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First-Year Zone Survival Guide

We are so excited that you have decided to join our faculty and we look forward to meeting you! The Academic Advising team is your main point of contact in the faculty and we can provide you with support and assistance related to all facets of university life.

Our office will:

  • Address questions and concerns related to all aspects of student life.
  • Help you establish realistic educational goals and future planning.
  • Assist in the selection of appropriate classes (especially if you miss or fail a course).
  • Assess and discuss your academic progress and standing.
  • Help you address academic difficulties.
  • Discuss and evaluate your study habits and skills.
  • Provide tips for academic success.
  • Interpret academic policies and procedures.
  • Discuss issues that affect your academic performance.
  • Connect you with campus services.
  • Provide advice regarding withdrawals or adding/dropping courses.
  • Keep information discussed in advising sessions confidential.
  • Provide guidance for successful progression towards graduation.

How is university different from high school? 

  • You are now an adult learner; it is your responsibility to take the initiative that will support your education.
  • Self-motivation becomes critical in university as professors do not check up on you to ensure that you have completed assignments or kept on top of your readings.
  • Class attendance is not mandatory, but it is essential for your success.
  • Classes are much bigger than in high school (up to 500 students), but class sizes will become progressively smaller again in upper-year courses.
  • You will do more work outside of class than you do in class. Time in class is spent listening to lectures, discussing and note taking.
  • Time management is key! You will feel like you have LOTS of extra time because you are only in class up to 15 hours per week. Don’t be deceived. Use your time wisely—balance is important.
  • Final grades can be based on two or three assignments or exams, so it is important to give 100 per cent in everything you do.
  • Group work comes up in almost every class, so you will have to get used to it. No one likes a slacker, so make sure you contribute equally!
  • University allows you to choose your own academic focus and to take courses that truly interest you.
  • University provides access to more knowledge and it allows you to expand your mind. Your past beliefs and ways of thinking will be challenged.

Academic Dictionary

  • Academic Calendar
    An academic calendar is released for each academic year. You must follow the calendar that was released in your year of entry.
  • Important dates and deadlines
    The Academic Schedule is published each year in the Academic Calendar. This schedule lists the important dates and deadlines for the year. It is your responsibility to be aware of the deadlines and to adhere to them.
  • Grading system
    We use a letter grading system (not numerical grades), which is new to many students. Each letter grade has grade points associated with it (see Academic Calendar for the full table). You must receive a letter grade of D or higher to be granted a credit in a course. Keep in mind however that while a ‘D’ grade is a pass, it still has a negative impact on your academic standing.
  • Grade point average (GPA)
    A semester GPA is the weighted average of the final course grades in one semester. Cumulative GPA (CGPA) is the weighted average of the final course grades in all courses completed for your program.
  • Academic standing
    Your academic standing is based on your CGPA. A CGPA of 2.0 or above is considered to be ‘Clear Standing’. If your GPA falls below a 2.0 CGPA, academic probation or suspension may follow (please refer to the Academic Calendar for more information).
  • FSSH Electives

Tips for academic success!

  • Attend class regularly and be an active participant
    Class attendance directly relates to your success. However, attendance alone is not enough; you must be engaged in the learning process by participating, taking notes and being an active listener.
  • Know your course syllabus
    Know the course objectives, the grading scheme and the expectations. Be mindful of assignment due dates and lab and test dates. Put them in your calendar right away with reminders to help you remember.
  • Manage your time wisely and plan ahead
    Time management is critical to success in university. Create a schedule for yourself that includes study time as well as personal time. Use an online planner. Set goals for yourself and follow through on them.
  • Keep on top of your class readings and assignments
    Stay on top of things. Your tasks will seem less daunting if you tackle a bit each day. Read the chapters that correspond to lecture material prior to, or immediately after, the lecture. This will reinforce the material and help ingrain it in your memory.
  • Seek help when needed
    If there is something you don’t understand, seek help immediately before the problem snowballs. Your professors and teaching assistants (TAs) are there to help you—so don’t be afraid to reach out to them for help!

I'm struggling. What should I do?

