Top 117 questions

Need some help with your academic journey or got a burning question that you need answered now? You can browse the topics below to see whether we've already answered your question.

If you have a question that you can't find an answer to, then please contact CS advisors

    A. CS Major Students

    • What courses should I take and when
    • How to fill your checklist or meet your degree requirements
    • How to add minors, specializations, second majors, etc.
    • See more

    B. Transferring Programs

    • How to transfer into CS
    • How to transfer out of CS
    • See more

    C. Computing and CS minor

    • How to add the Computing or CS minor
    • What is the difference between the Computing and CS minors?
    • See more

    D. Co-op requirements and policy

    • Can I take courses during coop?
    • How can I change coop sequences?
    • See more

    E. Struggling/Seeking Support

    • What happens if you failed courses and what to do next
    • How to determine your averages and academic progression
    • Take time off
    • See more

    F. Course information

    • How to enroll into CS courses
    • How to get an override into a course
    • How does course selection work
    • See more

    G. First Year CS Students

    • How and when can I switch from CS135/145 to CS115/135
    • What computer should I buy?
    • See more

    H. Misc 

    • How does adding a course affect the fees I pay? 
    • What do all those codes on my transcript or in Quest mean?
    • See more 
     

    A. CS major Students

    A.01. Which CS course should I take next?

    Please go to our CS major site (what courses should I take and when?) and go to our suggested course sequence.

    A.02. What are the CS degree requirements? 

    The official degree requirements are in the University Calendar. For your convenience, the degree requirements is also organized into checklists so you can check off completed courses as you progress through your academic journey. Although the checklist is convenient, it is not a substitute for the official degree regulations. So if there is a question of interpretation or a discrepancy, then the University Calendar always takes precedence.

    A.03. What is the difference between a BCS and a BMath CS degree 

    Please go to the CS majors page – BCS vs BMath CS page, which includes a video and chart outlining the difference between the two programs. 

    A.04. What is a major, joint, minor, specialization, and option? 

    These terminologies are defined on the guide to University terminology.

    A.05. How do I add a second major, joint, minor and/or option to my degree?

    You can add a second major, joint, minor, and/or option to your diploma, but you must plan your courses accordingly and be aware as to how you can count your courses as noted in UW policy. Please go to our CS major – how to add an option, minor, joint, or double major page for more information. You can also explore minors available to all Waterloo Students

    A.06. How do I add a specialization (e.g., Artificial Intelligence, Bioinformatics, etc.)? 

    Please go to our CS major page – how to add a specialization.  

    A.07. I'm interested in the BCS Data Science. Where can I find more information? 

    Please go to the CS majors page – Data Science page. The BMath (Data Science) program is administered by the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science and all questions can be directed to the Data Science Advisors

    A.08. Which undergraduate calendar do I use for my degree requirements? 

    Please go to our CS checklists page – Calendar year for more information on how to complete your checklist.  

    A.09. How are "non-Math" different from "elective" courses?

    Non-Math courses are courses in any subject other than ACTSC (Actuarial Science), AMATH (Applied Mathematics), CO (Combinatorics and Optimization), CM (Computational Mathematics), CS (Computer Science), MATH (non-departmental Faculty courses), PMATH (Pure Mathematics), and STAT (Statistics). History, Physics, Economics, and MTHEL (Math Electives) are all examples non-Math courses. 

    Electives are a broader category of courses than non-Math. Electives are any courses, including CS or Math courses taken beyond those required by your degree requirements. 

    Note: Non-Math courses cross-listed with Math courses are treated as Math courses and cannot count towards the required 10 non-Math courses (i.e., PHYS 467 (cross-listed with CS 467 and CO 467) counts as a CS/Math course). 

    You can go to our CS checklists page for more information on how to complete your checklist.

    A.10. How does course X count in the Breadth and Depth requirements? 

    Please go to our CS checklists page – Breadth and Depth for more information on how to complete your checklist.  

    A.11. What is the Communication Skills Requirement? 

