Waterloo students walking on campus.

Universities have a language of their own. Here's your guide to some of the terminology you'll encounter!

  • Key terms to start with
  • Terms relating to applying
  • Financial terminology
 
 

Key terms to start with

Major – A major is the subject that’s the main focus of your university degree. Most of the courses you’ll take will be in your major. The terms major and program are often used interchangeably. For some programs, you'll choose your major when you apply to university. For others, you'll choose your major after a year or two at university. There's no right or wrong way.

Undergraduate degree – It's the first level of university studies you would apply to from high school and normally takes three to five years to complete. Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science are two examples. Students pursuing an undergraduate degree (also called a bachelor's degree) are called undergraduate students. You can get the same degree by studying different programs or majors. For example, you could earn your Bachelor of Arts (BA) after completing programs such as psychology, English, history, drama, recreation, and political science.

Undergraduate program – An undergraduate program is what you complete to earn your degree. A program will have a certain number of required courses you need to take along with electives that you choose. Program and major are often used interchangeably. Visit how to choose a university program for tips on using your interests, strengths, and career plans to pick a program.


Terms relating to applying

Admission average – At Waterloo, your admission average consists of the grades from your top 6 Grade 12 courses (U or M in Ontario), including all required courses for the program you've applied to. Admission averages are a key factor when we review applications.

Admission requirements – The high school courses, grades, and average you need to be considered for admission. For some programs, the requirements may include an interview, portfolio, or other assignments.

Admitted student – A student who has applied, met the admission requirements, and received an offer of admission to university.

Applicant – A student who has applied for admission to university.

Direct-entry programs – You can apply directly to these from high school. Sometimes direct-entry programs are the same as majors. Other times, you’ll apply to a direct-entry program and then choose your major.

Offer of admission – An official document from a university that lists the program you've been admitted to and explains any conditions you need to meet.

Ontario Universities' Application Centre (OUAC) – The OUAC processes most applications to Ontario's universities. You'll apply to Waterloo through the OUAC, which then forwards your application information (and grades for current Ontario high school students) to each Ontario university you've applied to.

Transfer credit – These are courses taken in high school, college, or university that you can count toward your Waterloo degree. High school courses eligible for transfer credit include IB and AP.


Financial terminology

Bursary – Money given to students based on financial need. This does not need to be paid back. Entrance bursaries are for students starting university for the first time. There are some bursaries available after first year as well.

Financial need – Essentially when your costs (tuition, textbooks, housing and food, personal expenses) exceed the financial resources you (and sometimes your family) have available. Often there is special funding or jobs for students with financial need.

Scholarship – Money given to students based primarily on academic and personal achievement. This does not need to be paid back. Entrance scholarships are for students starting university. There are scholarships available after first year as well.

Work-study – Convenient, part-time jobs right on campus for full-time students with financial need.


Ways to study multiple interests

Minor – A minor is a group of 8-10 courses in a specific subject or topic which you would complete along with your major as part of the 40 or so courses for your degree. This allows you to study a second area of interest and have that included on your diploma when you graduate. Here is a list of minors available at Waterloo.

Option or specialization – Similar to a minor, these usually provide additional knowledge within your program (a minor can be unrelated to your major). Options and specializations add depth to your degree while minors add breadth.

General terms

Faculty – A group of departments or professional schools that offer programs with similar themes. Like Waterloo's six faculties, they are home for programs, professors, academic advisors, classrooms, and study spaces.

Graduate degree – A graduate degree allows you to pursue further specialized studies after completing your first degree (called an undergraduate degree). There are two levels: Master’s degree (which often takes one to two years to complete) and Doctor of Philosophy (usually take four years to complete, also known as a PhD or doctoral program). You normally need to complete a Master's before applying to a PhD program.

Professional programs – These lead to careers that often require a license. Some programs you can apply to directly from high school, such as engineering, architecture, urban planning. Other programs, such as law, medicine, teaching, optometry, and pharmacy, require at least two or three years of university studies.


Types of undergraduate degrees

The type of degree you earn reflects the area of study you chose, recognizing that you've gained expertise in that subject. These are the degrees offered at Waterloo.

  • Bachelor of Accounting and Finance Management (BAFM)
  • Bachelor of Architectural Studies (BAS)
  • Bachelor of Arts (BA)
  • Bachelor of Applied Science (BASc)
  • Bachelor of Computer Science (BCS)
  • Bachelor of Computing and Financial Management (BCFM)
  • Bachelor of Environmental Studies (BES)
  • Bachelor of Global Business and Digital Arts (BGBDA)
  • Bachelor of Knowledge Integration (BKI)
  • Bachelor of Mathematics (BMath)
  • Bachelor of Public Health (BPH)
  • Bachelor of Science (BSc)
  • Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)
  • Bachelor of Software Engineering (BSE)
 

Additional degree types can be found on the degree abbreviation chart from the Ontario Universities’ Info website.