  • Seek help immediately from your professors or teaching assistants (TAs)
    It is imperative that you understand course content and expectations, so speak to your professors and/or TAs to fill in the gaps in your understanding.
  • Visit the academic advising office
    Whether academic or personal—affecting your ability to maintain your academics, then your Academic Advising team may be able to help. Academic advisors can help you develop, modify and maintain a plan for academic success.
  • Re-evaluate your study habits and skills
    Poor grades are not necessarily indicative of academic ability but are often a sign of ineffective or poorly developed study habits/skills. Through the Student Learning Centre, you can identify and develop effective study habits.
  • Reduce your course load
    Students who reduce their course load by even one course often see significant improvements in all of their course grades. It is not necessary to always take a full, 100 per cent, course load. Many students take three or four courses in a semester because that is the level at which they can optimally perform. It is important to speak with your Academic Advisor prior to making any changes to your course load.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Which email should I should use to communicate?

    Each student is assigned an official university email account. Check your university email account on a regular basis. Vital information is communicated through this account, including: registration information, details of academic standing, important information from your academic advisor, and much more.

    Communication and etiquette

    It is important to realize how your style of communication can impact how others respond to you. Therefore, it is crucial to be
    clear and professional when communicating with faculty, staff and other students through email and Blackboard. Consider these basic guidelines:

    • Greetings and send-offs – Use professional language and address emails formally (e.g. Hello Professor,). Be sure to include your name and student number in your sign-off.
    • Tone - Watch the tone of your communication. In writing, tone can often be misinterpreted. You want to come across as respectful, friendly, and approachable. To avoid sounding curt or demanding, avoid using aggressive language or ALL CAPS!
    • Spelling and grammar - It is important to use correct spelling, proper grammar, punctuation and capitalization. You are more likely to get the appropriate response if your email is easy to read and understand.
    • Abbreviations or Internet slang - This does not present a professional image. Faculty and staff members may not easily
      interpret the abbreviations or Internet slang that you commonly use to communicate with your friends.
    • Be concise - Get to the point of your email as quickly as possible, but don’t leave out any important information or details. If you have ongoing communication always include the email history. Do not assume individuals will remember the details of your situation.
  • What if I miss a term test or assignment deadline?

    Each professor may treat missed work differently. It is important that you read your syllabi and that you are familiar with the policies for each class. Please see below for the general policy on who to contact in case of missed course work:

    Contact the course instructor directly about missed course work if you:

    • Miss course work that is worth 25 per cent or less of your final grade
    Contact Academic Advising about missed course work if you:
    • Miss a midterm or test
    • Miss a due date for course work worth 26 per cent or more of your final grade
    If missed course work is due to illness, students must have the Ontario Tech Medical Statement completed by their treating physician within 24 hours of the missed work. The documentation must be submitted to Academic Advising or the course instructor (please see above) within three business days. If you submit your documentation to Academic Advising and your request is approved, you will be notified to your university email and it will be at the discretion of your instructor to determine how to address the missed work.
  • What happens if I miss a final exam?

    Many first-year students fail to realize that support is available for them if they cannot attend a final examination. If you are unable to attend a final examination due to extreme medical or personal circumstances, you must:

    • Submit an online Application for Deferred Examinations to the Registrar’s Office and provide supporting documentation within three business days after the scheduled final exam date.

    Generally, documentation is in the form of a signed Ontario Tech medical statement. In the case of a death in the family, documentation is required (i.e. obituary or death certificate) within three business days after the scheduled final exam date.

    If your documentation is sufficient and your application is approved, you will be notified to your university email and will complete the final exam during the deferred final examination period, which is scheduled after all exams have taken place.


Important: academic honesty

Academic honesty and integrity are of utmost importance in university. Academic misconduct is a very serious offence and it takes many forms. It is important that you understand what academic misconduct entails in order to avoid it (see the Academic Calendar). Plagiarism is the most common form of academic misconduct and it is deemed by the academic calendar as “the act of presenting the ideas, words, or other intellectual property of another as one’s own. The use of other people’s work must be properly acknowledged and referenced in all written material.”

If you are deemed to have committed academic misconduct, the penalties are quite severe and could jeopardize your academic career. Therefore, if you have questions or concerns regarding academic misconduct, please contact your teaching assistant, professor, academic advisor or the Student Learning Centre.