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Information for students in the Agro-Environmental Sciences Major

Newly-admitted students

Welcome to Macdonald campus!

Academic Advisor: Dr. Julie Major

As Academic Advisor it is a pleasure for me to help you get a good start in your program, and make sure you understand how it works. This page provides a wealth of information which will be directly useful to you now as well as in the coming years.

View a video about what your Academic Advisor can do for you.

Questions? Check the FAQs on the tab above.


The Agro-Environmental Sciences Major is focused on the idea that agricultural landscapes are managed ecosystems, and that humans engaged in agriculture must maintain the highest possible environmental standards while providing food and other bioproducts to the marketplace. The Major’s core focuses on the basic and applied biology of cultivated plants, domestic animals, arable soils, and the economics of agriculture.


The following video briefly explain how your program works:

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Recommended Courses

Find out when to register for your courses: go to “when to register” on this page: https://www.mcgill.ca/newstudents/mcgillstudent/registration

Find out how to use Minerva for course registration: https://www.mcgill.ca/students/courses/add/register

The recommended courses for first year students are shown below. I highly recommend you follow these recommendations, to ensure that you make adequate progress in your degree and avoid potentially serious scheduling difficulties in the coming years. If you leave any of the courses below for later, you may be prevented from taking courses which have these as pre-requisites. Also, schedules are made in order for students to be able to complete their program in 3 years assuming they follow recommendations. So if you leave any of these for later there is a considerably high probability that they will conflict with other courses you want to or must take at that time. If you are missing any Freshman-level courses, please talk to me directly.

Most students take five 3-credit courses per term (15 credits total), but some select to take four courses (12 credits total) because of language difficulties, easing the transition to university studies or due to other complications with carrying a full course load. For most students the overall program can be completed in three years if a full course load (i.e., 15 credits) is taken each term.  You are considered a full-time student if you register for at least 12 credits in a given term.

Fall term

AEBI 210 – Organisms 1 (3 credits)
AGRI 215 – Agro-Ecosystems Field Course (3 credits)
AGEC 200 – Principles of Microeconomics (3 credits)
ANSC 250 – Principles of Animal Science (3 credits)
ENVB 210 – The Biophysical Environment  (3 credits)

Winter term

AEMA 310 Statistical Methods 1 (3 credits)
AGEC 231 – Economic Systems of Agriculture (3 credits)
FDSC 230 – Organic Chemistry (4 credits), or an elective if a full term of Organic Chemistry has already been completed (for example in CEGEP). I suggest ENVR 202 – The Evolving Earth (3 credits)
LSCI  211 – Biochemistry I* (3 credits)
LSCI 230 – Introductory Microbiology (3 credits)

*To register for LSCI 211 students must also be registered for FDSC 230 Organic Chemistry, in the same or a previous term unless an equivalent Organic Chemistry course was completed prior to coming to McGill. If you already completed a full term of Organic Chemistry, you do NOT need to take FDSC 230. If this is the case and Minerva prevents you from registering for LSCI 211 due to a “pre-requisite/test score error”, please contact me directly.

Full program requirements for the Agro-Environmental Sciences Major are available here and in the Program Handbook (Agro-Environmental Sciences Handbook for newly admitted students 2015-2016.pdf)

Your record will be evaluated once your official examination results are received by McGill. Should you be missing and/or not have achieved the minimum required score for exemption in the equivalent basic pre-requisites, these courses will be added to your program and the adjustment will appear on your record in Minerva. As a result, your Major may be changed to Freshman. If this is the case, the courses you will be taking in your first year will be different from the above. Your Academic Advisor will contact you with suggestions for course choice, depending on your specific situation.


Important Notes

As soon as you accept your offer of admission from McGill, you should begin to check your McGill email account regularly.  If I need to contact you, this is the email address I will use.

Important note for students entering the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences with completed French Baccalaureate or International Baccalaureate Diplomas:

Due to the Faculty’s Freshman year requirements for the BSc (Ag.Env.Sc), which include one semester of Biology and two semesters in each of Chemistry, Physics and Calculus, you may be required to follow some of these basic courses before or during your progression to your Major in Agro-Environmental Sciences.  The list of basic math and science prerequisite courses for the Major in Agro-Environmental Sciences can be found at www.mcgill.ca/macdonald/prospective/freshmanyear/courses.

Returning students

Academic Advisor: Dr. Julie Major

As Academic Advisor it is a pleasure for me to help you navigate your program, and make sure you understand how it works.

View a video about what your Academic Advisor can do for you.

Questions? Check the FAQs on the tab above.


The Agro-Environmental Sciences Major is focused on the idea that agricultural landscapes are managed ecosystems, and that humans engaged in agriculture must maintain the highest possible environmental standards while providing food and other bioproducts to the marketplace. The Major’s core focuses on the basic and applied biology of cultivated plants, domestic animals, arable soils, and the economics of agriculture.

