How did Laura get into Computer Science at the University of Toronto?? (Grade 12 Marks, Extra Curriculars, etc)
Are you interested in applying to the Computer Science Program at the University of Toronto? Well one of my online students Laura got in! I got her to share her grade 12 experiences below :)
What were your marks in all of your grade 11 and 12 courses?
English (ENG3U) – 88
Extended French (FEF3U) - 88
Biology (SBI3U) – 85
Physics (SPH3U) - 84
Italian (LWICU) - 87
World Religion (HRT3M) - 92
Introduction to Computer Science (ICS3U) - 100
Functions (MCR3U) - 90
Chemistry (SCH3U) - 80
Extended French (FEF4U) – 90
Introduction to Computer Science (ICS4U) - 95
Advanced Functions (MHF4U) – 92
Italian (LWIDU) - 95
English (ENG4U) - 90
Philosophy (HZT4U) - 88
Calculus and Vectors (MCV4U) - 90
Communications Technology (TGI4M) - 92
When did you receive your acceptance?
What subject(s) are you best at? Weakest at? Was it always like this? What are your favourite subjects?
My best subjects were the Language courses, Computer Science and the Math Courses. I would say I was weakest at English. I personally didn’t really enjoy writing essays, struggled to be concise or use terms properly. I actually used to really struggle with math, but it was during grade 11 that I discovered how fun Computer Science was, and that if I wanted to pursue this field I had to step it up with math. I used to feel really intimated by fractions and doubted myself when trying to do mental math. Since I did not feel too confident in my abilities, I would take long to write tests because I would use my calculator for everything even to check something like 2+7. So it was around this time that I looked for videos to help me with Functions and that's where I found Patrick’s videos on YouTube. I generally tried to watch them before my class or after, or sometimes I used them to cram. Slowly, this really helped me feel more confident in my work
Did you have a tutor(s)? If so, for what courses?
Although it was not in person, my tutor was Patrick through his videos.
Did you work during your grade 12 year? If so, how many hours per week? How did it affect your studying?
I worked at Kumon as a Teaching Assistant, for about 8 - 12 hours per week! This was actually a great experience and I’m truly grateful for my bosses and my coworkers! This experience actually made me better at math as I was constantly exposed to the things that had intimidated me ... (Fractions, fractions, fractions) and being able to explain concepts to the students helped me solidify and strengthen my foundations as well. From this, I gained more confidence in math and realized that once we conquer the knowledge gaps we are capable of be good at a subject!
What were your study habits like? Were they the same everyday?
I did my homework for the most part and studied all of the course material a day or two before the test with that material. I had a group chat with my friends where we would ask questions about homework and this was quite helpful. My days were very different, as some days I had work, or games, or club meetings, so my studying varied throughout the week. For work days, I would try to finish my homework right after school, before work (generally had a 3h to 4h gap in between). If I had a soccer game right after school, club meeting etc, I would do my homework after school. If I had not gotten a chance to finish my work, I would do it during my lunch time at school.
What extracurricular activities did you participate in? Did it affect your studying?
I was part of the Soccer Team, part of the chaplaincy club, was Yearbook chief and was working on an app (Mostly during the spare I had : first semester of grade 12). I deeply value the importance of being active as it really allows you to unplug from a crazy schedule and be in the moment with your team! Being a Yearbook chief was a huge responsibility as I had to be on track with the pages I was working on and make sure that my team was also on track and manage all the processes that come with this. Being part of the chaplaincy club was a great experience as I got to be on retreat with some great people and it allowed me to grow a lot personally. Although it was really hard to manage all of these activities, all the experiences that came from them helped me grow in character and I learned about what my limits are as a student.
Briefly describe your 3 closest friends (or the 3 people you most talked to and spent the most time with) during your grade 12 year. Did they have any affect on your results in grade 12?
Friend 1: They were really emotionally intelligent people. Having them around really helped me in moments that I needed support and felt overwhelmed or struggling. They were also very involved in various clubs and sports in their school and their averages were in the mid 90’s.
