your student life specialists

Archive for the ‘courses’


sad face emoticon

why doesn’t uoft have any tech-y courses 🙁



you and i are in the same boat because we’re both sad face emoticon people.

you’re clearly sad face emoticon about U of T not having “tech-y” courses whereas i am sad face emoticon that some people ask me very vague questions that don’t make much sense.

what do you mean by tech-y? am i missing something here?

all classes TECHnically involve some sort of technology, right???? is computer science not tech-y enough a course? i can’t really think of anything more tech-y than the science of technology itself!

in conclusion, please elaborate ’cause i’m pretty stumped here.

idk man,






incoming first-years: it’s that time again! except for you guys, it’s “that time” for the first time, because you’ve never done it before. and no, i’m not talking about eating spaghetti meatballs with your sweetie. i’m talking about COURSE ENROLMENT.

you may have heard from older friends that course enrolment is this terrible, harrowing process, that uoft is out to get you and doesn’t want you to get into your courses, and that the system is set up for you to fail.

i’m not gonna argue with you if you want to make yourself out as a victim of The Man. but if you don’t get into any of your courses, it’s probably just because you’re a dingus who wasn’t prepared. that’s the hard truth.

FORTUNATELY FOR YOU, aska wants to help you leave the nest and become a fully-fledged, competent uoft student. so today, i am going to be resolving the most commonly asked first-year questions on course enrolment day – which, this year, is on the 28th of July, also known as TOMORROW.

1. i don’t understand what i’m supposed to take in first year – what are my mandatory courses?

there are no mandatory courses. at many other Ontario universities, the university will enrol you into your mandatory courses. you may be hearing about this from your friends at Western and Ryerson and Ottawa and feeling a twinge of panic, because you haven’t heard ANYTHING about mandatory courses, and as far as you know, you have to do all of your course enrolment yourself.

uoft isn’t a hand-holder. it’s more of a cold, distant parent that gives you abandonment issues. however, like the rich, neglected child who gets to have a lot of pool parties because their parents are always away, what may seem like a frustratingly hands-off approach will actually provide you with freedom and flexibility in the end.

unlike your friends at other schools, you have no mandatory courses, strictly speaking. as a first-year student in the Faculty of Arts & Science (excluding Rotman Commerce students), you have to figure out what courses you want to take in order to apply for programs in your second year. after first year, you’ll need to be in 1 specialist OR 2 majors OR 1 major and 2 minors, so you should enrol in the courses you’ll need to be eligible for whatever combination of programs you’re interested in.

some programs, like the international relations major, require that you take certain courses and achieve certain marks in those courses in order to be considered. other programs have no requirements at all, except for the completion of at least 4.0 credits – the mathematics major is an example of this.

so what you have to do is take a look at the calendar, figure out what program(s) you’re interested in, and see if there are courses you’ll need to take in order to be eligible to apply to those programs. once you do that, you will likely have some credits left over to take pretty much anything else you want. you may consider using them to fill breadth requirements, or simply to take courses for general interest.

2. why is my start time different from my friends’? We’re in the same year/program/board games club!

do not assume that you have the same start time as your friends. do the leg work and figure out your start time BEFORE the 28th. log in to ACORN and double-check. if you’ve never logged in to ACORN before, figure it out now. you will not be able to log in to ACORN on the day of, UNTIL your start time hits. that’s why it’s important to check NOW if you have not already.

you can do it. aska believes in you.