    The ability to communicate in English is fundamental to your success in academic and business environments. To meet the Communication Skills Requirement, you must complete two communications courses. The first course must be completed prior to 2A. Students who do not meet the Communication Skills Requirement will have restrictions on their course enrollment. 

    For more information, see Communication Skills Requirement

    A.12. How can I use the communications II requirement for a humanities requirement? 

    Certain Communication courses from List II can be used to satisfy both the Communication List II requirement and 0.5 unit for the humanities (breadth) requirement and are noted in the checklist. Please see the plan requirements for CS.  

    A.13. What is the "prerequisite chain of length three" required by the elective depth requirements? 

    There are examples listed at the bottom of the Depth and Breadth Requirements page. 

    You can go to our CS checklists page for more information on how to complete your checklist.  

    A.14. I'm a CS major and took CS 116, but it's not in the CS part of the degree requirements checklist. How do I count it? 

    CS 116 counts as an elective. 

    A.15. Can I substitute Math 106 for Math 136 in the CS degree requirements? 

    Math students who perform poorly in Math 136 are sometimes told to take Math 106 instead. For BMath (CS) students, this works. For BCS students, it does not. Why? BMath students will take more algebra, thus ensuring a uniform endpoint in their studies. BCS students will not take more algebra and the endpoint of Math 106 isn't considered suitable for the degree. 

    A.16. What's the CS Major Average? 

    The CS Major Average (MAV) is the average of all your CS major courses numbered CS136 and higher. That is, CS115, 116, and 135 aren't included. You need to keep your CS MAV above 60% to remain in good standing in CS. If it drops below 60% for more than a term, you'll be removed from CS. 

    The MAV is formally defined in the University Calendar

    A.17. Can someone tell me if I'm ready to graduate?

    CS advisors will answer specific questions/concerns about your graduation status. However, if you complete a checklist with the courses you've passed noted and the courses you are currently taking (or plan to take) marked in some other way, then we can better review and comment on your progression. Go to our CS checklists page for more information on how to complete your checklist.  

    When you are in your final academic term, you should review and complete the Registrar's Office Graduation and Convocation checklist.  


    B. Transfers

    B.01. I'm currently a Math student; I'd like to transfer to CS. What do I do? 

    Please go to our Transfer to CS page. 

    B.02. I'd like to transfer from another UW faculty to Computer Science or add CS as a joint program to my current program. What do I do? 

    Please go to our Transfer to CS page. 

    B.03. I'd like to transfer from CFM or SE to CS; what do I do? 

    Please go to our Transfer to CS page. 

    B.04. CS isn't right for me; how do I transfer to something else? 

    Transfer decisions are made by the receiving faculty and/or program. If you want to transfer to another program within Math, check the list of Math Faculty Advisors to find the advisor of your desired program. 

    If you want to transfer outside of Math, go to their Undergraduate Office. Ask to speak with an advisor to discover what you need to do to transfer. Advisors often want to see a number of courses from their discipline with a specified minimum grade before they accept you. Students who want to transfer to Arts should check the on-line guidelines before asking to see an advisor. 

    If you have already been asked to leave the Math Faculty due to low marks or failures, you may have more work to do because the other Faculty is unlikely to admit you. You may petition the Math Standings and Promotions Committee and ask for a "non-degree" term. A non-degree term allows you to continue studying for a term - but not taking Math courses. It's your opportunity to impress the faculty you want to transfer to. Make the most of it! 


    C. Computing and CS minor

    C.01. How do I add a Computing minor or CS minor? 

    Please go to our Computing and CS minor page. 

    C.02 I'm working on a Computing minor and took both CS 116 and CS 136. How do they count towards the minor? 

    Both courses can count towards the Computing minor. 


    D. Co-op

    D.01. Can I take courses while I'm on a co-op term?

    Please go to the Math Co-op FAQ for more information.

    D.02. How can I change my coop sequence?

    Please go to the Math Co-op FAQ for more information. 

    D.03. I'd like to drop out of co-op; what do I do?

    Please go to the Math Co-op FAQ for more information. 

    D.04. Do I need to do six work terms?

    Please contact the Math Co-op Advisors for more information.

