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The truth about U of T's reputation for being overly competitive

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I'm trying to decide between U of T, Queen's, and Ottawa and the one thing holding me back from U of T is its reputation for having an overly competitive/snobby atmosphere.  I'm looking for a school with a real community feel and I have heard that in't the case at U of T.  On top of that I haven't gotten an impression that counters this reputation from their recruitment process.  Should I base my decision off of these feelings or is the atmosphere different once you get there?  

 

Any input would be really appreciated.  

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I can't speak to U of T's atmosphere because I've never experienced it. But if you're able, I would really recommend visiting the schools before making your decision. It sounds like the community is important to you so try to experience that community. 

 

Last year when I was making the decision, I didn't have U of T as an option. However, the visits to the schools that I was admitted to did change how I viewed those schools.

 

That being said, if you really want to go to U of T and it's just this reputation holding you back, I'm sure you can find a great group of people there that aren't going to feed into the atmosphere that you're afraid of.

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The students at UofT are fantastic. They are generally highly accomplished already and confident in themselves. I did not find it an overly competitive atmosphere. Law students in general tend to be pretty high-strung, so they have their share of those like everywhere else.

 

Tuition is what impacts the composition of the student body more. You will be surrounded by people who come from the 1%, it just is what it is. That doesn't mean there aren't great people who you will connect with who may share a different whatever your background is (like my case of having a single parent). 

 

The days of ripping pages out of library books to gain some sort of advantage are long past or never existed. The students support one another very well.

Edited by Jaycee
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I'm trying to decide between U of T, Queen's, and Ottawa and the one thing holding me back from U of T is its reputation for having an overly competitive/snobby atmosphere.  I'm looking for a school with a real community feel and I have heard that in't the case at U of T.  On top of that I haven't gotten an impression that counters this reputation from their recruitment process.  Should I base my decision off of these feelings or is the atmosphere different once you get there?  

 

Any input would be really appreciated.  

I am a 1L at UofT and I can say the reputation of the school being super competitive is false. Everyone I have met so far has been really nice and accommodating. People tend to get a little more stressed and closed-off during exam time, but that seems normal for any law school/ academic institution.     

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I would suggest you should decide where to go to law school based on what career you want and what gives you the best opportunity to pursue that career, balanced against cost. Your career will be something that lasts you decades. School is three years. Don't privilege those three years ahead of your career. [insert "but I think my grades will be better if I enjoy the experience more" response; "maybe, but the same grades from UT/Ottawa don't result in the same job chances at the same places - return to original question: what job do you want, and how do people get that job?"]

 

If the answer is you want to be a personal injury lawyer in Kingston and you think UT/Queen's/Ottawa all give you equal odds at that - which, maybe, I don't know that one - then a reasonable choice would be to select based on cost. Even if UT had the best atmosphere on earth and Ottawa had the worst, would you really be willing to go $60,000 extra into debt just for a more fun three years? That seems bonkers, but if you've got cash to burn, I guess go for it.

 

To answer your actual question, though...

 

First, UT is not populated exclusively by the snob-class - http://ultravires.ca/wp/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/UV_Nov2015_onlinespecial-1.pdf - but about 30% come from the 1%. We don't know whether this is true at other law schools, as their students have so far not elected to do a survey, to the best of my knowledge. You will meet a sizable number of kids who have come straight from high school to undergrad to law with only modest need to work in their life, some fun internships, and some great summers in Europe in their background. Again, I don't believe there's any helpful data on whether that's true at Ottawa or Queen's, so you're left to guessing.

 

I'm honestly not sure what it would mean for a law school to be competitive. Some people work very hard, some work hard, some work a little bit, and some barely work at all. It's basically just school, and you've done school before. You don't have any opportunity to interfere with another student's decisions or efforts - the only sense in which you can compete is by doing more work than the curve, which is true everywhere and at any rate not determinative of success. That said, it can be a very tense environment during 1L and the OCI stage of 2L. Many students' worst insecurities are exacerbated in law school. Though, again, I suspect that's true everywhere. I wonder if, paradoxically, the fact that about half of UT students get an outcome from the OCI process that they report being content with actually makes the experience more insecurity-laced than it would if only a very small group had found a career start by halfway through year two. When you know a large chunk of your colleagues will be celebrating a happy job search early November, the prospect of not being among them may feel more daunting and unpleasant than if only a few oddballs were going to be celebrating. In a weird sense, then, it might be that the very thing giving an advantage of being at UT is the thing that makes the students more insecure.

