U of T revives three-year degree

Ever wondered what it would be like to complete your degree sooner? What about entering the workforce sooner? This fall, U of T introduced a pilot program that makes it possible for students to complete an undergraduate program in three years instead of four.

The new fast-track program, which was proposed by arts and science faculties at all three U of T campuses, is meant to give as thorough an education as the regular four-year program.

The program is intended for students who not only want to graduate sooner, but have academically proven that they can handle the course load of six courses a semester.

The faculties believe that students will be able to manage the workload, but that many of these students will also return for the summer sessions and take online courses on top of the regular six. High school students will be required to have a minimum 90% average to apply. The students who apply for this program should also be ones who are strongly eligible for U of T’s President’s Entrance Scholarship program. Worth $2,000, the scholarship program requires a 92% average and the completion of a list of required subjects, with no lower than an A in each. The faculties also hope to provide students who enter the fast-track program with several other scholarships.

Students will be able to choose between research work and an international experience to complete their degree. Online capstone courses are also in the works.

Anyone who’s attempted to take six courses in one semester will probably tell you it’s no fun. What about doing it for three years, possibly with no breaks? And with online courses and research at the same time?

The university’s solution to the workload is to offer two- to four-week orientation courses to prepare these students for the hard work to come. The communities formed in these orientation sessions are intended to support the students throughout their time at university.

The fast-track program leaves no time for any sort of part-time work or pre-graduation internship. However, the university says the shorter program will be less costly for students, since they’ll be living as unemployed students for less time and paying fees for three years instead of four.

We asked some UTM students how they felt about the program, and whether they would have opted for it if they’d had the chance coming out of high school.

“I’d rather take it slow,” said Scarlett Leung, a second-year art history student. “The adjustment from high school to university is already a jump.”

Again, the university has an answer to this. In a document published on the UTM website, the proposers of the program say that students taking international baccalaureate, advanced placement, or A-level courses in high school are expected to apply. IB, AP, and A-level are university-level courses that students can take in high school. If they earn a certain grade, the course counts as half of a university credit, or one semester-long course.

“As an international student, I think it’s a good financial option,” said Hyun Kyu Kim, a second-year sciences student. “It allows us to experience society sooner.”

The program is still not available to international students, though. The faculties want to test the program with domestic students and collect their reactions before they release it to the rest of the world.

“I see it’s possible to do six credits a year, but life shouldn’t be all about school,” said Rachel Wong, a fourth-year management student. “It really depends on which stage of your life you’re in, and how fast you need to graduate and work.”

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