    D.05. What are some of the reasons for changing my co-op sequence?

    Please contact the Math Co-op Advisors for more information.

    D.06. What should I do if I don't find a co-op job?

    Please contact the Math Co-op Advisors for more information.

    D.07. How do I transfer from regular to co-op?

    Please go to the Math Co-op FAQ for more information.

    D.08. Where are the work report guidelines for CS co-op students?

    Please go to the Math Co-op FAQ for more information. 

    D.09. Does PD1 count as one of the five courses I can take in an academic term?

    No, PD courses are not one of the 5 academic courses you can take in a term. Please contact the Math Co-op Advisors for more information.

    D.10. I didn't get into co-op, what can I do?

    Please contact the Math Co-op Advisors for more information.


    E. Struggling/Seeking Support

    E.01. How can I contact a Computer Science advisor? 

    There are several possibilities. In order of preference: 

    • Email us at csadvisor@cs.uwaterloo.ca. Include your full name and student ID. Advisors strongly prefer that you email from your @uwaterloo.ca email account. 
    • Drop by during office hours
    • Make an appointment, but only if you really can't make office hours or have a time-consuming situation. 

    In general, the earlier you talk to us, the more options we have to help you. 

    We enjoy helping students, but please do not make extra work for us by contacting several advisors or contacting us in several different ways. 

    E.02. What resources does UW provide to help me if I'm struggling? 

    • Academic advisors: Help with issues related to courses and programs. 
    • Counselling Services: Help with stress management and other issues. Friendly and experienced counselors provide confidential appointments. 
    • Health Services: Provide physician and dietician appointments and a range of health services for students. 
    • AccessAbility Services: Provide services and support for students who have a permanent or temporary disability. 
    • Student Success Office: Help with study and time management skills, access to success coaches, and more. 
    • Centre for Career Action: Help with career strategy, job search tactics, grad school preparation, personality tests to help identify possible career paths, etc. 

    E.03. What is the failure limit for CS students? 

    • For students starting in Fall 2014 or later (or using the Fall 2014 University Calendar and onwards), the failure limit is 2.0 units. If you exceed this failure limit, then you may be required to change programs.  

    • For students starting earlier than Fall 2014, the failure limit is 3.0 units

    E.04. I failed a bunch of courses; what should I do? 

    Come see us as soon as possible (either by email or during office hours)! We will sit to understand your situation and any struggles you may face, and explore your next steps for your academic success. It could be that petition to the Standings and Promotions Committee is appropriate as well.

    E.05. What is the Standings and Promotions (S&P) Committee? How can I submit a petition to the S&P? 

    The Standings and Promotions Committee ("S&P") is the committee that decides when exceptions to the usual rules are appropriate. Examples of the kinds of exceptions they consider: 

    • Taking a sixth course when you have an average less than 80%. 
    • Re-admission to the Faculty after an absence of more than four terms. 
    • Zero-credit weighting courses you failed because you were ill or had other significant factors beyond your control. 
    • Dropping or adding courses after the relevant deadlines. 

    You'll need to complete a S&P petition form, include relevant documentation, and see an advisor before you submit the form. 

    E.06. I've been told to withdraw from Math; now what? 

    You were likely asked to withdraw because you've accumulated too many failures or you've used up too many course attempts relative to the courses you've passed. Please see us as soon as possible (either by email or during office hours).

    Some options for you may include: 

    • If there were extenuating circumstances, then file a petition for an exception to academic regulations to the Standings and Promotions Committee. 
    • Attempt to transfer to another program, either at UW or another institution. The Centre for Career Action may be a good resource to help identify your next best option. 
    • Leave the University for a period of time. At some later point you might consider appealing or transferring. 
    • If you want to transfer to another program at UW, you may have trouble getting accepted given the failures and/or course attempts on your record. The Math Faculty offers a "non-degree term" to allow you to get some courses on your transcript that can help your transfer. See the Required to withdraw - may not continue in Faculty (University Calendar) page and talk to an advisor. 

    E.07. What is a "non-degree term"? 

