These are questions that are frequently asked by first-year students. The point of this page is not necessarily to provide you with specific answers to your questions (because the answers often vary from class to class or discipline to discipline), but to inform you of the types of questions students often ask, so that you feel more comfortable asking them.
- What is the most important thing for first-year students to know?
If you don't know something, ask someone who does.
You need to be aware of deadlines and policies. Professors do their best to get information out there, but they can't be expected to make sure everyone knows everything. It is up to you to be informed, so become familiar with your class syllabi and the university website and don't be shy about asking questions, either in or out of class. The academic calendar is a handy page to bookmark – on it are the important dates that you need to know – such as the last day to pay tuition or drop a class without penalty. You can choose what type of information you want to see on your calendar.
- If I miss a class, can I just go to another section's class instead?
Probably not. Most sections are taught by different professors, so the content is delivered in a different order or different way. In courses such as English, Philosophy, and Sociology, each section has a different reading list, so even though the same skills are taught the subject matter is completely different.
- I know I have to take elective classes that aren't related to my major - isn't that a waste of my time?
As you progress through your degree, the reasons for taking classes outside your major will begin to make more sense. You will see that Biology is related to Psychology, which is related to Literature and Drama, which are related to Music, which is related to Math, which is related to Chemistry, which is related to Biology.
The classes outside of your major are not a waste of time, but rather are the classes that help you to make more sense of your major and fill out your 'well-rounded' view of the world you live in. They also give you a wider general knowledge to draw from when it comes to writing papers and understanding complex theories.
- Do professors advise students on what classes and electives to take? Who should I see to help me?
Academic advisors are available throughout the year to help you choose your program, major, and even classes. If you haven't picked a discipline yet, you should talk to a general academic advisor through the Undergraduate Office of Arts and Science or write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Otherwise, academic advising is college specific, so contact the department you enrolled in.
It is very important that you speak with an academic advisor early on and continue to do so. Advisors can help you to determine your best options if you wish to drop a class or change majors and can help you make sure you have enough credits to graduate when you want to. It is best to do some background research on your program and classes you are interested in before you see an advisor.
- What is the difference between a Diploma, Certificate, Three-year, Four-Year, and Honours degrees?
Different colleges offer different programs. For example, the College of Agriculture and Bioresources offers diplomas, degrees, and certificates; the School of Environment and sustainability offers certificates; and the College of Arts and Science has approximately eight different options. The Academic Information and Policies Tab in the Course and Program Catalogue has complete information for each college.
Generally, the programs differ in intensity and the number of credits needed to graduate. One major difference is that it may difficult to gain admittance to a Graduate Program without an Honours degree, so if you are planning on continuing your education, be certain to verify the admissions requirements for graduate studies in your preferred program and at your preferred university(s).
- How important is it to read the text for the class if I always attend the lecture?
The textbook was assigned for a reason. Unless your professor tells you otherwise, make sure you're reading it. Reading it before the class gives you a base knowledge that the professor can either expand on or clarify in the lecture.
- What tips can you suggest for managing time?
- Am I expected to use references and citations on all my assignments?
If you are using information from other sources, YES, you are expected to use references and citations on all your assignments. Your professor will let you know if you are not supposed to cite, so assume from the beginning that you are. Any failure to cite when using information from other sources is considered plagiarism. Make sure you are familiar with the university's rules and policies on academic dishonesty.
- If I know APA referencing, do I have to learn any other formats or can I always use that one?
You might need to learn to use APA, MLA, and Chicago. It depends on the requirements of each of your classes. Some classes require a specific form of documentation; others do not. Check your syllabus and if it doesn't clarify, ask your professor.
- What is a syllabus? Should I read it?
Yes, you read the syllabus for your class. A syllabus outlines all the important information for you class. It provides contact information for your professor, including office hours, breaks down the topics/sections that will covered with approximates dates, and highlights when assignments and papers are due. Your syllabus also reviews class expectations, late assignment and missed exam policies, and usually lists textbooks and required readings. It’s a good idea to refer back to your syllabus throughout the term and before assignments, tests, and exams.
- What kinds of things do students see a professor about during office hours?
Any question regarding class material, requirements, or performance. Try to limit your questions to the class itself. Some classes have an experiential learning component including undergraduate research. If you have questions about this component and/or want to pursue further learning outside of the classroom (specific to the class you are in), you could speak with your professor during office hours. While some professors may be comfortable answering questions about degree requirements, or university life in general, there are other services set up for you to ask those types of questions, such as the USSU Help Centre.
- If I can't meet an assignment deadline, what should I do?
If you can't meet an assigned deadline, be sure to contact your professor to find out what can be done. Check your class syllabus to see if the professor has outlined procedures for moving deadlines or explicitly stated that deadlines cannot be moved except in cases of personal illness or family death. In all cases, it is best to talk to the professor personally.
- I know many first-year classes are really large. Do the professors mark all the papers or do they have assistants?
Some professors have marking or teaching assistants, others do not. If you are curious, ask the professor. In many cases, if there is a teaching assistant, he or she (or they) will sit in on your classes and possibly lead a tutorial or lab. Feel free to ask them or the professor who it is that does the marking.
- Is it okay to sit in the front and record a lecture so I can listen to it later?
If you are recording someone's voice or image, it is advisable (and sometimes legally required) to get his or her permission first. This is true when you are recording a lecture as well. Wouldn't you like to know if you were being recorded? Ask the professor if he or she is comfortable with you recording the lecture and explain why it is that you would like to. Most professors will gladly comply with your request, but some may not. Please respect their wishes, as you would like yours to be respected.
