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Frequently asked questions

Psychology Department policies

Frequently asked questions (FAQ): Future students

Frequently asked questions (FAQ): Current students

  1. I am enrolled in the Faculty of Arts. Can I take more than 2.5 units in one term?
  2. How many psychology courses can I take per term?
  3. I plan to do an Honours Thesis in Psychology (Psych 499A/B/C). How many other courses do I take when enrolled in Psych 499?

  4. If I take more than the minimum number of psychology courses required for the Psychology Major (or Psychology Minor), do the final grades all count in my cumulative psychology average?
  5. Are the final grades for courses that are cross-listed with psychology courses included in my cumulative psychology average?
  6. How is my record affected by a course drop?
  7. I am interested in studies beyond the Bachelor's degree. Does it matter how many WD grades I have on my record?
  8. I am doing poorly in a course and it is past the course drop deadline for earning a WD grade. Is it better to stay enrolled or drop the course and accept a WF grade?
  9. I am concerned about my academic standing?  What does 'conditional standing' mean?  What does 'at risk of being required to withdraw' mean? 
  10. I am a current University of Waterloo student in General Psychology but want to be enrolled in Honours Psychology. How do I know if I am eligible for admission to Honours and how do I make that change? 
  11. When seeking employment, is it helpful to have more than one program on the Bachelor's degree  (e.g., Joint Honours, Minor, or Arts and Business)?

1) I am enrolled in the Faculty of Arts. Can I take more than 2.5 units in one term?

The maximum course load for full-time studies in the Faculty of Arts is 2.75 units per term. More than 2.75 units is considered to be an overload of units.

If you meet these conditions:

  • cumulative overall average is at least 75%,
  • you are not on conditional standing for your current academic program/plan,
  • you do not have any INC (incomplete) grades,

contact the Psychology Undergraduate Advisor about your request to enrol in more than 2.75 units. Put your last name, unit load, and the term of study in the subject line of the message (e.g., BROWN - unit load Winter 2015). Include the following in the body of the message message: your full name, student identification number, how many units you want to take in a specific term, and why it is necessary to take an overload of units.

For those who do not meet the above 3 conditions, direct requests to enrol in more than 2.75 units to the Examinations and Standings Committee. Please include the reasons why you think you can handle an overload of courses.  See tips for student success before writing the petition.

You cannot self-enrol for more than 2.75 units until the request for the overload of courses has been approved and coded by the Registrar's Office.

Please do not request an overload of courses as a method of shopping for courses. That tactic is unfair to other students because it blocks legitimate enrolment requests and causes waiting lists for enrolment unnecessarily.

2) How many psychology courses can I take per term?

Go to student success for details regarding the number of psychology courses to take per term in year 1 and beyond year 1.

3) I plan to do an Honours Thesis in Psychology (PSYCH 499A/B/C). How many other courses do I take when enrolled in Psych 499?

If doing an Honours Thesis in Psychology (Psych 499A/B/C) the course will be spread over 2 or 3 terms and is worth 1.5 units (i.e., 3 academic term courses) in total.

Do you prefer to take 2.5 units per term (full course load) including the Psych 499 enrolment, or do you prefer to take a reduced course load the terms of Psych 499 enrolment?

Whether or not you can handle a full course load in any term (including Psych 499 enrolment or not), will depend on your individual circumstances. For further details, go to student success regarding balancing school, work, and other responsibilities.

See the PSYCH 499 website regarding the course responsibilities and the enrolment restrictions.

4) If I take more than the minimum number of psychology courses required for the Psychology Major (or Psychology Minor), do the final grades all count in my cumulative psychology average?

Yes. The final grades for all psychology courses taken at the University of Waterloo will count in the cumulative psychology average as well as the cumulative overall average.

Exception: If you have a 'cleared average', only the courses after that point on your record will be included in the average calculations. A cleared average would typically only occur when a student is readmitted to UWaterloo following a 'failed required to withdraw' academic decision or in some cases, following a change from one Faculty of registration to another.

5) Are the final grades for courses that are cross-listed with psychology courses included in my cumulative psychology average?

Psychology courses offered under the rubric 'PSYCH' (e.g,. PSYCH 101) count towards the psychology course/average requirements for the Psychology Major (or Psychology Minor)

Courses named officially in the Undergraduate calendar (see course descriptions) as 'cross-listed' have equivalent content.

The following cross-listed courses count towards the psychology course requirements and the cumulative psychology average requirement for the Psychology Major (or Psychology Minor) regardless of the rubric that you enrol in:

  • GERON/HLTH/PSYCH 218 - Psychology of Death and Dying
  • PSYCH 230/LS 272 - Psychology and Law
  • PHIL/PSYCH 256 - Introduction to Cognitive Science
  • PSYCH 330/LS 372 - Criminal Profiling
  • PHIL/PSYCH 446 - Cognitive Modelling - no longer offered
  • PHIL/PSYCH 447 - Seminar in Cognitive Science

6) How is my record affected by a course drop?