    A non-degree term is when the Math Faculty allows you to take courses for one additional term after you have been withdrawn from studies. This is done purely as a favour to you to give you a chance to make your transcript look more attractive to a program outside of the Math Faculty. See Required to withdraw - may not continue in Faculty (University Calendar) for more details. 

    If you are currently enrolled in Honours Math or CS courses, you won't be able to use them towards a Math Faculty degree, so you may want to drop them ASAP and take something that will contribute to another degree. 

    Students who are considering transferring to Arts should consult the Arts Internal Transfer Preparation Form

    Other students should follow these steps: 

    1. Visit an advisor for the Faculty you would like to transfer to. If they'll accept you right away, great! If not, fill out a Plan Modification Form transferring to Math Non-Degree. Identify the courses that will help you get into the new Faculty, and have that Faculty's advisor sign it. 

    1. Complete a Standings and Promotions Petition, indicating your reasons for the transfer, what steps you are taking or will take to ensure your future success. 

    1. Submit the transfer and petition forms to the Centre at least one month before the start of the target term. 

    E.08. Am I in danger of failing out of my program?

    There are several reasons you may be asked to leave CS and possibly the Math Faculty. The official policies are in the University Calendar. In summary: 

    • Failing or excluding too many courses. See below (what is the failure limit for CS students or the University Calendar). 
    • Having more than 10 unproductive course attempts (failed or excluded courses (including WFs and DNWs), repeated courses, WDs, CLCs, etc.). As of Fall 2018, WDs do not count towards this count 

    If you're are in this situation, then please contact a CS advisor (by email or during office hours).

    E.09. Can I take some time off from school? 

    Yes, you can be gone from studies for up to three consecutive academic and/or co-op terms. If you're gone for more than three consecutive terms you will need to reapply. If you're in co-op, you should contact the Coop Math Advisors

    Note: International students should contact the Immigration Consulting Office within the Student Success Office about taking one or more terms off because of visa implications. 

    E.10.  Can I withdraw from the entire term? 

    For most students, the impact of withdrawing from an entire term is no different than withdrawing from all of your courses individually. Depending on the date, the course won't appear on your transcript at all (first 3 weeks of the term), you'll receive a grade of "WD" or "withdraw" (fourth through tenth weeks), or you'll receive a grade of "WF" or "withdraw failure" (after the tenth week). 

    For more information on dropping or withdrawing from a course, see "What is the difference between a drop, a WD, and a WF?".

    Note: International students should contact the Immigration Consulting Office within the Student Success Office about taking one or more terms off because of visa implications. 


    F. Course information

    F.01. There's space in a course I want. Why can't I get in? 

    There are several possible reasons: 

    • The course might be closed (requires "departmental consent") because there is a waitlist for the course. 

    • Some departments reserve portions of their courses for specific groups of students. For example, a section of a CS course may be reserved for Software Engineering students. So if you're not in SE, then you won't be able to add the course. 

    • There may be a course conflict with a course already in your schedule. 

    Check Quest's error messages for concrete clues. If you still can't figure out why you're being denied, check with an advisor and provide a screenshot of the specific error message. 

    F.02. What is department consent?  

    Please go to our “Course Enrollment - I'm getting a department consent error, what do I do? page.

    F.03. What is a waitlist? And how do I get on it? 

    Please go to our “Course Enrollment - What is a waitlist and which courses have them? and How do I get onto a waitlist for a course? page.

    F.04. I can't enrol in a course because the only available spots are reserved. What's going on? 

    Some departments reserve portions of their courses for specific groups of students. Please go to our "Course Enrollment page - I'm getting a reserve error".

    F.05. I'm in Math and I course seleced for CS 245 and 246, but I didn't get in. 

    Please go to our “Course Enrollment - I'm in Math and I want CS245 and/or CS246" page.

    F.06. How can Engineering students get into CS courses? 

    Please go to our “Course Enrollment - I'm in Engineering and I want CS XXX" page.

    F.07. How do I get into CS XXX? Quest wants a permission number. 

    You should use Quest to enroll in CS courses either during the course selection period or during the add/drop period, however, we are always happy to help if you have any issues enrolling.  

