3 Tips for Uni Readings


Thanks to this blog for this quote!

Readings can be boring, confusing, and/or intimidating. Getting through them is a challenge for some, and just getting started is a burden for others. No matter how motivated you are, you’re probably asking yourself how you can do your readings more efficiently. Here are some techniques I’ve picked up over the years. Tell me what you think (and your own tips) in the comments below!

1. Read and absorb the conclusion (and subheadings)

The conclusion of a reading is all the important stuff, in short form. Before you read anything, read the conclusion to get a sense of what points the author is building up to. Another tip: also read subheadings! They’ll help you understand the main point behind every chunk of text.

2. Set a time limit

If you’re like me, it seems like your readings take an eternity to finish. Often I even zone out and stop absorbing what I’m reading altogether. You can help yourself stay motivated & on-task by setting a timer. For example, if you have 40 pages of readings, decide you will read as much as you can in 2 hours, and then move on to other things.

3. Look for concepts you’ll actually need

Course readings contain so much information, more than a final exam could ever test you on. Smart students don’t try to absorb everything, but instead they look for the info that matters. As you read, keep this question in mind: “what concepts will be important for an upcoming essay/exam?” Take it one step further by highlighting key terms (instead of whole paragraphs) for easier studying.

One last piece of advice: Patience

Reading quickly and efficiently takes practice, so here’s one last piece of advice: be patient with yourself. If you’re having a hard time at the outset, it probably means you’re doing it right.


3 facts: The Communications Program


I’ve been getting questions on Formspring about the Communications program. I love my program, but it was a long time before I realized I was interested in it! (My major was international studies, but I changed it.)

I thought a blog post would be handy in answering these questions, so I wrote up 3 facts about the communications program at Glendon. 

Fact #1. Communications (a.k.a.  Communications Studies) deals with processes of human communication.

What is communications about? Communications covers topics like:

  • mass media and culture,
  • face-to-face (i.e. interpersonal) communication,
  • the exchange of messages, ideas, and values,
  • technologies that influence communication (e.g. the internet),
  • sometimes: rhetoric, i.e. how to form an argument (think Socrates, Plato, other dead guys)

Interesting fact: Oprah, Jerry Seinfeld, Spike Lee, and Howard Stern all studied communications.

You might be interested in majoring in communications if…

  • You’d love a job like: public relations consultant, human resources adviser, television broadcaster, journalist, copywriter, or editor (find more career options here)
  • You’re passionate about publishing, mass media (e.g. social media, television, print journalism), international development, policy, or politics.
  • You want to be a character in Ugly Betty or Mad Men. (Don’t get too excited though; working life is not that glamorous.)
I'm reasonably sure most people in communications aren't this grumpy.

I’m reasonably sure most people in communications aren’t this grumpy.

Fact #2. The Communications Program at Glendon is in transition.

Although there is no program right now, there will be a complete program available in 2015. Right now, Glendon already offers communications-related courses like:

  • Introduction to Communication: Theory and Practice (GL/SOSC 2100): This course focuses on interpersonal communication (e.g. How do you handle conflict in your professional or personal life?) and teaches you how to do business consulting.
  • Professional Communications Field Experience (GL/SOSC 4505): This combines in-class study with a 6-week internship.

…and a certificate program in Technical and Professional Communication. This is useful because hard skills like business writing look good on a resume and can be practically applied in a job.

Fact #3. I am studying communications at Glendon (what?!) …in the Individualized Studies Program (oh.).

This is the most confusing part of this post because I am a fossil – one of the last of my kind!

fossil = me.

fossil = me.

Before the official communications program is introduced at Glendon, new students can study communications at Glendon in the Individualized Studies Program.

The Individualized Studies Program allows students to study programs by mixing and matching courses that are related to a single subject that doesn’t already exist as a program (i.e. communications). Be warned, however, that this requires more initiative than other programs.

Well that’s about it. 

If you have other questions about communications, leave them in the comments or on my Formspring.

Satisfaction: exam-related thoughts


Untitled-1 copy

Actually Mick, I can get some satisfaction.

This morning I wrote a mid-term for one of my favourite courses this semester, Prof. Tom Wilson’s Structure of English (GL/EN 2608). I did well and I felt so satisfied after handing it in.

This made me realize that there is no better feeling than learning in a class, and then getting rewarded for it with grades. After all, if you’re not learning anything at all, an A feels like a pointless and meaningless label. On the other hand, when you’re really working hard and getting Cs, it’s just discouraging!

Beautifully though, I have been learning…

… about grammar, (I finally know the difference between a preposition, conjunction, determiner, and the different English tenses. No more pretending!)

