren't allowed to have class averages above a C+ and are bell-curved accordingly or they must submit a letter to the department . Even though I cannot confirm that officially (from reading marking policies) and I don't know if it is factual or not though I wouldn't be surprised if UofT actually had such a policy.

Ryker said:
How is where you place among your fellow students not a raw number? There's nothing subjective about it.
If you don't make it past the GPA cut-off, will grad-school admissions really take the time as to figure out why your GPA is so low and look through your transcript and compare your grades with your classmates? I don't have any sort of idea on how graduate school admissions work, so I am probably very wrong.
 
  • #14
twofish-quant said:
One other thing, this might sound harsh, but if physics isn't for you, it's a lot better to find that out freshman year when you still have some time to learn something different than to go through and then find that out later when you have fewer choices.

If your dreams are going to get crushed anyway, it's better that happen sooner than later.

I don't think it was harsh at all, it was very helpful. My interests lie primarily in mathematics, but have sparked an interest in physics after taking a class and acing it. Now, I know high school physics is nothing compared to the university level, but I still find it one of the most interesting and enjoyable classes I have ever taken. I can only hope my university classes will be even more interesting and enjoyable.
 
  • #15
JNBirDy said:
Most classes at UofT are not deigned to fail as many students as possible, however they are designed to have around a C+ - B- average (at least in first year). From what I've heard the top students in physics at UofT have GPA's around 3.8.

Also since when are Waterloo, Queen's, McGill, and McMaster known to be notoriously difficult (especially McMaster and Queen's)? The only university I've ever heard horror stories about in Canada is UofT.

Don't worry too much about the 'horror stories' you hear about UofT - I'm sure most of them are unfounded.

I sure hope so, or I might as well try to transfer to Ryerson or UOIT and patch my GPA and my hopes of getting into graduate school. As for those schools, didn't mean they were notoriously difficult (even though that may commonly be inferred), just that they are schools with equally as good programs as UofT, with the exception that the majority of the student population of those schools seem happy and content with their programs. I only ever hear UofT students whine and complain about "living" in Robarts library and still doing poorly.
 
  • #16
barthayn said:
I am going to the University of Toronto (UofT) this fall for physics and mathematics for the first year as well. I do not believe those stories you are writing about. UofT is the best school in Canada. Since it is the best you will most likely hear stories of how hard it is for the students just like I hear stories like that in the top schools in the USA such as Harvard and MIT. People in the past have receive good grades in the school and my friend who went last year had a good grade.

Like everything in life, it is a manner of how much you want it. Good grades in university, or so I've been told, is not as easy to obtain as they are in high school. If you want good grades for physics and mathematics in UofT I would recommend you to do what I am going to do. Use this and other website forums to learn what you don't fully understand in class or in private study.

Best school in Canada? I don't know about that one, dude. I think Mcgill is more known as the "Harvard of Canada" and is more recognized than UofT. Besides, Canada has no equivalent for the "Ivy League". All of our well-known universities are state funded, much like state schools. At least with MIT and Harvard, the prestige of attending the best institutions in the world (personal opinion) would be a strong motivator, at least for myself. With UofT physics or math, your degree isn't any more prestigious than a Uwaterloo degree, Mcmaster degree, or a Mcgill degree. Maybe if it was engineering, but not physics or math.

Definitely agree with your second paragraph. PF and other helpful forums would be a savior to helping me through. Also, which classes are you planning to take in your first year? MAT137 or MAT157? PHY131 or PHY151?
 
  • #17
Retribution said:
Best school in Canada? I don't know about that one, dude. I think Mcgill is more known as the "Harvard of Canada" and is more recognized than UofT. Besides, Canada has no equivalent for the "Ivy League". All of our well-known universities are state funded, much like state schools. At least with MIT and Harvard, the prestige of attending the best institutions in the world (personal opinion) would be a strong motivator, at least for myself. With UofT physics or math, your degree isn't any more prestigious than a Uwaterloo degree, Mcmaster degree, or a Mcgill degree. Maybe if it was engineering, but not physics or math.

Definitely agree with your second paragraph. PF and other helpful forums would be a savior to helping me through. Also, which classes are you planning to take in your first year? MAT137 or MAT157? PHY131 or PHY151?

McGill is a great university, but you have to Google the universities to discover what is the best ones in Canada. I got a magazine from school that showed me the information about Canadian schools and two top ones, UofT and University of BC, was not on there because the survey was biased. So I Googled it and mostly for Canada it was UofT and University of BC was the top university in Canada. In fact UofT for all programs, according to UofT, is in the top 15 in the entire world.

Anyways, I am planing on taking PHY151H1, PHY152H1, ECO100Y1, RLG100Y1, LIN101Y, and not sure about the math. I think I will have to take MAT157Y1 because MAT137 may be the same time as RLG100Y1.

P.S. I wouldn't recommend you to triple or even double post.
 
  • #18
barthayn said:
McGill is a great university, but you have to Google the universities to discover what is the best ones in Canada. I got a magazine from school that showed me the information about Canadian schools and two top ones, UofT and University of BC, was not on there because the survey was biased. So I Googled it and mostly for Canada it was UofT and University of BC was the top university in Canada. In fact UofT for all programs, according to UofT, is in the top 15 in the entire world.

Anyways, I am planing on taking PHY151H1, PHY152H1, ECO100Y1, RLG100Y1, LIN101Y, and not sure about the math. I think I will have to take MAT157Y1 because MAT137 may be the same time as RLG100Y1.

P.S. I wouldn't recommend you to triple or even double post.

Not that rankings matter... http://www.topuniversities.com/university-rankings/world-university-rankings/2010

Anyways, I'd have to agree with Retribution that McGill is the 'best' university in Canada. UofT may be the best for graduate school in more programs than any other university in Canada but McGill is probably the overall best university (undergraduate, graduate, experience, reputation, location, etc).
 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • #19
Retribution said:
Though this may be true as a general rule, the problem is that students taking the advanced first year math and physics students at UofT are all, for the most part, brilliant. These are the students coming with averages in the high 90's and the class averages ranging from a D to a C-. That is quite intimidating to hear, personally. I have also heard from numerous sources that UofT professors aren't allowed to have class averages above a C+ and are bell-curved accordingly or they must submit a letter to the department . Even though I cannot confirm that officially (from reading marking policies) and I don't know if it is factual or not though I wouldn't be surprised if UofT actually had such a policy.
First, I think more people get accepted to UofT than to other universities, so while you have a lot of "brilliant" students, you also have a lot of merely "good" or "average" ones. I'm not saying the distribution differs a lot from other universities, but just the sheer number could result in some being weeded out. Also, a lot of non-physics majors take first year physics courses, and I think it's fair to assume those constitute the majority of the people getting weeded out.

As for the grading curve policies, if UofT has one, they aren't the only ones. University of Alberta has one, as well, and professors are given a frame of sorts for what the distribution of marks should be. Of course it's not perfectly rigid and there is some discretion within those boundaries, but they have to explain and justify if their distribution differs from the prescribed one. A friend of mine, who also studies physics, told me that he once received the unofficial grade in May, just like usual, but then when the official grade came out in August/September, it was a B+ instead of an A-, since the grades had to be lowered due to skewed distribution. I'm sure this isn't the only university in Canada that has such a policy. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if all of them had one. After all, you can't have efficient grading on a curve without it.

But maybe you just don't hear people whine as much elsewhere as much.

I know my faculty back home had a similar drop-out rate of about 50% after first year, but, anecdotally, I can't name a single person to whom I think great injustice has been done by getting weeded out.
Retribution said:
If you don't make it past the GPA cut-off, will grad-school admissions really take the time as to figure out why your GPA is so low and look through your transcript and compare your grades with your classmates? I don't have any sort of idea on how graduate school admissions work, so I am probably very wrong.
Well, you do send the paper that states your ranking among your peers with the rest of the documentation, don't you?
 

Related to University of Toronto: Bad for undergrad?

1. What makes the University of Toronto bad for undergraduates?

There is no one definitive answer to this question as experiences and opinions vary among students. Some common reasons include large class sizes, competitive academic environment, and limited campus community.

2. Are there any positives to attending the University of Toronto for undergrad?

Yes, there are many positives to attending the University of Toronto for undergrad. It is a prestigious institution with highly ranked programs, diverse student body, and access to numerous resources and opportunities.

3. Is the University of Toronto too difficult for undergraduates?

The University of Toronto is known for its rigorous academic standards, but whether it is too difficult for undergraduates depends on the individual's abilities and work ethic. Many students thrive in the challenging environment, while others may struggle.

4. How does the University of Toronto compare to other universities for undergraduates?

The University of Toronto is consistently ranked as one of the top universities in Canada and the world. It has a strong reputation for its undergraduate programs, research opportunities, and overall academic excellence.

5. Are there resources available to support undergraduates at the University of Toronto?

Yes, there are numerous resources available to support undergraduates at the University of Toronto. These include academic advising, career services, mental health support, and peer mentorship programs. Students are also encouraged to reach out to their professors and teaching assistants for additional support.

Similar threads

  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
8
Views
2K
Replies
23
Views
1K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
17
Views
3K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
1
Views
1K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
14
Views
2K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
3
Views
1K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
9
Views
2K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
16
Views
1K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
5
Views
1K
Replies
4
Views
2K
Back
Top