    If you don't have the prerequisites, then you can contact a CS advisor and we may provide an override. 

    If you have trouble enrolling in a CS course for the current or upcoming term: 

    • See the policies and procedures regarding course selection and our course enrollment pages. 

    • If it's an issue with prerequisites, contact a CS advisor.

    • If Quest says that you need a permission number or department consent, then it likely means that there is a waitlist for the course. You can see review more information about waitlists

    • If you require access to a CS Graduate level course (CS 6xx or higher) then you should should complete a Course Override form, have the instructor sign off on the form, and then return it to a CS advisor. 

    F.08. What is a permission number? How do I get one and how do I use it? 

    A permission number is code that tells Quest someone has given you special permission to enroll in a course. It works the same as a Course Override form. It can be used to override class limits, permissions, and prerequisites, but not time conflicts or holds. 

    Permission numbers are used extensively by CS advisors, but not as much on the rest of the campus. 

    You enter a permission number in Quest and you can only use it once. 

    F.09. A CS advisor emailed me a Permission Number, but it is not working. What do I do?

    The permission number will not work if there is a block or Service Indicator on your QUEST account. If your account is block because of

    The permission number also won't work if you have a time conflict in your schedule. Only in very exceptional circumstances will advisors allow class overlaps by signing a Course Override form

    F.10. I have an antirequisite for CSXXX, can I use it as a prerequiste for another CS course. 

    A course may be listed as antirequisite for another course if there is a significant overlap in content. If you have taken a course that is noted as an antirequiste for one of our courses, then please note that we do not consider the antirequiste as an equivalent course. 

    F.11. How does course selection work? 

    Please go to our “Course Selection" page, which includes a video with more information.

    F.12. What happens if I didn't select courses a term ahead? 

    Please go to our “Course Selection" page, which includes a video with more information.

    F.13. I want a non-CS course. Who should I talk to? 

    Please go to our “CS majors - how to enroll into courses” page.  

    F.14. Why can't I swap courses? 

    Swapping courses will not work if the course you are trying to swap with is 1) full, 2) conflicts with another course in your schedule, or 3) if the course-add deadline has passed. 

    F.15. How can I take six courses? 

    All Math students with a cumulative average of at least 80% are allowed to take six courses. Just sign up for the course on Quest. If that doesn't work, see your advisor to have a Course Override form signed. 

    If you don't have a high enough average but do have a good reason (for example, it's your 4B term and one more course would allow you to graduate), you can petition the Standings and Promotions (S&P) Committee. You have to complete the Petition for Exception to Academic Regulations form and have a CS advisor sign it. The Committee meets regularly throughout the term. Please note that receiving a sixth course by the S&P committee is not guaranteed. 

    If you plan on taking take a 7th course, then we encourage you to submit your petition as soon as possible.” 

    F.16. I need an elective; can you recommend a good one? 

    What constitutes a "good" elective is very dependent on your interests. Suggestions: 

    • Scan the course description in the UW Calendar. What looks interesting? 

    • Talk to your friends. What have they enjoyed and profited from? 

    • Consider your career goals. Are there related courses that might be beneficial? 

    • Consider activities and hobbies you enjoy. Are there courses that might support them in some way? 

    F.17. What's the passing mark, 50 or 60? 

    The mark required to pass a course is always 50. However, to take the next course you sometimes need a higher mark, commonly 60. For example, you need 60% in CS 135 to take CS 136. 

    For more information, see University Calendar's course descriptions. Look under the prerequistes for CS 136, for example. The prerequisites are also summarized on the Math Prerequisites for CS Students chart. 

    F.18. How do I finish an INC or an Incomplete? 

    In most circumstances, you simply write the final exam the next time the course is offered and no later than 8 months after the INComplete was assigned. 

    1. Talk to the current course instructor early in the term to make sure the course hasn't changed dramatically. 
    2. Talk to the instructor again a week or two before the final exam to make sure there is a place and an exam for you. 

    F.19. Quest will not let me into a Math course. What should I do? 

