Step-by-Step Course Selection
To enrol in classes at Western, you need to know which courses are necessary for your module. Select at least one module that you want to pursue, and then choose courses based on interest and availability. You can select more than one module, and you are encouraged to have a back-up (just in case!).
- Have your First Year Calendar with you or access key sections online. This has information regarding programs and modules, course information, and terminology.
- Refer to the 2016 Academic Calendar if you cannot find what you are looking for in the First Year Calendar. It lists course descriptions, modules offered by each faculty, necessary requirements for all programs offered at Western, and important contact information.
What you need to know
There are a variety of terms used throughout Western’s academic material. Below are key terms that you should understand before continuing in course selection. Some terms will have a page reference following the definitions that corresponds with the First Year Calendar.
- Course: An academic class, typically consisting of a lecture section, which can be complemented by a lab or tutorial section.
- NOTE: Western refers to classes as “courses”, and does not use the “credit” system that other universities may use. Classes tend to be either full-year (worth 1.0 course) or half-year (worth 0.5 course).
- Course Code: This consists of the department name and a 4-digit number, which is sometimes accompanied by a course suffix. The first digit in the code corresponds to what year the course is typically designed for (i.e. 1 corresponds to first-year courses).
Example: Sociology 1021E, Physics 1302A/B
- Essay Course: A course with a significant writing component. To recognize student achievement, these courses are designated as essay courses and will be identified on the student’s record by their course suffix. (Glossary on Page 77)
- Prerequisite: A course that must be successfully completed prior to registration in another course.
Example: A high-school university Biology course is typically a prerequisite to first year Biology. (Glossary on Page 77)
- Corequisite: A course that must be taken at the same time (or prior to registration in) the desired course. (Glossary on Page 77)
- Antirequisite: Courses that overlap sufficiently enough in course material that you cannot take both for credit. You must select one or the other. (Glossary on Page 77).
- Course Suffixes: These are the letters at the end of the 4-digit course code that describe what type of course the class is, how much the course is worth (typically 0.5 or 1.0 course), and what term it is offered in. See the Glossary on Page 79 of the First-Year Calendar for a complete description of each course suffix.
Example: Psychology 1000, Calculus 1000A/B, Philosophy 1305F/G
- Module: A collection of courses that define an area of study. The number of courses included in a module is defined by the amount of specialization in the topic.
Example: Honors Specialization, Specialization, Major, Minor (Page 22)
- Program: Typically refers to the combination of department and module. Examples: Major in Biology, Honors Specialization in MIT, Minor in French
For more, reference page 77 of First Year Calendar, and the glossary section of the Academic Calendar.
Exceptions to the below requirements are found in the programs in Engineering, Music, and Nursing. Please refer to your faculty website or the Academic Calendar for more information. Students in Scholar’s Electives are referred to their handbook for exceptions as well.
- Breadth Requirements: All Western courses are put into one of three categories based on their subject.
- Category A - Social Science, Multidisciplinary, and Various
- Category B - Languages, and Arts and Humanities
- Category C - Engineering, Medical Science, Science, and Various
- Students must take at least 1.0 course from each of the three categories before graduating, and first-year students must take at least 2.0 courses from two of the three categories (meaning you need at least A and B credits, B and C credits, A and C credits, or A, B, and C credits in first year). The full description of which courses belong to each category is found on page 77 of the First Year Calendar.
- First Year Requirements: You need 5.0 courses numbered 1000-1999 in at least 4 different subjects, and you need at least 1.0 course(s) from at least 2 breadth categories (A, B, and C).
- Essay Course Requirements: You need 2.0 essay courses before graduation, with at least 1.0 of those being a senior-level course (course number between 2000-4999).
- Recall that you can tell which courses are essay courses by the course suffixes (page 77).
Many programs in the First Year Calendar will require “completion of first-year requirements”. This simply means that you complete the first-year requirements as discussed in this section, and completed any first year courses needed for your program.
See the First Year Calendar (page 17) for “Course Residency Requirements”.
- Students registered at Western’s main campus can only take 1.0 course(s) from an affiliate college (Huron, Brescia, and King’s) each year. This can be 2 half courses (worth 0.5 course each) or 1 full-year course (worth 1.0 course).
- Students cannot take a course from an affiliate if that course is offered on Main campus.
- Example: A main campus student cannot take Sociology 1021E from an affiliate because that course is offered on main campus.
Courses have their own restrictions listed below their description in the First Year Calendar and the Academic Calendar. Check courses for prerequisites, antirequisites, and other restrictions or requirements. Make sure that you meet any restrictions before you select a course.
Some common restrictions are:
- A course is restricted to students already registered in a particular program or faculty
- A course is restricted to students that are registered at an affiliate college
- You need a certain grade in a previous course (for example, you need a final mark of 55% or higher in Calculus 1000A/B or 1100A/B before taking Calculus 1301B)
For more information, see the First Year Calendar (page 17) for “Course Residency Requirements”.
How to select your courses
Start by choosing a module, finding what first year courses you need for your program, adding elective courses, and then making sure that your courses meet all first-year requirements.
