Student success

Tips and resources for student success:

Academic integrity - know your responsibilities

It is your responsibility to know, understand, and follow University of Waterloo policies regarding academic integrity. Misconduct (e.g., plagiarism, cheating, etc.) can have serious consequences.

Academic integrity - general information

Academic integrity resources

Advice to Faculty of Arts students regarding ethical behaviour (e.g., how to avoid plagiarism).

If instructors are using Turnitin, which is a plagiarism detection tool, a statement about Turnitin will be included in the course outline.

Ethics clearance and training for research

Policy 71 - Student Discipline

Balancing school, employment, and other responsibilities/activities

Optimise Learning in College: Tips from Cognitive Psychology (PDF)

The typical course load for a psychology Major is 2.5 units (5 courses) per term. You probably will spend at least 9-15 hours per week per course in order to be successful.

How many courses you can handle in a given term will depend on your individual circumstances. Please be realistic about the goals you set in order to increase the probability of success. Consider the following factors when determining course load:

  • your academic standing (understanding your current academic standing).
  • grades you must achieve for your current program and/or admission to a future program.
  • the combination of courses that you are taking in a given term e.g.,
    • the number of required courses versus electives.
    • is extra time needed to master particular course material e.g., PSYCH 292 or PSYCH 391 which are statistics courses?
    • 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 in total. Do you prefer to take 2.5 units per term including the Psych 499 enrolment, or do you prefer to take a reduced course load the terms of Psych 499 enrolment?
  • do you manage your time effectively or do you procrastinate?
  • do you attend classes regularly and are your course notes complete?
  • do you have difficulty with multiple choice questions on tests/exams?
  • do you work ahead or do you cram to learn material prior to a test/exam?
  • how are you feeling? Do you get enough sleep? Do you feel anxious before tests or exams?
  • what are your responsibilities other than course work? For example, time spent on:
    • searching for co-op positions (if in the co-op system of study).
    • paid employment.
      • Recommend no more than 10-15 hours of employment per week if taking 5 courses (2.5 units).
      • Recommend no more than 1 or 2 courses if working 35 hours per week.
    • volunteer work.
    • involvement with student groups.
    • researching future programs of study and submitting applications.
    • preparation required for entrance exams for future programs.
    • preparation required to participate in an international exchange program.
    • caring for family members.
    • travel time to/from school and elsewhere.
    • etc.

Check the course drop deadlines (see important dates on Quest) and reduce your course load if necessary.

Co-op students are expected to maintain a full course load (defined as at least 2.5 units per school term) and follow the academic/work sequence prescribed for their program (Co-operative Education System). If you find the responsibilities of the search for co-op positions each school term onerous, consider whether you could do better academically if you switched from the co-op system of study to the regular system of study.

Choice of Major

Choose an academic plan (e.g., Major; Major + Major; Major + Minor) that:

  • includes courses that you find intrinsically interesting,
  • is relevant to at least one of your long term goals (see Sample Career/Further Studies)
  • and will probably result in final grades in the range that you expect and/or need for your goals.

If strategies to boost your cumulative Psychology average have failed, consider the following:

Is a Psychology Major a realistic goal? Talk to your Psychology Academic Advisor.

If you are not eligible to continue in Honours Psychology, consider the benefits of doing a General Psychology degree (3 year or 4 year) plus a post-graduate programs at a college.

Do you need a Psychology Major or would a Psychology Minor be satisfying and give you the necessary background and/or prerequisites for your future educational and career goals? Talk to a career advisor.

Are you doing better in a subject area other than Psychology that could be a potential Major (or Liberal Studies)? Talk to the academic advisor in that Faculty/department.

Course load, course selection, and study term

You probably will dedicate a larger proportion of your overall study time to 'required' course versus 'unspecified electives'. Level of difficulty of each course will also be a factor in your time management. If you are enrolled in multiple academic plans (e.g., Joint Honours, Arts and Business, Minor) and struggling to maintain the minimum average requirement for one or more of those plans, it might be necessary to reduce the number of academic plans in order to be successful.

Are there subject areas where your grades have been poor and should be avoided?

