Transitioning to university is a big deal! We know you're going to experience many changes and encounter experiences and systems that you've never dealt with before. We've put together some key information to help you get a jump start on making the move to university!
Tips for success in university
You know university is much different than high school, but you might not have a sense of how different it will be. Here are some key points to help you get ready.
- Your instructors will give you course outlines and expect you to come prepared to class.
- The volume of work is higher than you might expect.
- Class sizes tend to be much larger than high school.
- Instructors will assume you understand material unless you tell them otherwise.
- Deadlines are non-negotiable.
The first six weeks is a time of transition for university students. Here are some of the things you can do to help ease the transition:
- Read your course outline - it has deadlines, expectations, and other important information.
- Create a work-back schedule on your calendar - plan ahead so that you’ll meet deadlines and be ready for exams.
Go to class
- In class, you’ll get extra material like examples and tips from the professor.
- Look at course content at least 3 times to help you be successful on tests - class counts as one of those three times.
While you’re in class…
- Sit near the front of the room to eliminate distractions.
- Sit in the same spot each day, your instructors will get to know you.
- Higher level of contact with instructors has been linked to higher levels of learning.
- Visit instructor or Teaching Assistant office hours if you have questions about course content.
Deal with adversity
- Remember: rough patches aren’t always a bad thing.
- Working through problems helps you learn and grow.
- Speak up if you’re struggling. Your instructors are willing to help if they know you need it.
Enjoy your university experience by...
- Seeking life balance;
- Scheduling breaks;
- Exploring things you enjoy and meeting new people.
Tips for university lectures
- Prepare for lectures by doing any assigned readings and reviewing your notes from the previous class. By doing so, you are more likely to be an active listener in class, take notes efficiently and understand lecture content thoroughly.
- Pay attention to verbal and non-verbal cues from your professor to help you decide what information should be recorded in your notes.
- Remove all distractions while you are in class.
- Enhance your learning by organizing your notes well:
- Collect key ideas, questions and terminology in the margins.
- Use descriptive headings.
- Create a summary of each topic in your own words.
- Combine lecture notes with the notes you’ve taken from your readings. Look for connections, relationships and comparisons between concepts. Review regularly – don’t just memorize.
- Your instructors are here to help. Always ask for help or clarification sooner rather than later!
At the University of Waterloo, we have a variety of helpful online systems to become familiar with. Get a head start here.
LEARN is a web-based learning management system that enables UWaterloo instructors to interact easily and efficiently with you outside the physical classroom. You’ll use LEARN to access course materials, submit assignments, and complete activities, quizzes and assessments. LEARN is a component of on-campus courses and a platform for exclusively online courses.
Quest is UWaterloo’s student information system. You’ll use Quest to view your finances and academic standing.
Thanks to WatIAM, you will log into most online systems at the university using the same user ID and password (LEARN, Quest, etc). Visit the WatIAM website to change your password or authentication questions.
Your official UWaterloo email account is provided by Microsoft Office 365 Education. The University sends all communication to this account. Professors and faculty administration will also communicate with you using this account, so it’s important you check it regularly. You can learn more about your cloud-based email on the Information Systems & Technology website.
Your Student Portal delivers the information you need, just when you need it. The portal is designed to make your life at UWaterloo easier.
Download the WatSAFE app to your device to receive push notifications in case of major campus emergencies. The app includes emergency contact information, a personal safety toolbox with flashlight and alarm, and campus maps.
Moving and navigating campus
Relocating to come to UWaterloo in September? We know that for many of you this will be your first time living somewhere new and that you might be unsure of what to expect. These tools can help you get the most out of your time living here!
Take a virtual tour of UWaterloo before you arrive with this interactive campus map.
Staying in residence?
- Packing tips – what to bring
- Move-in information
- Learn more about your building
- About the City of Waterloo
Where you live plays an important role in giving you experiences you’ll treasure for a lifetime. The video below will help you learn more about the residence experience.
Living off campus?
