Vama Dave

Cannon Writer

 

I can still vividly remember the day when I told all my friends and extended family that I had been accepted into the Computer Engineering Program at the University of Toronto. Just the name of UofT was enough to impress all of them.  Little did I know at that time that making a place for myself at this University, studying with some of the world’s brightest minds, and surviving the day-to-day toll that academics take on you, wasn’t as easy as I had thought it would be.

It’s natural to lose your balance when you enter into a new world, far away from the comfort of your home and your loved ones. As for me, the transition from a life where for 24 hours a day I was completely dependent on my parents, to one where I had to live 7000 miles away from them, was insanely difficult, yet made slightly tolerable because of technology. But sometimes, even technology can’t help when conflicting time zones and piles of pending assignments come into play. 

When you used to be a student who scored a 90+ on every test throughout their schooling, it becomes difficult to accept the fact that you have reached a point where you have started failing tests. My profound ego would not let me believe that I could be struggling with academics. It takes time, but it soon hits you that every single student at this University was a top ranker at their respective schools, and every single one of them is putting in major effort to sustain themselves in this highly competitive environment. 

Yet again, this doesn’t mean everyone will be able to deal with the overwhelming pressure of rigorous academics, and nobody’s life revolves solely around it either. Everyone has a lot more going on in their lives than what appears, battles they may be fighting that the world knows nothing about, making it even harder to cope with the workload at University. Hence, owing to multitudes of possible reasons, a lot of students end up failing classes despite doing the most that they could get themselves to do.

At the beginning of our First Semester of First Year, we are made aware about the existence of the T-Program. In simple words, students need an average mark of above 60% for all their courses in order to proceed to the next semester. An average less than that would require them to be enrolled in the T-Program.

The regulations of the T-Program state that you need to repeat any course in which your mark was below a 50%. Apart from this, if the average semester mark is between 55%-60%, the student is put on academic probation. In order to be promoted out of academic probation, the student is required to score an average above 60% for the following two consecutive semesters. 

For an average mark between 50%-55% the student is required to repeat any individual courses they may have scored below 50%, as well as any other courses wherein they scored less than 55% that are crucial for forming the foundation for upper years. An average less than 50% requires you to withdraw from University for the rest of the year, and apply to UofT once again for next year’s Fall Term. 

There are a few other guidelines and exceptions that come with the T-Program, all of which you are made familiar with at the start of your First Semester in your First Year.  I never paid close attention when we were being told about the T-Program during Orientation Week, because I thought I wouldn’t ever need to be enrolled in it anyway. Clearly, life had different plans for me. Once my results (an average of 52% for anyone who’s curious) came out I had made up my mind to quit UofT. I just didn’t think I belonged. 

As cliche as it sounds, giving up is the easiest thing you can do. And in true honesty, life will not shy away from giving you numerous opportunities to do so. You will have moments of darkness, times that will test you, but in the end it’s up to you to find the strength and courage to move forward, and prove to yourself that you are greater than the obstacles that hinder you. 

Picking yourself up after a big fall is tough, but sometimes with help from the right people it becomes a little easier. And it was because of the faith that my family and friends had in me, that I decided to not give up. After all, we are all human and we are meant to fail multiple times over the course of our life’s journey. But failure isn’t an ultimatum. It is nothing but a lesson that will help you grow, and force you to push outside of your comfort zone. The sole way to deal with it is to continue striving for success.

January 2020 was when my journey with the T-Program began. 

The first step is to meet with your counsellor. It is of utmost importance to be honest about what difficulties you are facing; whether they are related to academics, adjusting to University or any other personal issues you may be dealing with, because only then will your counsellor be able to provide you with necessary resources to help you. 

Even after my meeting with my counsellor, I was still contemplating my decision of continuing at UofT. I was embarrassed of myself for being in T-Program. I tip-toed around all my University friends, walked to classes alone, ate at the dining hall at odd hours, just so that I would not have to face any of them, or explain to them why I wasn’t taking all the same classes as they were. All of this continued until the first T-Program Seminar. 

For my first seminar, I walked into the room, feeling very self-conscious. To my surprise, a familiar face showed up and sat next to me at the seminar and that’s when my entire perspective changed. My friend had a completely different approach to the T-Program. He wasn’t embarrassed of what people would say, or whether he belonged here or not. In fact, he was confident that he would put in more effort this semester and get through. His positivity rubbed off on me, and my mind opened up to what was to follow in the seminar. 

Students who had been a part of the T-Program in the past 3 years were called upon to share their experiences with us. Each student had a different story, and each story inspired me in a different way. One major concern everyone had was whether our low GPA in the first semester would impact our PEY opportunities. Fortunately, one of the students who came to share her experience was a student who had just finished her third year and had already accepted her offer for a PEY of her choice. 

On being asked by her interviewer the reason behind the dip in her grades in the first semester, she had explained all the circumstances behind the same. She ended up getting the job along with making the interviewer especially impressed with the extent of her improvement in her grades in the following semesters, her engagement in numerous clubs and extracurricular activities, and the overall growth she had achieved in the past three years. I left the seminar with a completely different attitude towards the T-Program.

Once you make the solid decision to work hard and get through the T-Program, no matter what other people say about you, you realize that the T-Program actually has its own perks. Attending classes with comparatively smaller class size enables professors to give each student’s learning process individual attention. Re-learning course material makes it easier to grasp concepts you overlooked before, and to pick out topics that need extra focus and effort from your end. 

Weekly assessments allowed for the students to be on top of the course material at all times, and helped evaluate each student’s areas of weakness. Moreover, the professors and TA’s made it a point to brush over important concepts from high school, resulting in the building of a solid foundation for upper year courses. More than anything, the best part of the T-Program is that it connects you to so many other students who shared the same setback as you, which makes you feel like you are not alone in this process of rebuilding yourself. 

The T-Program is not a testament to your failure. Its only purpose is to support you and provide you with the resources and assistance you need to achieve your highest potential as a student studying at the University of Toronto. Successful completion of the T-Program means that you managed to re-learn a massive amount of information and performed better in your following semester, which serves as a testimony to the fact that you are a person of grit, who believes in working hard to achieve your goals and affirms that you deserve to be here. I will forever be grateful for being given a second chance at this University, for all the guidance I received in achieving my true potential, and for the people I met and the friendships I made along the way.

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