The little things can add up to big headaches if you don't understand them. Make sure you also check out the list of definitions for common university terms so you don't miss anything.

How do I use my student ID card?

Your student ID (or student card) is your main form of identification at the university, and will include your name, student number, photo, school name and school year. You can use your student ID to get into certain areas or events around campus, you can use it to get food from your meal plan in the cafeteria, and at some schools it doubles as your bus pass. Some student ID cards can even be pre-loaded with funds so you can use them as a form of payment at the university bookstore or for laundry in your dorms. Check your school’s website to find out exactly what you can do with your student ID.

What’s the difference between a course and a credit?

A course is just another term for a class you’re taking (for example, Intro to Business). You’ll usually take up to five courses at a time. Each course is worth credits, which can also be referred to as units or credit hours.

As you work toward your degree, you’ll earn credits in various subjects. The focus of your degree (the “major”) will be where you earn most of your credits. Once you meet all the credit requirements for your degree, you can graduate. For more information about credits and requirements, check your school’s academic calendar — it’s usually available online or at the registrar’s office.

How do I find the reading materials for my courses?

Check your course outline to see what you need when it comes to textbooks or other required reading. You can find most (or all) of that at the campus bookstore, although some teachers will have certain materials or worksheets they will hand out in class.

Another option: You can buy your books secondhand, but if you do, make sure they’re the correct edition — textbooks usually get updated every year and anything from page numbers to entire chapters can be changed.

What is a students’ union? Do I have to join?

When you go to university, some of your student fees will go toward a students’ union or association. As a student, you’ll automatically become a part of the students’ union at your school. You’ll get to elect leaders (e.g., president and vice-president) who will represent your interests to the school administration. They will also organize events and provide services on campus to give you a positive and fun student experience.

What if I need a bit of help adjusting to university?

Most schools offer a number of different services that can help make the transition to university easier for students. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Campus health clinics, which can help you with your overall well-being. Registering usually only takes a few minutes.
  • Counselling and accessibility services, which are usually free for students. If you register early, finding support when you need it will be much easier.
  • Academic supports, such as writing centres and tutors, are available to help you stay on top of your work. Check with your department or the university library to see what’s available.

If you’re not sure what’s available, check the university website or speak to an advisor who can point you in the right direction.