Two students with brown hair and glasses sit together at a desktop computer in Ivey Library.

The first year of university is an exciting time for students, but it’s also a year of significant transition—students will be exploring new friendships and relationships, will have opportunities to engage with world-renowned scholars and will also be facing pressure to perform well in their classes. Since a lot of change can take place in first year, it’s a good idea to talk with your child before classes start and set some guidelines for communication, financial matters and academic expectations.


August 30–September 10, 2021

Orientation is sponsored by New College and the New College Student Council. It is a great way for incoming students to meet new friends, learn about New College and discover academic supports and resources. Students will also have the opportunity to engage in a variety of activities to help them acclimate to university life. Mock lectures, academic prep sessions from the Writing Centre and library, and fun social events are all on the Orientation schedule. Students will meet members of the Registrar’s Office, Office of Residence and Student Life, the Librarian, and other key members of the college, who will be important supports for them at the University of Toronto.

Fall Term

September 10-December 22, 2020

The first few weeks of classes can be a little overwhelming for new students as they adjust to their schedule (which can include evening classes), find their way around campus and decide which student life activities to join. Students will find life in a university classroom to be very different from that of high school. The workload will be significantly increased and students will find they need to manage their time and plan ahead. It is important for students to prepare for class—for every hour in the classroom, it is recommended that students spend 3 hours preparing for class.

October Mid-terms and Fall Reading Week

(November 9-13, 2020)

Most students will be very busy around the Thanksgiving holiday with mid-term tests. It is common to have several 2- to 3-hour tests in a week. It is also the time of year when students will receive their first set of grades in courses, and many may find their results a little surprising. It is important to keep in mind that all students who were admitted to U of T were A students in high school. At U of T, the average grade in first year is a C. It is important to support your child if they are disappointed by their grades and reassure them that they have the academic ability to be at U of T. You can encourage them to make use of resources such as the New College Writing Centre, Math Aid Centre and our learning strategist. Fall Reading Week in November gives students a chance to have a break (no classes!) and get ahead or catch up on their course readings. Students often comment that they didn’t realize classes would move along so quickly.

December Exams

December 11-22, 2020 and Holiday Break
(December 23, 2020-January 1, 2021)

Classes in the fall term usually end after the first week of December, and exams are scheduled for the weeks prior to the holiday break. Students put a lot of effort into studying for exams—in some cases, the final exam can represent 50% of the overall mark in a course. You can expect students to require dedicated time for studying and preparing. If they are living away from home, you may not hear from them as much as usual, and if they are living at home, they may spend long stretches of time at the library or at home studying.

At the end of the fall term, students may find themselves re-evaluating their initial program choices and courses. Some students may decide to explore academic areas other than that of their original interest. The Faculty of Arts & Science encourages this exploration, and students are able to combine a wide range of programs during their degree studies.

Winter Term

January 6-April 25, 2020

Students return to classes in January rejuvenated and ready to focus on their courses. Many will have new courses and new professors. It is important to help students reflect on their experiences during the fall term, to help them with their studies and their co-curricular activities in second term.

Winter Reading Week

(February 17-21, 2020)

Students will have a week off in February for Winter Reading Week. Many will have research papers they are working on or will be preparing for midterms when they return to class. Students will also be thinking about which programs to enroll in for second year, as well as work options for the summer, and may be looking for summer research or intern opportunities. New College also offers an array of opportunities for co-curricular learning and skill-building activities during Reading Week.

Selecting programs can be confusing for students and they may be uncertain about what program they are interested in (the Faculty of Arts &Science offers over 300). After a year of classes, they may decide on a new academic route—perhaps something completely different from what they originally intended. They may also want to enroll in programs that require a specific grade requirement and so may be anxious about their final grades. It is important to keep in mind that there is a lot of choice available to students and so there is a program that works best for them. This is also when students who are living in residence will need to start considering where they’ll live next year. Returning residence applications are due in March, but if they choose to move off-campus, students will need to begin their apartment search, and consider who they may want to live with. It may be a new experience as they navigate understanding the rental market in Toronto, new relationships with future roommates, budgeting and also living more independently.

Final Exams

April 6–25, 2020

In April students will be heading into final exams. It is not unusual for students to have 5 exams, some of which may be on the same day or scheduled together over a few days. By the end of the term, students are proud that they’ve made it to the end of the year but may also be tired. It is important for them to keep focused throughout the exam period—they may want to still make use of resources such as the Academic Success Centre for study skills and exam prep. The end of first year is often a time of reflection—students take stock of what went well in first year and what didn’t, think of plans for the summer and consider academic programs and activities for second year.