3. i can’t enrol myself into a course even though i meet the prerequisites!

if i were in charge of creating a transition pamphlet for first-year students, it would be a blank 8”x11” sheet of paper with two words on it: ENROLMENT CONTROLS.

if you can’t add a course to your cart on ACORN or enrol into it, and you can’t figure out why, it’s almost definitely because you don’t meet the enrolment control – i.e. the restriction or priority that allows only certain students to take the course.

for example: let’s say you’ve been admitted to Year 1 Life Sciences. you want to take MAT133Y1 because it looks more interesting than MAT135/136. but WAIT! ACORN is not letting you add the course to your enrolment cart! desperate and in despair, you go to the timetable and search ‘MAT133’ in the search bar.

you notice that there is a yellow bar that says ‘Enrolment Controls: Priority (P)’ under each lecture section for that course. you open the yellow bar to see that there is a priority for Year 1 Commerce and Year 1 Social Science students – which is not you. you’re Life Science. still following? good.

what does this priority mean? well, you’ll have to wait until August 5th at noon to enrol in a course if you don’t meet the priority. assuming there is still space, you can enrol in the course at that time. if there is an R for restricted (instead of a P for priority) and you’re not in the group of students listed, then you cannot enrol in the course at all. if there is an E, then you cannot enrol in the course directly, but must apply through the department that offers the course.

capice? good. i don’t want to hear about it any more.

4. i don’t meet the prerequisite for a course but i still managed to enrol in it! did i pull a fast one on ACORN?

no. ACORN can’t tell whether or not you have the prerequisites for a course; it’s not that smart. the main way that ACORN manages course enrolment is via enrolment controls (see above). however, that doesn’t mean that prerequisites are irrelevant. after course enrolment, departments will go through their courses and remove students – without warning or notice – from courses if they don’t meet the prerequisite(s).

you can check to see if a course has prerequisites on the course calendar.

5. why can’t i enrol in any more courses?!

you are only able to enrol in up to 5.0 credits (that includes waitlisted courses) until August 5th. on August 5th, the limit goes up to 6.0 credits. if you can’t enrol in a course that still has space, and you meet the enrolment control, it may be because you’ve hit your limit.

best of luck on the day of, kids. and remember: no matter how difficult you find course enrolment to be, it’s only gonna get harder from here on out.




short moving picture thingy

hi aska,

i just really want to know is there nooooooo absolute way for me to get into a R1 restricted course if i am not one of those chosen ones. Any loopholes would be much appreciated.

P.s. i love your gifs or jifs whatever the short moving picture thingy is called.



there is no way for you to get into an R1 restricted course unless you are a chosen one.

*you were not the chosen one

*you were NOT the chosen one

you can try contacting the department to see if they can make an exception, but it’s usually restricted for a reason.

i’m really glad you’re a fan of the short moving picture thingies because i’m just going to use them to apologize for crushing your hopes and dreams


giphy (2)

giphy (3)

and one more just to make you smile, hopefully.

giphy (1)




afraid of breadth categories 4 and 5? say no more!

Hi Aska!

I am trying to pick out my first year courses and am in need of a bit of assistance.

I noticed that the courses you can take have breadth requirements attached to them. Let’s say you are taking a course which covers a Creative and Cultural Representations Breadth Requirement but you are also taking this course as a requirement for your program. Does this course still cover the Breadth Requirement even though it’s going towards your program?

Also, I was accepted to U of T in the Humanities and let’s just say, I’m not that “gifted” in the science and math category. Can you recommend any First Year Seminars or even courses for individuals who aren’t that strong in the sciences and mathematics?

Thanks so much! 🙂


hey there,

oooh, a first year! do you feel excited? do you feel like you have all the potential in the world? does your heart flutter as you page through the course calendar? good. be excited. it’s an exciting time.

chandler no idea excited

a typical first year around course enrolment time

yep, courses can count towards breadth and program requirements simultaneously.

if you’re worried about filling your category 4 and 5 breadth requirements, then i would say: don’t be afraid! there are many, many more courses available at the university than there are at the high school level. you may stumble upon some science/math courses that you’ve never even heard of, but that might just be right up your alley, “gifted” or not.

also keep in mind that you don’t need to fulfil all (or even most) of your breadth requirements in first year. if you’re feeling uncomfortable with taking a category 4 or 5 breadth course going into your first year, that’s a-okay. you have three more years in which to fill them. first year is a transitional period, and it’s not a crime to try and make that transition easier.

