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Undergraduate Study

Newly Admitted Students

SMC Office of the Registrar and Student Services


June 6, 2014

Greetings from the Office of the Registrar and Student Services at St Michael’s College. This is the second of our bulletins for newly admitted students. Each bulletin will focus on points of current interest and end with an FAQ or two. Please keep them for future reference.

1. The Calendar and Timetable – beginning to make sense of it all.

This is long but important.

In the last bulletin we had the links to the Arts and Science Calendar and Timetable and the New Student siteTogether they have thousands of lines of text. How and where do you begin to makes sense of them?

Making sense begins with the two big practical questions. What courses will I select? Why will I select them?

The answers start with the degree requirements. This is what you have to do to graduate. Think of this as the framework within which you have to select your courses.

The degree requirements can be distilled to six points

  • Must have 20 credits passed
  • May have a maximum of  6 credits at the 100 (introductory) level
  • Must have a minimum of  6 credits at the 300/400 (upper) level
  • Must take one of three approved combinations of programs of study
  • Must have a minimum CGPA of 1.85  (about a  62% overall average)
  • Must satisfy the breadth requirement (not critical in first year)

The starting point is the programs. Everything else follows.

So, what are programs of study?  Programs are clusters of courses which revolve around a topic. You have probably heard people say “I’m studying Philosophy (or French or Commerce or Biology) at university.” That means they are enrolled in a program in that subject. 

There are three types of programs here – specialists, majors and minors. The difference is the number of courses. Specialists are 10 or more courses, majors are 7-8 courses and minors are always 4 courses. Students choose their programs at the end of first year.

There are three approved combinations of programs

  • One specialist
  • Two majors
  • One major and  two minors

Everyone has to choose one of these three possibilities at the end of first year.

Some programs are open enrolment (there are no conditions for admission). We call these type 1 programs. However, even if a program is open enrolment, there is usually some introductory course which it is wise to take in first year.

Many programs, however, require application at the end of first year. That means there are some conditions for admission. Typically the condition is some minimum grade in one or more courses. We call these type 2 and 3 programs. The difference between 2 and 3 is not important at this stage.

So, in order to make the optimal choices of courses in first year, you have to know what programs are available. There are about 180 subjects to choose from and when you consider that some subjects have a specialist, a major and a minor there are actually over 340 different programs to consider.

Fortunately, there are two lists of programs to consult. Each gives you different information about programs.

On the New Student site there is an A-Z Program list.  It lists all the subjects and provides useful information including suggestions for first year courses. What this lacks is quick information about whether the programs are type 1 or type 2/3. You won’t know if admission is based on grades or not.

The second list is exhaustive. It tells you at a glance the name of the program, whether there is a specialist, a major or a minor and, in each case, whether it is open enrolment (type1) or requires application (types 2 and 3)

This second list ought to be your starting point.

Everyone ought to read this list from beginning to end and make a note of any program which sounds even slightly interesting. At this point, you have started to narrow down your selection of courses in first year.

The real benefit of reading the list from A-Y (since there is no Z) is that you will come across programs which you didn’t know we offer. It’s easy to think only of the big programs offered by the big departments. It is easy to overlook the dozens of first rate programs, many of which are interdisciplinary, which have names that don’t spring to mind. Read the list. It will take less than 10 minutes but you may be surprised by some of the programs you come across. 

2. FAQs 

I received a few questions after Bulletin 1 so in each Bulletin, I’ll end with the ones which everyone has an interest in.

Farida asked – When does course selection actually begin?

Check Step 4 in the Registration Handbook and Timetable  

Bulletin No 3 will assume you’ve worked your way through the list of all programs and have identified those which interest you. All this is leading to the answers to the questions - What courses will I select in July? Why will I select them? How will I know when they are offered? Will there be space for me in the course?

I will write again soon.


Damon Chevrier