If worried about the final grade that you will earn MATH 103, PSYCH 292, or PSYCH 391, see tips for success:

Be realistic about how many courses you can handle in any term. Not everyone can handle a full course load (2.5 units) each term. If you take a reduced course load to improve your grades, don't make the mistake of increasing your hours of paid or volunteer work in the same term or you probably won't increase your overall study time as planned or increase your grades.

Consider taking a course during an 'off term' or a 'work term' (e.g., online) to boost your average(s) before the next school term, or to lighten the overall workload in a future term where you anticipate that you will struggle.

Repeating passed courses is not typically allowed, and if the exception to repeat a passed course is granted, it does not count towards your UWaterloo average or unite count. (see Psychology Department policies).

Advice regarding psychology course load: year 1 or beyond year 1

Psychology course load - year 1

Do not take more than two Psychology courses (1.0 units) in year one.

Take PSYCH 101 the first term (1A).

Take one Psychology course the second term (1B). Recommend that you choose from: PSYCH 207, 211, 253, 257, 261.

A variety of courses in year one is beneficial because:

  • establishing an average in more than one potential Major will give you a backup plan in case your grade(s) for the desired Major is too low for admission. This is particularly important for those in Arts and Business Co-op who must have an Honours Major by the end of year one.
  • discover interest in a subject area that you did not consider previously. Gaining this insight in year one is helpful for gaining prerequisites for future courses (e.g., for a Minor) as well as reducing the possibility of a delayed target for graduation.
  • gain insight into your future educational and employment goals which will affect the course prerequisites and experience profile (e.g., volunteer and/or paid experiences, etc.) that you will need over your remaining years of study to pursue those goals.

If you are having difficulty choosing between Psychology courses, review psychology course outlines from previous terms.

Additional information for those who will be applying for a Psychology Major

The cumulative Psychology average is the average of all of the Psychology grades taken to date. If your Psychology average is below the target for admission to the desired program, having taken more than 2 Psychology courses in year one would not be grounds for an appeal for admission.

Greater effort may be required in some of your courses in order to be successful. The more 'required' (e.g., courses which affect average calculations for a future Major or Minor) versus 'elective' courses that you are taking in a given term, the more difficult it is to allocate your time differently to each course if necessary in order to be successful.

Psychology course load - beyond year 1

There is no ceiling on the number of Psychology courses that you can take for the overall degree requirements and it is not uncommon for Psychology Majors to exceed the minimum number of Psychology courses required for graduation.

We recommend that Psychology Majors take at least half of their courses for the degree outside the field of Psychology in order to enrich their educational experience. Be open-minded when choosing courses and consider courses offered by all departments and Faculties that may be relevant to your interests and future goals.

We recommend no more than 3 Psychology courses per term in year two. Think carefully about your personal circumstances when deciding whether or not you can handle more than 3 Psychology courses per term in year 3 and 4.

If trying to boost your Psychology average for any of these reasons,

  1. to satisfy the Psychology average requirement for admission to the Psychology Major (see applying for Psychology programs),
  2. to satisfy the Psychology average requirement to switch from General Psychology to Honours Psychology, or from Three Year General Psychology to Four Year General Psychology,
  3. to meet the minimum psychology average requirement to remain in (or graduate from) your current Psychology program,

recommend no more than 3 Psychology courses per term. Please be realistic about the actual number of courses including Psychology courses that you can handle in a given term and be successful. See extenuating circumstances if stressors are affecting your performance.

All psychology courses taken at the University of Waterloo will count in the calculation of the cumulative Psychology average.
Exception: If you have a cleared average, only the courses after that point on your record will be included in the average calculations for your current academic plan. A cleared average would typically only occur when a student is readmitted to the University following a 'failed required to withdraw' academic decision or in some cases, following a change of academic plan which results in the student's registration changing from one Faculty to another. Note that each Faculty has residency requirements that must be satisfied following a cleared average. If you have a cleared average, refer to the residency requirements of your Faculty and department (see Psychology Department policies) as well as consult with your academic advisor(s).