How does my program work?

View the video or download the Handbook. If your Specialization does not appear in the Handbook for your Major, look in other Handbooks.

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Agro-Environmental Sciences Handbook for students who entered the program in 2014-2015 (PDF)

Agro-Environmental Sciences Handbook for students who entered the program in 2013-2014 (PDF)

Agro-Environmental Sciences Handbook for students who entered the program in 2012-2013 (PDF)

Agro-Environmental Sciences Handbook for students who entered the program in 2011-2012 (PDF)

FAQs for AgEnvSc Students

Questions related to planning and completing your degree:

Can I do a Double Major?

In our Faculty, double Majors are an option for students who are in satisfactory academic standing and have a cGPA or 3.00 or more. In order to apply, you must meet with me and prepare a proposal showing how you will satisfy the requirements of both Majors. I have a template you can use.  Bear in mind that at least 36 credits must be unique to your second Major. This means that if your two Majors have a lot of courses in common, you may need to take extra complementary courses in the second Major, to generate unique credits in that Major.

Help! Minerva won’t let me register for a course!

Common registration problems:

  • Are you actually eligible to register? Check your eligibility on Minerva: Student Menu/Registration Menu/ Step 1: Check Your Registration Eligibility and Verify Your Curriculum
  • Error messages given by Minerva
    • Faculty or Program Restriction: Contact me directly. This occurs because of the spots available in the courses, none are open to students from your program. If you are trying to take an elective and get this message, unfortunately I cannot help you
    • Pre-requisite or test score error:
      • If you DO have the pre-requisite, contact me directly
      • If you want to take a course at the same time as the pre-requisite, or if you feel that you should be allowed to take the course without the pre-requisite, contact the instructor of the course, since only they can approve such a request
    • Instructor’s or Department Approval: request approval from the instructor of the course

Some notes:

• in general, there is no reason to panic if you are unable to register for a course that you are required to take. Authorizations and planning may take time, but the issue will get resolved and you should be able to take all courses you need to take (e.g., required courses), when you need to take them. Of course you may not be able to get into that lab section that gives you Friday afternoons off, but you will be able to take some conflict-free lab section! And we cannot help you get into elective courses, for example. But as a general rule, be patient!

• note that registration opens for given students on given dates, and that there is a date by which you must have registered for at least one course, to avoid late registration fees. But note also that you are free to make any change you like to your courses for a semester, at any time and as often as you want, until the end of the add-drop period which is a few weeks into the given term. I will send all my students an email at the start of each term, indicating all of these deadlines.

I saw online that the requirements for my program have changed!

Indeed, program requirements change over time. It is important to understand that you are in the version of the program that was in effect when you started the program in question (Major or Specialization), unless you explicitly switched into a newer version of the program component. The Excel progress sheet I use to track your progress should indicate the requirements that apply to you, specifically.

What is Honours?

To be eligible for Honours, you must have a cGPA at or above 3.30 at the end of the Winter term of your U2. Participating in Honours also entails finding a Faculty member who agrees to supervise you for the work. Additional rules regarding academic performance also apply in order to graduate with Honours.

Honours is a great opportunity to gain experience on conducting research, and graduating with Honours is broadly recognized as prestigious. The Honours component is in addition to the Major and Specialization requirements that apply to you specifically (based on the requirements which were in effect at the time when you started each component of your program). Essentially, Honours work replaces elective credit in your degree.

Agro-Environmental Sciences, Environmental Biology and Global Food Security students have the choice of two different Honours Plans. Only Plan A is open to Life Sciences students.

Plan A involves completing the following research courses in two different terms:

  • FAES 401 Honours Research Project 1 (6 credits)
  • FAES 402 Honours Research Project 1 (6 credits)

Plan B involves completing:

  • FAES 405 Honours Project 1 (3 credits)
  • FAES 406 Honours Project 2 (3 credits)

As well as 6 credits of courses at the 400 level or higher, and which are directly relevant to the work you do in FAES 405 and 406. As indicated above, these courses cannot be used in any other component of your program.

When and how do I apply for graduation?

If you expect to graduate in May, apply for graduation in February. For a January graduation apply by November and for an August graduation apply by March. Go to the “Student Records Menu” on Minerva and choose “Apply for Graduation for Your Primary Curriculum (1st degree)”.

Can I do a Minor?

You can do a Minor, but it is your responsibility to meet all of the degree requirements. Speak to your advisor about planning your courses. It can be challenging to complete all requirements for your program and the Minor in 3 years.

What happens if a course appears in both my Specialization and in my Major?

A Specialization must have 18 unique credits: therefore, 6 credits (typically two courses) can “overlap” and thus count towards both the Major and the Specialization. However, any course counts only once towards the total of credits required for graduation.

