Liberal Studies is a flexible Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree program, since it does not require you to follow the requirements for a major. This allows you to explore your interests in many different areas or have a small area of subject concentration by adding one or two minors. While many students graduate with a BA in Liberal Studies, you can always switch out of Liberal Studies and into a major before graduation. One of the benefits of Liberal Studies is that it gives you more time to explore your interests and find the subject that's the best fit for you.
Complete your degree faster
As a Liberal Studies student, you take the same number of courses as you would for a general BA with a major, but you don't have to wait for required courses to be offered. Read more information about Liberal Studies degree requirements.
Broaden your horizons
Liberal Studies is a good fit for students with interests in a variety of subjects and for transfer students. Complete up to half of your courses in other faculties, at other universities, or via transfer credit from past studies.
Take courses online, on-campus, during the day or evening, part-time, or full-time. Because you don't have to take specific courses for a major, you can complete a Liberal Studies degree entirely online.
How to apply for liberal studies
- High school students - apply to Honours Arts on OUAC and work with your academic advisor once you are a Waterloo student.
- Transfer students (other schools or other UW faculties) - contact us to apply for admission.
- Waterloo Arts students - submit a plan modification form to request to change from your current program into Liberal Studies
Frequently asked questions
How do I declare my major?
Declaring a major usually means taking courses in that subject, and doing well in those courses. If you've decided to leave the Liberal Studies program and declare a major, there are a few steps you'll need to complete.
- Do your research. Review the areas of study, grads at work, and alumni profile pages. They explain each major and possible careers.
- Take courses in the subject area(s) you're interested in. Review our recommended major courses for Liberal Studies students.
- You need to take at least 2 courses in your major subject and meet the required average.
- You can declare a major at any time. If you don't meet the average for a major right away, continue taking courses that will help you improve your average.
- During February and March each year, the Arts Undergraduate Office and major departments host information sessions on-campus. Attend some of these sessions to learn more about your potential majors and finalize your choices. If you can't attend a session or have more detailed questions, contact the major advisors.
- To officially register yourself in a major, complete a plan modification form and submit it to the Arts Undergraduate Office (PAS 2439).
- Plan modification forms usually take 1-2 weeks to process, but an advisor may defer a decision on your request until they see your grades from the current term.
- To see your current program and any future changes, log in to Quest, click "My Academics," and then view the "my undergrad program" tab. If you don't see any change within 1-2 weeks of grades being official, you should contact the department to make sure that they received your form.
There are a few Arts majors available through online learning. If you don't see the major you want listed, it's because not enough courses in that subject are offered online to allow you to complete the requirements.
How do I calculate a major or minor average to see if I'm eligible?
First, you need to make a list of all courses you've taken in your major or minor subject. Make sure to check the plan requirements in the Undergraduate Calendar. Even if you have more courses than the minimum required for the major or minor, all of your grades in those courses will count towards your average.
To calculate your average, you just need to add up your grades in those courses and divide the sum by the number taken.
How long can I keep trying to get into a major?
In general, we recommend that if you have taken 5 or more courses in your major and are not very close to the average you need, you should seriously think about whether that subject is the right fit for you. There is no limit to how long you can keep trying to get into a major, but if you find yourself trying and not succeeding, you should talk to your advisor about alternative options.
How can I start to figure out what major or career would be right for me?
One of the joys of being a university student is having time for reflection to think about the larger issues in the world and within your own life. Spending some time thinking about what your values are, and how you could express them within a particular profession, is one of the most valuable things you can do for yourself while a university student.
Waterloo's Centre for Career Action can help guide you through this process. The best place to start is their Career Development eManual. The manual is an online course that you can complete at your own pace.
I just transferred into Liberal Studies from another faculty. What should I do next?
What if Quest won't let me enroll in a class?
There are a number of reasons why you might get an error message when trying to use Quest to enroll in a class. Use our enrolment problems and course overrides page to figure out why you can't enroll and what your next steps should be.
The Liberal Studies advisor can't add you to courses if you get an error message, so don't wait to speak with them prior to contacting the department or instructor if you want to get a course override
How can I improve my study skills?
The first thing to do is throw out all your former bad habits of “cramming” for exams and pulling “all-nighters” to get your essays finished. These are never good options for anyone!
If you are taking courses on campus, take advantage of the workshops and study sessions offered by the Student Success Office (SSO) each term. The SSO also has online resources and an online course in time management.
Don’t stop there! Another important aspect of study skills is to learn how to make best use of the library. Become familiar with the library website. There is even a section of the library site devoted to resources for online extended learning students. The library has many tutorials you can access covering all aspects of finding articles, citation, and avoiding academic dishonesty.
What advice would you give students thinking of dropping a course?
It can be very difficult to make the decision to drop a course when you've invested time, energy, and your tuition dollars into it.
However, if the class isn't going well—maybe you missed too much work due to illness, or you still aren't doing well despite attending classes and asking the professor for help—dropping it is often the best choice.
There is no academic penalty if you drop a course before the end of drop penalty period 2. During this time, you get a "WD" grade that has no effect on your average.
Your academic advisor can help you work through the pros and cons of dropping the course.
What happens if I drop a course?
If you drop a course within the first 3 weeks of term (before the end of the drop, no penalty period), the course won't appear on your transcript, and you'll get a full refund for the tuition you paid for the course.
If you drop a course during drop penalty period 1, you will see a "WD" grade on your transcript and will get a refund for 50% of the tuition you paid for the course.
If you drop a course during drop penalty period 2, you will see a "WD" grade on your transcript, but will not get a refund for the tuition you paid for the course.
A "WD" has no grade value and doesn't affect your average.
Warning! If you withdraw after the end of drop penalty period 2, you will automatically get a "WF" grade that is worth 32%. This grade will lower your average and potentially keep you from continuing in your studies. You should never drop a course after the end of drop penalty period 2 without talking to your advisor first.
What is the difference between my academic standing and my average?
Your academic standing is your average expressed in words, and depends on the program you're in. For more information, see academic standing - understanding your unofficial transcript.