… about language, (According to Tom Wilson, lots of rules we grow up with are really just highfalutin/pompous/unfounded. The result for me: liberation from being a member of the grammar police.)

about life. Here are some Tom-quotes (paraphrased) that I’ve scrawled down during lecture:

“If you don’t allow yourself to be wrong, you’re committing yourself to never being right.”

“It’s pointless to work hard if we’re not working well. [Not procrastinating] isn’t moralistic, it’s just pragmatic.”

“Dare to be awful, because you actually learn something by failing.”

Brilliant. Preach it, Tom!

With that, it’s time for me to start the 2 papers and assignments waiting for me in my binder.

Have you written exams lately? How did you feel about them?

P.S. Thanks to Michael McGrath for the great blog post idea. You da bomb!

3 essential study habits for university


eAmbassador Francette getting some readings done!

The transition from high school to university is a baby step for a few, a jump for some, but a leap for most. How ready are you? Find out by asking yourself if you have these essential study techniques.

1. Scanning

A big part of university learning is doing readings. For many courses, you will be assigned 20 pages or more to read every week (that is, per course!).

If you want to keep up, you have to learn how to scan some of your readings. That means knowing what parts to skip and where to slow down, how to identify big ideas in a text , and when it’s okay to not do a reading altogether (which rarely happens, fyi!).

2. Asking

At the university level, course instructors and their assistants do not baby you, but that does not mean that they’re not willing to help. Here’s the catch: you have to ask.

Every professor has office hours during which you can go and see them and most  respond to emails fairly quickly.

Smart students know the shortest path to success is the one with the least guesswork required. Figure out what a professor wants for an assignment or test before you put in the work!

3. Prioritizing

The work load in university is usually heavier than in high school. There are more things to read, more assignments, and the added pressure of part-time jobs and a social life.

You have to figure out what your priorities are and allot your time accordingly. Put first things first and you will not get overwhelmed.

Most students are not able to do everything they’d like to, so the ability to choose what’s a priority and what is not a priority is a vital skill.

The essential quality…

What this all comes down to is efficiency.

Studying is not always about how much effort you put in, but where you’re putting it in.

If you feel like you need to grow in these skills, that’s a good sign. No one is born with these habits, so they have to be learned.

If you’re in high school, what intimidates you most about university learning? If you’re already in university, what study habit do you think is absolutely essential?

FAQ at the Ontario University Fair (2012)


I got the chance to spend this past Sunday at the Ontario University Fair (OUF) as an ambassador for Glendon Campus. It was soooo refreshing to meet high school students. Their energy is inspirational.

Throughout the day, I realized that certain questions came up more than once. Then I thought to myself, “I’ll bet lots of other people are wondering about these questions.”

So here are the 9 frequently asked questions from my time at the OUF – with my answers, of course! If you have more questions, you can ask them by leaving a comment on this post or going to my Formspring page.

Table of Contents:
fyi: this click-menu is a little confusing for WordPress users! WP users, scroll a bit up after clicking!
Concurrent Ed – what is it?
How do scholarships work?
Tell me about the psychology program.
Psychology is offered the Keele Campus and at the Glendon Campus…? I don’t get it.
What are the main differences between the Keele Campus and the Glendon Campus?
Do Glendon students study everything in French?
How does the French requirement work?
Do you offer sciences (e.g. biology)?
How can I see the campus?

Concurrent Ed – what is it?
There are two ways you can get a teacher’s college education.
1. You can obtain your undergraduate degree (BA) and then go to Teacher’s College. This is the consecutive route.
2. You can also do both at the same time. That’s the concurrent route. Applying for this takes more work than applying for a regular BA program.

Yes, Glendon has a concurrent education program. Yes, we teach people how to become French immersion teachers. If you apply for the direct-entry concurrent education program through OUAC, you will receive a supplementary application through email afterwards.

More info about Glendon’s BEd program.

How do scholarships work?
There are two kinds of scholarships at Glendon: the kind you apply for and the kind you don’t apply for (based on your top 6 average). Keep an eye out for those deadlines for the application-based scholarships. Many are already due in February and March.

More info about scholarships.

Tell me about the psychology program.
It’s awesome. The people who I know in this program love it. The classes are dynamic and small, the profs are interesting, and there’s a lot of interesting research going on.

More info about the psychology department at Glendon.

Psychology is offered the Keele Campus and at the Glendon Campus…? I don’t get it.
I know. It’s confusing. I’m not an expert, but here’s what I do know:

  • These are two separate departments run by different people. Think of them as a McDonalds and a Harveys, not two Wendy’s franchises.
  • Classes at Glendon are generally smaller (Glendon’s average class size is in the 20s).
  • Glendon has some pretty cool profs, including Guy Proulx and Timothy Moore.

