Academic culture can vary greatly from one country to another, and many students need time to adjust to new rules and expectations. We can help you understand how things work at U of T.
Talk to a CIE transition advisor about any classroom challenges you might be facing. Getting tips from someone who knows the system can be a big help.
Each student is registered at the University through a college or faculty registrar’s office. Your registrar's office can help you with most aspects of your life at U of T, especially administrative tasks. This includes course enrolment as well as making changes after courses begin, such as adding and dropping courses. There are deadlines for making most changes and your registrar will notify you of important dates throughout each semester.
If you have been admitted to the Faculty of Arts & Science, your registrar will be one of the colleges at U of T.
Most students are required to enrol in courses online using ACORN/ROSI, which is also your online access to financial information.
You will have an opportunity to choose your courses before the start of the academic year. You will be assigned specific dates to complete the enrolment process – this is often referred to as your course enrolment window. It is important that you meet these deadlines because courses can fill up quickly!
Your faculty or college registrar will guide you on the necessary steps for enrolling in courses and completing program requirements. Rules differ between faculties, but generally students can take courses offered by many departments within their faculty, while focusing their studies in one or more subject areas. Graduate and professional faculty students will be directly admitted to a specific department. Undergraduate students in the Faculty of Arts & Science, University of Toronto Scarborough, and University of Toronto Mississauga will decide at the end of their first year which departments or programs of study they wish to focus on.
Each faculty publishes an Academic Calendar, which can easily be found online. Your faculty's Calendar contains important information related to your academic studies, including degree requirements, departmental program requirements and course offerings.
Take the time to review your options carefully. It is your responsibility to ensure that you are following the rules and regulations of the University. If something is unclear, talk to your faculty or college registrar's office. They are there to help!
Adding and dropping courses
You may add new courses beyond the dates of your initial enrolment window and even after courses have begun, in most cases.
If you don’t want to continue your enrolment in a class for whatever reason, you may be able to formally remove yourself from the course. This is referred to as dropping a course.
Remember that there are deadlines for making changes in each semester. Also, the last day to drop a course is often later than the deadline to add a new one, making it impossible to pick up a course in exchange for the one dropped.
The University of Toronto operates on a strict time schedule. Missing deadlines can have serious negative consequences, for example:
- Inability to get into necessary courses
- Penalty fees
- Failed courses permanently on your academic record due to missing the drop date
- Removal from your program
- Removal from the University
Some important dates to consider include:
- Course enrolment window: This is when you and other students at your academic level have special access to ROSI to complete course enrolment for the new academic year. You can still add a course until the add deadline date, but many courses will fill up during the initial course enrolment period.
- Fees deadlines: Failing to pay fees on time may result in penalty fees, being dropped from courses and even being deregistered from the University.
- End-of-semester examinations: Be aware of the date of publication of the exam timetable. You should not book winter or summer vacation airplane tickets until you are sure of the examination dates, because you will not be permitted to reschedule the exams.
Note: Each faculty has different dates for these events, which you can check online at your faculty registrar’s website.
Common academic terms
Academic faculty: This is the part of the University which you have been admitted to. Whether it is the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, the Faculty of Arts & Science, or one of several other faculties, this is where you will complete the requirements of your degree.
Academic session: This refers to the formal division of the academic year. At UTM and the St. George campus, the regular academic year is divided into two sessions: the Fall Session, which runs from early September to late December, and the Winter Session, which runs from early January to late April. Sometimes you may hear the Winter Session referred to as the "Spring" Session. Many faculties also offer a Summer Session, which runs from mid-May until late August. UTSC is on a "trimester" system which means that Fall, Winter and Summer form a group of three equal sessions.
College: The Faculty of Arts & Science at the St. George campus is quite large, and therefore it is divided up into smaller communities called colleges. If you are an Arts & Science student, your college will run orientations and student events, house your Registrar's Office and offer special scholarships and bursaries.
Course: Academic departments offer many individual courses which are taught by a course instructor. The instructor (usually called a "professor”) teaches students about the course subject matter, and evaluates their understanding using assessment methods such as written assignments and examinations. The details of each course are explained in the syllabus, which is also called a course outline. All courses have a U of T credit value; half-credit courses usually run for only one term, whereas full-credit courses usually run for the full academic year.
Degree and program requirements: All degree-seeking students must complete the requirements for earning their degree before they can graduate. For example, completion of twenty course credits is required for an undergraduate degree in the Faculty of Arts & Science. In most cases, completion of a degree includes satisfying the requirements of departmental programs as well. This refers to specific combinations of courses which add up to a program, such as a Major in Biochemistry or a Specialist in Anthropology. More information about these requirements is available from the departments or your registrar.
