Your guide to campus terminology

Names and acronyms you'll encounter

Universities can have lots of terminology you may not be familiar with. Here's a guide to many of the common terms you'll encounter.

A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

1A, 1B, 2A...

You'll normally have two school terms in each academic year. At Waterloo, we use numbers and the letters A and B to identify which school term you're in. Generally, 1A is the first school term of first year, 1B is the second school term of first year. A 2A student is in their first term of second year, a 3B student is in their second (and final term) of third year. After your 4B term, you'll be finished your degree.


Academic advisor

Academic advisors are staff and professors in your program or faculty who can help with questions you have about your program or courses. Knowledgeable, approachable, and available, they can help you with selecting your courses, adding specializations, referrals to relevant campus services, and sometimes even helping you to choose a major.


Waterloo's Arts Student Union organizes activities and offers a number of services for students in the Faculty of Arts.



A bursary is similar to a scholarship in that you're not expected to repay it, but it's awarded based primarily on financial need rather than on academic achievement.


C&D (coffee shop)

A short-form for "coffee & doughnuts," these food outlets are run by student societies and sell a variety of food and drinks, often at discounted prices.

The Centre

Located in Needles Hall, The Centre is the go-to place for a number of student administrative needs. You can order documents, add/drop courses, drop off forms, receive financial advice, change your personal information, get answers to a wide range of questions, and more.


The Columbia Icefield is an athletic facility with an ice rink, gym, studios, racquetball court, and varsity therapy centre. The beautiful new field house is attached to the CIF.

Centre for Career Development

Head to the Centre for Career Development for career advice and support through workshops, events, individual appointments, and career resources.


Daily Bulletin

The Daily Bulletin is an online news source for students, faculty, and staff at the University of Waterloo.


Dons are upper-year students who live in residence and are there to help you with your first-year transition. You'll find dons in every one of our residences, and if you're living off campus, be sure to look up our Off-Campus Community.



An elective is a course that's not specifically required for your degree but still counts toward it. Depending on your program, you can choose electives either from a specified group of courses or from many different subjects. You can use your electives to explore other areas that interest you or to add a minor, option, or specialization to your degree.


The Engineering Society organizes activities and provides services for students in the Faculty of Engineering. EngSoc is also responsible for running the Engineering C&D.


The Environment Students Society (ESS) organizes activities and provides services for students in the Faculty of Environment. ESS is also responsible for running the Environment C&D.


Food Services

Waterloo's main on-campus food provider. If you live in one of the main Campus Housing residences and purchase a meal plan, you'll buy your meals at Food Services locations on campus.

Full-time student

To be considered full-time, you must be taking at least 60% of a full course load. At Waterloo, 5 courses (2.5 units) is considered a full course load; therefore, 3 courses is the minimum required for full-time status.


Graduate studies

Graduate studies are for students who have already completed an undergraduate (Bachelor's) degree. Students at the graduate studies level are typically pursuing a Master's or Doctoral (PhD) degree.


Grand River Transit is the public transit system for Kitchener, Waterloo, and Cambridge.



The Imprint is the official student newspaper of the University of Waterloo.



A type of class usually held in science labs where you’re typically guided by a lab instructor.


The most common type of class where you get together with other students in a lecture hall and the professor shares their expertise.

Living Learning Community

A community in residence where you'll live with a cluster of students who are enrolled in the same academic program. In a Living Learning Community, you'll be surrounded by students who are going through the same experiences as you are, and you'll have a chance to enhance in-class learning by participating in academic and social events facilitated by your Peer Leader.



Your major is the main focus of your studies; it will appear on your diploma. Each faculty specifies the requirements for majors, including the number and type of courses. In some programs, such as Software Engineering, your program is already your “major.” In others, such as Honours Arts, at the end of your first year you select and apply for a major, such as History.


The Mathematics Society organizes activities and provides services for students in the Faculty of Mathematics. MathSoc is also responsible for running the Math C&D – the largest student-run C&D on campus.

