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Frequently Asked Questions

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Simple questions seemed to get asked over and over on this forum, and I don't know about you other university students, but I'm growing tired of answering the same questions over and over again. It's best for everyone if there's one thread with answers to the most common questions that are actually worth answering. If, more like when, one of these questions gets asked in another thread, you can just link them to this thread.

1) How do I know which courses to take? What is the difference between this program and that program? How many courses do I have to take? and so on...

Cozy up to your school's "academic calendar" or "undergraduate calendar". In this document, which you can find by googling "[insert name of school] academic calendar," you can find SO MANY answers to questions that you as a university student-to-be likely have.

"Undergraduate course information" or "course descriptions" or "course listings" or something along those lines will have descriptions of all courses offered by a university. It'll probably also have information like what courses are required to be taken before taking a course (i.e. prerequisites), how many hours of lecture a week the course has, if the course has a lab/seminar/tutorial component.

"Program information" or "faculties" or "programs" or something along those lines will have listings of the courses required to earn a certain degree. This is how university degrees work: you don't get "into" a degree and then take courses; you take courses and then end up with a degree. That's a general rule that is true 95% of the time. You can take any course you want, so long as you have the prerequisites, are not restricted from taking a course (some faculties will allow only certain students to take certain courses; this is common of business and engineering, and is an example of the 5% of the time when that previously mentioned general rule does not apply), and are able to take the course before it fills up (sometimes priority will be given to certain students, e.g. psychology students will be given priority to psychology courses; this is usually not a concern because courses only rarely fill up). As you progress through your undergraduate career, you will continuously need to claim a major. Claiming a major confers a couple advantages: 1) you'll get priority to courses needed to complete the major and 2) in some cases, restrictions will be lifted from certain courses so that you can take those courses.

This is what YOU have to do: find out which programs interest you, look at the courses required to get a degree in those programs, and then take those courses. Fortunately, as you'll notice by looking through the academic calendar, programs typically don't have very many required first-year courses, and similar programs typically have very similar required first-year courses. This means that you still have a lot of freedom to switch programs after first year.

I promise you that there are no hidden explosives in the academic calendars of universities, so don't be afraid to click on any links that seem interesting or seem like they could have the answers to questions you have. When I was in grade 12, I stumbled upon the academic calendar, and through its powers I was able to provide university students with answers to questions they had.

SOMETHING COOL: in looking through the academic calendar, you will find the course codes for courses. Using these course codes and Google, you may be able to get course outlines and even lecture notes. FURTHERMORE, the course outline will tell you which professors teach the course. You can find out what those professors are like by searching for them on ratemyprofessors.com
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