The Mentorship Spot
U of T Track One Engineering
Updated: Jul 30, 2020
Aarti Joshi just finished her first year at U of T in track one engineering. She loves to cook, bake, read, and do henna (check it out at @aartistic.henna)! She’s also a fan of Bollywood movies, sitcoms (try and name one she hasn’t watched), and in quarantine, she’s revived her love for watercolour painting!
What is Track One Engineering?
Track One is a first year program that will let you enter any of the core 8 disciplines of U of T engineering (civil, chemical, computer, electrical, industrial, materials, mechanical and mineral) after your first year. The program has a higher acceptance average than most of the Core 8 , and you take core courses from each stream in first year. That’s the plus point, but on the downside, you’re taking all of the hard courses from all of the disciplines. If you’re in Core 8 and want to switch streams, it’s still pretty doable, but you might have to take some additional courses to get up to speed.
How is Track One Different From Engineering Science?
Eng Sci is a completely separate program from Core 8 and Track One, focused more on the theoretical science of engineering. This means that although some of the concepts covered are similar to Track One, there are a lot more proofs and in-depth concepts to learn, and the program tends to be more difficult than Track One. The specializations are really cool — biomedical engineering, aerospace, statistics and finance, and AI to name a few, and people in the program love what they’re learning. That being said, Eng Sci needs a certain passion for engineering theory, and quite a few students end up switching into a Core 8 program.
What Made you Choose Track One?
In high school, I was always interested in biology and never even considered engineering. I didn’t like physics, so I applied to Med Sci, Life Sci, Kin, Business, and a few Engineering programs to keep my options open. When I went to university fairs, I always looked for the engineers who were in the same boat as me, planning to do bio, and asked them what made them change their minds.
As I’ve realized for myself, engineering is ubiquitous across industries and around the world, and beyond that, companies look for the logical problem solving skills that engineers have. Don’t let high school physics and chemistry scare you away from engineering, because it’s very different in university, and a lot more applicable. For example, when I was in high school, I thought I’d be interested in civil or chemical engineering, but having seen what I can do in other disciplines, my thoughts have changed!
What Courses did you Like Best?
I liked materials science, which is like the engineering version of chemistry, but I found it very different from high school chem. The content was more fun and interesting because of the prof’s incredible teaching style, and the real-life connections that can be made with the content. His name is Scott Ramsay, and he was very dynamic, had demonstrations for us, would ask for feedback about his teaching and assessments, and genuinely cared about our success in the class. I can’t recommend him enough! In first year, you have no electives, so your timetable is made up for you. It’s kind of a good thing because you don’t have to worry about choosing courses and coordinating a timetable, and you’ll share a schedule with many people.
Are There any Support Systems for Students?
When I was choosing my program, I heard again and again that U of T engineering was very difficult, with minimal support for mental health issues. This reputation scared me, and although the work is hard, the engineering community is so strong that there are always people there for you.
There’s a student bar, events, and an amazing community — there’s student representation to the faculty, frosh leaders, and club leaders, all of whom are amazing mentors. The student environment is laid back, you can talk to upper years about anything, and it always seems as though most of the upper years know each other regardless of discipline. There are spirit weeks and lots of events, some of which come from very old traditions. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but all of these little things drastically improve student life. It’s a hard program at a hard school, but the people make it better.
The First Year Engineering Office is also a great resource with kind advisors who will help you deal with anything from course stress to learning strategies to functioning in the current pandemic. For example, there was an exam scheduled 2 days after the school closed for COVID-19, and people were worried because it conflicted with flights, trips home, and health concerns. Petitioning the office allowed us to get our exam moved, which was in everyone’s best interest.
Could you Speak to the Extracurricular Experience?
Since I was commuting this year, I wasn’t involved in any extracurriculars, which was really hard for me because of how involved I was in high school. There are so many extracurricular options at the school, and I 100% recommend trying them out, but don’t overload and don’t beat yourself up for not joining right away. You can always wait until second semester or even second year to join clubs, and use first year to settle in and try out club events to see what you like. In addition to the campus clubs, there are a lot of engineering clubs on campus — I found the spirit clubs especially exciting! They host spirit weeks, building events, and other fun activities.
Saving Money in First Year
Don’t buy textbooks until courses have started: Most of the textbooks are open source, or you can get them online from upper years. Even if you prefer a hard copy, it’s much easier to carry your laptop around instead of physical books, and you won’t have the hassle of selling them later. Wait for the course to start, and only buy what’s essential (i.e. access codes)
Commuting is cheaper… I commuted this year, but if you can live near the school or in res, I highly recommend it. You’ll save less money, but you’ll likely save upwards of 2 hours a day in commuting time, and the exhaustion that comes with commuting. I’m planning on living downtown in second year for that reason.
Chinatown has cheap food: It’s close to campus, cheap, and much better than some of the more expensive options!
Avoid the bookstore… For certain things at the U of T bookstore, you could find something similar at staples or on amazon for a lot cheaper. For example, hardbound notebooks, scientific calculators and stationery are usually cheaper elsewhere.
Make or bring food: Whether you’re living in res or commuting, bringing or making your own food will definitely help your money stretch further.
Presto student discounts: Since you need the TTC to get anywhere and everywhere, take advantage of the student discount offered by Presto!
Scholarships: Beyond entrance scholarships, there are lots of other scholarships available in Canada to help pay for school.
Make a budget: it’s easy to get carried away downtown, so keep track of your expenses! Definitely treat yourself after an exam or a particularly rough week, but just keep an eye on your bank balance.
Transcribed by Komal Patel
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