The School of Computer Science requires all incoming graduate students to attend orientation. Orientation events are organized to familiarize students with graduate studies in Computer Science. Orientation combines important information sessions with some social events. 

A schedule of events will be available closer to the beginning of term.

All graduate students are required to attend a TA training session as part of their orientation.


  • Meeting Admission conditions and accessing your fee statement

    If you have met all the conditions on your Offer of Admission and have received a Letter of Acceptance, your fee statement will be posted on your Quest account. Please note that Scholarship funding will be posted under anticipated aid in Quest but TA/RA funding will not be posted immediately.

    If you still have outstanding conditions, you will need to go to the Graduate Studies Office on the third floor of Needles Hall to clear the conditions (outstanding final transcripts etc.). A fee statement will not be posted on Quest until you have cleared the outstanding conditions.

  • Pay or arrange payment of your fees

    Students can arrange to have the fees deducted from term funding. If you have enough scholarship/award funding in your Quest anticipated aid for the upcoming term to cover your fees, you can arrange fees electronically. Fee arrangement instructions can be found on the Finance website.

    If fees are not paid by the due date, late fees will be added incrementally over the first few weeks of the term.

  • Enroll in courses

    Enrolment in graduate courses is handled through the on-line information system, Quest. Students are advised to consult with their supervisor prior to enrolling in courses on-line.

    If you intend to take an undergraduate CS course, you will need to see one of the CS Undergraduate Advisors to get permission to enroll in the course.

    A drop/add form is required for undergraduate courses, independent reading courses, and courses taken for audit. For undergraduate courses, the form must be signed by an undergraduate advisor giving permission to take the course. Forms for graduate and audit courses require the signature of the instructor.

    Initial course selections must be entered into student Quest system by the end of the first month in the program. Courses can be dropped or added using a drop/add form.

  • UW ID

    Once you have registered, you will be able to pick up your WatCard at the WatCard Office (SLC). The WatCard is your UW photo ID that is needed to access many facilities and services both on and off campus. You will need it to access the library, computer labs and facilities in the PAC. You can also use it to purchase food at the Food Services outlets on campus, photocopying and printing services. You will be required to show photo identification (driver's license or passport).

Office assignment and key permit

  • Your office assignment can be obtained from the Computer Science Graduate Office, DC 2599. (full-time on-campus students only)
  • You will need a key to your office that will also give you access to the lounge. You may also need a key to the research lab. Please go to Reception in the School of Computer Science Graduate Office (DC 2599).  You will be given a key form that must be taken to Key Control to get your key.

Study permit

All international students receiving financial assistance, must supply the CS Graduate Office with a copy of a valid study permit before payment can be issued. A copy of the original study permit must also be uploaded to Quest.

Sign-up for payroll

If you will be paid as a Teaching or Research Assistant, you will need your Social Insurance Number (SIN) and bank account information. Your monthly pay will be deposited into your bank account on the last Friday of the month. If you do not receive your pay, contact the Computer Science Graduate Office (DC 2599). You will need the following forms: Federal TD1, Ontario TD1, and the Personal Information Form (payroll link).

Teaching assistantship

  • Check the TA listing posted on Odyssey to find out which course you will assist in. If you have any questions about the assignment, contact the Computer Science Graduate Office  (DC 2599). 
  • Attend the Faculty of Mathematics TA training session held each September. This session is compulsory for all incoming graduate students for that academic year. The date and time will be available in the orientation schedule for the fall term. You will also learn about the computing environment for the course. 
  • Discuss your specific TA duties with the professor or lab coordinator responsible for supervising your TA assignment. 
  • Continuation of TA funding is contingent on satisfactory academic and TA performance. Ask for feedback on your performance and be open to suggestions for improvement. If you have any problems carrying out your TA duties, discuss the situation with the professor or lab coordinator in charge of the course. 
  • In order to carry out your TA duties, you will be required to communicate in English. If you are not fluent in English, sign up for one of the English as a Second Language (EMLS) courses offered on campus. For more information contact the English Language Institute.