    • If the course is full, then contact the Math Undergrad Office (MC 4022) for assistance. 
    • If you don't meet the prerequisites, but feel you should be able to take the course anyway (for example, you have an equivalent course from another Faculty or institution), see the Math advisors

    F.20. How do I pay my tuition fees if I can't get into a course until after the deadline? 

    Schedule of due dates implies that you should pay the fees you know about by the deadline. If you sign up for an additional course after the fee deadline, simply pay as soon as you can. Please contact the Student Financial Services for more information.

    F.21. I'm enrolled in the enriched version of a CS course (e.g. 146, 365, or the enriched section of CS 240, 241, 245, 365). Can I switch into a regular section? 

    You can only switch into a regular section of an enriched course during the normal course drop/add period

    In some situations, students may switch from CS 145 to CS 135 during their 1A term. This is the only exception. 

    F.22. What is the difference between a drop, a WD, and a WF?

    For the purpose of removing or not continuing with a course, a term is divided into three parts and is outlined in the UW Important Dates page:

    1. Last day to drop a class from the academic record: During the first three weeks, you may drop a course. It won't show on your transcript.
    2. The WD period: During the fourth through tenth weeks, you may WD (Withdrawn, no credit granted) from a course. It will show on your transcript the words WD instead of a grade. It's not a failure but you are limited to at most 10 "unproductive" course attempts (failed courses, withdrawn courses, repeated courses). A WD does not affect your averages. As of Fall 2017, WDs no longer count towards unusable course attempts, but students are limited to attempting the same course a maximum of three times (repeat rule).
    3. The WF period: After the tenth week of the term you can still "withdraw", but the grade will be a WF (Withdraw-Failure). WF shows on your transcript, counts as a failure, and contributes a grade of 32 to your averages. You should talk with your advisor before you withdraw after the tenth week as it's seldom a good idea.

    F.23. What is an excluded course? 

    Prior to fall 2013, you could exclude courses from your averages under certain conditions. Beginning in fall 2013, you can no longer exclude any courses; previously excluded courses will remain excluded. 


    G. First-Year CS Students

    G.01. What computer should I buy? 

    Any computer less than three years should be sufficient for most courses. 

    G.02. I'm in CS 135 (CS 145) and would like to switch to CS 115 (135). How do I do this? 

    Please go to our 1A Computer Science course rule page. 

    G.03. How late can a 1A student drop or withdraw from a course? 

    Dropping and withdrawing are two different things. Dropping happens within the first three weeks of the term. A dropped course doesn't appear on your transcript. After the third week of the term you may withdraw from a course. Withdrawn courses appear on your transcript with a grade of WD. Ordinarily students may only withdraw from a course until the end of the tenth week of the term. After that "withdrawing" gives you a WF--Withdraw Failure. That is probably always the wrong thing to do. 

    G.04. I withdrew from CS135. What happens now? 

    You have two options: 

    1. Take CS135 again in a future term. 
    2. Take CS115 in a future term. 

    CS major students: You should take CS135 again unless you think getting 60% in it is unlikely, even the second time. Taking CS115 will set you back even further since you would end up doing CS115 → CS116 → CS136. You are welcomed to take this path and to build a strong foundation, but you should be aware that this will likely length your time at UW by a term and uses up one of your electives (CS116 is an elective for CS majors). 

    Non-CS students: Consult with your plan's advisors


    H. Miscellaneous

    H.01. How does adding a course affect the fees I pay? 

    Look at the fee schedules. Each program lists a per-course fee for the first four courses taken in a term. The fifth course is often less expensive. There is an overall cap on the tuition fees for each term. For more information, go to Student Financial Services.  

    H.02. Who can I talk to if I have a concern? 

    Who you should talk to depends on the nature of your concern. One of the academic advisors is a good place to start, especially if you have academic concerns. If you have a concern about about a particular advisor, then you should talk to the lead advisor or the current Director for Undergrad Studies (DUS). The DUS is also a good person to talk to if you have concerns regarding the teaching of the course. 

    H.03. What do all those codes on my transcript or in Quest mean? 

    See the following links to determine explore the coding that may appear on your transcript: