First-year guide

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.

students sitting and working at tables

Waterloo wherever you are

Students starting in the Fall can expect a quality learning and student experience. Here’s some of the things we’ll be offering to ensure your first year at the University of Waterloo is a fun and successful one!

Get Waterloo Ready

Waterloo Ready will help new undergraduate students navigate every step in becoming a Waterloo Warrior. The program is designed to guide you through your transition to UWaterloo - you'll hear more about what to expect in your first year, learn how to set up your email, have the opportunity to meet other students, and more!

Starting in early June, incoming students will receive weekly email updates. 

Build community through courses

  • All Faculty of Health students: In HEALTH 107 - Sociology of Activity, Health, and Wellbeing tutorials, you’ll be encouraged to make connections with other students.
  • Health Sciences and Public Health students: In HLTH 101 - Introduction to Health 1 tutorials, you’ll engage with your peers via discussions on current health challenges to better understand how the biological, social, and environmental determinants of health, as well as how the health-care system and government policies, all impact health outcomes for people in society.  You will also work on a collaborative project and provide a group presentation to your peers during tutorials.
  • Kinesiology students: In KIN 104 and the accompanying laboratory, KIN 104L, we will introduce you to the fundamentals of Kinesiology and you’ll be exposed to all that our program and department has to offer.
  • Recreation and Leisure Studies (includes Recreation and Sport Business, and Therapeutic Recreation) students: Through active participation in the tutorial component of REC 101 – Introduction to Recreation and Leisure Services, you'll have the opportunity to develop many of the interpersonal and managerial skills required of successful managers, as well as the opportunity to critically reflect on the topics that have been introduced to you in lectures. During tutorials, you will be engaging in debates, group discussions, writing activities, and case studies that will help you develop essential communication skills, enhance your understanding of course topics, and build relationships with your classmates.

Live on campus

All incoming students are welcome to live on campus with Campus Housing. Want to live on the same floor as other students in Health? Check out the Living Learning Communities for Public Health and Health Sciences, Kinesiology, and Recreation and Leisure Studies.

Missed the 100% first-year guarantee for residence? Apply to the First-Year Vacancy Application to be next in line for available rooms.

Order UWaterloo supplies online

Order your textbooks and Waterloo merchandise from the Waterloo Store or check out our student-run used bookstore. You can use My BookLook in early August to see what course materials you might need.

Note: if you are ordering used textbooks, make sure you are using the most recent edition by comparing the information to your My BookLook results.

Tips for success

At university, the volume of work is higher than you'd expect, classes are larger than in high school, and deadlines are non-negotiable. Instructors expect you to come prepared to class and will assume you understand the material unless you tell them otherwise.

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: 

  • Get organized
    • Read your class outline - it has assignment deadlines, course expectations, class and tutorial dates and times, and other important information.
    • Plan ahead: work backwards to create a schedule to meet submission deadlines and to prepare adequately for tests, midterms and exams.
  • When in class...
    • Look at the course content at least 3 times to help you be successful on tests. Class counts as one of those times!
    • Eliminate distractions, such as social media and notifications, to focus on the course content.
  • Get connected
    • Higher level of contact with instructors has been linked to higher levels of learning.
    • Contact your instructor or Teaching Assistant (TA) if you have questions about the course content.
  • Deal with adversity
    • 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!
    • Seek life balance, schedule breaks, and explore things you enjoy.

Tips for university lectures

  1. Arrive to class prepared: complete assigned readings and review your previous notes before class. By doing so, you are more likely to understand that day's lecture content thoroughly.
  2. Remove all distractions, such as social media and popup notifications, so you can focus on the course content.
  3. Enhance your learning by organizing your notes:
    • Collect key ideas, questions and terminology in the margins.
    • Use descriptive headings.
    • Create a summary of each topic in your own words.
  4. 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.
  5. Your instructors are here to help. Always ask for help or clarification sooner rather than later!

Tips for success: getting the most out of your lecture

Remote video URL

Sample lecture: Sociology of Activity, Health and Well-being

Remote video URL

Should I bring a laptop?

You may wish to use a laptop to take notes in class, but please note some professors are not allowing laptops in their classes because of the distractions they cause. Many students prefer pen and paper - it allows you to concentrate on the lecture, it’s easier for capturing non-text material such as diagrams, and you don’t have to be concerned with the weight of carrying your laptop or with monitoring its whereabouts.

Online systems

At the University of Waterloo, we have a variety of helpful online systems to become familiar with. Get a head start here.

You will need to use a computer to prepare papers, reports, do online research, enroll in your courses, and use Waterloo LEARN - Waterloo's web-based learning management system that gives you access to course materials, activities, and assessments.

There is an undergraduate computer lab accessible to students in the Faculty of Health; however, you may prefer to have your own computer so you have the convenience of fitting computing activities into your personal work habits/schedule.


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.

Remote video URL


Quest is UWaterloo’s student information system. You’ll use Quest to view your finances and academic standing.

Remote video URL


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/university 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.

UWaterloo Portal

The Portal delivers information you need, just when you need it. The portal is designed to make your life at UWaterloo easier.

Remote video URL


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 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? 

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.

Remote video URL

Living off campus? 