Delaying the target for graduation

Not everyone will graduate in the usual expected amount of time because, for example:

  • not everyone can handle a full course load every term e.g., due to personal circumstances,
  • those enrolled in some combinations of multiple academic plans (e.g., Joint Honours, Arts and Business, Minor) might have course time conflicts between required courses,
  • a required course isn't available when expected,
  • changed goals and switched academic plans - several required courses remaining,
  • no guarantee that those participating in international exchange programs won't have course sequencing difficulties for required courses,
  • failed a required course that must be repeated the following term or year,
  • etc.

Your individual circumstances may require that you choose to:

  • delay graduation in order to achieve your goals
  • revise your goals in order to graduate on time e.g.,
    choose a different degree such as General versus Honours, Liberal Studies versus a Major, with or without Joint Honours or a Minor, etc.

Consult with the appropriate academic advisor(s) about your decision if necessary.

Questions to consider when making your decision whether or not to delay graduation include:

  • What academic plan(s) do you want on the degree and is that a realistic goal(s)?
  • Do you need higher grades to earn the desired degree and/or for admission to a future program? If so, do some number crunching to evaluate scenarios. Are those goals achievable?
  • Can you get courses you need in the Spring term if necessary?
  • Are you eligible to take a course(s) at another university if not available at UWaterloo when needed?
  • Are there prerequisites that you need for future programs that should be taken prior to graduation? Check admission requirements particularly for professional programs. Are you more likely to get the particular course(s) that you need if enrolling as a current degree student rather than as a Post-Degree student? Check with the department offering the course if necessary.
  • Can you afford to take extra courses for the degree if necessary in order to achieve your goals?
  • What are your goals for beyond graduation? Are those goals realistic? Would a General degree in Psychology (BA only) or another Major, or a General degree in Liberal Studies be sufficient for those goals? Is it necessary to have a second academic plan (e.g., Joint Honours, Minor) for future goals?

Extenuating circumstances

If stressors (e.g., physical and/or emotional issues, family issues, employment issues, bereavement, etc.) are affecting your academic performance, please consider the following:

Contact professionals

Contact professionals (e.g,. primary academic advisor, medical doctor, support services at UWaterloo, etc.) during difficult times for assistance, advice, and/or remedies.

Obtain documentation regarding the circumstances

Documentation will be required from a professional(s) other than an academic advisor(s) if you request extensions on course work, or you petition to the Examinations and Standings Committee for retroactive changes to your record. Examples of suitable documentation include:

  • in the case of a death of someone to whom you have a close relationship, provide a death certificate, obituary from a newspaper, or letter from a funeral director.
  • in the case of illness, seek medical attention promptly and obtain a Verification of Illness Form.
  • letter from a counsellor at UWaterloo such as someone at Counselling Services or AccessAbility Services.
  • court documents or police reports if relevant to the incident/request.
  • etc.

Reduce the course load

The normal course load for a full-time student is 2.5 units per school term. Decide whether or not a reduced course load, or a withdrawal from the current term, or a break from school for 1 or more terms would be in your best interest if you are dealing with stressors. If in doubt what to do, consult with a professional (see above). Consider the impact on your student funding, if you reduce your course load. Contact Student Awards and Finance for more information.

How is my record affected by a course drop?

If you are in the co-op system of study, refer to the list of examples that would necessitate approval for a change to the academic/work term sequence.

Seek extensions on course work

Direct the request for an extension on course work to the instructor prior to the actual deadline (e.g., the date/time for the test or exam). Within 48 hours beyond the deadline submit documentation to the instructor to support the request for an extension, or provide him/her with an explanation for delayed submission.

If extensions are required in more than one course in a given term, please also discuss your situation with your primary academic advisor.

When requesting extensions on course work beyond the end of the school term, check the regulations for the Faculty offering the course.

Extensions on course work in the Faculty of Arts:

  • Instructors are not permitted to submit Incomplete grades (INC) at the end of the term for individuals who have not completed course work unless the terms/conditions/deadlines for completing the course work have been agreed upon by the student and instructor, and an Incomplete (INC) Grade Agreement Form has been completed and signed by both people.
  • Instructors may submit grade changes within 12 months of the end of the term in question (if a degree has not been conferred). After 12 months, grades may only be changed with a Petition for Exception to Academic Regulations (Form 70A), and only if accompanied with an explanation as to the circumstances that resulted in the delay. If you are a student in the Faculty of Arts, please follow these steps to file a petition. Students enrolled in the Faculty of Science should follow these instructions.

