Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs for AgEnvSc Students

For students the in following B.Sc. (Ag. Env. Sc.) Majors:

  • Life Sciences

  • Environmental Biology

  • Global Food Security

  • Agro-environmental Sciences

  • Agricultural Economics


FAQs related to administrative aspects of your studies:

1- I took a course outside Mac which I would like to use in my program. What do I need to do?

Note that in the case of credit taken before you came to McGill, you must complete the steps below before the end of your first term with us. For courses taken after you came to McGill, you must complete these steps within the following term.

For a course taken at the main McGill campus, see our McGill-to-McGill equivalency database. Note that these equivalencies are valid for Mac students ONLY. If you took a downtown course that appears on this list, there is nothing more to do, it's as if you had taken the corresponding Mac course. Note that if you were to take a course after having done it's equivalent, it will be coded not for credit and will not affect your GPA - i.e., don't do that!

For non-McGill courses: Use McGill's equivalency database - see instructions under question #2.

Once your course has been approved for transfer credit on the equivalency database, you must request that the transfer credit be approved for use in your specific degree. Log into Minerva, select the Student Records Menu, select the Exchange/Study away Menu, and select Approval for Transfer Credit Assessment.

Once the Transfer Credit Assessment form has been completed, email the Student Affairs Office (SAO) at saoadvisor.macdonald [at] (saoadvisor.macdonald)fern.ship [at] ( Be sure to include your name and ID number and let them know that you have completed the form to transfer credits on Minerva. Note that the SAO cannot transfer credits unless they have an official copy of your transcript showing you passed the non-McGill course. Bring an official transcript in person to 106 Laird Hall (in this case it will be in an envelope which was sealed by the delivering institution, and unopened), or have one mailed to McGill. If you are given the option of specifying the mailing address, use this one:

McGill University, Macdonald Campus

Student Affairs Office, 106 Laird Hall

21,111 Lakeshore rd

Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, Qc

H9X 3V9 Canada

2- How do I use McGill's equivalency database?

Note that the database only shows courses that have been assessed by McGill. When a course has been assessed, you can see whether it was accepted (green check mark) or rejected (red "x") as equivalent. If a course does not appear on the database, it means it has not yet been assessed or is currently being assessed. It does not mean it has been rejected. If you click on an entry in the database, you can see comments associated to it.

First, check McGill's equivalency database to see whether your non-McGill course has already been evaluated. Make sure you check the box to include expired decisions in your search. If your course does not appear on the database, you will need to request that it be considered. If your course appears as an expired decision, you will have to have it reassessed. Obtain the syllabus for the non-McGill course. Note that a paragraph description is not acceptable, the full list of topics covered must be included, and ideally the method of evaluation and textbook(s), as appropriate. You will need to have the syllabus in PDF format. Then you need to find the closest match to a McGill course. The list of McGill subject codes might be helpful, as well as the eCalendar. If there is no "exact" match, you can apply for transferring just elective credit. To submit your request on the online database, log in at the very top of the page, go to “home” also at the top of the page once you have logged in, and “Submit a new Request” for the course to be evaluated. In the case where there is no very close match at McGill for your non-McGill course, you can ask that the course be accepted with a code of ABCD 1XX, 2XX, 3XX or 4XX, for example. To do this, check the box "No Matching Course Number" while filling in the McGill information. To make sure your request is properly understood, I suggest including in your comments something like "I understand that this course is not fully equivalent to any ABCD (insert appropriate subject code) course. Unless you know of a ABCD course to which it would indeed be equivalent, perhaps you can consider approving the equivalency as ABCD 2XX (add the best fitting code). This way I can have credits transferred and use them as electives in my degree".

Note that the database never lists more than 100 entries at a time. For example, if you pull up all courses from Université de Montréal, at the bottom of the list it will say "162 record(s) found. Showing top 100". Pay attention to this and refine your search as necessary, before concluding that a course does not appear on the database. You can also list the courses in ascending or descending alphabetical order, in order to view all of them.


FAQs related to understanding your program:

3- What's an elective course?

An elective is a course that you take to reach the minimum number of credits needed for your degree (120 for the B.Sc.(Ag.Env.Sc.)), beyond the minimum requirements for your Major and Specialization. An elective can be an additional course from the complementary list for your Major or Specialization, from a different program, Major or Specialization at Mac, from downtown, or from another accredited university worldwide. Check with me before taking an elective outside Mac, to make sure it can count in your program. But in general, you can take "any course", including online courses, as an elective so long as it can be used toward an undergraduate degree, at the institution where it is taught. Logically, there is no such thing as a "list of electives" for you to choose from. NOTE OF CAUTION: do not take an equivalent to a course you already took at Mac or to a Freshman-level course, thinking you can get an easy A. You cannot get credit twice for the same course material. See downtown equivalents to Mac courses.

