Academic tips and resources

Students in the College of Arts and Science have access to a variety of resources and services to help them develop strategies for success.

Developing study skills

One of the biggest challenges students face in university is staying on top of their coursework. Learning how to study effectively, manage time, and ask for help when it’s needed enables students to succeed  and reduces their stress level. Student Learning Services offers a variety of free resources to help students develop their study skills. 

Feeling overwhelmed by your academic coursework?

The SLS Study Skills Help page links students to study skills workshops, online resources and PDF information sheets. Their online resources include information on reading textbooks, effective note-taking, exam preparation and writing term papers.

Having difficulty with your writing assignments?

SLS Learning Help offers free, one-to-one tutoring in academic writing which is available online and in person. Tutors help students organize their ideas and clarify their goals; gain a better understanding of writing style and structure; and learn the conventions of academic writing in their discipline.

Struggling with math and statistics? 

The SLS offers a Math/Stats Help Service to assist students with first year or introductory math and stats courses. For students who may need a little more guidance, the Department of Mathematics and Statistics maintains a list of math and stats tutors.

Feeling anxious about the technological requirements of your course?

Technology help is available! All students have free, unlimited access to LinkedIn Learning, an online training resource containing thousands of videos. Students can learn about project management, software applications, or creative techniques.

Students also have access to laptop loans, assistive technologies, and free file sharing through OneDrive. Plus, the Microsoft Student Advantage Program enables students to download and install the latest Microsoft Office software on up to five computers at no cost!

Developing a course retake strategy to improve grades

For students experiencing academic difficulty, a course retake strategy may be the quickest and most efficient means of turning their cumulative weighted average(s) around.

The course retake strategy involves a detailed review of the student’s progress and their program requirements combined with a discussion of their academic goals and personal interests.

Academic advisors help students identify the courses they are permitted to retake, the courses that will have the biggest impact on their grades, and the courses they are most likely to succeed in.

Here are some of the questions you can discuss with your academic advisor:

  • Is the failed course mandatory for your selected degree program?
  • Do you think you can get a higher grade in the course if you retake it?
  • Which retake options should you prioritize: courses in your major, or electives?
  • What grade do you need to get in your retake(s) in order to increase your average(s)?

Overcoming problems with a course

Students run into difficulty with a course for a variety of reasons:

  • illness or chronic health problems cause them to fall behind
  • the course material is too advanced or too difficult
  • the course load for the semester is too heavy
  • difficulty understanding the course requirements  
  • by missing lectures, tutorials or labs
  • personal problems

If a student’s academic performance in a course begins to decline it will be reflected in their grades. Many students become embarrassed or anxious if they receive a low grade in a course. Instead of seeking advice and guidance, they sometimes ignore the situation or attempt to turn things around on their own without having a strategy in place. Occasionally, students feel so discouraged that they drop out of university.

If you are struggling with a course, you have several options:

  1. Talk to your professor

    Sometimes students have difficulty understanding the course content, the course requirements and/or the assignment guidelines. In this case, they should schedule a meeting with their professor during his/her office hours. Students should prepare a list of questions or problems before their meeting so the professor can clarify the key points and recommend solutions.

  2. Inquire about assignment deadline extensions

    Regulations regarding late assignments vary across professors. Be sure to read your course syllabus so you are aware of the late assignment penalties for each course.  If you encounter an extenuating circumstance that prevents you from submitting an assignment on time, contact your professor before the assignment is due to discuss your situation. If circumstances prevent you from contacting your professor in advance, you must contact them as soon as your situation allows you to do so.

  3. Identify your weak areas and seek extra help

    For students who did not experience academic difficulty in high school, they can be surprised to realize that in university they don't understand how to write an essay, how to take notes in class, or how to effectively study the course material. Student Learning Services offers a variety of options including study skills workshops, writing workshops, math and statistics help and tutoring. They also offer computer workshops so students can develop their technological skills.

  4. Consider dropping the course (before the withdraw deadline!)

    In the College of Arts and Science, all grades, including fail grades, are included in the calculation of the cumulative weighted average (CWA) unless the course is repeated in which case the lower grade is no longer included in the calculation.

    Multiple fail grades can pull your CWA down below promotion and graduation standards. A low CWA means you risk being placed on academic probation or being required to discontinue your studies for one year.

    Don't give up on a course too soon—a low mark in an early quiz doesn't necessarily mean you cannot succeed in the course. However, you can drop the course if you feel you cannot successfully complete it, or if you feel that the effort it would take to improve one course will hamper your success in your other courses.

    If you are unsure whether or not to drop a course, you can speak to an academic advisor who can review your grades and program requirements to help you make an informed decision.

    Cautionary note: some funding agencies require students to maintain full-time registration status in order to receive funding or to avoid an interruption in funding. Be sure to read the fine print on your funding agreement so you understand the consequences of dropping a course.

  5. Submit a request for a deferred exam

    If a student is absent from a final examination due to an extenuating circumstance, they may be eligible to apply for a deferred exam. Students in the College of Arts and Science must contact the Undergraduate Student Office within three business days of the missed exam to be considered.