Peer support in the Faculty of Health

There are many opportunities for peer support within the Faculty of Health and across the UWaterloo campus!


The weCONNECTu mentorship program aims to provide social mentorship to first-year students entering the Faculty of Health by pairing first-year students with an upper-year mentor, who will act as a resource to answer questions, connect their mentees with resources and services on campus, and offer social support throughout the first year at university.

For more information, please contact the Student Relations Officer.

Connection Collective

The Connection Collective is a group mentorship program, facilitated by the Student Success Office, to support historically underrepresented students, such as Black, Indigenous, Racialized students, students part of 2SLGBTQIA+ communities, students impacted by their socio-economic status, students in larger bodies, disabled students, neurodivergent students and any intersection of any of these identifiers.

Move Your Mind

Peer mentors in the Move Your Mind program use physical activity as a way to better your mental health and wellbeing.  Mentors provide support through one on one activity consultations, goal setting and scheduling, attend workouts together, and provide motivation and accountability throughout the term.

AccessAbility Peer Mentorship Transition Program

The AccessAbility Peer Mentorship Transition Program is a peer-mentorship program which allows students registered with AccessAbility Services (AAS) to share their experience and knowledge with students new to AAS to create a smooth transition to university.

International Peer Community

The International Peer Community is a peer-mentorship program to support new international students, connect Canadian and international students, and give upper-year students a leadership opportunity. Canadian and international students meet together socially, in large and small groups, to support and learn from each other.

Career Leaders

the Career Leaders connect you with resources in preparation for your job search, including help with cover letters, resumes, and interviews.

Advice from upper-year students

Advice from upper-year students is available on a number of different topics, including information on Quest, your UWaterloo email account, how to pay tuition, and more.

Campus resources

Academic resources 

Academic advisors

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)
Co-operative Education & Centre for Career Development Tatham Centre (TC)
WUSA 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)
W Store

South Campus Hall (SCH), first floor

Once you have accessed your schedule, you can then look up the books required for those courses by using My BookLook.

Writing and Communication 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
Student Service Centre (The Centre) Needles Hall (NH), first floor
WatCard Student Life Centre (SLC), lower level inside Campus Tech
519-888-4567 ext. 42751

Accessibility, health and wellness 

AccessAbility Services Needles Hall (NH) 1401
519-888-4567 ext. 35082
Athletics and Recreational Services Physical Activities Complex (PAC)
Counselling Services Needles Hall (NH) 2401
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
Parking Services

General Services Complex (GSC) 1112
519-888-4567 ext. 33100


WatSAFE is an app that provides access to campus safety and emergency resources, including:

  • emergency contact information,
  • a personal safety toolbox, and
  • safety and emergency resources.

Student experience 

Glow Centre for Sexual and Gender Diversity Student Life Centre (SLC) 3103
Student Success Office (SSO) South Campus Hall (SCH), second floor
519-888-4567 ext. 84410
Turnkey Desk Student Life Centre (SLC)
Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre United College 
Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association (WUSA) Student Life Centre (SLC) 1116
Women's Centre Student Life Centre (SLC) 3104
Visitor's Centre South Campus Hall (SCH), first floor
519-888-4567 ext. 43614

Campus lingo

Academic level 

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 

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.

Health Computing Office 

Health Computing is a team of Information Technology (IT) specialists in the Faculty of Health. They provide IT support and consultation on all aspects of computing to the Faculty of Health community.


Your Applied Health Sciences Endowment Fund (AHSEF) supports student-initiated projects that enhance the academic environment and student life of undergraduate students in the Faculty of Health. Each semester, Faculty of Health 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. 


An AHSSIE (pronounced "awe-zee") is a member of the Faculty of Health community. Students in the faculty often refer to themselves as AHSSIES. 


AHSUM (pronounced "AWE-some") stands for Association of Health Students 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 Health. 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 Faculty of Health students. 


B.C. Matthews Hall.

BMH Green 

BMH Green is the grassy area outside of BMH. It's a well-loved area where you'll often find Faculty of Health students playing frisbee and hanging out.


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 Athletics ​website.

Counselling Services 

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 Waterloo Undergraduate Students Association (WUSA) is UWaterloo's undergraduate student government. WUSA has a mandate to serve, empower and represent students, and oversees over 200 student clubs. WUSA 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.

Fees arranged 

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 

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 has a new light-rail transit system, called the ION. Your WatCard grants you unlimited riding privileges on GRT.

Health Services 

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 Lyle Hallman Institute for Health Promotion (LHI) is the building attached to BMH.

The Lounge 

The Lounge (B.C. Matthews Hall 1035) is a space for Faculty of Health 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.

Office hours 

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.


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 Athletics ​website

Registrar’s Office 

The Registrar’s Office is responsible for academic dates, course scheduling, transcript requests and final exam scheduling.


The Student Life Centre (SLC) is the hub for student life at UWaterloo. Home to WUSA 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 a course instructor and their students. The syllabus sets out the weekly schedule, required readings, assignment parameters, class expectations and contact information for the instructor(s).


Teaching Assistants (TAs) are assigned to help instructors facilitate lectures, tutorials, office hours and marking. 

Turnkey Desk 

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.

There are additional campus lingo definitions available online!