Are you in Engineering? Your timetable and course selection is pre-set! Come to one of our Engineering Specific Orientation days to hear more about your first year experience!
Are you in Music? Visit page 38-39 of the First-Year Calendar for first-year course options, or the Music Department General Information page for information about programs, mandatory classes, and ensembles.
Are you in Nursing? Visit this website or page 34 of the First-Year Calendar for first year course requirements and exemptions.
For further assistance with course selection, register for a Summer Academic Orientation (SAO) appointment. Sign up online here or if you have questions you can call (519) 661-2100!
Planning for Second Year
- If you are curious about what courses you can take in second year, refer to the Academic Calendar. It lists all courses offered by Western by Faculty and program. Checking upper-year courses is a good idea because these classes may have prerequisites that you need in first or second year.
- Example: If you are interested in taking the course “Canadian Political Leadership” (History 3226F/G) in your upper years, its prerequisite is listed as “1.0 course in History at the 2200 level or above.” You then look back at the 2200-level and above courses, and see if there are any prerequisites for those courses. Luckily, it seems that you do not need a prerequisite for most 2000-level History courses, so you do not need to worry about a History prerequisite in first year, depending on your module. Students pursuing a module in History probably do require a first-year History, but someone taking History just for fun would not need a first-year credit.
- Some programs are called “second-level entry” programs because you need at least one year of university before you can apply to them. These second-entry programs may require courses that are not listed in the module that you selected in first year, so check for requirements and suggested courses in the second-entry program materials!
- Example: The HBA program offered by the Ivey Business School is a second-level entry program that has no first year requirements, but does require a second year course (Business Administration 2257).
- Some programs will only admit students with certain averages, either in a particular course or in all 5 first year courses. Be aware of these restrictions, and choose courses that match your academic abilities! Check your high school grades when choosing courses. If you did not do well in high school, you may not do well in the university version of the course.
- Your first year at Western will probably be the most flexible year of your academic career. If you are interested in trying something new, this is the time to do it! Try a new language, check out a history class, attempt a new science, or sample a business course. Your second year module may have less room for electives, so be adventurous and try many things while you can!
You may have heard a lot of different things about courses at Western from many people: teachers, parents, past students, new students, students who don’t even go here… below are the truths to some common myths.
- You are just a number to your professors and the university.
Wrong. Western staff and faculty want you to succeed, and will provide as much assistance as we can to help you through your degree. Although classes tend to be larger, your professor and teaching assistants (TAs) recognize you as an individual. One suggestion would be to introduce yourself to your professor and TA during the first week of classes–this will help them put a name to your face!
- “Bird courses” are easier, and they will make your record look better.
Wrong. Students often want to know what courses are “the easy ones”. All university courses are designed to be challenging, as you should be learning material that you did not previously know (although some review is present in most introductory courses). Secondly, academic professionals reviewing your record (either for your degree or for entry into an academic program, such as graduate school or Ivey) are going to recognize if a course does not fit your program or academic level. Choose courses that genuinely interest you and you are more likely to do well. You can be a successful student without the “easy” courses!
- Psychology 1000 with Dr. Mike is the best course and you should take it, even if you hate psychology.
Wrong. If you do not like a subject, then the instructor will not change your opinion of the material. Most first year classes will offer the best instructors the department has to offer, so there is no advantage to having one instructor instead of another. If you are interested in sampling a course, then choose a section that best fits your schedule. All sections of a course offer you the same academic experience, the same textbook (usually), the same types of exams, and similar exam content.
- Calculus/Math courses are terrible, and you should avoid them at all costs.
Wrong. Like all university courses, the mathematics courses are designed to be challenging but not impossible for students. If you have to take a Math or Calculus course, be sure to pick one that matches your abilities and suits your degree.
- Business 1220E is a prerequisite to Ivey programs.
Wrong. The only course you need to apply to an Ivey program is Business 2257. You can take Business 1220E in first year if you are interested in Business, but it is not required to apply to Ivey programs.
- Having a high first year average is very important.
Wrong. It is important to try your hardest, but many students will have lower averages in university than in high school (typically 10-15% lower). This decline in grades is completely normal, and may change in upper years as you become familiar with university learning. The most important thing in first year is to find courses and programs that you are interested in. Taking interesting courses and using the academic services at Western will help you maintain a good first year average.
- Buy textbooks before class.
Wrong. You do not have to buy textbooks before your first class. You may purchase books whenever you like, however it is highly suggested that you wait until after your first class to buy textbooks.
- There is only one residence that is the best.
Wrong. Every residence is part of Western’s #1 student experience! All buildings have the same staff-to-student ratio, the same academic supports, and the same social opportunities.
- If I am living off-campus, I won’t have the same benefits as students living in residence.
Wrong. There are many social and academic supports available specifically for off-campus students! The best way to get involved and be aware of key support services is by joining the Society of Off-Campus Students, or SOCS. Signing up for SOCS pairs you with an upper-year student who will help guide you through your first days, weeks, and months at Western, and keep you informed on Off-Campus events. You can also refer to Western’s Off-Campus Housing Service for listings, lease information, and helpful information about living off-campus.