Retroactive changes to the record

Psychology Department 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.

Faculty of Arts students

(Rules in other Faculties may vary. Consult your home Faculty academic advisor.)

If your performance in a course(s) was affected by documentable extenuating circumstances (see documentation for examples), you have three choices:

  1. improve your academic standing by taking courses under better circumstances.
  2. petition to the Examinations and Standings Committee to drop the affected course. If the course to be dropped is a required course, take into consideration when the course is offered again before submitting the petition.
  3. petition to the Examinations and Standings Committee to change the grading basis for all courses in the affected term (you typically can't be selective from the list of courses in the given term) from the traditional numerical grading basis to the CR/NCR (credit versus no credit) grading basis. CR/NCR grades have no affect on average calculations.

    Before submitting a petition for CR/NCR grades:

Petition for Exception to Academic Regulations (Form 70A)

Notes regarding petitions:

  • The Examinations and Standings Committee for the Faculty of Arts only meets on Tuesdays. Only the petitions for exceptions that are received at the Registrar's Office during the week prior to the meeting (Friday deadline) will be considered at the Tuesday meeting.
  • If your academic standing is 'required to withdraw' (see academic standing) and you are petitioning for grade changes, include in the petition a request for a reversal of the failed academic standing.
  • Petitions for any retroactive changes to the academic record must be done prior to a degree being conferred. See petition procedures for the Faculty of Arts for other time limits and regulations on such changes.

Challenges for accelerating program completion (fast track)

Students may graduate earlier than usual (fast track) if they take extra courses (e.g. more than 5 lecture courses in academic terms, courses in the spring term for students in the regular program, and 1 or 2 courses in a work term for students in the co-op program). We recommend against this practice because it is typically not a healthy approach to one's studies, often resulting in grades lower than desired (which could potentially sabotage one's long term goals). It could also limit time for building an experience profile which might be necessary for one's career goals (see sample career and further studies).

Note when developing your course plan that the Psychology courses listed below must be taken in sequence over 2 or more years, and they are not offered every term:

  • Fall 2A - PSYCH 291 (Basic Research Methods)
  • Winter 2B - PSYCH 292 (Basic Data Analysis)
  • All of the discipline core courses are offered Fall/Winter, and a few are offering in the Spring term. Ideally, all Psychology students should complete at least 5 discipline core courses by the end of second year:
    • PSYCH 207
    • PSYCH 211
    • PSYCH 238 or 253
    • PSYCH 257
    • PSYCH 261.
  • BA Psychology students are expected to take their sixth discipline core course in third year.
  • BSc Psychology, as well as BA Psychology students enrolled in the Research Intensive Specialization, should take:
    • PSYCH 391 (Advanced Data Analysis) and PSYCH 389 (Social Science Advanced Research Methods Topics) in Fall 3A. If they are unable to take PSYCH 391 in Fall 3A term, they may enrol in PSYCH 391 in the Winter term, and PSYCH 389 will shift to the next Fall term.
    • PSYCH 390 (Natural Science Advanced Research Methods Topics) in Winter 3B (or Spring 3B for co-op students).
    • one of PSYCH 420, 451-463, 485 (honour seminars) can be taken concurrently with PSYCH 391 or in a later term. We usually suggest taking the honours seminar in fourth year.
  • PSYCH 499A/B/C (Honours Thesis) is an optional course that takes at least 2 terms to complete. Must complete PSYCH 391 and 1 of PSYCH 389 or 390 before enrolling in PSYCH 499A. Read carefully the enrolment restrictions for Psych 499.