How do I declare a Specialization?

You need to fill out the Specialization form found at http://www.mcgill.ca/macdonald/studentinfo/undergrads/forms, the Student Affairs Office (SAO) in Laird Hall or Dr. Major’s office. Have Dr. Major sign it prior to returning it to SAO.

Can I do a second (or third…) Specialization? Should I take more than one?

You must complete at least one Specialization, and you may do more than one.  However, it might be difficult to complete all the requirements for your Major and more than one Specialization within 3 years, so be prepared for difficulties in scheduling. One thing you could do is try to take as many of your elective courses as you can schedule in the second Specialization. It will not appear on your transcript if you don’t complete all of the requirements but you will have taken many of the courses towards it. Talk to your advisor about this if you have more questions.

Can I take more than 15 credits per term?

If you are in satisfactory standing, you may take up to 18 credits per term.  If you wish to do more than this, you need to consult with your academic advisor to learn how to get approval.

I think I’m on track to graduate, but how do I know for sure?

Ask your advisor to review your file.

What’s the Pass/Fail (P/F) and Satisfactory /Unsatisfactory (S/U) options on courses?

Some courses at McGill are graded as pass/fail, but this does not apply to courses that are part of your Major.  You may take a maximum of 1 course per term as an S/U option, but this designation only applies to ELECTIVES.  Do not make the mistake of selecting this as an option for a required or complementary course. After the add/drop period, the S/U option CANNOT be removed.

Am I full time or part-time? Does it matter?

You are considered full-time if you take at least 12 credits per term, and it does matter. You must be enrolled in 27 graded credits per academic year to be eligible for scholarships and most student loans require a minimum of 12 credits/term. International students who have student visas cannot register for less than 12 credits per semester.

I don’t like my Major – how do I switch?

It is relatively easy to switch to other Majors within the same type of degree (B.Sc. Ag. Env. Sc.): visit your advisor and ask for the Program Change Form; this requires a signature of the advisor for the Major you are switching into. Visit the SAO to ask about the process of switching to a different degree type and/or to a different Faculty.


Questions related to studying outside McGill:

How do I go about getting credits taken elsewhere transferred to my McGill record?

You must bring an official transcript with your grade(s) for the course(s) to the Student Affairs Office in Laird Hall. Credits are only transferred if you got a grade of C or higher. If you need to get an equivalence to a course in your program, you will need to fill out a course equivalence form, available online (http://www.mcgill.ca/macdonald/studentinfo/undergrads/forms). The form must be signed by the instructor of the McGill course you want to get equivalence to. In order to judge whether the course is equivalent, the instructor is likely to ask for the outline of the course you took elsewhere.

I want to travel somewhere exotic, take courses there, and make them count towards my degree: how do I do this?

You can do this many ways, but keep in mind that semesters away from campus involve extra costs. You can do ‘field semesters’, such as the Panama Field Studies Semester (http://www.mcgill.ca/pfss/) or the Barbados Interdisciplinary Tropical Studies Semester (http://www.mcgill.ca/bits/). Go to the websites for these programs to look into requirements; some of the courses you take in these semesters may count towards your degree as complementary courses, but will most likely act as electives. You can also apply for a study as part of an exchange program. See www.mcgill.ca/students/international/goabroad.

I want to take a course at a different University – can this count toward my degree?

This is possible, but requires advanced planning – please talk to your advisor prior to proceeding with this. If you want the course to substitute for a required course, then the instructor of that course at McGill will have to sign a course equivalence form (available at http://www.mcgill.ca/macdonald/studentinfo/undergrads/forms), as will your academic advisor, and additional paperwork may be required before such a substitution is accepted. Don’t forget that you require 60 credits of McGill courses to be granted your degree. The Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences’ 2/3 rule for credit taken at Mac also applies. You need to provide the Student Affairs Office with an official transcript produced by a recognized university-level institution (a “letter of attestation” is NOT sufficient), as well as a description of the course (i.e. a syllabus or “course outline”).


Questions related to broadening the scope of your education:

How do I get research experience as part of my degree?

You can do this through research project courses (e.g. AGRI 490 (restricted to specific programs), ENVB 497 and ENVB 498, LSCI 451 and LSCI 452, the PLNT 489/490 sequence of courses or through a Special Topics Course).  For all options you must have in place a supervisor for your project, so the first step is to develop a rapport with a potential supervisor and together you can develop a research project that interests you both.  This takes time and planning, but can be a very rewarding experience.

What’s an internship? Can I do one?

An internship is pre-professional work experience that provides an opportunity to supplement academic learning by gaining practical knowledge in your field of study. You can do one - please visit the Macdonald Campus Internship office (http://www.mcgill.ca/macdonald/programs/internships).