Frequently Asked Questions

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 usask website and don't be shy about asking questions, either in or out of class.


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?

There are academic advisors who can help you throughout the year. Contact your department if you have picked your discipline. 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

If you would like to step out and do the research yourself, without the assistance of an advisor, you should check out the Programs page on the USASK website. On this page you can go through each program the university offers to see what classes are required to complete any degree of your choosing.


What is the difference between an Honours and Four-Year degree?

The difference is best described as more intensive. The university offers a complete explanation of the Honours degree, which shows the difference between the two degree types, as well as the three different types of Honours degrees one could get: Honours, Double-Honours, and General Honours. One major difference is that it is difficult to gain admittance to a Graduate Program without an Honours degree, so if you are planning on continuing your education, you will want to be in an Honours stream.


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.


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. Being aware of academic expectations is your responsibility, but the university has a week set aside to help you become aware. Academic Integrity Awareness Week takes place each October.


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.


How will I know what the professor's office hours are?

Do I make an appointment to see the professor?

How should I make an appointment?

What is the policy for students who are late to class?

How should I enter a classroom politely, if I am late?

Do I have to attend every class?

If I have to miss a class, should I inform the professor?

Is there a penalty for late assignments?

If I miss an exam, can I make it up?

Does the professor hand out lecture notes in class or make them available online?

Do most professors provide lecture notes?

All of the above questions should be answered by reading the syllabus for each of your classes. If the syllabus doesn't provide the answer, the professor will. Remember, the most important thing for a first-year to know is, "If you don't know something, ask someone who does."


What kinds of things do students come for during a professor's office hours?

Any question regarding class material, requirements, or performance. Try to limit your questions to the class itself. Some professors may be comfortable answering questions about degree requirements, or university life in general, but 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. Check the university policy on deferred final examinations to see the process and deadlines you would have to adhere to when changing the day you write your final; bear these requirements in mind when you ask for an extension on a paper or assignment.


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 to 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. 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. Your midterm exam marks will either be posted on the professor's office door, a website, or you will get them back with the exam. Your final exam marks are not likely to be posted, but your midterm and final grades will be posted through PAWS. Some classes report grades through the iUSask Application. Ask your professors how you will be informed about your marks. They will let you know.


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. The University Learning Centre has a variety of online study skills resources including the above mentioned learning style assessment.


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. Other than this, you can look into Study Skills workshops and pick up some of the handouts at the front desk 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 the front desk  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.


What tips can you suggest for managing time?

You can start by reading through our online resources on time management. We also offer workshops on Time Management and have a handout at the front desk.


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.


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.