4- Substitutions: can I make a course count as complementary in my program, even if it is not on the list?

You must make every effort to follow your program as listed. Make sure you know which version of the program you are in, given programs change over time. Substitutions are never automatic and must be approved by your academic advisor for you personally. They may be granted in the case of extenuating circumstances. Your record will be thoroughly assessed, and your current and past course schedules will be retrieved, as necessary, to determine whether you made every effort to complete your program as listed.

5- 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 research 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. Credits counting for Honours cannot also count as required or complementary in your Major, Specialization or Minor. 

Agro-Environmental Sciences, Environmental Biology and Global Food Security students have the choice of two different Honours Plans. Both plans add up to 12 credits. Only Plan A is open to Life Sciences students. The Honours version of the Agricultural Economics Major is not open for registration.

Plan A (12 cr total) involves completing the following research courses in two different terms:

  • For students in Agro-Env. Sciences: AGRI 401 (6 cr) and AGRI 402 (6 cr)
  • For students in Environmental Biology: ENVB 401 (6 cr) and ENVB 402 (6 cr)
  • For students in Life Sciences: LSCI 401 (6 cr) and LSCI 402 (6 cr)
  • For students in Global Food Security: FAES 401 (6 cr) and LSCI 402 (6 cr)

Plan B (12 cr total, not available to Life Sciences) involves completing:

  • For students in Agro-env. Sciences: AGRI 405 (3 cr) and AGRI 406 (3 cr)
  • For students in Environmental Biology: ENVB 405 (3 cr) and ENVB 406 (3 cr)
  • For students in Global Food Security: FAES 405 (3 cr) and FAES 406 (3 cr)
  • 6 credits of courses at the 400 level or higher, and which are directly relevant to the work you do in your research project. These courses cannot be used in any other component of your program. This means that courses used to fulfill your Honours component cannot also be used as required or complementary in your Major nor your Specialization.

In June after your U2 I will check if you qualify for Honours, and if you do I will get in touch with you regarding the steps you must complete to enter the program. There is no rush to do this - Honours courses do not fill up. It is a good idea to start discussing potential projects with potential supervisors, during your U2 winter term. In order to graduate with Honours, you must obtain a grade of B or better in all courses that make up your Honours component (12 cr), and your cGPA at the time of graduation must be at 3.30 or above. If you do not meet these criteria, the Honours courses will be considered electives only.

6- What is a Special Topics course?

Special topics (ST) courses are a great way to pursue a special interest of yours under the guidance of a Faculty member, usually through individual work. It is the Faculty member who gives you the grade for the course. For example, you could review the literature on a topic which you saw only superficially in a class with this professor. You could help out in their lab working on some research projects, or you could carry out a small experiment of your own or work with data that the professor has not had time to look at. Special Topics are to be used as elective credit, unless they are specifically listed as an option in your program requirements. You can take ST courses worth 1, 2 or 3 credits, and you can also combine the courses, but you cannot obtain credits twice for the same course code.

The first step to take a ST course is to find a professor whom you would like to work with, and who is interested and available to work with you. You can engage a conversation with a professor by mentioning some ideas of projects you have, and/or ask them if they have any ideas or specific needs. Once the two of you have agreed on a project you can do, you must fill out the form to register in the course. This form is important as it represents a course outline, which clearly lays out what is expected of you, when, and how your grade will be generated. Students usually hand in this form in the weeks prior to the start of the term in which they will do the project, or shortly after the term has started. Bear in mind that the signed form must be sent to me at least a few days before the Add/Drop deadline of the term in question. Electronic copies are preferred, but they must be hand signed and legible. 

7- 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.


FAQs related to completing your program:

8- 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: This occurs because, of the spots available in the course, none are currently open to students from your program. If you are trying to register for an elective and get this message, unfortunately I cannot help you. Certain U1 courses have lab sections restricted by program. To see which lab sections are open to you, look at the detailed class schedule on Minerva. The second line of each lab section lists programs that can take it (if sections are indeed program-specific for this course). Register for a lab section that is open to 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:

• We are usually able to accommodate students to take required courses as recommended. 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 Add/Drop deadline which is about 10 days into the given term. I will send all my students an email at the start of each term, indicating all of these deadlines.

9- Minerva says I have a scheduling conflict, but I don't see where!