Orientation is an opportunity for new students to experience an introduction to the academic, social and community aspects of life at UWaterloo.
Fall Orientation takes place in September and registration is open. Head to the Orientation website to learn more and to register!
Financing your education
- More about your student account - information for parents and students, terminology, and instructions
- FAQs from the Student Awards and Financial Aid department
- Notes about Registered Education Savings Plans and proof of enrollment
- The Important Dates Calendar is an important page to bookmark so that you don't miss any deadlines!
Have questions about your account? Be sure to contact Student Accounts sooner than later to avoid their busy times right before deadlines!
If you have questions and/or concerns related to your academic studies, please contact the appropriate advisor for your program:
|Academic integrity||Office of Academic Integrity: Needles Hall (NH)|
|Bookstore||South Campus Hall (SCH), first floor|
|Co-operative Education & Centre for Career Action||Tatham Centre (TC)|
|Feds Used Books||Student Life Centre (SLC), lower level
519-888-4567 ext. 32390
|The Library||Dana Porter (DP)
Davis Centre (DC)
St. Jerome’s University (STJ)
Renison University College (REN)
Conrad Grebel University College (CGR)
Optometry Building (OPT)
Architecture Building (Cambridge)
|The Writing Centre||South Campus Hall (SCH), second floor
519-888-4567 ext. 84410
Finances and administration
|Registrar's Office||Needles Hall (NH), second floor|
|Student Awards and Financial Aid||Needles Hall (NH), second floor
518-888-4567 ext. 33583
|Student Financial Services||East Campus 5 (EC5) 4053|
|WatCard||Student Life Centre (SLC), lower level inside Campus Tech
519-888-4567 ext. 32751
Accessibility, health and wellness
|AccessAbility Services||Needles Hall (NH) 1401
519-888-4567 ext. 35082
|Athletics and Recreational Services||Physical Activities Complex (PAC), Red North|
|Counselling Services||Needles Hall (NH) 2401
519-888-4567 ext. 32655
|Health Services||Health Services (HS)|
|UW Food Services||Various locations across campus|
Safety and parking
|Police Services||Commissary (COM) 154
Available 24 hours, 7 days a week
Commissary (COM) 154
WatSAFE is an app that provides access to campus safety and emergency resources, including:
|Federation of Students (Feds)||Student Life Centre (SLC) 1102|
|Glow Centre for Sexual and Gender Diversity||Student Life Centre (SLC) 2102
519-888-4567 ext. 38569
|Retail Services||South Campus Hall (SCH), first floor|
|Student Success Office (SSO)||South Campus Hall (SCH), second floor
519-888-4567 ext. 84410
|Turnkey Desk||Student Life Centre (SLC)
|Waterloo Aboriginal Education Centre||St. Paul's University College (STP) 232|
|Women's Centre||Student Life Centre (SLC) 2101
519-888-4567 ext. 33457
|Visitor's Centre||South Campus Hall (SCH), first floor
519-888-4567 ext. 33614
AHS resources and lingo
If you have questions and/or concerns related to your academic studies, please contact your program advisor by following the appropriate link below:
- Public Health advisors
- Health Studies advisors
- Kinesiology advisors
- Recreation advisors (all majors)
AHS Computing Office
AHS Computing is a team of Information Technology (IT) specialists in the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences. They provide IT support and consultation on all aspects of computing to the AHS community. The AHS Computing Office Help Desk is located in B.C. Matthews Hall (BMH) 1037.
An AHSSIE (pronounced "awe-zee") is a member of the Applied Health Sciences community. AHS students often refer to themselves as AHSSIES.
AHSUM (pronounced "AWE-some") stands for Applied Health Sciences Undergraduate Members. As your student society, they coordinate social events (meet and greets, BBQs, beach trips, etc.) and offer a number of services for undergraduate students in the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences. The AHSUM office is located in B.C. Matthews Hall (BMH) 1035A, within the Lounge.
