FAQ for new students

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

A: Students accepted in U0 should register for courses to complete their Freshman program requirements.  As preparation for the Geology, Planetary Sciences and Earth System Sciences, you must prioritize CHEM 110 and CHEM 120, PHYS 131 and PHYS 142 (in exceptional cases, PHYS 101, PHYS 102 may be used instead), MATH 139 (or MATH 140), MATH 141 and MATH 133.

Other U0 courses to consider:

  • 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 is 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.

U1 students coming from CEGEP who have 30 credits transferred from a DEC in Science/Sciences de la Nature (Pure and Applied Science/Environmental Science/Sciences Pures et Appliquées) start taking the 200-level courses of their Major or Honours program. They will complete their full load with some elective(s) and/or the course(s) of a Minor. The first year of some programs (Major Geology, Honours Geology, Honours Planetary Sciences) is nearly identical, giving time to decide among these programs. The course listings of all our programs can be consulted at https://www.mcgill.ca/eps/undergraduate/majors.

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.


Q: How many courses should I take each term?

A: A standard progression is 30 credits per year, or 5 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 the fall or the winter term of that academic year. 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


Q: A course I want to register for is full, what should I do?

A: 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 at https://www.mcgill.ca/science/undergraduate/advice/program-advisors.

You should also read first their tips on handling registration problems at: https://www.mcgill.ca/science/undergraduate/new-students/registration#Reg%20problems

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 2 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 of substitutions. For electives, register for another suitable course so that you have something to fall back on. After your first year at McGill, you get an earlier pick at registration, so it does get easier as you progress in your program.


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

A: If a course has an active Minerva waitlist, you will not be able to register for the course directly. First, you must add yourself to the Minerva waitlist. Monitor your McGill email daily so as not to miss 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 in the waitlist) and you must start over from the back of the queue. For detailed instructions on the waitlist system, go to https://www.mcgill.ca/students/courses/add/register.


Q: When do I register for courses for the winter term?

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


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

A: No.  You must replace these 3 credits by a different course that is relevant to your program. Consult your program adviser. 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).


Q: 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?

A: EPSC 231, a field course usually held in the first 2 weeks of May, is scheduled as a summer course. Registration for it does not open until March of the same year (i.e. 2 months prior to the field course). However, its logistics require earlier planning.  Students who have taken EPSC 240 in the fall term of the last 2 years 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.


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

A: 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 register is set by Kristy Thornton, but 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. Registering for a research project in the winter of U1 is rare. Completing more than one research project (with different professors) over U2 and U3 is not unusual.


Q: I am a student on exchange at Mcgill. I need some help selecting courses that match those of my earth sciences program at my home university. Who should I see or e-mail?

A: You should e-mail jeanne.paquette [at] mcgill.ca if your program is in earth sciences. The relevant courses may have EPSC, ESYS, ENVR , ATOC or GEOG labels. Get advising (via e-mail, or by asking for a Zoom or in-person meeting) to select courses of appropriate level, preferably ahead of the start of classes.


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

A: We hold an orientation during the first week of classes in September.  Download a PDF with relevant information.


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