Frequently Asked Questions

The FAQ below are intended to shed light on some common questions and point you in the right direction, but this is not an exhaustive list of solutions, resources or opportunities.

If you have advising-related questions and can't find answers here, the best course of action is to ask an advisor.

This FAQ is divided into seven sections: I Am A New Student, I Am A Current Student, I Am About To Graduate, I Am Having Difficulty, I Have Graduated, I Have A Question About My Finances, and I Have A Conflict

I Am A New Student

I just got accepted to McGill, but I don't understand what I need to do next.

The website for Accepted students has all the info you need to begin your studies at McGill. As well, McGill's Campus Life & Engegement office offers a wide range of resources for students in their first year at the University.

In addition, every faculty, department and school has resources for newly-admitted students; click here to find a list of contact information by unit.

Some of the courses I'm supposed to take in my first year are just like the ones I took before I came to McGill. Do I still have to take them?

The answer to your question depends on the specifics of what courses you took and where.

Check here to see if the courses you’ve taken provide McGill course exemptions. If they do, and you don’t see the exemptions on your unofficial McGill transcript in Minerva by the start of your first semester:  Before Oct. 1 in your first semester at McGill (or Feb. 1, if you started in the Winter semester) contact Service Point for assistance; after Oct. 1 of your first semester, contact your Student Affairs Office or faculty advisor.

If one of your required courses covers content that you feel you've learned at another institution, you may be eligible to take a placement test and potentially receive an exemption from a course at McGill. This is only possible for basic math and science courses, and must be done at the beginning of your first term of study.

If the above information doesn't help you and you still feel you should be exempt from a McGill course due to previous study elsewhere, contact a Faculty advisor to arrange a meeting and bring all relevant information about the course you took. He or she will assess your eligibility for an exemption.

You should not register for a McGill course that you’re exempt from taking. If you do, you will not receive credit for this course, and it will not be included in your GPA.

There are so many programs and courses I'm interested in that I don't know what to take.

For the first two weeks of each term, you can add or drop courses freely. You should take advantage of this period by going to as many lectures as you can fit into your schedule. This will help you determine which courses are right for you.

In addition to this, try browsing through the undergraduate calendar to develop a list of courses that sound interesting to you. Find out as much as you can about these courses from departmental advisors, fellow students and other sources such as the web, course outlines, etc.

If you are still confused by your options, take all the information you have gathered and make an appointment to meet with an advisor.


I Am A Current Student

How do I register for a credit overload in one semester?

The credit limit for a semester in most faculties is either 17 or 18 credits, depending on the degree program you are registered in.  Taking on a larger courseload than that may affect your academic success. If you feel you can handle this significant commitment, contact your Student Affairs Office to find out the process to request an exception in your Faculty.

I want to learn French, so I was advised to take a placement test. Then I was told that there is no room left in the course. What can I do?

Because language courses need to be kept relatively small, they fill up quickly. Fall term courses may already be mostly filled by the summer, since some returning students may have registered in the courses during the spring registration period. Beginners’ and Elementary level courses (FRSL 101, 105 and 207, in particular) fill up the quickest, so it is strongly recommended that you take your test as soon as possible during the August placement test period, just in case your results place you in one of these levels.

Minerva won't let me register for the course I want. How do I fix this?

The most likely problem is that the course you're trying to register in is full; you may be able to join a wait list, however, if one is offered for that course.  Another common issue is that some courses can only be taken by students registered in a particular program or department.  Others require special departmental approval, and a few must be taken at the same time. Consult your course calendar to see if any of these restrictions apply.

For tips on handling registration problems, Minerva error messages, etc., consult the troubleshooting guide. Though it was created by the Faculty of Science, it applies to all students.

When is the best time for me to apply to Study Abroad or Student Exchange programs?

The ideal time to participate in an exchange program is in the year before graduation (U2, for most students). With good course planning, you may be able to do this as soon as you complete your first year of study.

If you wish to participate in a semester or year-long study exchange or study abroad program, you must apply in Minerva by the appropriate deadline. Your application is reviewed by your faculty for approval and then by the Student Exchange office. Consult the process for requesting to go on exchange here.

Will I receive credit for courses I do on Study Exchange or Study Abroad programs?

Before you leave McGill to study abroad, you must obtain McGill approval from your department and/or faculty for the courses you'll be taking while you're away. You must fill out the Course Approval and Transfer Credit form on Minerva and follow up by contacting the appropriate departmental and/or faculty advisors to notify them that there are courses waiting to be reviewed. For more details, refer to the Transfer Credit policy here.