Meal plans

Meal plans can be used to buy food at Waterloo and are available to all students. All on-campus residences offer different meal plan options - dorm-style residences typically have mandatory meal plans, while suite-style offers optional plans. Meal plan money is normally put on your Watcard and can be used at most Food Services locations with a simple tap!


A minor is an optional, secondary focus of your studies; it will appear on your diploma. Each faculty specifies the requirements for minors, including the number and type of courses. Generally, fewer courses are required for a minor than for a major. To fulfil the requirements for a minor, you use your elective courses that are not required for your major. In some programs most of your courses are required, and a minor is not a possibility.


Needles Hall

Needles Hall is the University’s administrative headquarters. Inside you’ll find the offices of the Registrar, Student Awards & Financial Aid, Counselling Services and AccessAbility Services, and the Centre, where you can order documents, add/drop courses, drop off forms, receive financial advice, change your personal information, get answers to a wide range of questions, and so much more.


Off-Campus Community

Often shortened to OCCs, these upper-year students arrange events and provide support to first-year students living off campus.

Online learning

Through the Centre for Extended Learning, you can complete credit courses online without attending on-campus classes. The courses are prepared by a Waterloo instructor, and you can study when and where it's most convenient for you.


An option or specialization is a specified combination or grouping of courses which gives you the opportunity to add an additional area of study to your program. The area of study may be in another academic subject or in a career-oriented area and will appear on your diploma. Generally options and specializations require fewer courses than a minor. Some are available only within your program while others are available to students in any faculty.


Waterloo Orientation is an amazing opportunity to meet people, learn about your faculty, get accustomed to campus, and find out what it means to be a Waterloo Warrior – all while enjoying events run by upper-year Orientation leaders.


The Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) provides eligible Ontario residents with various types of assistance based on financial need. You’ll find details on our financing website and on the government's OSAP website.



The Physical Activities Complex (PAC) is home to Athletics and Recreational Services. Waterloo’s male and female varsity teams – the Waterloo Warriors – are based here. You’ll also find Warrior Recreation, which offers more than 100 clubs, leagues, and instructional programs for all Waterloo students.

Part-time student

Your status is part time if you take 1 or 2 courses per term.


A coffee shop by day and pub by night. POETS is an on-campus pub often frequented by Engineering students.


The name of the wild boar in front of the Modern Languages building. This statue of Porcellino is one of a few replicas of the one in Florence, Italy, and he is the mascot of the Faculty of Arts. Campus legend has it that rubbing Porcellino’s nose will bring good luck. His nose gets very shiny during exam time!



Waterloo's online student information system through which you check your application status and submit any documents such as transcripts. Once you're a student, you'll use Quest select your classes, view your fee schedule, view your grades, and update your personal information.


Regular system of study

Studying under the regular system means that you’ll be in school from September to April and will have your summers off each year. You might choose the regular system of study if you’d like to finish your degree more quickly, or if you’d like the continuity of studying for the same period every year so you can take a more active part in campus activities.

Registrar's Office

The Registrar's Office, located in Needles Hall, is responsible for student records, starting with applications and offers of admission through class schedules, transcripts, scholarships and bursaries, and ensuring you meet the requirements to graduate!

Ring Road

Ring Road is the street that encircles the buildings of the main campus; on the outside of Ring Road, but still part of the south campus are the University Colleges, Health and Safety, Fed Hall, and the residences. You’ll often see joggers running the Ring Road. You’ll find a map of the Waterloo campus on our website or you can also view the campus on Google Maps.

Rock Garden

The Peter Russell Rock Garden is located between the Biology and Mathematics & Computer buildings on the University campus. It contains more than 25 specimens of Ontario rocks.



A scholarship is a sum of money awarded to a student in recognition of academic achievement; you do not have to repay a scholarship. Most Waterloo entrance scholarships do not require a separate application.