Lecture: Every week you will be expected to attend lectures for each of your courses. This is where the instructor will teach about the course material. Some lectures take place in very large rooms because many students are enrolled in the course, whereas others might be much smaller. It is a good idea to attend all of the lectures scheduled in each course. You will be expected to record your own detailed notes of the lecture content. You will refer back to these notes when completing assignments and preparing for exams, so it is a good idea to learn techniques for taking excellent notes.
Laboratory / practical: Students who are studying science and engineering disciplines will most likely have laboratory sessions associated with their courses as well. These are important sessions where you will learn laboratory techniques and complete experiments to enhance your understanding of the course material discussed in lectures and the textbook(s).
Orientation Week: Often called "Frosh Week," this week usually takes place in early September and is intended to help new students learn about the University and City of Toronto. Many organizations within the University host events during Orientation Week: your academic faculty or college, your student government, and even the Centre for International Experience! This is a time to get to know the campus and the many people who will share your new community.
Reading week: This is a week-long break in February, right in the middle of the winter term. It is a good time to catch up on reading and other assignments, but it can also be a nice time to enjoy Canadian Winter experiences such as skiing and snowboarding. Some academic faculties also have a short "reading break" during the Fall Term.
Registrar: The registrar of your college or academic faculty is there to help you with administrative tasks. If you need course advising or special permission to get into a class or to delay your tuition payment, they can help. In fact, they can help with most questions or challenges that you might encounter. Don't hesitate to contact your registrar's office for assistance.
ROSI and the Portal / Blackboard: You can view your course enrolments on ROSI (Repository Of Student Information), as well as your financial account balance, and personal contact information like your email address. ROSI is a secure online system which safely archives all of your academic information, such as marks for each course. The Portal (also called Blackboard) is not the same thing as ROSI, even though it has information about your current courses. You should log in to the Portal often, to find information about your courses and the U of T community, but keep in mind that ROSI is the more formal academic records system.
Term and semester: Please note that the words “Term” and “Semester” are also used to mean the same thing as “Session”. In fact, the Fall Session is usually called “First Term” while the Winter Session is usually called “Second Term”. Together, the First and Second Terms make up a Full Academic Year (which does not include the Summer).
Tutorial: Depending on what program you are in, tutorials can mean different things. If you are an Arts & Science student in a large lecture class, you may find that when you register for the class you will also be asked to sign up for a tutorial — these are smaller classes (up to 30 people) led by a teaching assistant, in which you are expected to actively participate. These types of tutorials are mandatory and you will see them show up on your weekly schedule on ROSI. Other classes might not require you to sign up for tutorials on ROSI, but will ask you to do it less formally in class after lectures have begun for the term.
Winter break: Winter break typically starts in late December and lasts for about two weeks. This marks the end of the Fall Term. The beginning of the Winter Term starts when students return from Winter Break.
What is academic integrity?
Integrity means living your life with the values of honesty, trust, fairness, respect and responsibility, through good times and bad. Academic integrity is applying those same values to all academic pursuits, even in the face of challenge. Academic integrity applies to every member of the University, and acting with academic integrity helps preserve a community where:
- Competition is fair and honest work is rewarded;
- Students are developing the personal and professional skills needed for success, like time management, effective research/writing, independent thinking, and ethical judgement;
- Intellectual property is respected;
- Our degrees continue to receive the respect and recognition they deserve.
As an international student, you will already have an idea of what academic integrity means from your previous studies. Although the concept is the same, the conventions around what constitutes academic dishonesty may be different. Be sure to inform yourself about what is required at U of T. You can do this by accessing resources at U of T like your course Teaching Assistant (TA) or instructor, the U of T Libraries and the Office of Student Academic Integrity (OSAI) website. Topics covered include how to cite appropriately, types of academic misconduct and other frequently asked questions.
Helping to ensure that the University maintains its reputation for excellence and the highest level of integrity in all areas is the responsibility of everyone in the community – including you!
Where can I get more help?
If you still have questions about academic offences, talk to your registrar. And always ask your TA or instructor if you aren’t sure what they expect.
CIE offers workshops on citation and paraphrase to help you get used to the University of Toronto’s conventions around academic integrity. Check the CIE events page for upcoming sessions or contact Cathy Maloney.
If you need more help, check out some of the academic support offered at U of T:
Student rights and responsibilities
You have the right to study in a fair, safe and accessible environment. U of T has a variety of policies and guidelines in place to support you.
Your rights and responsibilities as a student at U of T are governed by two sets of rules. The conduct of students in academic matters is governed by the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters (PDF), and the conduct of students in non-academic activities is governed by the Code of Student Conduct (PDF).