See important dates for the 3 course drop deadlines. The 3 deadlines are classified as follows:

  1. course drop no penalty:
    Means that the course is removed from the record.
  2. course drop penalty 1:
    A WD grade is assigned to a dropped course(s). WD means 'withdrawn without academic penalty'. WD grades have no numerical value and therefore, do not affect average calculations.
  3. course drop penalty 2:
    A WF grade is assigned to a dropped course(s). WF means 'withdrew/failure' which is calculated as a final grade of 32%. The 32% grade is included in the average calculations.

If dropping a course so that you can dedicate more time to remaining courses, please do so early enough in the term that your decision will have a positive overall effect.

For retroactive course drops, see student success topic extenuating circumstances for details.

What to consider before dropping a course

See student success for:

Speak to the instructor and/or the teaching assistant about your difficulties. He/she might be able to provide helpful tips.

If dropping any of PSYCH 291, 292, 391, 392-399, 451-463, 465, 467 please consult with Psychology Undergraduate Advisor beforehand. Consider carefully course availability, degree requirements (see psychology programs for the check lists), and sequencing of prerequisites when making the decision.

The Department of Psychology policy (and University of Waterloo policy) is that completed work stands. That is, we do not allow students to do extra work for a course in order to boost the final mark.

Changes in tuition (if applicable) resulting from course drops:

Some professional schools (e.g., medical school) might expect you to take prerequisites for admission during school terms where you are taking at least 2.5 units (full course load). It is your responsibility to research such requirements.

7) I am interested in studies beyond the Bachelor's degree. Does it matter how many WD grades I have on my record?

It is unlikely that a few WD grades (withdrawn without academic penalty) will hinder opportunities such as a future co-op position if enrolled in the co-op system of study, or for admission to studies beyond the Bachelor's degree (e.g., psychology programs at the graduate level). That is, assuming that you otherwise meet the qualifications expected.

However, if you have several WD grades in consecutive terms, a reviewer of your transcript might wonder whether or not:

  • you have unresolved issues that might hinder your future performance,
  • you have learned from past mistakes,
  • you understand your limitations.

To avoid false impressions, be realistic about what you can cope with and plan accordingly. Refer to student success for suggestions. Provide explanations to reviewers if necessary and permitted to do so.

8) I am doing poorly in a course and it is past the course drop deadline for earning a WD grade.  Is it better to stay enrolled or drop the course and accept a WF grade?

If experiencing personal difficulties in the current term and/or need information regarding retroactive course drops, see student success topic extenuating circumstances for details.

If you expect a failing final grade, consider the following:

  • Are you willing to accept a WF grade ('withdrawal fail' equals 32%) in your average calculations? Would dropping the course free up study time for other courses?
  • Should you stay in the course and hope to earn a grade higher than 32% regardless of whether or not you could pass the course? Keep in mind that any grade higher than 32% will have less impact on the cumulative average calculations.

Grades less than 50% are failing grades.


9) I am concerned about my academic standing? What does 'conditional standing' mean? What does 'at risk of being required to withdraw' mean?

See academic standing for details.


10) I am a current student in General Psychology but want to be enrolled in Honours Psychology. How do I know if I am eligible for admission to Honours and how do I make that change?

If your cumulative psychology average is currently 75% or better, contact the Psychology Academic Advisor regarding admission to Honours Psychology.

If the Psychology average is less than 75%, see requests to switch from General Psychology to Honours Psychology (Bachelor of Arts) on the Honours Psychology website.

11) When seeking employment, is it helpful to have more than one program on the Bachelor's degree (e.g., Joint Honours, Minor, or Arts and Business)?

If you are enrolled in a Major (e.g., General Psychology or Honours Psychology), enrolling in a second academic plan also (e.g., Joint Honours, Minor, or Arts and Business) is considered 'added value' to the Bachelor's degree.

Employers might be interested in the specific degree earned (e.g., General versus Honours; Bachelor of Arts versus Bachelor or Science) and the program(s) listed if relevant to the position you are applying for.

Many other factors also affect recruitment decisions. Employers collect and evaluate information about you from the resume and during the interview such as:

  • match between your knowledge, skills, and abilities and those required to perform the prospective job,
  • your awareness of your strengths and weaknesses,
  • your personality traits and attitudes,
  • examples of your behaviours in particular work related situations (e.g., volunteer or paid positions) particularly in recent years (e.g., using past behaviours as predictors of future behaviours),
  • your appearance and body language,
  • etc.

For further details about adding value to the degree and the skills you can offer employers, go to:


Last updated: Feb 2, 2016

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