FAQ for New Students

Am I starting in U0 or U1? 

You can find this out online on Minerva by searching "Registration Eligibility."

What courses should I register for in my first year at McGill?

U0 Students

If you start as a U0 student, you should prioritize your Freshman science requirements. In the following year (as a U1 student), you will take mostly 200-level courses towards the program (s) you declare on Minerva as part of your degree (e.g. a Major Geology, with or without a minor program) 

Freshman pre-requisite to most EPSC and ESYS 200-level courses

  • CHEM 110 General Chemistry 1
  • CHEM 120 General Chemistry 2
  • PHYS 131 Mechanics and Waves
  • PHYS 142 Electromagnetism & Optics
  • Two Calculus courses (usually MATH 139 and MATH 141)
  • MATH 133

Students are also strongly encouraged to include BIOL 111 Principles: Organismal Biology in their program.

Students who have not taken all of Biology, Chemistry and Physics at the grade 12 level should include any missing subjects in their freshman program.

More information on U0 Faculty of Science requirements here

If you have covered the minimum above requirements, you may also consider the following courses, open to U0 students:

  • ESYS 104 is a broad introduction to Earth System Science but not a formal prerequisite to any EPSC or ESYS course or program.
  • COMP 202 or COMP 208 are useful if you have no programming experience.
  • If you are interested in the history of life, BIOL 111 is recommended background.
  • For those interested in the search for (microbial) extra-terrestrial life, BIOL 112 is a better choice.
  • EPSC 240 Geology in the Field is open to U0 students (for permission to register, contact Professor christie.rowe [at] mcgill.ca (Christie Rowe)).


U1 Students

Students should have 30 credits transferred from a DEC in Science/Sciences de la Nature (Pure and Applied Science/Environmental Science/Sciences Pures et Appliquées. Once accepted, they can start taking the 200- level courses of their Major or Honours program.

See our program list here

U1 students can choose electives among any 200-level courses in Science or Arts. They should check carefully the prerequisites of 300-level courses, whether they be required, complementary or elective courses. The U1 year is a good time to explore a Minor, perhaps courses from a different program that may have been your second choice.


How many courses should I take each term?

The standard progression is 30 credits per year, or five courses of 3 credits in the fall and the same in the winter term. In programs requiring the summer course EPSC 231 Field School 1 (3 credits), a lighter course load can be taken in that academic year's fall or winter term.

Some students choose to complete 33 credits in U1, and lighten their course load in U2 or U3, during a term where they start a research course (EPSC 396, EPSC 482) or expect to take part in an extra-curricular field trip.

Note: Students must take at least 27 graded credits per academic year to qualify for available in-course scholarships.


What should I do if a course I want to register for is full?

Returning McGill students have access to registration before new students, so some courses you were looking forward to taking may fill up before you gain access to the registration menu. This is unlikely to happen in EPSC courses because most classes are small.

For courses from other departments, you can get help if a course required in your program has filled up.

SOUSA posts useful departmental contacts for registration issues.

First, you should read their tips on handling registration problems.

Typically, you will be asked to bring in a copy of your schedule once the term begins and be allowed to register during the add/drop period.

If the course in question is not required in your program, keep in mind that the first two weeks of each term are the add/drop period when many students finalize their course schedule.

Enrollment fluctuates significantly during the add/drop period at the beginning of each term and some courses use a "waitlist".

For complementary courses, your program adviser may offer suggestions for substitutions. You may need to take an elective course instead of the course expected for a Minor to ensure that you progress in your degree.

After your first year at McGill, you get an earlier pick at registration, so it does get easier as you progress in your program.


How do I register for a course that has an active Minerva waitlist?

If a course has an active Minerva waitlist, you cannot register for the course directly. First, you must add yourself to the Minerva waitlist. Monitor your McGill email daily to avoid missing the invitation to register if a spot becomes available. If you do not respond by the deadline indicated in the invitation (usually less than 24 hours later), you get bumped off the waitlist (the spot is offered to the next person on the waitlist), and you must start over from the back of the queue.

Click here for detailed instructions on the waitlist system.


When do I register for courses for the winter term?

You should register for both the fall and winter terms at the same time.

Visit McGill's Key Academic Dates webpage for important dates and deadlines. 


I have taken the equivalent of MATH 222 Calculus 3 in CEGEP. Does this save me 3 credits in U1?

No. You must replace these three credits with a different course that is relevant to your program. Some students take an elective course instead in their first year, and eventually pick a 3-credit complementary course in U2 or U3 once they have fulfilled its pre-requisite(s). Consult your program advisor for more information.


The program description in the eCalendar mentions EPSC 231 Field School 1, but I cannot find it when I try to register on Minerva. Why?

EPSC 231, a field course usually held in the first two weeks of May, is scheduled as a summer course. Registration does not open until March of the same year (i.e. two months before the field course). However, its logistics require earlier planning. Students who have taken EPSC 240 in the fall term of the last two years will receive an e-mail inviting them to a planning meeting in January. Updates on field school logistics are posted thereafter, including a reminder to register.


I read that research projects (EPSC 396, EPSC 482) can be taken for credits. How do I register for one?

There is no centralized list of research projects. Individually, students approach a professor and express an interest, usually months ahead of the beginning of a term. A permit for registration will be made available only after the professor and student sign an outline of the research project goal and the work proposed, its timeline and the assessment method. Consult your program adviser for a link to (or a sample of) the form required. Note that research projects generally happen in a student's second year.

Completing multiple research projects (with different professors) over U2 and U3 is not unusual.


I am a student on exchange at McGill. I need help selecting courses that match my Earth Sciences program at my home university. Who should I see or e-mail?

Your relevant courses may have EPSC, ESYS, ENVR, ATOC or GEOG labels.

If your program is in Earth Sciences, you should e-mail jeanne.paquette [at] mcgill.ca. You can get advice (via e-mail, Zoom or an in-person meeting) to select courses of the appropriate level.


Where else can I learn about what the department has to offer?

  • We hold an orientation during the first week of classes in September for all of our new students (including those in a minor program)
  • Check your McGill student email regularly for announcements.
  • Ask to be subscribed to the department mailing list. You can make your request with brigitte.dionne [at] mcgill.ca (Brigitte Dionne )via email. 
  • Join the Student Society (the Monteregian Society
  • You are welcome to contact your adviser and course instructors for specific questions. 


How can I get involved in Earth Sciences as early as U0? 

The department holds several activities at the beginning of the semester, including a welcome activity, a departmental picnic in September (date to be announced). We also provide free coffee and cookie every day at 3pm. These are great opportunities to speak with professors and students. 

We also offer general-interest courses which are credited as electives: 

  • EPSC 180 Terrestrial Planets 
  • EPSC 185 Natural Disasters 
  • EPSC 186 Astrobiology 
  • ESYS 104 The Earth System 


I still have questions. Is there anyone I can contact?

You can email Jeanne Paquette at jeanne.paquette [at] mcgill.ca, the Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, or you can email Bill Minarik at william.minarik [at] mcgill.ca, the Advisor of Undergraduate Students for the Earth System Sciences Program. 

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