Visit the AHSUM website to learn more about the services they offer to AHS students.
Applied Health Sciences Endowment Fund
Your AHS endowment fund (AHSEF) supports student-initiated projects that enhance the academic environment and student life of undergraduate AHS students. Each semester, AHS undergraduate students are encouraged to submit proposals to have their projects and/or events funded.
Visit the AHSEF website to learn more about the projects funded by this student-led group.
B.C. Matthews Hall (or Burt Matthews Hall).
BMH Green is the grassy area outside of BMH. It's a well-loved area where you'll often find AHS students playing frisbee and hanging out.
The Lyle Hallman Institute for Health Promotion (LHI) is the building attached to BMH.
The Lounge (B.C. Matthews Hall 1035) is a space for AHS undergraduate students and a popular hangout, located in BMH. The AHSUM office and a bookable study room are located inside the Lounge. Doors to the Lounge are in the main BMH foyer.
weCONNECTu is a student-led program that offers peer support programming for new AHS students. You are invited to attend weCONNECTu social events and academic workshops, and to sign up to be matched with an upper-year student in your program. If you're interested in being paired with a mentor, contact weCONNECTu by email.
Learn more about peer mentorship in AHS by visiting the weCONNECTu website.
Upon enrollment, each student at UWaterloo is assigned to an undergraduate academic advisor for their specific academic program or major. Academic advisors assist students with questions about course selection, timetable concerns, regulations, policies, grade appeals or petitions. They can advise students on program and plan requirements, academic standing or academic difficulties.
As a UWaterloo student, you’ll explain which academic term you’re in using a number and letter (e.g. 1A). The number, ranging from 1 to 4, refers to your year. The letter, either A or B, refers to the term, with ‘A’ being the first term of the year and ‘B’ being the second.
Note: In some academic plans, advancement to the next level is dependent on the successful completion of the previous term. In other academic plans, advancement is dependent on the successful completion of a specified number of units (or courses).
AccessAbility Services provides resources to students with permanent or temporary disabilities. AccessAbility can connect you with note-taking assistants, learning tools, tutoring/editing support, exam accommodations and physical resources, including the student access van.
To learn more, visit the AccessAbility Services website.
The Bombshelter Pub (Bomber) is UWaterloo’s on-campus pub, located in the SLC. It offers a relaxing place for students to eat and hang out with friends and faculty. You can try your luck at Trivia Night, come in for Bomber Breakfast, or enjoy talented performances by amateur and professional musicians.
Columbia Icefield (CIF) is one of UWaterloo’s two athletics facilities on campus. CIF features a fitness centre, three gymnasiums, a fitness studio, an arena, a ball diamond and five playing fields
More information about the fitness facilities and programs on campus can be found on the Waterloo Warriors website.
Counselling Services supports your personal and interpersonal functioning through individual, group and peer support counselling. You can also access wellness workshops delivered by their professional team.
More information about support services at UWaterloo can be found on the Campus Wellness website.
Dons are upper-year UWaterloo students, who are responsible for the development of inclusive and positive housing communities. There are two types of dons – on-campus and off-campus – and both support and encourage student goal development.
On campus, you will see Front Desk Assistants (FDAs) behind every reception desk in residence. These student leaders will answer your questions, receive packages for you and provide you with outstanding customer service. You can even borrow games and movies from them!
Federated University and Affiliated Colleges
Also known as University Colleges. These small, unique communities have their own character, history, traditions and programming. The University Colleges are not-for-profit institutions that maintain an independent identity, but are fully affiliated with and integrated into the larger UWaterloo campus.
The Federation of Students (Feds) is UWaterloo's undergraduate student government. Feds has a mandate to serve, empower and represent students, and oversees over 200 student clubs. Feds offers a variety of services, operates several businesses, supports student societies and facilitates a wide range of special events and activities for students, both on- and off-campus.