How will having an F, J, K, L, or W on my transcript affect my GPA?

  • "F" denotes a failure and negatively affects your GPA.
  • "J" indicates that you either missed an exam or did not submit an assignment without authorization. It may appear temporarily on your transcript while your situation is being investigated. This counts as a failure in your GPA calculation.
  • "K" means that a course is incomplete, and that you must complete the missing work in order to receive a grade. If the work is not submitted by the grade submission deadline, the K becomes an "KF," which is equivalent to an "F." A "K" does not affect your GPA, but the subsequent grade does. Only your instructor can authorize this arrangement.
  • "L" denotes that your request to defer a final exam has been approved. It doesn't affect your GPA, but the subsequent grade does.
  • "W" denotes that you withdrew from the course after the add/drop deadline, and does not affect your GPA.

Contact your advisor for further clarifications.

Am I able to register for a course if I receive a "D" grade in a prerequisite course? How about an "F"?

A "D" grade is a conditional pass and is generally not acceptable for a prerequisite. However, your advisor may be able to help.

If you have registered for a course for which you previously failed to complete the prerequisite, you may be obliged to withdraw. It is strongly recommended that you consult an academic advisor beforehand, as there may also be academic risks involved.

May I take a 6-credit intensive one-semester course under the Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory (S/U) option?

Where permitted by Faculty and program regulations, you may take one elective course per term to be graded under the S/U option, to a maximum of 10% of total credits taken at McGill to fulfill your degree requirements. The S/U option may only be used for electives taken at McGill. For example, if you completed 30 credits at another institution and have only 90 to do at McGill to fulfill your degree requirements, you're entitled to take 9 elective credits under the S/U option.

You can find the full details of this policy in the Undergraduate eCalendar.

A course I wanted to take requires that I get the instructor's or department's permission/approval. How do I get this?

First, find out what department is offering the course (this is usually indicated by the prefix and/or in the course description), then go to the department's main office in person. If you're not in town, you can also contact them via e-mail or phone. The address, phone number and e-mail address for the main office can usually be found on the department's main web page or via that page's left-hand menu, under "Contact Information" or "Contact Us."

Someone in the departmental office will be able to evaluate your eligibility to register (you may have to speak to the course instructor as well). If you're given permission, you will be granted a "permit" to register (also known as an electronic permission or override), which will allow you to use Minerva to register in the course. 

How do I declare (choose) or change my honours/major/minor program?

Certain Faculties allow students to choose or change their honours/major/minor programs on Minerva. In the "Student Menu" of Minerva under "Student Records Menu" there are two choices: "Change your primary curriculum" and "Change your secondary curriculum," which is Minerva-speak for "change your honours/major/minor program." Most students have only one curriculum or degree, but some are in double programs. If you can access this choice in Minerva, then you can make your changes this way.

If you can't, then you are in a Faculty that does not use Minerva, and you will have to contact your Student Affairs Office to request the change.

For more information on changing programs, please consult the Courses and Programs website.

Does McGill accept transfer credits for courses taken at other universities?

It depends.  Each Faculty has its own policy regarding online/distance education courses. Therefore it is best to consult your Faculty's Student Affairs Office to find out more or refer to the most recent program calendar for further information.

If you are a student who has taken or would like to take courses at a university outside of Quebec (not on exchange) and you wish to transfer your credits, contact your Student Affairs Office for further information.

Can I take 100-level courses as electives?

It depends on your Faculty's rules and your particular program and degree requirements. Generally speaking, the only time you'll take 100-level courses is when you're in Year 0 (U0) in a Freshman program. However, it's possible that there are some general interest 100-level courses such as First-Year Seminars that you would be able to take as an elective. Check with a Faculty or program advisor to find out what rules apply to you.


I Am About To Graduate

I am in my last semester and just found out that I do not have enough program credits to graduate. What should I do?

See your departmental advisor as soon as possible, in order to work out the best strategy to suit your situation.

I am considering doing a Master's in my discipline but I don't know whether my grades are good enough. Who should I talk to?

There are several places that you can go to get the information you need.

  • For information about good academic programs and universities in your discipline and the grades you'll need to get in, see an advisor in your department or a professor that you feel comfortable with.
  • For information about application procedures, talk with an advisor at CaPS and visit their website.
  • Each university has its own graduate financing options and opportunities, but you can learn more about McGill's fellowships and awards here.
  • Most departments have a graduate program director who can advise you further.