A common reason why Minerva states there is a scheduling conflict, where there is not, is because there is a day in the term that runs on the schedule of a different weekday. This ensures no course loses lecture time due to statutory holidays. There are two ways you can determine whether this explains your issue. The first is to go to the page that lists important academic dates. In the term in question look for an asterisk and a footnote indicating that x date will run on the schedule of a different day. So for example, if you have a course that is usually scheduled to run MW but in that term there is a M that will run as a F, Minerva will indicate a conflict if the course in question conflicts with your other courses usually scheduled on F. The other way to tell is to closely look at the schedule details for any given course, in Minerva. Pay attention to the date ranges in the third to last column. In the example above, there would be one row with the MW times for dates ranging over the entire term, and one row with the F times for the single day that runs on a different schedule. 

10- 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. To see in what academic year you started each of your program components (Major and Specialization(s)), check your unofficial transcript on Minerva. And then find and bookmark your program requirements on the eCalendar, making sure you use the version corresponding to the school year in which you started each of your program components. For example, you might be in the 2017-2018 version of your Major, and in the 2018-2019 version of your Specialization. If you need help identifying your program requirements, let me know.

11- Help! I'm really struggling...

I am not trained as a psychologist or counselor. However, I take your well-being and success seriously. I am happy to listen, refer you to resources, discuss the academic impacts of your situation and work with you on an "academic plan of action". My office is a safe space where you can expect to be treated with empathy and respect whatever you say, and where your confidentiality will be respected. Do you have or think you might have a mental health issue, including anxiety, depression, addiction, grief and loss, eating disorders, etc? Check out McGill's Wellness Hub for help on understanding your mental health issue, information on crisis support, peer support, workshops, and professional resources on campus. Consider meeting up with Ms. Shannon Walsh, our Wellness Advisor right here at Mac. 

12- I am unable to write an exam or hand in course work on time. What should I do?

a) You cannot meet deadlines within the regular term, like write quizzes, hand in assignments, take mid-term exams, etc:

If you are facing a mental or physical health issue, I am happy to discuss these with you, help you plan an academic strategy and help you find resources who can help, to the best of my ability. Indeed, you will need to seek professional help and get a note from a health care professional, on- or off-campus. One resource which is available to you on campus is Student Services in CC1-124 (end of the hallway past the bathrooms). Then, bring your medical note to the Student Affairs Office (SAO) in 106 Laird Hall. They will take your medical note, and ask you to fill out a short form detailing the academic accommodations you need. The SAO will then decide whether accommodations should be granted, and if so they will contact your instructors directly to notify them. No information will be given to your instructors regarding the reason why you need an accommodation.

You are facing a different kind of issue, for example your boss asked you to come in to work or you decided to attend a trade show: you must discuss with each concerned course instructor, whether they are willing to accommodate you. Whether or not they decide to accommodate you is entirely their prerogative; they are under no obligation to do so.

b) You cannot write a final exam scheduled during the exam period at the end of the term:

If you face a serious issue such as a health issue and feel you are unfit to write a final exam, do not take the exam. If you experience a serious issue after your exam has started, such as a panic or asthma attack, or if your blood sugar becomes uncontrollable, for example, leave the exam room. If you finish a final exam and perform poorly, in most cases nothing can be done about it retroactively even if you were unwell while taking the exam. If you are unable to write a final exam, see information about exam deferrals. Bear in mind that it is difficult to do well in an exam you take months after having seen the material, and potentially after having studied for new courses. Deferred December exams are taken during the March study break, deferred April exams are taken in August.

13- My final exam schedule is not manageable!

Consult the Academic Conflicts page for more information.

14- 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.

15- 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. Minors can be declared at the end of your U1 year, speak to your Advisor to get the needed form. 

16- How do I declare a Specialization?

You need to fill out the Specialization form found here, at the Student Affairs Office (SAO) in Laird Hall or in my office. Once filled out, bring the form to me.

17- Can I do a second Specialization?

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 me about this if you have more questions.

18- Can I take more than 15 credits per term?

If you are in satisfactory standing (i.e., your cGPA is 2.0 or above), you may take up to 18 credits per term. If you wish to do more than this, consult with me about obtaining approval from the Committee on Academic Standing.

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

Some courses at McGill are graded as pass/fail by default, but this does not apply to courses that are part of your Major and Specialization. You are allowed to take a maximum of one ELECTIVE per term with the “S/U” option, and a maximum of 10% of the credit used in your degree. The way this works is that if you get at least a “C” in the course, the grade displayed in your transcript is “S”, and there is no impact on your GPA (you just get credit). If your grade is less than “C”, your transcript displays “U”, you get no credit and there is no impact on your GPA. Do NOT make the mistake of selecting this option for a pre-req (including Freshman-level courses and FDSC 230), required course or a course you want to or might need to use as a complementary in your Major, Specialization or Minor. Minerva will NOT prevent this and courses graded as S/U can ONLY be used as electives in your program. This option is NOT reversible after the add/drop deadline.