The Science Society organizes activities and provides services for students in the Faculty of Science. SciSoc is also responsible for running the Science C&D.


University courses can be comprised of lectures, seminars, and labs.  The seminar portion is a teaching session that is typically less formal and involves a smaller group of students than a lecture.


The "living room" of the University, the Student Life Centre is the best place to hang out between classes, read the paper, get the latest about clubs and events, or grab a bite to eat. It’s also the place you’ll find the Turnkey desk as well as the WUSA offices and the Imprint.


An option or specialization is a specified combination or set of courses which provides an additional area of expertise to your program. The area of study may be in another academic subject or in a career-oriented area and will appear on your diploma. Generally, options and specializations require fewer courses than a minor. Some are available only within your program while others are available to students in any faculty.


The term “stream” refers to the sequence of study and work terms in a co-op program. If your first co-op work term begins in January of your first year (after 4 months of school), you’re in a "stream 4" program. If your first work term begins in May of your first year or later, you’re in a "stream 8" program (after you've had at least 8 months of school).

Student Success Office (SSO)

The Student Success Office helps students excel both in and out of the classroom. With programs like Orientation, the SSO can help you transition from high school to university.

If you’re an international student, SSO advisors can help you adjust to living in Canada. At any point during your university career, you can look to the SSO for help in improving your studying habits, sharpening your writing, developing your leadership skills, or getting advice on your business idea.



A teaching assistant (TA) is an upper-year or graduate student who works closely with your professor to help teach your course. A TA may mark essays or tests or teach a tutorial.


At Waterloo, the school year is divided into three terms, each lasting four months: fall – September to December, winter – January to April, and spring – May to August. Usually there are about 12 weeks of classes followed by roughly a two or three weeks of exams.


Tuition is the money you pay to the University for your classes and administrative costs related to the operation of the University. In addition to tuition, there are smaller amounts, called incidental fees. Some of these incidental fees are refundable; others are compulsory. The tuition fees you pay depends on your program.


A type of class where you’ll meet in smaller group sessions and are expected to participate in discussions and ask questions, and for which you might have assignments. Tutorials are usually associated with other classes for the course, called lectures.


Undergraduate student

An undergraduate student is working toward a Bachelor's or undergraduate degree – the first level of university you pursue after completing high school.

Undergraduate degrees, such as a BA (Bachelor of Arts), BSc (Bachelor of Science), or BMath (Bachelor of Mathematics), normally take three or four years and are the first step before pursuing a master’s (MA, MSc, etc.) or doctoral (PhD) degree.

University Colleges

The University Colleges are like "universities within universities." You can live or take courses at our four on-campus University Colleges: Conrad Grebel, Renison, St. Jerome's Univeristy, and United College.


Uptown Waterloo is the equivalent of a city's downtown. However, since Kitchener and Waterloo are practically one big city, the locals distinguish between the 2 downtown cores by calling one "uptown" (Waterloo) and the other "downtown" (Kitchener).


Varsity team

Varsity athletes represent Waterloo in competitions with other universities. Waterloo has 32 men’s and women’s varsity teams, called the Waterloo Warriors. Competitive athletic leagues within Waterloo, such as those among residences, are called intramural teams, and are available through Warrior Recreation.

The Villages

The Villages are Waterloo's main residences for students.


Warrior Recreation

You don't have to be a pro athlete to get involved in sports on campus. Waterloo's Warrior Recreation program has a ton of clubs, classes, and recreational and competitive leagues that you can join.


Refers to the Waterloo Warriors, Waterloo’s athletic teams – and all Waterloo students.


Your WatCard is the most important piece of I.D. you'll have as a student at Waterloo. You can use your WatCard to participate in Waterloo activities, sign books out of the library, and get great student discounts!

Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association

The Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association – Waterloo's student union – provides services, represents students to the university administration, and runs a number of student-oriented businesses.