New to Social Development Studies?

Welcome to SDS!  Here are some of the things you might need to know as you begin your time with us:

Important Websites to Bookmark (do it now)

Get your WatCard

  • WatCard is your University of Waterloo ID card, access card, Library card, bus pass and convenience card – all in one.
  • Every student needs one.  Extended Learning students are required to have a WatCard when writing exams and for accessing online resources.
  • Hint:  you can load up your WatCard to pay for meals even if living off-campus.  (Parents – you can add funds to your student’s card, too!)
  • WatCard more info:  how and when to get it, where to use it and all the wonderful things you can do with it. 


  • You can find out what books you need closer to the beginning of the school term, by looking up your courses at the UWaterloo bookstore.  Login to “My BookLook” for a personalized book list, or search for a course. 
  • Hint:  if searching for a course, in the dropdown menu for “Department” you would select the SUBJECT code for your course (not your major).  For example, for your SOCWK 120R course, you would choose department SOCWK (not SDS). 
  • Hint:  for online courses, choose Section 081.
  • Hint:  You may be anxious to get your books early BUT you might consider waiting until the first day of class.  Your prof will provide a course outline and may suggest that an older edition of a book is fine to use, in which case you may want to buy from the used bookstore

Orientation (Fall only)

You should be getting emails inviting you to orientation activities.  If you haven’t, then check your uWaterloo email address or the Arts orientation website to register.


Parking at Renison is $7.00 and is paid on exit by credit or debit card only. Unfortunately, due to space constraints, parking permits are not available for students unless living in residence. 

Hint:   the Renison parking lot has a limited number of visitor spots so it gets full early, and even more so in the winter term.  Give yourself extra time and be prepared with alternate options.

LEARN (aka Waterloo LEARN)

LEARN is the web site you will use to:

(1) take on-line courses and/or

(2) access additional resources (notes, assessments) for on campus courses.  (But not all on-campus instructors use LEARN.)

  • Log in with your WatIAM ID and password
  • You won’t have access to a course until the first day classes start (or first day for online courses). 

Here’s more information and help on LEARN

Staying in the Know – Your Waterloo Email Address

Four reasons you should use your UWaterloo email address:

  1. All official emails will be sent there, so if you don’t use it (or at least check it) you might be missing important information. 
  2. The SDS department also sends out updates and information relevant to SDS students and we use your official email address. 
  3. Gmail and Hotmail messages are often routed to junk folders.
  4. It just looks more professional.

It’s easy to access your email via the web.  However, if you really don’t want to give up that gmail or hotmail address, you can set up your Waterloo email to be forwarded to a personal address.


Staying in the Know – Student Portal

Portal is a mobile-friendly and customizable communication tool that delivers the UWaterloo information students need.

Course Selection

(Check “Important Dates” bookmark above for actual dates as they change annually.)

  • For new (from secondary school) students - The Renison Registrar’s office will assist you with course selection in your first term, but here’s a step-by-step guide
  • For new transfer students (entering with previous credits) – Once you’ve received your “Confirmation of Transfer Credits” letter by email, contact your academic advisor.  Your advisor will prepare a degree audit outlining what courses you need to take considering the credits you’ve already received.  You will use your degree audit and checklists to figure out what courses you will take in future terms but advisors can give guidance if you have any questions.  He/she will also suggest courses to select for your first term.  Once you’ve agreed on courses for the term, you will go into Quest during specified dates to choose your courses.

Hint:  Course selection doesn’t guarantee enrollment, so have some alternatives in mind.

Within a week or two, you’ll see what courses you were successfully  enrolled in and your schedule.  When drop-add period begins, you will be able to make changes.  If you didn’t get into a course you wanted, check here for solutions. 


Do you have a permanent or temporary disability and need academic support?  Whether you’re full-time, part-time, or completing a degree through the Centre for Extended Learning, you can get help from the AccessAbility office.  Register online and get more information.

Making the most of your SDS degree

You’ve worked hard to get into this program and you want to make the most out of it.

The best way to enhance your degree and your time here is by making connections and building community.  There are many options for getting involved, but if you don’t find something that fits for you – start something up!  That’s what social development is about.

Ideas for connecting:

  • Communicate with all of your classmates and profs and enjoy the diversity of people around you
  • Start up a study group, even if you’re studying from a distance
  • Join, lead, or start up an existing student group, whether in SDS, Renison or UW – the possibilities are endless
  • Volunteer – there are plenty of fun and career building opportunities to volunteer within Renison, UW and in the Waterloo Region

Time Management

Whether you’re new to post-secondary education or you have some experience, there will be an adjustment to studying at university.  You want to make the most of your time and money, so start off on the right foot with good time management and study habits.

If you’re working while you’re studying, keep in mind that a full course load (5 courses) whether on campus or on-line is the equivalent of at least a 40-hour work week.  Think of your education as your full time job and balance your other commitments and leisure time accordingly.

Here are some helpful resources for time management from the Student Success Office. 

HELP!  Academic Planning and Questions

You are responsible for understanding and meeting all requirements for your degree (Bachelor of Arts) and your major (Social Development Studies) as well as any other plans you pursue (minors or specializations).  (Understanding the terminology

Your primary and most accurate source for academic requirements is the University of Waterloo Undergraduate Calendar.   For most students, you would refer to the calendar for the year you started in SDS.  If you transferred in from other Arts disciplines or are returning to studies, you may be following other calendars – confirm with your academic advisor. 

The SDS Current Students webpage is your next source of information such as:

  • Understanding your degree and major requirements – including handy checklists
  • Course selection – dates and tips
  • Specialty courses – information and application processes
  • FAQs
  • Handy links

If you have reviewed the information available above, and still need clarification, academic advisors are available to assist.  Their goal is to empower you to help yourself but are available to assist if you are experiencing particularly challenging circumstances.

In addition to assisting with academic planning, advisors can:

  • discuss and direct you to resources for student success.
  • discuss and direct you to resources for career and post-degree planning.
  • direct you to resources for non-academic related problems.

Advisors can’t:

Here’s how to find your SDS advisor.

Please email your student ID number along with your questions or request for an appointment.  This is to ensure we can review your records in order to answer your questions accurately.

Plan advisors are faculty and staff who have many duties in addition to student advising. Please respect the fact that when they are not advising, they are busy fulfilling other duties and responsibilities.

HELP!  The Rest of Life

There are a TON of resources for you to get help when things aren’t going the way you expect, whether academically or personally.  Please connect with someone!  At Renison you can talk to your profs, your advisor, a peer leader, a Don, or the Chaplain.  We will either help you or get you help – but you need to take the first step.