Keep in mind that professional programs (ie. Law, Medicine, MBA programs, Dentistry, etc.) will consider graduates from all backgrounds, and tend to be looking for students with well-rounded CVs including volunteer work and community involvement.

I want to pursue a professional degree (Medicine, Law, Dentistry, Engineering, Management, etc.). What program should I take to help me get accepted?

There is no “perfect” program to prepare you for most professional degrees. For example, most medical students have completed a BSc beforehand, but that is not essential. Eligibility requirements vary from university to university as well. You can read more about McGill's requirements on faculties' websites.

McGill offers pointers on how to put together a good application. CaPS can also help you prepare with a preparatory mock interview.

Because all of these programs are very competitive, some students with good grades and solid applications are not accepted. You should consider alternatives in case this happens.

Do I need to see an academic advisor if I use the Degree Evaluation Record in Minerva to check if I'm on track to fulfilling my program and graduation requirements?

Degree Evaluation (DE) is a tool designed to help students and their advisors determine how the student is fulfilling the program requirements. DE is not meant to replace the advisor, since there can be adjustments or substitutions that are specific to individual sudents that may not show in DE. For example, it will not pick up course overlaps, which will create problems.

At least one visit per year to your academic advisor is well worth your time.

A friend told me that a "W" on my transcript could be interpreted negatively by scholarship or graduate admission committees. Is this true?

It depends. A single "W" in the first year of your degree would most likely not have an impact on your future. Multiple withdrawals, or withdrawals close to the end of your degree should be explained in any application you make for scholarships or admission to graduate programs. Supporting documents, such as medical notes, should also be provided as part of the application, where permitted. A "W" is likely to have less impact on your future than a low grade would.


I Am Having Difficulty

I'm having trouble understanding my course material. How can I get help?

As soon as you find that you're having difficulty with a course -- and ideally well before exams or looming deadlines -- you should approach your professor or TA for help. They can usually offer in-depth explanations and ideas on how best to tackle the material. Professors are also often available for extra help during their office hours. You may also want to consider starting a study group with other students.

If you're still struggling, McGill's Tutorial Service can provide course tutors (usually undergraduate students). As well, departmental student associations sometimes have note-taking clubs or informal peer tutors.

I really don't like speaking up in class, but oral presentations and/or class participation are required in my courses. What can I do?

Having the ability to speak confidently in public will serve you well throughout your academic and professional careers, but anxiety is very common. If you're shy or anxious about speaking in public, you may want to sign up for one of the public speaking workshops offered by Counselling Services. You can also talk with your professor, who may be able to offer suggestions.

I have a (learning) disability that may be affecting my ability to meet course requirements. What do I do?

If you haven't already, register with the Office for Students with Disabilities. They'll help make sure that any accommodations you need are provided.

I have many responsibilities and have trouble managing my time. What can I do?

Ideally, a full-time student shouldn't work more than 10 hours per week, though we understand that this is not always possible. Counselling Services offers workshops that can help you use your time more efficiently. You may also want to talk with an advisor to determine whether dropping a course or two would affect your scholarship status or graduate/professional school applications.

I have been sick and have missed a lot of class and homework. I'm not ready for my exams and I don't know what to do.

As soon as you know your illness will interrupt your studies for more than a day or so, see a doctor and follow his or her advice on resuming normal academic activities. If necessary, ask the doctor to provide a note excusing you from school and show it to your professors and/or faculty advisor.

If you missed homework, midterms or paper deadlines, inform your instructor. If you've missed a final or aren’t ready to write a final as a direct result of your illness, inform your faculty's Student Affairs Office and consult your professor to see what arrangements can be made. If you’ve missed a formal final exam or aren’t ready to write because of your illness, use Minerva to apply for a deferred exam and bring your medical note to your Student Affairs Office (in some faculties, you cannot use Minerva — you must use your faculty Student Affairs Office). If you've missed a substantial amount of course work, you'll need to inform your faculty's Student Affairs Office as well.


I Have Graduated

Everyone except me seems to know what they're going to be doing after they graduate with their bachelors' degree. Should I apply for graduate school or a professional school or go on the job market or take a year off?

Many students are uncertain about what to do after they graduate. You can discuss your options with a career advisor in the Career Planning Service (CaPS) who can not only look at career possibilities but can also help you with decision-making about other options.