since you did ask, however, here is my PERSONAL list of interesting-looking breadth 4/5 courses, divided into 1st year/upper year and by breadth category:


1st Year Courses

Upper Year Courses


1st Year Courses

Upper Year Courses

i hope that’s helpful! best of luck with course enrolment on the 28th. may the odds be ever in your favour.



four hundred levels of CHALLENGING

Hi aska, I’m going into my 4th year and doing 2 majors (English & Sociology), so I’ll have to take 0.5 FCE at 400-level for each POSt. Is it a bad idea to take both 400-level courses in one semester? 400-level courses are, I heard, quite intensive & the two topics I am passionate about are offered only in the fall semester. I’m so torn about this it’s genuinely stressing me out. The topics for 400-level courses in winter, annoyingly for both eng & soc, just don’t interest me as much. Thanks!


hey there,

my friend, i understand that feeling. long gone are the days when you could hide behind the 80+ other people in your class if you forget to do a reading. in 400-level classes, you’re on your own. there’re only about a dozen of you and you WILL get called on and the professor WILL figure it out if none of you have read the material for that day. it’s happened to me. and yes, it was really embarrassing.

also, everyone gets really smart, really fast in fourth year. i’ve looked around 400-level courses and been bewildered by people with whom i took 200-level classes suddenly knowing their stuff, making insightful points, having strong opinions about this or that interpretation of a text, and otherwise making me feel like i’ve got an IQ slightly below that of the average mussel.

that being said, 400-level courses are also fantastic. best case scenario, you actually get to have an interesting conversation with your class. it’s almost like you’re learning from each other. if you can imagine such a thing.

another bonus: assignments are fewer and further between, and you typically have more creative control over them. 400-level courses actually let you come into your own as an academic, research your own interests, and develop projects all on your own.

of course, that’s all really hard. but it can be fulfilling, academically; you know, if you go in for that sort of baloney.

on a personal note: i took 3.0 400-level courses in my fourth year (i had a lot of persnickety requirements to fill) and i did just fine (the other 1.5 credits i took were 300-levels). the 400-level ones were challenging, but in a good way. hopefully doing 1.0 FCEs of them will be just the right amount of challenge for you.

i hope that helps???



from here on out, you’re on your own

what happens when I get accepted into my post…. how do i know what courses to pick


hey there,

nothing happens. as with most other things at uoft, all the work is on you. you need to sort out which courses you should be taking in your (i’m assuming) second year, in order to get on your way to completing your program(s).

fortunately, the university has provided this handy, handy tool called the course calendar, which lists every program and course offered by the faculty of arts & science. what you have to do is find your program(s) in the calendar, and figure out if there are any second-year courses that they recommend you take.

for example, the European Studies major recommends that you take EUR200Y1 in your second year, as well as 1.0 credits from a list of courses that they provide.

other programs, like for example the African Studies major, will only list all the courses you need to take in your higher years, and not differentiate between them by year.

finally, some programs, like the English major, will not differentiate by year at all, but simply list the courses you need to take during the course of your degree. you figure out when and how.

in all three instances, the calendar is only providing recommendations. ACORN will not force you to take any course, ever. still, you should probably do your best to follow the calendar recommendations as closely as you can. if they are listed based on year, it’s probably because the courses you take in second year will be requirements for courses you need to take in third year, and so on. if you don’t get ALL the courses you need, though, it’s not the end of the world; you can always catch up later.

even if you do manage to take all the second year courses for your program(s), you will still probably have space left over for at least one or two more courses in your schedule, if not more. you can fill these any way you want. you can take a course or two (or four) for general interest, or to fulfil a breadth requirement, or for graduate/professional school purposes.

of course, you will also need to make sure all of these classes fit together in a schedule that makes sense for you, with no timetable conflicts. you may have to fit them in around work, extra-curriculars, or other out-of-school commitments. some courses might fill up before you have a chance to sign up for them, due to a pesky little thing called enrolment controls.

all of this, you must factor in and negotiate during course selection. is it overwhelming? yes. but thousands of people still manage to take all the courses they need in order to graduate year after year, so it’s not impossible. here are aska’s top tips to make it as productive and pain-free as possible:

1. choose your courses well in advance.

this is not only a solid piece of advice, but can also be really fun. looking through the timetable and searching for the weirdest, wonkiest courses you can find can sometimes lead to the discovery of a course or even a program that you love. spend a Sunday afternoon with an iced tea and the timetable and course calendar, just browsing your options.