Furthermore, co-op students must enrol in a school term after their last work term to graduate with the co-op designation, according to the Canadian Association for Co-operative Education (CAFCE). Typically, students should not reach their 4B school term before their last work term, as their 4B term should follow their last work term. Year levels are based on the number of units completed; if a Faculty of Arts student completes 17.0 units or a Faculty of Science student completes 18.0 units, the next school term will be classified as 4B. If your course plan will allow you to reach 4B before your last work term, please consult with your academic advisor.

Most co-op students, if taking 2.5 lecture units per school term, should not be able to finish their academic requirements before their last work term. However, if you are admitted to co-op with 6.5 units after your 1st year, take courses on work terms, and/or take several terms of 3.0 units, you may be able complete your academic requirements more quickly. This does not mean that you can graduate any sooner, as you must complete at least 4 work terms and follow your last work term with a school term. All co-op students must end their studies on a school term. There are no exceptions to this rule.

Math background required for taking PSYCH 292 (Basic Data Analysis)

Students who have not successfully completed one of the following courses:

  • Ontario 4U level Math e.g., Mathematics of Data Management,
  • an Ontario Academic Credit (OAC) Mathematics course e.g., Finite Math,
  • Grade 12 Math from a province other than Ontario,
  • a first year university Math course e.g., MATH 103, 104, or 127,
  • or an approved equivalent (e.g., if you took a college level math course or a math course outside of Canada, consult with the Psychology Undergraduate Advisor,

will be required to take MATH 103 (Introductory Algebra) concurrently with PSYCH 291 (Basic Research Methods) in the Fall term before taking PSYCH 292 (Basic Data Analysis) in the Winter term.

MATH 103 or 4U Math - Tips for Success

Prior to enrolment in MATH courses at the University of Waterloo, go to the course description  section of the Undergraduate Calendar to read the antirequisites for enrolment.

Alternatives to taking MATH 103 in the Fall term would be to take one of the following courses a term earlier:

  1. a 4U level Math course during summer school at a high school e.g., Math of Data Management. Contact schools in your area regarding course availability and enrolment procedures/deadlines.
  2. a 4U level Math course by distance education and/or online learning from the Independent Learning Centre (ILC) in Toronto e.g., course MDM4U-B Math of Data Management.
    Note: Please begin the course as soon as possible. It is our understanding that you cannot accelerate completion of this course because course units are provided in stages after the previous unit has been marked and feedback provided. Therefore, delaying the start date of the course from May to September could result in no final mark for the 4U Math course by the second week of January. In that case, it would be necessary to delay PSYCH 292 enrolment until the Winter term of the following year.

If option 1 or 2 is your plan, proof that the course was passed will be required at the Psychology Undergraduate Advisor no later than the course add deadline for the PSYCH 292 enrolment term.  PSYCH 292 is offered in Winter and Spring.

Consider the following when deciding whether to take MATH 103 versus a a high school Math course:  

  • MATH 103 at UWaterloo counts as an elective towards your degree and the final grade will count in your cumulative overall average.
  • a 4U level Math course (e.g., Math of Data Management) at an Ontario high school (or Ontario high school studies online) will not count as an elective towards your degree and the final grade will not count in your cumulative overall average.
  • Would you rather take MATH 103 while taking a full course load in the Fall term, or take a 4U level Math course when you are not doing other courses e.g., Spring term?
  • the on-campus section of MATH 103 has tutorial sections whereas the online section does not. (We don't know whether or not 4U level Math courses have tutorial sections.)

PSYCH 292 (Basic Data Analysis) or PSYCH 391 (Advanced Data Analysis) - tips for success

Math background required for enrolment in PSYCH 292 (Basic Data Analysis)

PSYCH 292 (Basic Data Analysis) and PSYCH 391 (Advanced Data Analysis) are statistics courses. PSYCH 292 is a required course for all psychology Majors. PSYCH 391 is a required course for all Honours Psychology Majors (single Major or Joint Major).

Some students will earn grades in PSYCH 292 and PSYCH 391 that are lower than they expect. Some report loss of confidence and feeling anxious or overwhelmed by the course material because they find data analysis and interpretation difficult and time consuming to master.

Suggestions for improving the likelihood of success:

  • review the textbook and the course outline before the term begins. The actual course outline will not be available until the first class but you can review a Psychology course outline from a previous term. PSYCH 292 is Winter only and PSYCH 391 is Fall only.
  • Good study habits are important for mastering the course material and building your confidence.
  • Practice reinforces learning.

