Winter students need to work hard on transition
Photos by Rafael Brusilow/for Metro Toronto
For students starting their school year in January instead of September, it can be hard to shake the feeling like you’re arriving late to the hippest party in town. Being an outsider in a highly social setting is never any fun, so making strong personal connections with peers and faculty should be your No. 1 priority.
Keith Alnwick, registrar of Ryerson University, says it’s only natural to feel a bit out of the loop when starting in January because, traditionally, schools concentrate on September enrolments since that’s when the vast majority of students begin their year. According to Alnwick, for instance, Ryerson admits an average of only 300 students in January compared to about 5,000 each fall.
“Students who begin in January face special challenges because the normal rhythm of schooling is focused on September. There’s more of a gearing up in the fall,” Alnwick said.
The key to getting in tune with your school’s social and academic rhythms is to work twice as hard to put yourself in the loop by getting involved with things happening around campus.
“Having students make successful connections to people and activities on campus is important, and it’s something that’s in your own power to do,” Alnwick said.
But don’t stress yourself out about having to join every club or go to every social engagement — just be yourself and have fun. Also, don’t forget other students may be in your exact situation, too.
“Many students will make connections in class whether they start in September or January. You’ll also find that those who begin in January tend to bond quite closely,” Alnwick said.
Students attending non-semester-based institutions can face additional challenges, not the least of which is getting admitted to start in January since many courses at such schools are full-year courses.
Glenn Loney, faculty registrar for arts and science at the University of Toronto, says the school doesn’t regularly admit students in the spring, except in extenuating circumstances and highly discourages even part-time students from beginning in January. If you’re in such a situation, Loney says, the onus is particularly on you to take the reins and catch up.
“Make some friends and get plugged into any coursework you might have missed right away. You really need to take the initiative to fit yourself in,” Loney said.
Alnwick’s best advice for a successful January start is to keep enthusiastic and make a real effort to connect.
“Talk to people, go and visit the services available to you, get to know your instructors and get connected in any and all ways you can,” Alnwick said.