Strategies For Success


Academic tips and resources

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

  • Developing study skills
  • Developing a course retake strategy to improve grades
  • Overcoming problems with a course

Developing Study Skills

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

Feeling overwhelmed by your academic course work?

The ULC 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?

ULC Writing Help offers free, one-to-one tutoring in academic writing which is available online and in person.  Tutors help students to: 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 ULC offers a Math/Stats Help Service to assist students with first year or introductory math and stats courses.   They also offer a non-credit Math Readiness Course for students who wish to refresh their high school math skills. 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?

The ULC partners with IT4U on campus to offer technology help to students. They offer a variety of online tutorials so students can develop their skills in using Microsoft Word, Powerpoint, U of S Course tools, PAWS and Wiki.  They also offer free workshops on various software programs.

Developing a course retake strategy to improve grades

For students experiencing academic difficulty, a course retake strategy is 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 his or her 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.

For a failed course with a grade below 50%, students can retake the course as many times as they require to pass the course. 

For courses with grades between 50-59%, students can retake the course once, provided that course has not been used as a prerequisite to complete a higher-level course.  In either case, the higher grade will be included in the calculation of the CWA(s) while the lower grade will no longer be included in this calculation. All attempts at a course will appear on the student’s university transcript.

Designing a course retake strategy is not simply about retaking all eligible courses. A course retake strategy is complex and there are many variables to consider:

  • Is the failed course mandatory for the selected degree program?
  • Can a student get a significantly higher grade in a course to warrant a retake?
  • Is it the CWA overall or the CWA in the major that is below promotion standard? 
  • Which retake options should the student prioritize?
  • What is the target grade for retakes to have an impact on the CWA(s)?
  • How far along is the student in their selected program of study?
  • Has the student considered changing their major?

Academic advisors work closely with students to answer these types of questions in order to build a course retake strategy that will help them complete their program requirements and satisfy promotion and graduation standards in the most efficient manner possible.

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. The University Learning Centre 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

In the College of Arts & 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 a 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.

All course withdrawals must be made on PAWS. You must meet the following deadlines for course withdrawals in the regular session:

  • 3 credit unit course, term one: November 15
  • 3 credit unit course, term two: March 15
  • 6 credit unit course: February 15

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 (such as Canada Student Loans) require students to maintain full-time registration status in order to receive funding and avoid an interruption in funding. This means the student must be registered in at least 9 credit units (or three courses) per term in the regular session (Sept-Dec and Jan-Apr). Other funders require students to be registered in a minimum of 12 credit units or four courses per term. 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 Deferred Exams

A student who is absent from a final examination due to medical, compassionate, or other valid reasons, may apply to the College of Arts & Science Undergraduate Student’s Office for a deferred exam. Applications must be made within three business days of the missed examination and be accompanied by supporting documents.

If a student misses the final examination, and they are not given permission to write a deferred exam, the college will assign a grade of “absent-fail (30%)” in the course.