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UofT for Physics Is it really that bad?

  1. May 19, 2008 #1
    UofT for Physics.... Is it really that bad?

    I've been searching a lot of the old posts about the undergrad physics program in UofT and got the sense that people are miserable their because their GPA's are kept really low. I'm going to accept an offer to either Waterloo or UofT before May 28, and right now I'm deciding on UofT for Math and Physics. (I plan to eventually go into graduate school, probably at UofT, if I can make it.)

    I'm wondering if there's any former UofT physics undergrads out there: If you had the choice to do it all over again at UofT or some other university, which would you pick?

    And on the other note, Does high marks in high school translate to a high GPA in university? (I'm usually get the highest or second highest mark in my math and physics classes but does that mean if I work just as hard will i necessarily get in the top 15% of my class in university, I'm really worried about failing miserably at UofT.)

    I appreciate any input, Thanks :)
  2. jcsd
  3. May 19, 2008 #2
    People with high GPAs are less likely to complain about their GPA.

    High school is worlds easier, especially if you're majoring in math/physics.
  4. May 19, 2008 #3

    Vanadium 50

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    First, there are lots of "U of T"''s in the world. You might want to mention which one.

    Second, there is no guarantee that high marks in high school will translate to a high GPA in a university. None at all.

    Third, I would place much more emphasis on what you learn than what your GPA is. If a place gives you an A even if you learned nothing, this doesn't make it a good school.
  5. May 19, 2008 #4
    Asphodel is quite right. In High School you have a better student-teacher ratio so the teacher can always make sure everyone understands. At university, it is not because of the large student-teacher ratio that they don't care; they just do not care when it comes to math especially.

    They tend to think Students will get it on the first go - so you won't have to work just as hard, I would say you will have to work almost 5 times as hard to keep your current grades in first year. I hear though that second year gets a bit tougher in the sense of time, but that third and fourth years are a breeze. Usually at UofT, grad schools look at the last two years, which is a big help.
  6. May 19, 2008 #5


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    I wouldn't sweat too much. As a first year student you're likely subject to all sorts of horror stories of students who were good in high school failing out by the end of their first semester at university. Don't let these phase you too much. There's a big jump from high school to university.

    Remember in high school you're competing with the "general" population. At university everyone in your classes had to meet a minimum cut-off just to get in. In addition, the students have a general desire to be there and do well (with the exception of students attending on full scholarships from the Bank of Momndad). Couple this with the facts that many students are living on their own for the first time, they can now legally drink, they are bombarded with social, sporting, and volunteer activities and many have to take up part time jobs. This is in addition to the fact that the material is harder and more comprehensive, and professors are often appointed based on research merit (or in some cases on drawing the short straw) rather than on teaching skill.

    Something else to consider is that not everyone in the class is necessarily there for the first time either.

    With respect to the student-teacher ratio - it's generally high for the first year or two. By my third and fourth year, I had some classes with only eight students.

    With respect to posts about a particular undergrad program - keep in mind that people generally only vent about fustrations, not about things they are content with. Also, programs change from year to year - professors and even required courses can change - especially if a number of students voice concerns.
  7. May 19, 2008 #6
    What's "UofT?" Texas? Tennessee? Toronto?
  8. May 19, 2008 #7
    oh sorry, I meant University of Toronto.
  9. May 19, 2008 #8
    And your other choice, you mention Waterloo. There's a lot of Waterloos. Are you going to the one in Australia? Belgium? Any of the three that I can think of in Canada?

    I submit that whenever anyone mentions a university here they should give the GPS coordinates.
  10. May 19, 2008 #9


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    Let's try and keep the thread on-topic please!
  11. May 19, 2008 #10
    Simon, what college @ U of T are you at? I want to get a physics study group together.
  12. May 19, 2008 #11
    Search my old posts.

    The worst posssible program to take in the world is the "Math and Physics Specialist" program at the University of Toronto.

    If you want to commit suicide, then go ahead and take Math&
  13. May 21, 2008 #12
    Now this guy vincebs has more perspective on UT's theoretical math, which a mathematical physicist will have to take. Essentially, hes in your program so his word should be gold. Myself, I have all the physics that he does (more if anything), being in a physics specialist, but my math is not as deep. So I can offer you my views as a UT physics specialist.

    In terms of math, the math I am required to take isn't too bad. Linear algebra and multivariable calculus are really hard though, because they are presented in a theoretical fashion. In fact, if these are "easier maths", which I probably spend 3x as much time as on physics courses, I really do wonder what those pure theory guys go through. And as a mathematical physcist, atleast in UT, you will first be trained as a pure mathematician, and second as a theoretical physicist. Pure mathematics is hell. The classes get test scores of like 40% from what I heard. Its all proofs. The math courses are the hardest thing in physics, although by the end the class average still somehow becomes a 60ish.

    As for the physics, its not at all that bad. But it helps if you have vector calculus and multivariable calc down pat before beggining second year (which is taught during). The physics courses are very slow paced, but the problem sets are impossible. Especially the mechanics courses. Tests and exams aren't that bad though. You can easily pull above 60 with some effort. Physics labs are probably the worst. They are very tedius and time consuming, and often you wont have time to finish the experiments.

    Relative to most other schools, UT will over-work you. The annoying problem sets will take countless hours. But UT won't fail you. It will however keep your mark low unless you are a super hard worker. Meaning only about 10 people will have an A in your class. And that becomes an issue when applying to graduate school, another thing vince has experience with and I don't.

    I don't really regret coming here. At times I feel yeah this is hell, but in the end I somehow manage. Ofcourse I haven't had my dream shattered by getting rejected to grad school for only having a B. Its also annoying knowing people that know a lot less than you will get all the scholarships becuase they have high averages.

    As for you? Don't be too scared of coming here, but at the same time be rational. Your highschool grades only mean something relative to others. Are your grades higher than the smarter people? Or only higher that the general idiot. Either way, you look like a good candidate being top 2. Also, going to UT will almost kill your social life. Are you prepared to spend your life for the next four years in front of books?

    And cramming won't work at UT. It works in other schools but not here. The smart guys that cram barely, if at all, pass.
    Last edited: May 21, 2008
  14. May 21, 2008 #13


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    Could you put this in context please; it is hardly relevant as it stands?
  15. May 21, 2008 #14

    I really don't understand how people can say this, especially being an objective scientist. Unless you do an undergraduate degree in physics at multiple universities how can you pretend to compare workloads?

    I have a strong feeling, though cannot prove it, that UT has no more workload than any other respected Canadian university. Physics tends to give lots of work and expect lots from their students, I just think UT people like to think they do more, or work harder. I would bet this is not the case.
  16. May 21, 2008 #15
    Its simple really. There are people that transfered from other Canandian schools that I've talked to. I have friends in other Canadian schools. And its a general opinion UT has that has been confirmed by many.

    Whats more, is UT attracts the best and brightest due to its rep. This raises the bar.

    Does this mean UT has a superior education? Not neccessarily, but denying they expect more from better qualified individuals is nonsense. The qualification being highschool marks.

    I think he meant if someone doesn't want to commit suicide they shouldn't come here. Crazy mathemeticians and their twisted logic!
    Last edited: May 21, 2008
  17. May 21, 2008 #16
    I am still not convinced. I have profs that have graduated from UT, McGill, as well as places like Stanford and Oxford. Though they would have done undergrad a while ago, they give workloads based on what they received during their education. Though it may be true that UT has stronger competition I don't think this correlates to a larger workload, we all learn from basically the same textbooks and probably do all the same sample questions, or similar ones. I fail to imagine how things could be much different depending on where you go.

    I have also seen many UT grads thrown into other graduate schools with a variety of people from around the country, and though the sample size I am referring to is relatively small, a UT grad generally does no better than any other grad.

    I also notice that the top 5 in the CAP exam this year are from Queen's and UBC not UT.
    At the CUPC 2007, top 3 posters went to University of Manitoba, and the Oral top three went to McMaster and York.

    So, if there is so much more work at UT and so much brighter students they really aren't living up to it on the National stage.
    Last edited: May 21, 2008
  18. May 21, 2008 #17

    I want to eventually go into grad school at UofT; will I have a better chance if I went to UofT (even if I come out with a B average)?
  19. May 21, 2008 #18
    Oooh. Burn.
  20. May 22, 2008 #19
    High school GPA has very little correlation with college GPA from what I've seen. Personally I was a slacker in high school, graduating with ~3.4 GPA, but now I have a higher GPA in college than many people here who were high school valedictorians.
  21. May 22, 2008 #20
    Our standard is that its the toughest school, not that we come out the brighest. Though the two often go hand to hand. While we use the same textbooks, what really screws us over are the questions the profs themselves design. This is where the difficulty arises. Some profs go straight from the text, and those are the easy courses. Physics is nothing compared to math though.

    But for physics and math, I don't think there would be "that" much of gap. Physical scientists are usally demanding wherever they are. But you can look at the stuff we do in 3rd year quantum and compare if you want:


    We get emails for those competitions, most of us can't spare the time. So look first at how many actually attend from UT. I cant comment on UT grads, as they may be from other schools were GPAs are high heh.

    Also, this isn't the first time you've been hitting UT. I don't know what bothers you about it: that you didn't go there and feel inadequate or are just annoyed by some of the arrogant people who think UT is the only school that can train physicists. No, there are plenty of great Canadian schools that produce quality physicists. But based on a lot of opinions it is harder to succeed in UT than most other schools. Thats why a larger proportion of our graduates are more likely to be in the quality range. Be that as it may, I still think UT doesn't do the best it can in actually "educating" us using its archaic methods. And most of the people here are snobs. So you have to take the good with the bad.

    I would imagine going to UT would increase your chance of getting into UT, if for no other reason that meeting the faculty. but this would close doors in most other schools (see low GPA). Yeah, UT apparently realizes a B is impressive. Again, I know nothing of the grad process though so you'd better get some other advice.

    And I'd take this guy up on the offer. Friends at UT are extremely useful, especially when trying the problem sets. A lone ranger doesn't go far here.
    Last edited: May 22, 2008
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