2. have a backup schedule.

after you’ve done all your browsing, you should eventually assemble the courses you’d like to take next year (the new timetable has a timetable planner tool that you can use for this purpose). this is the ideal, fantasy dream of a schedule. your actual schedule will most likely not end up looking exactly like the dream, or at all. that’s why you should have a backup schedule of courses that you can use to modify your ideal schedule should some or all of it not pan out.

3. be ready to go in advance of your start time.

as you may have experienced in first year, ACORN crashes a lot during course selection. even with staggered enrolment, there’re a lot of people trying to sign on on those first days of enrolment. being at your computer 10 minutes beforehand, with your schedule (and backup schedule!) ready to go (ideally on a piece of paper, because paper can’t freeze and crash on you), you maximize your chances of getting out of course enrolment incident-free.

and that’s everything you should keep in mind during course enrolment! go forth and prosper, my friend.




read more, write more, fight jane austen more,

After 2 years in UT my GPA is real bad. First year, I joined as Life science major, and I did horrible to extent where I got academic probation. Second year, 3rd year was OK, but then I was still clueless. I had no clue what I wanted to study on and what to do after graduating. While there are some people who can press forward without having clear goal, i wasn’t like them. I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do, so I literally ditched studying. My first 2 years are done, and coming into 3rd year. I now have clear goal – to go into law school. Now, this isnt just one of those dreaming goals which I decide hey it looks cool to be attorney so lets try to be one. I want to be lawyer to help those around me because many takes

advantages of my family who doesnt know much about law. Also, I love reading/writing/discussing, and wouldnt mind spending days/night reading different cases and help family/client, so I figured that its the one dream I have to chase on. To be realistic, however, I think it will be too hard. My overall GPA is about 1.7 ish. I have some courses in which I got 75~80%, whereas some of the courses I took i failed. I know some law schools do take note of struggles that student can face when coming into university and therefore take the best 2 years / or last 2 years of the GPA for student. So My goal right now is raising GPA and getting good LSAT mark. To be honest, I am not that worried about LSAT as much because it looks like the test is fairly straightforward (dont take me wrong, I didnt mean it to say LSAT is easy. I meant that LSAT is the test that you can do well if you spend enough time/efforts on it.) What worries me the most is classes that I will be taking on upcoming September. Its not too rare for student to improve significantly coming into 3rd/4th year, but at the same time I know it wont be easy. I am trying to use every single thing I can do to well in upcoming semester. I went to get advices from learning centre / registrar and so on. Still I feel like I need more help if I want to succeed academically. While I do not want to put too much details about my personal information in here, I am History specialist atm (to be more precisely, East Asian studies), and im not really sure what will be the best way to succeed next two years. I have been East Asian specialist for last two years (and some courses I took in EA, I did really well), but I cant figure out how can I do well upcoming semester. If the subject were say, Math or Physics, solving more problems and memorizing equations will help. IF subject is about say, language, memorizing/practicing will help. However, East Asian studies are not quite the case. Most of the courses I took in EA take reference to history, but does not directly ask questions about history. Instead it will ask you to apply the knowledge to write the essay. While sometime writing essay instead of exam is fun, right now I find it much more difficult, because there is no direct guideline given. You wont be tested for some materials you studied, instead you will be expected to use knowledges about all the papers you read through classes and make your own view to persuade professor/TA. So right now I am on the point where I know I need to improve and prepared, but I just dont know how. Can anyone help me with this? 1. EA Major, what is best way to improve your mark for classes that focus on alot of reading/writing? 2. What are the courses that I should take to improve my mark? (I mean there are no ‘bird’ course, but I am just asking your general opinion, some classes you found it pretty easy to go through – doesnt mean I will find it easy, but I want to just take note-)