20- 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. International students who have study permits cannot register for less than 12 credits per semester, except in their very last semester. Being a part-time student may also have non-academic implications with regards to eligibility for coverage by an insurance as a dependent, loans and bursaries, Registered Education Savings Plans (RESPs), eligibility for reduced public transportation fares, etc.

21- 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)”. You can apply for graduation even if you are not yet registered for courses you need, for example. Applying for graduation just puts you on a list, and in due course I will need to say whether I approve your graduation or not, and then other approvals will follow (SAO, Faculty, Senate). If you are not on the list, you will not graduate.

22- I'm graduating! What about the ceremony, diplomas, etc?

You can see any comments relating to your application to graduate in Minerva (Student Records Menu, Graduation Approval Query). Your application to graduate will say "Pending" until your transcript is updated with a line at the bottom mentioning your degree was granted. This happens by mid-February for students whose last term is Fall, a few days before the Convocation ceremony for students whose last term is Winter, and by mid-October for students whose last term is Summer. You will only be notified by email if there are any issues with your graduation. No news, good news!

You can find lots of information related to Convocation ceremonies and obtaining your diploma here. There is a Convocation ceremony at Mac in early June, which students whose last term was the preceding Fall or Winter can attend. Students whose last term is the Summer can attend the Convocation ceremony downtown in October. There is no ceremony specifically for those who graduate after the Fall term.   

23- I need to send someone an official transcript. How do I do that?

You must order official transcripts on Minerva: Student Records Menu - Request Official Transcript. Note that McGill sends official transcripts in either electronic or paper form.

A note about official transcripts: if you need to send an official transcript to show you have graduated, first check your unofficial transcript in Minerva. At the very bottom it will say, in bold, "B SC Agricu and Environm Sc Granted:  Month YEAR", once your graduation has been fully approved. This mention appears in late May if your last term was Winter, in October if your last term was Summer, and in late February if your last term was Fall. If you have an official transcript sent out before this mention is visible on your unofficial transcript, the recipient will not have proof that your degree was granted.

24- I need to send someone a copy of my unofficial transcript. How do I extract it from Minerva?

The best way I know to do this is to use a computer that has Adobe software installed on it (like in the Library, or the computer lab - check or ask because all machines might not have it). Open your unofficial transcript in Minerva. Then print it from your internet browser. You should see "print" in a list of options from the top right-hand side. Select Adobe PDF as the "printer" to send the job to, and a PDF file will created which you can save and email.

25- I intend on taking a term/year off from my studies. How do I go about it?

Simply drop your courses, or don’t register for any. Note that you will eventually lose your access to services like uPrint, library, building access after hours, etc. When you want to come back, apply for readmission on Minerva: Student Records Menu - Faculty Transfers/Readmission Menu. If you were in good standing (i.e., cGPA of 2.0 or greater) when you left, being readmitted to the program you were in, and that I advise, should not be an issue. There is no cost associated with applying for readmission. However, plan ahead to have time for your application to be reviewed, for planning your courses and registering for them before the term starts.


26- 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.): fill out a Program Change application which you can find here or in my office. The form requires the signature of the advisor for the Major you are switching into. To apply to transfer into a different degree type at Mac or to switch Faculties, go to Minerva - Student Records Menu - Faculty Transfers - Readmission Menu .


FAQs related to extras: exchange, study away, internships, etc:

27- How do I go about registering for a course at another Québec university?

You will need to request to study outside McGill through the BCI. Before going through this process, you must have the non-McGill course evaluated by McGill. To do this, follow the instructions given under question #2. Registering for a course through the BCI ensures that the credits are transferred "automatically" once you successfully complete the course. Also, you pay tuition directly to McGill.

28- 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 a full-term, 15-credit ‘field semester’, such as the Panama Field Studies Semester, the Barbados Interdisciplinary Tropical Studies Semester (BITS), the Barbados Field Study Semester, the Canadian Field Studies in Africa, or the Arctic Field Studies Program. 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 an exchange program or independent study-away. Additionnaly, you can find a list of McGill courses taught "off-campus", here.

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

You can do this through Honours or a Special Topics Course (see above), as well as through research or project courses:

AGRI 490 Agri-Food Industry Project 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

(restricted to specific programs)

ENVB 497 Research Project 1 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer


ENVB 498 Research Project 2 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

LSCI 451 Research Project 1 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer


LSCI 452 Research Project 2 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

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.

30- 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. Our Faculty offers both credited as well as non-credited internships.

31- I’m thinking about grad studies…are they for me? How do I go about finding a research group to join, and funding?

Schedule a meeting with me, so we can discuss.


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