Friend 2: We were in the same math classes in gr11 and gr12, whenever we struggled we lifted each other up by writing motivational sticky notes/ doodles on paper! Although we fooled around after the class, since the class was fun we learned more and had a way better experience. They were competitive athletes and they actually convinced me that I could do soccer among the other things I was juggling in gr12. Although I had played soccer every year of high school, I almost thought of not taking it in gr12 but seeing them do their sport and do well both academically and athletically was really inspiring.
Friend 3: Although we didn’t share many classes in gr12 we had the same job so we always tried helping each other so that our workloads were as even as possible. We also gave each other company before working and pushed each other to finish homework before work started. Sometimes this was not the case and we would just chill, but having that was priceless. To chill with my friend really helped me feel more energized and centered during my crazy schedule.
What advice would you give to someone when they’re preparing for the supplementaries
in the application process (interviews, forms, etc)? What mistakes did you feel you made in this process? How would you have prepared differently to avoid these mistakes?
Although there is no interview process for Computer Science, I would say to start working on your intuition for math. There is nothing wrong with not getting it ... what's wrong is pretending that you do and never asking about it! As you begin this career you will realize that alot of it is very practical so memorizing formulas and trying to wing it will not be enough. So try to really understand the concepts and evaluate how it is that YOU learn best.
Also keep in mind that UofT has POST (Program of Study) which you declare after first year. Since Computer Science has requirements for POST you need to meet these requirements to get into the Computer Science POST. If for any reason you do not meet these requirements you can apply the following year (so its all good, if you really want to pursue this career... I know you got this !!!)
Why did you choose the Computer Science Program at the University of Toronto? What are you looking to get out of the program during and after?
I chose Computer Science at UofT because there is alot of freedom for creating a career that is tailored to you. You can choose a major and 2 minors or a specialist program. (Specialist is more concentrated than a major and you mostly only take courses for that program, whereas a
major is your focus program) Although you make your decision after first year, this decision can change anytime as long as you meet the requirements for the program. Having this ability allows you to explore other programs and can even broaden your perspective on your career. Being at UTM specifically has also been great because a smaller campus means a stronger community!
I look forward to become really good at what I do. Although this phrase is short it has actually helped make many decisions with this principle in mind (ex. Dropping a course because I was not doing well on it/ get the concepts well, retaking a course to really understand the concepts). From this I have also been more active in my learning and have strengthen my realtionships with my profs. Most of them have been really approachable and willing to help students!
On that note, after being more involved with Robotics, I would like to explore this branch of the field a bit more and UTM is currently expanding their Robotics faculty!
If you were able to go back to the day before Grade 12 started and give yourself advice, what would it be?
# 1: It’s ok to speak up for yourself ! Since I always enjoy helping I had trouble saying no to people and from it I got involved into many activities that I did not necessarily want to do. I had this fear of letting them down and like the world was going to collapse if I said no. Setting boundaries is super important to be in balance with yourself and others.
#2: It’s ok to feel overwhelmed! During my last year of high school I was really juggling alot and barely dedicated some time for myself, this lead to feeling burned out and like I was drowning in all that I was doing. However whenever I felt this way I felt guilty, or whenever I had not finished some of the work I had to do I felt guilty. Its important to take time to love yourself and be grateful to yourself, if you don’t take care of yourself you can’t expect others to do this for you!
#3: Don’t feel obligated to be with people you no longer vibe with. During my final year I sometimes felt like I was friends with people out of convenience and because the feeling of being “alone" was terrible, but at the same time I was not feeling like I was in valuable conversations or being really happy. Now I realize that it's ok to be on your own at times, because the only way that your real tribe can find you is when you show yourself as your authentic self.
——More University related——
#4: Don’t let it get to you: Although this is more uni related... You are coming into a competitive program with people who are overachievers as well. However everyone is in the same boat and people will make it seem like they know more than you and if you let it put you down.If they know more... good, if they know less ... good. Don’t compare yourself to others because you are just as capable, you made it this far... so you can keep going. Its all a mind game, but if you know how the program works you can code your way around it :)
#5 It's ok to do a path that derives from what's expected, this does not make you a failure or any less capable. We all learn differently, experience things differently, so what works for someone else might not work for you and that's okay!