3. What are the best ways to improve your GPA? – What helped you the most? 4. What are the some of minor that you found entertaining/easy to take (i mean easy as not the materials, but doesnt require much prerequisite courses) I finally made mind up and I feel pumped up real hard. However, I know that I need actual plan than just go like ‘hey I am gonna work hard and do well.’ So I need every help I can get, even small advice would be real nice. Thanks people!


hey there,

i think you hit the nail on the head when you said you need an actual plan rather than just a blind commitment to working really really hard – whatever that means. obviously, whatever ‘working hard’ boils down entirely to how you work. i don’t know that the suggestions i give will be revolutionary. they may even be things you’ve heard before or thought yourself. but i never said i was a genie* – this is the best I can do.

1. the only way to improve your reading and writing is by reading and writing –  big surprise. if you’re not taking courses in the summer, take advantage of that by reading as much as you can. read things you like. read things that challenge you (DON’T read any jane austen, for the love of god. that won’t help. and yes, austen fans, this is a public invitation to fight me).

if you want to practice your writing, there are lots of ways to do so. sometimes freeform writing is great to keep your writing muscles warm. something that I used growing up was ‘Wordly Wise’; see if you can get your hands on a couple of books and start practising. they may even be available at your local public library.

2. honestly – and this isn’t just me holding to a party line or whatever – i don’t think there are any courses at this university that i’ve found significantly easier than others, and i’ve taken everything from BIO260 to JPD439. i find that courses are constantly surprising me by how easy or difficult they are. my marks in courses surprise me. i’ve often done well in courses where i thought I’d do very badly, and vice versa. that being said, knowing what kind of courses you thrive in (for example, you mentioned that you do well in East Asian studies courses, which tend to be essay-based, so perhaps more East Asian/History courses would be up your alley) can help guide you towards similar courses, where you’re likely to be successful.

otherwise, you can see course reviews on Portal (un-aska-sanctioned, university unofficial website alternatives are also available – often featuring more colourful language).

3. i feel like I can’t answer the first question, but i can give some anecdotes about the second. everything i know about doing well in school comes down to two things: first, do something you love. if you’re doing something you don’t love, figure out a way to stop doing it. second, treat your degree like it’s a full-time job.

i don’t want to push any unhealthy ideas on you: family and health are important and you shouldn’t sacrifice those things for school. i also understand that students often have to work at jobs to survive, and have to juggle those things with school. barring that, however, try to prioritize school as much as you can. i spent an average of 40 hours a week on school (that’s classes + studying/work outside of class). that’s as much as a full-time job. try to take the initiative to ask for help and suggestions. collaborate with classmates. be fully engaged in what you’re doing. that should help.

4. again, I’m not going to grade POSts based on level of difficulty (see this tag for for meandering musings as to why i think assessing difficulty is useless), but i will tell you that you can find type 1 minors here. type 1 POSts are POSts that you can enter automatically after completing 4.0 credits. they have no prerequisites other than that. you may want to browse that list and see if any of the type 1’s interest you.

i wish you all the best with all of this. keep working hard. you can get through this, my friend.



* just an alien.


just go with it


i applied and somehow got into materials engineering for 2016, i was just wondering if its possible to take courses that are focused on other core 8 majors outside materals eng, kinda like a personalized general first year experience that focused on the materials eng (the program i’m in) or electrical eng (the program i’m sorta in to but not really sure about) without having to take a course more geared toward something like industrial that i’m not terribly interested in, uoft’s website doesn’t say much about priority or open slots or taking courses that are only for kids in core 8 programs you aren’t in or transfers other than…have good marks. the courses in first year are pretty similar across the board to deal with people like me but i want to take all the specialty courses you get to take when your in a core 8 programs for 2 possible majors, not the general ones that are less particular. is it even possible to just take any engineering first year course anywhere regardless of your designated program to explore another program more in way kids  actually majoring in that program get to?

