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Undergraduate Study

Newly Admitted Students

SMC Office of the Registrar and Student Services


July 2, 2014

Greetings from the Office of the Registrar and Student Services at St Michael’s College. This is the third in our series of Bulletins for newly admitted students.

1. Determining the best combination of courses for first year.

In the last bulletin I suggested that you go through the list of the 340 programs in the Faculty of Arts and Science and make a note of those which sound of potential interest. This is a necessary first step in deciding which courses to take in first year.

The next step is to research these programs to find out more about them and then refine (ie shorten) your list to the programs which continue to be of interest. Remember to keep track of whether the programs are open enrolment (type 1) or require application (types 2 and 3) and whether there is a specialist, a major or a minor.

So where do you get more information about the programs? There are two places - the Arts and Science Calendar and the program websites. The calendar presents information about each program in a consistent manner so it has a predictable format but the focus is on outlining the program requirements and then listing all the courses offered by the department. The program websites are varied in their set up and often have much more information than the calendar so they are a good place to start. They often contain information about individual professors, the local student society, graduate studies, conferences, departmental news and interesting links. How do you find the program websites?

Refer to the A-Z program list  which I mentioned in the last Bulletin. Click on the program name and then look at the bottom of the page which opens up. There ought to be two links - one to the program website and the other to the relevant portion of the Calendar.

It may take you some time to work your way through the websites of various programs - certainly more time than it took to read the A-Z list - but it is a useful exercise since it will help you to refine the list of programs of potential interest.

The net result is that you will end up with a list of programs which interest you.

The next step is to see what courses you would take in first year in order to qualify for admission to the programs (in the case of type 2 and 3) or simply to meet the general first year expectation (type 1 programs)

The objective is to come up with a combination of first year courses which will open as many program doors as possible for you at the end of first year.

It is possible that you might end up with a list of first year courses which is so long that you can't actually take them all. If that is the case then you will have to review your list and decide which programs are of greatest interest. This is part of the on-going task of finding and sifting through information in order to arrive at the best outcome.

Let me illustrate three outcomes of this exercise and some of the possible consequences.

The first example will be of interest to those interested in Rotman Commerce programs. The second example draws on life sciences but is equally true in computer science and the mathematical and physical sciences. The third example is appropriate for those interested in the humanities and social sciences.

Example 1. Several first year requirements and few related alternatives.

Suppose you are interested in the specialist in Accounting

Students interested in the Accounting program (one of three programs offered by Rotman Commerce) enrol in the three credits ECO100Y, RSM100Y and MAT133Y or a higher level introductory calculus course. That part is clear. However, Accounting is a type 3 program. Admission is very competitive and even those students who have the "commerce guarantee" are not always successful in qualifying. If you simply chose these three courses and two random electives, what would happen if you failed to qualify for Accounting at the end of first year? This is not a theoretical question. We meet students very year who have not considered this possibility. The answer is that you have to have contingency plans (Plan B and C and D etc.)

So, if you weren't admitted to Accounting, what else would ECO100Y, RSM100Y and MAT133Y qualify you for?

RSM100Y does not qualify you for admission to any program outside commerce.

However, both ECO100Y and MAT133Y are necessary first year courses for the major in Economics. (Note that MAT133Y is not a good choice if you are thinking about a specialist in Economics.)

Let us say that your grades in ECO100Y and MAT133Y were high enough for the major in Economics. That would be good news but you can't have a degree based on one major. You need two majors or a major and two minors. What would these other programs be? That is one of your tasks - to consider alternatives if your initial plan does not work out.

But what if your grades in ECO100Y and MAT133Y were not high enough for the major in Economics? You might at that point have credits in ECO100Y, RSM100Y and MAT133Y but not be admissible to any of these programs. What would you do? Again, you must consider this possibility when selecting your courses.

Remember that students usually take 5.0 courses in first year and ECO100Y, RSM100Y and MAT133Y are only 3.0 That is why you have to think about how you would use the other 2.0 courses. They should not be chosen randomly. They ought to be chosen with an eye on what you would do if you weren't successful with Accounting or Economics.

See Example 3 below for ideas.

Example 2. Several first year requirements with several related alternatives

Suppose you are interested in the specialist in Neuroscience

Students interested in the Neuroscience specialist program (part of the Human Biology cluster of programs) enrol in the three credits (BIO120H1+BIO130H1) and (CHM138H1+CHM139H1) and either (MAT135H1+MAT136H1) or (PHY131H1+PHY132H1). If you look carefully at the higher years you will see that PSY100H is a required course so many first year students would enrol in that course as well.

That makes 3.5 credits. That part is clear. However, this specialist is a type 3 program. Admission is competitive and not everyone is successful in qualifying. If you simply chose these three and a half courses and one and a half random electives, what would happen if you failed to qualify for the specialist in Neuroscience at the end of first year?

What else would (BIO120H1+BIO130H1) and (CHM138H1+CHM139H1) and either (MAT135H1+MAT136H1) or (PHY131H1+PHY132H1) and PSY100H qualify you for?

Unlike the Accounting example above, you would still have a large number of type 1 (open enrolment) alternatives - the five different Human Biology majors or majors in Biology, Animal Physiology or Cell and Molecular Biology come to mind. A good grade in PSY100H could qualify you for a psychology program (type 2).

The real risk associated with taking the combination (BIO120H1+BIO130H1) and (CHM138H1+CHM139H1) and either (MAT135H1+MAT136H1) or (PHY131H1+PHY132H1) is for those students who aren't suited for these courses. They don't like them or they aren't very good at them. Once again, the prudent strategy is to consider the possibility that you might do no life science programs at all or that you might do one life science program and some other program from outside life science. This last combination is actually very common.

Once again, the prudent strategy is to consider how the other 1.5 other courses can open the doors to programs other than those in life science.

Example 3. Lots of Alternatives

Example 1 above concerned commerce. Example 2 concerned life sciences but the idea is applicable to computer science or mathematical and physical sciences. What about humanities and social sciences? Well, in these two broad areas the situation is actually quite different.

Rather than focusing on a program, this example will show how 5.0 credits prudently selected can open the doors to a surprising number of programs.

Let us say you enroll in ECO105Y, ENG140Y, HIS103Y, PHL100Y, SOC101Y
As you might imagine you would be preparing yourself for programs in English, History, Philosophy and Sociology. (Interestingly you would not be preparing yourself for Economics since you would not be doing a MAT course.)

But - and this is the part which often escapes notice - you would also be taking the correct course for Criminology, Employment Relations, Ethics, Society and the Law, European Union Studies, International Relations, Material Culture, Peace, Conflict and Justice, Semiotics and Communication Theory and Urban Studies.

How do you know this? You have to look these programs up in the calendar and check the first year requirements.  

Finally, there are also the programs which have no first year requirements at all such as American Studies, Diaspora and Transnational Studies, Book and Media Studies, Canadian Studies, Equity Studies and Sexual Diversity Studies.

How do you know this? Again, you have to look these programs up in the calendar and check the first year requirements. (There aren't any for this last group but you ought to check anyway to makes sure this is correct!)

These lists of programs are not meant to be exhaustive.

2. FAQs

Several students have asked: "When does course selection actually begin?"

Check the Registration Handbook and Timetable and look at Step 4 or check Next Steps New Student site.

Bulletin No 4 will assume you've made significant headway on identifying courses which you want to take in first year. I will look at some of the other considerations when it comes to selecting courses. These will be less mechanical (i.e. they don't require working your way through more websites) but will involve some reflection and exercise of judgment on your part.

Damon Chevrier