    PSYCH 292 typically has a large repository of practice problems including answers will also be available on LEARN.

    PSYCH 391 uses has an 'optional' regular textbook. In addition, previous tests will be available on LEARN which will provide a large repository of practice problems including answers.
  • Dedicate a sufficient amount of quality study time to the course. We generally recommend that students spend at least 9 to 15 hours per week per course (e.g., lectures, assignments, readings, preparation for tests and exams, etc.) in order to be successful. However, in the case of PSYCH 292 and PSYCH 391, it might be necessary to spend 15 or more hours per week in order to master the course material.
  • Don't procrastinate. Each unit of a statistics course builds on the content of the previous unit. PSYCH 292 and PSYCH 391 are not courses where you can cram through a bunch of material at the last minute and do well. Counselling Services offers workshops to enhance your personal academic success.
  • Attend lectures, tutorials (PSYCH 292 only), and labs (PSYCH 391 only) regularly. Enrolment in labs and tutorials are typically capped at 30 to 40 students each so there will be lots of opportunity to ask questions. If you have questions that are not answered during the tutorials/labs, contact the instructor or a teaching assistant.
  • Consider carefully whether or not you can handle a full course load (see balancing school, work, etc.) the term you are enrolled in PSYCH 292 or PSYCH 391.
  • if struggling academically, you could hire a tutor. Don’t let yourself get too far behind before making such arrangements.


The quality of tutor services is not screened by any parties at UWaterloo, and it is your responsibility to pay for such services.

Tutor Connect is an online posting board for those who are providing tutoring services for UWaterloo students and those looking for tutors.

The Tutorial Centre in the Math Faculty provides tutoring for students in the Math faculty (e.g,. MATH 127, 134, 137, 234, 237, 239). If time permits, tutors will also assist those in the Faculty of Arts who are taking MATH 103.

Individuals offering tutor services for math and statistics courses post notices on the bulletin boards at the entrances to the Math and Computer (MC) Building.

The Psychology Undergraduate Office (PAS 3007) does not have a list of tutors. You could prepare an advertisement seeking a tutor and ask the Psychology Undergraduate Advisor to circulate the message for you to Psychology graduate students and/or senior psychology undergraduate students.

The PSYCH 292 and PSYCH 391 instructors typically contact students from the previous class who did well to ask about their willingness to serve as tutors for current students. If anyone is interested in tutoring on a volunteer or for pay basis, the instructor will post the contact information for current students on LEARN.

Writing Skills

Support services for improving student success and wellness at UWaterloo

Service Description
Psychology Academic Advisors The Psychology academic advisors are available to assist with course planning, program requirements, and a variety of other needs related to the Psychology program.
AccessAbility Services

AccessAbility Services promotes access to programs, services, and facilities for students, faculty, staff, and campus visitors with permanent or temporary disabilities. The office provides information to students about academic accommodations and provides various support services.

Information about in-class and exam accommodations

Career advisors Career advisors can help you decide what career path is right for you, as well as identify the appropriate steps to get there.
Counselling Services

Counselling Services in Needles Hall offers free individual appointments and consultation for students as well as seminars, workshops and group therapy.

In crisis? Feeling unsafe? Worried that you might hurt yourself or others? See the list of emergency contacts.

Arts has a designated counsellor Wendy Vaughan who has 3 days a week dedicated to seeing Faculty of Arts students. If you're interested in meeting with her contact Counselling Services.

Health Services

Health Services provides a variety of health related services, including:

Police Services Dedicated services to provide a safe and secure campus environment. Website includes personal safety guide, safety resources, shuttle service, etc
UW MATES MATES (Mentor Assistance Through Educational Support) is a student outreach program which seeks to promote personal life balance, self confidence, resiliency and academic support for UW students who are currently having academic, social, physical, emotional, cultural, and / or psychological difficulties.
Student Success Office
Tutoring in residence The living learning program offers tutoring in residence for a variety of courses on a weekly basis.