Research assistantship

  • Most incoming students have been accepted by a researcher. Unless you have an NSERC or other scholarship your RA support comes from the researcher's grants. Contact your advisor to find out your specific RA duties.
  • RA funding is normally continued beyond the first year if the student is actively involved in a research project.

Scholarship payments

NSERC, OGS, GO-Bell, ICR Doctoral and UW Graduate Scholarships will be paid once a term by bank deposit after the outstanding fees have been paid. For more detailed information please see the webpage for scholarship information.

Other funding information

  • You should review the University's guidelines on graduate student funding to understand our mutual responsibilities with regard to financial support.
  • The Graduate Studies Office maintains a searchable database that contains information on the scholarships you can apply for.
  • Important: If you accept our offer it is recommended that you bring along two copies of sealed transcripts from each of your previous universities. This will make it much easier to apply for scholarships once at the University of Waterloo. 

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Finding Your Way Around the Campus

The computer science department

The Davis Centre (DC) houses the administrative staff, faculty, and grad student offices of the School of Computer Science, as well as research laboratories, and ICR facilities. Getting around the building can be a little confusing at first. Although there are maps strategically located throughout the building, each map shows only one section.

Your address at the university:

(Your Name)

Graduate Studies
David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science
University of Waterloo 200 University Avenue West 
Waterloo, ON
Canada N2L 3G1

Grad student offices

Most full-time registered grad students have offices in the Davis Centre but a few are in the Math and Computer Building. The Computer Science Graduate Office looks after the assignment of offices to grad students. All offices have computer equipment consisting of X-terminals or PC's. The equipment is shared by all the occupants of the office.

CS lounge

Located on the third floor of the Davis Centre, the lounge is equipped with a sink, refrigerator, coffee machine, kettle, a couple of microwave ovens and comfortable furniture for use by the faculty, staff and grad students. Your office key will give you access to the lounge during off-hours. The grad mailboxes are located on the second floor in DC 2583. Outside mail and university mail is deposited in your mailbox Monday to Friday between 9:30 - 3:30 pm. Notices about seminars, academic and research positions, thesis defenses, scholarships, etc. are posted on the bulletin boards in the School's main administrative corridor on the 2nd floor and outside DC 2583.


It is very important to go to seminars, especially those in your area of interest. (Note that it is equally important for master's as for PhD students to attend these seminars). The seminars provide an opportunity to become acquainted with current research in the School and elsewhere, and serve as an opportunity for social interaction with fellow students and faculty.

Computer Science Graduate Advocate

The Grad Advocate is a faculty member to whom a student can turn, if the student wants to discuss something that directly concerns the student's graduate program, but which the student feels is inappropriate to direct to either the student's supervisor or the official Director of Graduate Studies.

Computer Science Graduate Student Association (CS GSA)

The CS GSA, located in DC 2533, represents the graduate students when dealing with issues that affect the quality of student life in the School, helps organize orientation events and other student activities. The CS GSA representative maintains a mailing list of students. If you want your name added to or removed from this list, please send email to If you are interested in serving on any of the committees in the School, you should contact the CS GSA representative. We encourage you to be an active participant in this organization.

University of Waterloo Graduate Student Association (UW GSA)

The UW GSA also plays an important role on campus to promote quality of student life. During the term it arranges social activities and services important to students such as legal clinics and tax clinics. The GSA also works with the Graduate Studies Office to organize the Graduate Student Research Conference.

