Between dealing with their breadth requirements, programs of study, and waitlists, students might find choosing courses confusing or stressful. Course decisions can also impact tuition fees, extracurricular opportunities, and work-study eligibility.

With November 6 — the last day to drop fall courses — fast approaching and enrolment for winter courses continuing, The Varsity broke down how to navigate the course enrolment process with explanations and useful resources. 

The basics

Before picking courses, it helps to understand U of T’s credit system, programs, and requirements.  

U of T uses credits to quantify the number of courses students take and pass during a semester. Fall (F) and winter (S) courses count for 0.5 credits each, while full-year (Y) courses are worth 1.0 credit. U of T recommends that full-time students in good standing — those who have a cumulative GPA of 1.50 or higher — take 2.5 credits each semester in fall and winter, but students can take up to 3.0 credits.

At U of T, your program refers to the set of courses you take in a subject area and determines the type of degree you receive. The Faculty of Arts & Science (A&S) offers over 340 programs for students to pick from. The Sidney Smith Commons Program Toolkit, The Varsity’s explainer on the topic, and the university’s Academic Calendar give a ton of insight into potential programs and the program enrolment process. 

Breadth Requirements push students to explore fields beyond their program. To graduate, the Faculty of A&S requires students to take at least 1.0 credit per category in four out of the five categories or 1.0 credit in each of three out of the five categories plus 0.5 credits in each of the two remaining categories. 

Tips for picking courses and enrolling 

Programs that are not “open enrolment” require you to take certain courses to enrol in them, which U of T lists in the Academic Calendar. The university’s Degree Explorer lets you see your programs’ requirements, track your progress, and visualize how future courses could fulfill your graduation requirements. Timetable Builder is a tool that allows students to see how courses would fit their schedule. It also has information about each course, including the professor teaching the course, descriptions of the course material, and the course’s breadth requirements.

To get an idea of a course’s workload and structure and see what students thought about a course, you can view each course’s past student evaluations on Quercus under the “For Students” tab in the Course Evals section.

Enrolment occurs through the student information portal ACORN during the enrolment period, which starts during the summer for fall and winter courses. Enrolment dates vary based on a person’s year of study and program: students enrolled in a program through a department receive the first chance to enrol in courses from that department. Then, enrolment proceeds based on the number of credits a student has, where students with more credits can enroll first. The specific enrolment dates for each year can be found on the Faculty of A&S’s course enrolment page.

Waitlisting and dropping courses

During the enrolment period, students also have the option of adding, dropping, or waitlisting in classes through ACORN. Once a class is full, students wishing to join a class can add themselves to the waitlist. If someone enrolled in the class drops the course, ACORN automatically adds the next student from the waitlist to the class. 

Students can be on the waitlist for up to 2.0 credits each semester, but these credits count toward the total number of courses they can sign up for. The various academic units — which include departments, centres, and colleges that provide classes — and the registrar’s office for your college can offer you support throughout the enrolment process.

An important point is that waitlists close a few days before the last day to add courses. This year, waitlists for winter semester courses close on January 16, while enrolment ends on January 21. Between these dates, students can add themselves to any course they want if a spot becomes available until the last day to enrol. 

If a UTSG student needs to take a Faculty of A&S course to graduate and has tried all possible other options that would allow them to finish their program(s), they can use the “dean’s promise.” To do so, they can contact the academic unit offering the course if they need it for their program — or their college registrar if they need the course for a different degree requirement — and the faculty will allow them to enrol in the course. 

Beyond academics

Credits and course load also determine tuition, job opportunities, and what extracurriculars are available to you. 

During the fall and winter term, the university automatically charges students a flat program fee for all their courses. However, students taking fewer than the university’s “Program Fee course load” — 4.0 credits combined in the fall and winter semesters — can request that the university charge them by course. In the 2020–2021 school year, U of T charged $610 per credit for undergraduate domestic students in the Faculty of A&S, at UTM, and at UTSC — one-tenth of the program fees for that year. 

To get a full refund for a fall or year-long course, a student must have dropped the course between September 8 and 21, and students wanting a full refund for a winter course must drop it between January 9 and 22. If you were originally enrolled in more than 3.5 credits worth of courses, dropped some of those courses, and no longer qualify for a Program Fee course load, U of T charges you a $57 “system access fee.” If you drop below a Program Fee course load after the first day of fall term, U of T will charge you a minimum fee of $368, and may charge you more if you drop later in the semester. 

During the summer, students are automatically charged based on the number of courses they take. 

Enrolling in certain programs allows students to join program-orientated clubs and course unions. The university also offers a work-study program but requires students to be enrolled in at least 2.0 credits combined between the fall and winter terms or 0.5 credits in the Summer term to receive a work-study position. 

For international students, their course load is closely tied to their visa and study permit conditions. The Centre for International Experience provides more information and immigration advice for students over the phone or through email.