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The problem here is anecdotal. See, my experience with U of T alum is quite limited if you exclude the board. I've met 3 U of T students - 2 at a competition during law school, and 1 was my sister-in-law's cousin. The distant family member was a pretentious snob that skipped out on a very important family event to go skiing with his horrendously conservative friend (like, protest at abortion clinics conservative).

 

The other 2 students met at a competition were hilariously awkward and kept trying to network their way into my team's conversations with the judges. It was pretty painful at times how they would follow the judges around and drop that they were U of T, and dropped their GPA into conversations.

 

I also worked at a clinic where both lawyers were U of T alum. They were some of the brightest, kindest and most helpful jurists I've met.

 

Sooooo. Yeah. All that to say, go visit the school and see what you like. Our experiences aren't all that helpful!

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The problem here is anecdotal. See, my experience with U of T alum is quite limited if you exclude the board. I've met 3 U of T students - 2 at a competition during law school, and 1 was my sister-in-law's cousin. The distant family member was a pretentious snob that skipped out on a very important family event to go skiing with his horrendously conservative friend (like, protest at abortion clinics conservative).

 

The other 2 students met at a competition were hilariously awkward and kept trying to network their way into my team's conversations with the judges. It was pretty painful at times how they would follow the judges around and drop that they were U of T, and dropped their GPA into conversations.

 

I also worked at a clinic where both lawyers were U of T alum. They were some of the brightest, kindest and most helpful jurists I've met.

 

Sooooo. Yeah. All that to say, go visit the school and see what you like. Our experiences aren't all that helpful!

That last bit is some solid advice. The school offers tours given by students on a very regular basis and it would give you an opportunity to interact with some current students and get their thoughts on this issue. In my experience all the current students have been more than willing to give very candid opinions on the class as a whole as well as the program administration. Largely the consensus I got was the student body is great and quite nice while the administration had some issues. Your mileage may vary, if you do so just try and talk to as many current students as you can if you're really up in the air. I personally wouldn't give a lot of weight to what 0Ls or students at other schools think of any given school when I'm sure that UofT, Western, or wherever else you want would likely be more than happy to put you in touch with current students who would be your best resource on this matter.

Edited by HammurabiTime
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This was my number one concern in attending U of T. But I spoke to a couple current students, both of whom like myself want careers in public interest law, and they were adamant that the culture is not overly competitive and that they were very happy with their decisions to attend U of T. 

 

I agree with you about the recruitment process, though. It's a bit aggressive. 

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When I was attending U of T it was a very friendly environment. I have no idea if it still is.

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I'm a 3L on my way out. Since day 1 I've been blown away by how friendly and supportive the students are. As a 1L right through to now, I've never doubted the support.

 

Of course you have people who won't send you their notes or a summary, and you have catty people straight out of mean girls, but they're absolutely exception, not the rule. All in all I couldn't be happier with my choice to attend.

 

Happy to answer any questions if you'd like, just shoot me a message.

Edited by NineOne

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Honestly I don't understand this reputation at all, because it's so far from the truth it's actually laughable. I can only conclude that it's an assumption people make based on U of T's ranking, or perhaps the high tuition (some kind of assumption that students at top schools who pay ridiculously high tuition must be snobby competitive biotches?)

 

The truth is that it's not at all true. By and large the students at U of T Law are fantastic - I've never had problems getting anyone to lend me notes, offer an outline/summary, bring me coffee just because, etc.

 

I'm sure there are outliers, just like there's always a few irritating bad apples, but typically, the atmosphere at U of T's pretty laid back actually. I've never noticed any competitiveness - I mean, sure, a lot of people are good students who do their work, but I've never see the desire to get good grades turned into a competition even though we're graded on a curve. Everyone's been genuinely pleasant and helpful that I've met in my 3 years here.

I've also noticed that by and large the population's pretty progressive and not typically very conservative, which some people are also concerned about I've heard (again, some kind of assumption that all of U of T students must be rich and thus old school conservatives somehow?) We have all kinds here, and most are great people. Definitely don't let any kind of concern about atmosphere keep you away!

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I met some of my closest friends at U of T. The people, for the most part, are kind, generous and considerate. Of course everyone wants to do well, but I have rarely been turned down when I asked for help. I don't get where this super competitive reputation comes from... 

For me, the hardest part was the socio-economic gap. For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by people who came from the top of the socio-economic ladder. I had a hard time fitting in as a result; I guess most of my closest law school friends also come from a more humble background. But, ya, it's def not cut throat. Don't believe the BS. 

Edited by This_is_Sparta

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