by Charlene Aviles, Peak Associate
Disclaimer: The following tips may not work for everyone. Consider your situation, including but not limited to academic standing, grade point average (GPA), enrolment date, financial aid and international student visa requirements, and graduate school applications. Always consult the most recent academic calendar and your academic advisors.
Tip #1: Contact your academic advisor
The Facebook group “Must Knows for Courses at SFU” and the Rate My Professor website are popular methods of finding study groups and professor reviews, but these resources should only supplement academic advisors’ advice. Before contacting your academic advisor, use the Fall 2021 academic calendar to research course offerings and your program’s requirements. For now, there are no in-person appointments for advising, but you can contact advisors through workshops, drop-in appointments, LiveHelp, phone calls, and Zoom. Registration for appointments is available online at goSFU or by calling 778-782-6930. Whether you visit departmental advisors, Indigenous Student Centre staff, or NCAA academic advisors, review the academic advising syllabus and go to your appointment with a completed “New Student Academic Advising Information” form.
If you are considering using the Elective Grade System (P/CR/NC) option, watch the recorded information session on YouTube to understand the policies, excluded classes, and potential consequences, especially since the decision is permanent after the deadline. Also consider the pros and cons, future graduate school applications, and financial aid eligibility criteria, as SFU undergraduate scholarships have a minimum credit requirement per semester.
After you fulfill your program’s declaration requirements, immediately contact your departmental advisor to declare your major or minor. If you meet the minor’s requirements before your intended major’s declaration requirements, declare your minor to gain access to more classes. Otherwise, you may not be able to enrol in upper-division classes until the open enrolment date, since seats may be reserved for declared students only. Once you meet your intended major, minor, or certificate declaration requirements, do not forget to declare accordingly.
Tip #2: Combine your required courses into a spreadsheet
One organized document with all your required classes will help you see the big picture and focus on your graduation requirements. The academic calendar is a great resource, but since it lists course prerequisites, corequisites, breadth courses, and declaration requirements on separate web pages, you might accidentally exclude some courses. Be attentive to the breadth courses that simultaneously meet multiple requirements because these courses may help you fulfill degree requirements faster. Use this spreadsheet to note which courses meet each degree requirement and the number of credits per course.
First, create a list of your required classes for declaration, breadth requirements, course prerequisites, and the required amount of credits needed, such as the minimum number of upper-division credits. Compare your list to your advising transcript, which will help you keep track of your SFU credits as well as transfer credits, if applicable. After noting which courses you took, compare the total number of seats and sections per class. Prioritize your declaration requirements and course prerequisites, especially for classes with fewer sections or seats. Then, add electives to your schedule. Consider taking English courses as soon as possible, preferably in your first year, as these courses develop transferable skills, such as essay and argumentative writing.
Since the academic calendar contains changes every semester, always consult with the most recent version to update your document. Upper-level students should review their graduation checklist and undergo a graduation check to help inform their plans for the upcoming semesters.
Tip #3: Create a balanced schedule
A balanced schedule entails a manageable workload and regular breaks. Despite the pressure to complete a degree in four years, excessive course loads might inadvertently drop your GPA and possibly lead to you repeating courses.
The transition to a new learning environment may be overwhelming, so try and adapt to one to three courses to prepare yourself for a greater workload. Consider incorporating electives, required courses, and breadth requirements into your schedule. Unless you are a STEM student, I do not recommend taking all quantitative courses in one semester. For courses with labs and tutorials, the additional time commitment combined with lectures, commuting, employment, and extracurricular activities may lead to burnout.
Since SFU announced that 80% of Fall 2021 courses will be in person, pay close attention to potential time conflicts due to different campus locations. If you create a draft of your schedule using MySchedule on goSFU, it will help you identify potential time conflicts and set aside time for commuting.
Tip #4: Have a backup plan
A late enrolment date may limit your options for course selection. If you cannot enrol in your first-choice classes, prepare a list of alternative classes to enrol into, such as electives or breadth requirements. To learn more about electives, check out some sample lectures online. You can view course preview videos from departments like english, philosophy, economics, cognitive science, and labour studies.
For upper-level students who already completed their breadth and declaration requirements, join a waitlist. If you have a friend already in a class you are waitlisted for, contact them for any upcoming assignment deadlines. While on the waitlist, consider asking the professor for permission to sit in on the lectures, and do not lose hope. As long as you waitlist as soon as possible, you may have a chance. In the first two weeks of classes, many students withdraw and enrol in classes, which shifts your waitlist position. This semester, I was originally 27th on a course waitlist but managed to enrol into a class on the last day of enrolment.
If none of the above is applicable, consider planning summer courses to catch up on credits. Since your priority in enrolment dates may shift with time, taking summer courses while you still have an early enrolment date may offset a late enrolment date.
For assistance in navigating goSFU and mySchedule, video tutorials are available for streaming on SFU’s website.