Is U of T really that bad?

I’ve been reading a lot of reviews of U of T (University of Toronto) and about 90 percent of them were negative. People say it’s stressful, depressing, the university doesn’t care about undergraduates, there’s horrible grade deflation, etc. I’m crushed because I’ve wanted to go there for so long and I thought it was a really good university. Is it really as bad as people say it is?

Things are rarely all good or all bad, and online reviews tend more to the negative b/c people who are unhappy are more likely to look for a place to vent than people who are happy. This is true in all kinds of consumer behaviour: consumers will complain about a bad experience to many more people than they will tell about a good one.

Just like a film or a restaurant, it doesn’t matter how much anybody else likes something: it matters how well it suits you. When you read online reviews, look for patterns, for the kinds of things the posters like and don’t like- and consider how important those things are to you. Spend some time thinking about the environments in which you do your best: how do they compare to what you know of UofT. Carefully review what it is about UofT that you are excited about (it is fair to ask yourself if your original reasons are still relevant.

100% there are happy students at (insert the name of any university, including UofT). 100% there are unhappy students at (insert the same name). 100%, no matter what college you go to, you will have things you like about it and things you really don’t like.

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Thank you! Most people were put off by the intense study culture, but I’ve always been pretty studious myself and have never ‘floated through’ school so I don’t think that would be much of a problem for me. At the end of the day, though, I guess I’ll have to find out for myself!

The “Big 3” Canadian universities (UToronto, McGill and UBC) have Ivy League academics without Ivy League admission requirements. Academic expectations are high.

@PalmLeaf: Great question. For many years I have read similiar reviews. Even worse than many reviews of UPenn that I have read over the past decade or so. Best to apply to multiple universities.

University of Toronto is infamous in Canada for offering a depressing undergraduate experience. In the sciences, enrolment is mostly Asian or Indian, and their stress levels are off the charts. The foreign-born Asian kids are there to strenuously study and get high grades - only. The domestic-born Asian and Indian kids have unbelievable pressure on them from their parents. Situation is very similar at Waterloo and UBC.

In the liberal arts and humanities, the non-Asian kids generally lament why they chose UofT in the first place. The open secret in Canada for kids that are smart, well-rounded, and actually want an enjoyable undergraduate experience is to apply to Western, Ivey (Western), Queen’s, or, perhaps, McGill (McGill starting to become like UofT and UBC in STEM). These three schools also garner the lion’s share of applications from all of Canada’s top private schools (St. George’s, Shawnigan, St. Michael’s, Brentwood, Webber, Rundle, Strathcona-Tweedsmuir, Lower Canada College, Selwyn House, St. George’s (Montreal), West Island College, Upper Canada College, Crescent, UTS, Havergal, Bishop Strachan, Branksome Hall, Ridley, Appleby, Lakefield) .

When one says they go/went to University of Toronto, the consensus in Canada is people genuinely feel sorry for that individual. It’s THAT poor of a student experience.

I am a graduate of U of T. I had a great undergraduate experience and a great grad school experience as well. Both my husband and my son (class of '18) had great experiences there as well. I went to Queens for a while for a grad program and I hated it. It was a small, parochial town that had nothing to do. U of T is in the middle of a vibrant, cosmopolitan city. No one has ever felt sorry for me.

I know a few people who went to U of T and liked it a lot and did very well there. These are people who also could have done well at an Ivy League school if they had been able to get accepted and afford to attend (for example, one did do graduate work at Stanford, and another did graduate work at Princeton).

U of T is very large. I think that a major reason why you hear some complaints is what @TomSrOfBoston said above: U of T (and McGill and UBC) are a lot easier to get accepted to than the Ivy League and equivalent schools in the US, but are not any easier to graduate from. Another issue is that people with negative reactions are more likely to post on social media.

If you attend U of T you should know what you are getting yourself into. You should expect it to be huge and academically demanding. You should expect classes to go fast and exams to be very difficult. I would say exactly the same thing about MIT, except for the “huge” part.

There are a lot of very good universities in Canada. If you want something that is academically excellent but smaller and less stressful, there are other very good choices to choose from. Most of them are not quite as famous. Some are less expensive for international students. My daughter who went to university in Canada chose a smaller school, and I think that she made the right choice for her.

@ParentPrepped Wow, that sounds pretty depressing, haha. Thank you for your honest input, though.

@PalmLeaf: One’s experience regarding level of stress at the University of Toronto–or at any university–mary vary substantially based on one’s major course of study.

For example, at most universities engineering students & pre-med students seem to experience higher levels of stress than do humanities majors.