If making a decision is causing you stress, then you might consider going to the Counselling Service to speak to a counsellor about your concerns.

I want to go on the job market after I graduate, but I don't know where to look first and I don't really know what types of jobs would fit with my training, interests and abilities.

The Career Planning Service (CaPS) is McGill's central career resource and can help. You can make an appointment with a career advisor by telephone or in person in Room 2200 of the Brown Student Services Building (Downtown) or at the Centennial Centre (Macdonald).

You might also consider taking part in the PACE program, which can examine your interests and values and help you narrow down your career choices.

Some faculties have their own career offices -- if your faculty is on the list below, it should be your first stop:

The faculties of Arts and Science also have internship offices.


I Have A Question About My Finances

I think I'm going to lose my scholarship because I dropped a course, or because my GPA is dropping. Who can I talk to about this?

The first thing you should do is contact your faculty, departmental or school advisor, to figure out where you stand and how to improve your position. You should then go to the Scholarships and Student Aid office to discuss your options. If it looks like you’re going to lose your scholarship, they can help you figure out alternative ways of funding your studies.

I need to work to pay for school. Do I still have to take 15 credits per term?

No. You can take 12 credits a term and keep your full-time status, or you can register part-time (9 credits per term or fewer). International students and bursary students must be registered full-time, and scholarship students must be registered in at least 27 graded credits per year. If you’re carrying a full course load, ideally you shouldn’t work more than 10 hours a week. If you are an undergraduate student, consult your faculty advisor. He or she will help you develop a long-term plan that appropriately balances all your commitments. If you are a graduate student, your research supervisor or graduate program director is your best source of advice. Advisors in Counselling and Career Planning Services can provide advice on time management, study skills, program choice, job choices, etc. You may also wish to consult an advisor in Scholarships and Student Aid, to find out if you qualify for loans or bursaries.

How many credits must I take per semester in order to remain eligible for my scholarship/loan/bursary?

Students should contact the Scholarship and Student Aid Office (SSAO) to obtain details on minimum course load requirements to retain their scholarship/loan/bursary funding.


I Have A Conflict

I was expecting a better grade than the one I received. How can I get my grade reviewed?

First, explain your concerns to your professor and/or TA, and ask for an explanation of the basis for your grade. If your concern persists, contact your faculty's Student Affairs Office (for final exam grades) or your department chair (for other grades) to begin the review process as each Faculty has its own policy concerning requests for review of marks and final grades.

Be aware that there are deadlines for reviewing grades; if you intend to request a review, you should do it as soon as possible.

I'm having problems with my classmates/TA/instructor/advisor OR I feel I've been treated unfairly by administrative and/or academic staff. Who do I talk to about this?

If you don’t feel able to speak to the people directly concerned, or if you have tried without result, you can do any or all of the following (this advice applies whether the problem involves a person in your ‘home’ department(s) or faculty, or a person from another department or faculty).

It’s always best to start with the people "closest" to the problem, but if you don’t feel comfortable speaking to anyone in your unit or faculty, you can skip to the next person in a higher position. Some people may not be able to help you directly, but they will refer you to someone who can. Remember: everything you say in an advising session will be treated as confidential. Feel free to mention this when you meet with the advisor(s) who will be helping you.

Don’t know how to contact your advisors? Click here for a list of advising contact information by unit, or contact the Office of the Dean of Students.

I've received a letter from my faculty's disciplinary officer calling me to a disciplinary interview. What do I do?

This is an administrative procedure. The letter will suggest a date for the interview; you should call or write as soon as possible to confirm the date or suggest a new one. You are entitled to be accompanied to the interview by any McGill student or employee, so long as you do not pay this person for this service. In this situation, you may wish to contact McGill's Student Advocacy group, which can provide advice and support. You can also consult the directory of disciplinary officers and contact your disciplinary officer for more information, or get in touch with the Dean of Students. Disciplinary matters are always treated as confidential. The Disciplinary Process is described here.

I think someone I know may be plagiarising, cheating, or breaking the law (for example, harassing someone). How can I report this without getting involved?

Contact the Dean of Students or the Associate Dean of Students and they will take it from there. Your involvement in the matter will be treated as confidential.

Someone is doing something dangerous or behaving in a disturbing manner. What should I do?

Contact McGill's Security Services at 514-398-3000. They will assess the situation and take action if needed. If the person involved is a student, they will also contact the Dean of Students or the Associate Dean of Students. Your involvement in the matter will be treated as confidential.