Some things to know about first-year courses

Considerations in choosing first-year courses: In choosing your first-year courses, you are balancing the importance of taking the courses needed to enrol in the programs you’re interested in (which you’ll do at the end of first year), and the benefit of exploring new areas to see whether you have as-of-yet undiscovered strengths or interests. That exploration might also help you fulfill your breadth requirement.

Course load: Many students who want to attend full-time take 4-5 courses/term, but there are good reasons to take fewer. We don’t recommend taking more than 5 courses/term in your first year. Different course loads have different fee and student status implications that you can discuss with an advisor. 

A first-year course load would typically include the following courses:
  • ~3 courses/term related to potential programs of study
  • ~2 courses/term of breadth and electives
  • Included in the above, at least one small class
Programs in multiple areas, or moving into a different area after admission: You absolutely can pursue programs in multiple streams (e.g. humanities and life science) or pursue programs in a different stream from the area you were admitted to. (Keep in mind that priority for course enrolment can be tied to your admission stream, so it might be more difficult to enrol in a course in another area.) 

Course weight and timing: Review our information on How to read the Timetable. Remember that a Y course = 1.0 FCE and is usually offered over both F (first, or Fall) and S (second, or Winter) terms. An H course = 0.5 FCEs and is usually offered in only one term. 

Departments with multiple first-year courses: Generally speaking, you should only take ONE FCE of 100-level courses in a particular department. Courses numbered 191-199 are "First Year Foundations" seminar courses. Some departments offer multiple other 100-level courses that cover roughly the same topic, but aimed at students with different levels of preparation or who plan to go on to study in different areas. 

Completing your breadth requirement: There is no expectation that you will complete all your breadth requirements in first year, or that you will complete your breadth requirement using only 100-level courses. In the information below, we have highlighted some courses at the 100- and 200-level that might be particularly interesting to students studying in that area.

Breadth courses vs. introductory courses: 100-level courses serve two groups of students: those who are seeking an introduction to a subject because they want to go on to further study in that area, and those who know they don’t plan to study in an area, but are taking courses for breadth or interest. Often the same 100-level courses serve both audiences, but some departments create courses specifically for students who will not go on to study in that area. Those courses are great choices for courses to fulfill your breadth requirements.

Review our information on How to read the Timetable for help decoding course codes and determining whether a particular course is right for you.

Choosing the right Math (or Physics, or Chemistry, or Computer Science) course for you: Generally speaking, the second number of the course code indicates the level of difficulty. Choose ONE course or set of courses that best matches your background and goals. The more difficult courses can leave more doors open to you if you think you might pursue studies in that area.

For example, from less difficult to more difficult:
  • MAT133Y (for students going on to programs in Commerce, Economics, some social sci)
  • MAT135H & MAT136H (for students going on to programs in life sci, some physical sci)     
  • MAT137Y ("for students with a serious interest in mathematics") 
  • MAT157Y (required for students pursuing a Math specialist)
Maximum number of 100-level courses: You will only be able to receive degree credit for 6.0 FCEs at the 100-level. Additional 100-level courses can still be used to fulfill program, prerequisites, and breadth requirements, but will be marked “Extra” and will not be counted towards the 20 FCEs required for your degree, and while the mark for the course will appear on your transcript it will not be included in your GPA.

Students with multiple advanced standing transfer credits can often find themselves exceeding 6.0 FCEs at the 100-level; you’ll have an opportunity at the end of first year to forfeit some or all of your transfer credits. An academic advisor can help you with this decision.

Advanced standing transfer credit: If you’ve completed particular high school exams and have requested that your results be sent to U of T, you might receive advanced standing transfer credit. While some of these courses can be used to meet program enrollment or completion requirements with the permission of the program, if a course is required for a program we would advise you to complete the U of T version, even if you do receive advanced standing transfer credit for an equivalent course. More information about these credits is available on the Arts & Science website, and if you have questions about particular courses you should consult the relevant department. 

Future Students