Some places on campus of interest to CS grad students

Mathematics and Computer Building (MC) Administrative offices for the Faculty of Mathematics, Math Faculty Computing Facility (MFCF), classrooms and teaching labs for most computer science courses, computer store
Student Financial Services (EC 5) Cashier's office
Physical Activities Complex (PAC) Gymnasium, pool, diving facilities, squash courts
Grad House UW Grad Student Association, snacks and sandwiches, beer, darts, TV, laid-back atmosphere
Student Life Centre TurnKey's desk, bank, hair salon, eateries, special events, pharmacy, physiotherapist, etc.
South Campus Hall (SCH) Bookstore, travel agent, gift store, counselling

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The A-Z of Computing

All CS grad students are given UNIX accounts on the central machines managed by the Computer Science Computing Facility. Accounts are created automatically when you are officially registered (i.e. you have paid your fees). Your supervisor can make an account available on a research machine if you are required to do research work for an RA. Your user ID consists of all your initials followed by your surname truncated to 8 characters (e.g. for T.C. Jones, it is tcjones; for H Rumplestiltskin, it is hrumples). Identical userids are distinguished by a number between the initials and the surname (e.g. for I.M.A.Twin, the second instance of this id is ima2twin). The password will be set when you show identification to the MFCF/CSCF Consultants in MC 3017.

To determine your actual disk quota, use the command diskquota. Note that your mailbox, possibly other system files, file server overhead, and files you've created in someone else's account are all included in the total. For disk quota beyond that automatically allocated for your course work, thesis, etc., you must have your supervisor's sponsorship.

News groups, email and the web

A variety of information is available electronically. CS grad students should read uw.cs.grad and uw.talks. Social and administrative notices will be posted in the newsgroup uw.cs.grad. Seminar notices are posted on the computer in the news group uw.talks. All students use electronic mail to communicate with friends, course instructors and their supervisors. Many faculty and grad students have homepages on the World Wide Web. If you want to know University regulations for grad studies or thesis regulations, you can find them on the Grad Studies web site.


Please read printing guide.

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CS grad courses are described in the handbook pages on the web. The 800 series courses given in the upcoming term will have a description on the bulletin board outside the Computer Science Grad Office, DC 3317. The 600-level courses are taught together with 4th year undergrads, whereas the 700 and 800 series courses are for graduate students only. Also, the 700 and 800 series courses often have substantially smaller classes, often require less mechanical work (i.e. weekly assignments involving hundreds of hours in front of the terminal) and are more research oriented. There are about five to eight 700 and 800 series courses offered each term. Note however, that the 800-level courses are usually offered one-time only. Even if there might be a CS 860 every year, the courses can be (and usually are) completely different.

Master's students must take at least two courses your first term. Four courses is very tough if this is your first term at Waterloo. Three courses is often about right. You may also have specific course requests depending on your admission.

Heavy workload courses

CS 644 Compiler Construction
CS 652 Real-time Programming
CS 688 Introduction to Computer Graphics

If you value your sanity and want to sleep more than 1 hour a week, do not take all of these at once! In fact, don't even take two of them at once. The real-time project may sometimes be used simultaneously for software engineering (CS 646). Check with the appropriate instructors.

Choosing courses

Attend more courses than you intend to take during the first 2-3 weeks of school to see if you like the course, the instructor, etc. You should add your course selection on-line using Quest by the end of the first month of the term, however your decision is not binding.

Courses from other departments

For information on other courses that you are interested in, see the appropriate department. Note that undergrad courses can be taken as well, but not for degree credit.

Non-credit courses

Research Skills Seminar (CS 697) - This course may be offered by the School. It covers research and life skills that can help grad students improve their academic and interpersonal competence. It is recommended that all incoming students take this course at the first opportunity.

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There is a used bookstore in the Student Life Centre.

The Bookstore is in South Campus Hall. You can check the textbooks for your courses on their web site. If you drop a course soon enough, the text can be returned (see the Bookstore for complete details). There are usually huge lineups the first week of classes. However, early mornings or late evenings can be good times to try. The Bookstore accepts cash, personal cheques, VISA and Mastercard.

Note: Textbooks required for TA assignments are supplied by the School. You can borrow them for the term from the Undergraduate Coordinator (DC 3102), during the posted office hours.

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