You will encounter a whole new world of language at U of T. Below is a glossary of common academic terms to help orient you.
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 divided 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. Students registered with Accessibility Services may be eligible for note-taking support as an academic accommodation.
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: Orientation 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, the Centre for International Experience and First Nations House! This is a time to get to know the campus and the many people who will share your new community. Check out the Student Life orientation event calendar.
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.
ACORN & QUERCUS: You can view your course enrolments on ACORN — U of T’s student information system — as well as your financial account balance, and personal contact information like your email address. ACORN is a secure online system which safely archives all of your academic information, such as marks for each course. Quercus — Q for short — is not the same thing as ACORN, even though it has information about your current courses. You should log in to the Quercus often, to find information about your courses but keep in mind that ACORN 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 ACORN. Other classes might not require you to sign up for tutorials on ACORN, 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.