- Are exams returned to students so they can see their mistakes?
In most cases, yes, they will be returned. However, once again, this is something you should ask your professor about or look for in your class syllabus. Midterms are almost always returned, but final exams are not. Sometimes professors return exams to review during class time, but require the exam to be returned at the end of the class. It is not acceptable to take a photo of any exam or midterm that must be returned to the professor. You may ask permission to view your final exam, but you will not be allowed to take it home.
- How do I find out what my exam marks are?
This too is up to your professor and is typically covered in your class syllabus. Often midterm exam and paper marks are posted within Course Tools (accessed through PAWS) or returned in class. Occasionally a professor will post marks to a website. Your final exam marks are not likely to be posted, but your final grade in the class will be posted under the “My Final Grades” tab in PAWS. Some classes report grades through the iUSask App .
- Is it true that I can defer a final exam?
Yes, in certain circumstances (medical, compassionate) a final exam may be deferred. An application must be completed including supporting documents within 3 days of the exam date. It costs $40 to defer an exam. Because deferred exams are written approximately two months after the original exam date, they can be quite difficult to prepare for. Please refer to Deferred Exams and Academic Appeals for more information. If you are concerned about potentially missing a final exam, the best thing to do is speak with your professor.
- What should I do in class and after class if I want to get a high mark in the course?
If you want to do well, make sure you keep up with your readings before class, so that you are already familiar with what the professor is talking about. Take a learning style assessment to determine how it is you learn best. Try to incorporate aspects of your learning style into your classroom experience and your study time outside class. Do whatever it takes to pay attention and keep yourself interested.
Do whatever it takes to pay attention and keep yourself interested. Finding a way to connect what you are currently learning to what you have learned in the past and to any career aspirations is a great way to keep a class interesting and to maintain your motivation. Student Learning Services has a variety of online study skills resources including the above mentioned learning style assessment.
- How can I figure out what mark I need on the final to pass the class?
While we recommend students focus on learning content over achieving grades, we recognize that many students like to keep track of their progress. We have adapted a mark calculator that enables you to calculate your class and term averages, track your class progress, and determine what mark you need on the final to achieve a 60%, 70%, 80% or 90% in the class.
- What would you recommend as good study strategies?
For starters, attempt to make friends with at least one person in each of your classes. You can then get together with them when it comes time to write a midterm or talk to them about any problems you're having with the material.
Review the material you covered in class after each class. Note anything you think is important, that you don’t understand, or that you want more information on so that you can ask your professor during the next class or by email.
Additionally, you can look into Study Skills workshops and pick up some of the handouts at Student Learning Services to help improve your studying skills.
- What should I do when I have an overwhelming amount of material to read for a class?
You could either attend one of our Reading Skills Workshops, pick up our Effective Reading Strategies handout at Student Learning Services or look through our online resources. Remember that sometimes you cannot accomplish what is expected of you, so you need to learn how to prioritize and do what you can.
- Is there anything I can do to prepare for a class before I start?
If the class syllabus is available online through the PAWS course page, download it and read it. It may change before the first few weeks are over, but it will give you a sense of what is expected of you and what to expect.
Go to the U of S Bookstore online and look up each of your class's textbooks. Find copies of the texts and read what you can. The introduction to the textbook is a safe bet and should familiarize you with how it's laid out and what it contains. If you have the class syllabus, there should be a list of required readings and a timeline. You can get started on that too.
Decide how you are going to keep track of your notes. If you plan to use a binder, get it ready – create a section for lecture notes, lab notes, assignments, etc. If you are keeping everything electronic, create folders for each class. Getting organized before class starts helps you stay on top of your studying.
- What is a typical pass rate or final class average?
The university has published an explanation of its grading system for you to look through. Familiarize yourself with what is expected for each range and remember that marks in the high 60s and low 70s are average in university. It varies from course to course and discipline to discipline, though. If you are particularly interested in where you fall, ask your professor. Use the link to the grading system again when you get your first set of grades so you know how you are performing within the university's expectations.
- How do I use the library?
The library website has a very useful How do I...? section that should answer any questions you have. If it doesn't, the librarians also have an AskUs Live chat tool available on every page. Just click on it, wait to be signed in, and then type your question to have it answered in real time. Additionally, the library has over 100 guides that can be categorized into 50 subjects. Each guide takes you to research information specific to your subject and identifies the librarian for that subject
- What tips can you suggest for staying on budget?
You can start by reading through our online resources on creating a budget. A great way to stay on budget is to track everything you spend, especially small amounts of cash. You can create or download an excel spreadsheet template or use a notebook to keep track of purchases. It is very easy to overspend on small items without realizing how quickly they add up. For example, at approximately $10 a day, coffee and/or lunch daily adds up to $50 a week, $200 a month, and $600 a term. This is almost equivalent to a new iPad. Alternatively, you could bring coffee in a travel mug and pack a lunch. Microwaves are available for use in Lower Place Riel and many college student union lounges. If you are on campus all day, freezing leftovers in single serving sizes ensure they remain cool throughout the day.
- Should I opt out of Health and Dental Coverage?
If you are covered by your parents’ or spouse’s benefit plan or have a plan through your band council or Health Canada you may want to opt out of the Student Health and/or Dental plans. In order to opt out, you must apply online through ihaveaplan.ca and be able to show proof that you already have equivalent coverage.