More info about the psychology department at Glendon.

What are the main differences between the Keele Campus and the Glendon Campus?

In my opinion, the basic differences are:

  1. size – the Glendon Campus population is around 3,000 and the Keele Campus population is about 55,000
  2. location – we’re location at Bayview and Lawrence in midtown Toronto, the Keele Campus is located around Keele and Steeles
  3. atmosphere – the Glendon Campus has a very green, natural, cosy feel. The Keele Campus is a lot larger, so naturally, it feels totally different.

These are just the basics and you’ll get a different answer based on who you ask. The best way to find out more is just to visit. Our open house is November 18th. Register here.

Do Glendon students study everything in French?
Depends. If you want to, yes. If you don’t want to, no. See the next question for more.

How does the French requirement work?
Every student studies French in order to become bilingual. At a bare minimum, that means taking a French as a Second Language course at the second-year level or taking a second-year level discipline course in French (e.g. history, but in French). At maximum, you can take courses in your program in French (e.g. history, but in French), and even pick up other languages! You choose what works for you.

Scroll to page 13 of the student handbook for more info about French options at Glendon.

Do you offer sciences (e.g. biology)?
Sort of. We focus on the liberal arts. But aside from that, we have a BA program in Environmental Science and Health Studies (eAmbassador Michelle is in this program) with courses about science from an arts perspective (e.g. Introduction to Biology, Conservation Biology).

We also have Economics and Business Economics programs.

You can find a list of all of our academic programs in a drop-down menu here.

How can I see the campus?
If you missed meeting us at the Ontario University Fair, you can also
Check out our fall open house (Fall Campus Day)
Come for a tour.
Sit in on a lecture as part of our Shadow Program (stay posted!)
Come for a day during March break (March Break U (stay posted!)

Have more questions? Post them below in the comments section or go to my Formspring!

The Whole Person


If you didn’t know that the sculpture on the side of York Hall meant anything, join the club. I was clueless about “the Whole Person” until my super-awesome academic advisor, Michael, gave me a sheet explaining the whole thing (see below).

As I was researching the name of the artist, I came across this article from an edition of Pro-Tem printed in 1965. Given the academic emphasis of the sculpture, the author wrote, and I’m paraphrasing, “being a whole person requires more than studying!” I completely agree.

This raises the question: what is wholeness?

These pictures were taken in early spring of this year.

The Whole Person: a legend of symbols

  1. History and Chemistry: an hour glass and a beaker
  2. World Below Ground: agriculture, archeology, mining.
  3. Philosophy and Psychology: a maze.
  4. Nations and Civilization: the tree of life and knowledge.
  5. Biology and Genetics: genetic symbols interwoven in a cockerel.
  6. Zoology: evolution (a fish).
  7. Languages: the vowels.
  8. Political Science and Sociology: an eye inside a representation of the world.
  9. Life Above Ground: a tree.
  10. Construction and Logic: a tension-compression symbol.
  11. Lines of Logic leading from the tension-compression symbol to the Whole Person’s mind.
  12. The Cerebrum of the Whole Person: showing three symbols; (a) mathematics (analysis and synthesis), (b) perception, (c) retention.
  13. The Whole Person holds up the Lamp of Learning: a dove-like symbol emphasizing that the only hope for peace is through education.
  14. A Globe to Represent the World: the flags of the nations face in all directions.
  15. The Geometrical Shape Encircling the Upper Portion of the Whole Person: represents the universe and the curvatures of space and the theory of relativity.
  16. The Brass Rods: as well as indicating the important effects of the educational symbols upon the Whole Person, they are said by the artist to symbolize the “music of the spheres” as they sing in the wind.

Regardless of the literal meaning of this statue, I think the general sentiment of “wholeness” expressed by the name of “the Whole Person” is a beautiful reminder. As human beings, we are more than our minds. We have feeling hearts, souls, and bodies. Life is so rich!

What do you think makes a “whole person?” How do we work towards achieving wholeness in an academic setting?

Bro, this is the way it is. (#examlife)

The best sideways look, ever.
I wrote this when I was working on an essay really late at night at the library. I was very, very fed up, but it got me thinking about why I was there in the first place (in school, that is). 

School isn’t glamorous. 
It’s working late nights at the library.
It’s juggling all of the things that you have to do with the things you want to do.
It’s making sacrifices.
It’s feeling stressed out sometimes.
It’s building certain skills from the ground up.

School is worth it.
It’s working for something that matters.
It’s creating work worthy of attention.
It’s finding your passion.
It’s about meeting people who ask hard question and try to find better answers.
It’s facing challenges and emerging a changed person.

Why do you think school is worth it?