Being “Fees Arranged” means that you have shown us how you intend to cover your fees for that term, and made a commitment to pay all the fees charged to your student account, even if financial aid is denied or turns out to be less than you expected. Fees are charged one term at a time and you must become Fees Arranged each term.
Flex dollars and meal plan money both live on your WatCard. Flex dollars allow you to purchase food outside of UWaterloo residence cafeterias, including several local restaurants and grocery stores. You or your family members can load flex dollars to your WatCard by going online. More information can be found on the WatCard website.
Grand River Transit (GRT) is the local public transit system for the Waterloo Region. GRT buses go directly to the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University from Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge. GRT is currently building a new light-rail transit system, called the ION. Your WatCard grants you unlimited riding privileges on GRT.
Medical staff are here on campus to provide you with primary healthcare and to promote a safe, healthy environment for students. You can access walk-in care, immunizations, testing, allergy injections, family planning and nutritional counselling at Health Services, as well as an on-site laboratory and dispensary.
The Athletics and Recreation mascot at UWaterloo is a lion called King Warrior.
Office Hours are dedicated times that instructors, professors, and teaching assistants are available in their office for students to drop by to ask questions about course content and assignments.
The Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) offers financial support to students pursuing post-secondary edication in Ontario. To be eligible for funding, you’ll need to apply and complete the required paperwork. More information can be found on the OSAP website.
The Physical Activities Complex (PAC) is one of UWaterloo’s two athletics facilities on campus. The PAC houses the university pool, a large gymnasium, a high-performance zone, squash courts, studios and the Athletics Office. Many students will have final exams in this building.
More information about the fitness facilities and programs on campus can be found on the Waterloo Warriors website.
The Registrar’s Office is responsible for academic dates, course scheduling, transcript requests and final exam scheduling. For more information, visit the Registrar's Office website.
The Student Life Centre (SLC) is the hub for student life at UWaterloo. Home to the Federation of Students and their many services, the building also offers study space, multi-use prayer rooms and piano rooms.
Student Access Van
Students with a temporary or permanent disability should contact AccessAbility Services to arrange pick-up with the Student Access Van.
A course outline, or syllabus, is a contract between the instructor of a class and their students. The syllabus sets out the weekly schedule, required readings, assignment parameters, class expectations and contact information for the instructors.
Teaching Assistants (TAs) are assigned to help professors facilitate lectures, tutorials, office hours and marking.
The Turnkey desk is an information and service kiosk located in the SLC. It is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, including holidays. Turnkey has discounted movie tickets and an inter-city transportation desk, and is the place to go to book space in the SLC or ask questions.
Your WatCard is your most important piece of identification on campus. You’ll use your WatCard to use library services, travel on the local bus system (Grand River Transit) and access campus athletics facilities. During the final exam period, you must show your WatCard to be admitted into exam rooms. You can load money onto your WatCard and use it like a debit card to purchase food and other items at several locations. Visit the WatCard website to check your account balance and for more information.
Questions or concerns
Contact your academic advisor
Academic advisors can help with any questions or concerns related to your academic studies. Please contact the appropriate advisor for your program:
Contact the Student Success Office
The Student Success Office has resources that can help during your first year of university:
- Workshops are offered on campus to help improve your academic performance, manage stress or prepare for your future.
- Make a success coaching appointment with an upper-year peer success coach for help with setting goals, time management, study strategies or test anxiety.
- Peer mentorship programs can connect you with upper-year mentors who act as a non-judgmental, approachable and knowledgeable first resource and support system.
- Need academic support? Drop-in tutoring is available each term for a variety of courses. On Tutor Connect, you can search for a tutor or register to be a tutor for a specific course.
- Away from campus? Check out our online resources that you can access anywhere.
If you have questions, you can email the Student Success Office or call them at 519-888-4567 ext. 84410.
Resources for parents
The Student Success Office can help you support your university student. Use their online and in-person resources to help your student achieve success.
Visit the Student Success Office Parent Resources website for
- the differences between high school and university,
- tips for connecting with your student,
- how to prepare for second year, and more.