thank you,



hello T-T

i have to admit, T-T was the face that i made when trying read and answer this question. the working title of this post was “k wut” for a while.

the calendar has a list of all the specific courses you have to take for materials eng and it looks like you have to stick with them. your only other options are the approved course substitutions listed under each course list. they have every course for every year written out for you and you’re kinda supposed to just go with it.

you're jenn aniston and u of t engineering is adam sandler.

we recommend that you take these courses for now and if you aren’t happy with them, you can consult your engineering registrar’s office or the undergrad student counsellor. honestly, the registrar’s office is super helpful with any kind of academic concern you have. i feel like every time i visit them, i feel a lot better about moving forward in my program. if you’re really confused or not happy with what you’re studying, you should definitely make an appointment to sit down with your registrar. good luck!




you’ll really know your tree-hugging the second time around

I’m enrolled in architecture and I’m taking the Env222 course. Due to difficulties with that course, I used the CR/NCR option for it. However, I just realized that a minor that I want to pursue in environment and energy has env222 as a requirement.
So, what should I do to satisfy this program requirement? Am I allowed to repeat env222 next year to enroll in this program again?

On a side note, can I still enroll in a program next year? Also, can I enroll in three majors if I’m able to manage all the required courses within 20 FCE? Lastly, can EXTRA courses satisfy a program requirement?

Thank you!


hey there,

if that’s the only course that can be used to fulfill your program requirement, then you would just have to go to your registrar’s office and ask them to re-enrol you in it as an extra. and yes, extra courses can be used (and indeed, are almost exclusively used) to satisfy program requirements.

you can enrol in programs pretty much whenever you want (between April and September), excepting after you put through a graduation request – changes have to be made at your registrar’s office after that. just keep in mind that making changes to POSts later may mean that it’ll take you longer to complete your degree; that may or may not be something you’re willing to undertake.

you cannot enrol in three majors. the maximum number of specialists and majors you are allowed to enrol in is two.




this credit is only worth half because of the sunshine

Hey aska, are summer Y courses worth 1.0 credits?


hey there,

yep! all courses in the summer are worth the same number of credits as they would be in the Fall/Winter. don’t worry, you’ll still pack in the same number of hours as you would in the Fall/Winter term, but they’ll just be SQUISHED INTO a smaller number of weeks. have fun.




courses for coop

How do co-op students finish their studies? Do they have to complete a year course in 4 months(study term)? I checked course schedule there?s no specific course for co-op students. I’m from utsc btw.


hey there,

because of coop, UTSC doesn’t have any full-year courses (with a very few exceptions, like work term prep courses, independent and research project courses, and capstones; these can either be taken alongside a coop term, or are not required courses). other than the exceptions i listed, all courses are?half-year courses, so you can take any one you want and finish it in four months!




how extra

Hi there! Out of curiosity, what will show on a transcript if you fail a course already designated as EXTRA (e.g. say this course is your 7th 100-level FCE)? Thanks in advance!


hey there,

yes, it shows up on your transcript, and yes, the mark also shows up on your transcript. however, the course has an ‘EXT’ next to it and the mark will not count towards your GPA or 20.0 degree credits.




ich liebe Wurstchen

I’m a utsc linguistics student, can I take german course @utm and how can I do that? cheers


hey there,

students are allowed to take courses on uoft campuses other than their home campuses. all you have to do is sign up during course enrolment – this Fall, the date that courses opened up to other campuses was Friday, August 14th. so it’s a little bit after course enrolment opens for you at your home campus, but still during the enrolment period.

you should note that utm’s intro. to german course is a Y course, so you wouldn’t be able to start it in january. you’d have to do it in Fall 2016/Winter 2017, or maybe in the summer, if it’s offered then.



  • Caution! student content ahead

    This site contains candid exchanges between students. Prepare yourself for vivid language and opinions.
  • Categories

  • Archives