Every university has a particular vocabulary. Perhaps the terms college or semester mean something slightly different in your home country or university. This page will give you a sense of some of the basic terminology used at U of T and hopefully, will help to clear up any confusion!
At U of T what do we mean when we say…
Academic Faculty: This is the part of the University which you have been admitted in to. Whether it is the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, the Faculty of Arts & Science, or one of several other faculties, this is where you will complete the requirements of your degree.
Degree & Program Requirements: All degree-seeking students must complete the requirements for earning their degree before they can graduate. For example, completion of twenty course credits is required for an undergraduate degree in the Faculty of Arts & Science. In most cases, completion of a degree includes satisfying the requirements of departmental programs as well. This refers to specific combinations of courses which add up to a program, such as a Major in Biochemistry or a Specialist in Anthropology. More information about these requirements is available from the departments or your registrar.
Registrar: The registrar of your Academic Faculty serves to help you with administrative tasks. If you need course advising or special permission to get into a class or to delay your tuition payment, they can help you. In fact, they can help with most questions or challenges that you might encounter. Don't hesitate to contact your registrar's office for assistance.
College: The Faculty of Arts & Science at the St. George campus is quite large, and therefore it is divided up into smaller communities called colleges. If you are an Arts & Science student, your college will run orientations and student events, house your Registrar's Office and offer special scholarships and bursaries.
Academic Session: This refers to the formal division of the academic year. At UTM and the St. George campus, the regular academic year is divided into two sessions: the Fall Session, which runs from early September to late December, and the Winter Session, which runs from early January to late April. Sometimes you may hear the Winter Session referred to as the "Spring" Session. Many faculties also offer a Summer Session, which runs from mid-May until late August. UTSC is on a "trimester" system which means that Fall, Winter and Summer form a group of three equal sessions.
Term and Semester: Please note that the words “Term” and “Semester” are also used to mean the same thing as “Session”. In fact, the Fall Session is usually called “First Term” while the Winter Session is usually called “Second Term”. Together, the First and Second Terms make up a Full Academic Year (which does not include the Summer).
Course: Academic departments offer many individual courses which are taught by a course instructor. The instructor (usually called a "professor") teaches students about the course subject matter, and evaluates their understanding using assessment methods such as written assignments and examinations. The details of each course are explained in the syllabus, which is also called a course outline. All courses have a U of T credit value; half-credit courses usually run for only one term, whereas full-credit courses usually run for the full academic year.
ROSI and the Portal / Blackboard: You can view your course enrolments on ROSI (Repository Of Student Information), as well as your financial account balance, and personal contact information like your email address. ROSI is a secure online system which safely archives all of your academic information, such as marks for each course. The Portal (also called Blackboard) is not the same thing as ROSI, even though it has information about your current courses. You should log into the Portal often, to find information about your courses and the U of T community, but keep in mind that ROSI is the more formal academic records system.
Lecture: Every week you will be expected to attend lectures for each of your courses. This is where the instructor will teach about the course material. Some lectures take place in very large rooms because many students are enrolled in the course, whereas others might be much smaller. It is a good idea to attend all of the lectures scheduled in each course. You will be expected to record your own detailed notes of the lecture content. You will refer back to these notes when completing assignments and preparing for exams, so it is a good idea to learn techniques for taking excellent notes.
Tutorial: Depending on what program you are in, tutorials can mean different things. If you are an Arts & Science student in a large lecture class, you may find that when you register for the class you will also be asked to sign up for a tutorial — these are smaller classes (up to 30 people) led by a teaching assistant, in which you are expected to actively participate. These types of tutorials are mandatory and you will see them show up on your weekly schedule on ROSI. Other classes might not require you to sign up for tutorials on ROSI, but will ask you to do it less formally in class after lectures have begun for the term.
Laboratory / Practical: Students who are studying science and engineering disciplines will most likely have laboratory sessions associated with their courses as well. These are important sessions where you will learn laboratory techniques and complete experiments to enhance your understanding of the course material discussed in lectures and the textbook(s).
Orientation Week: This week (often called "Frosh Week") usually takes place in early September, and is intended to help new students learn about the University and City of Toronto. Many organisations within the University will host events during Orientation Week: your academic faculty or college, your student government, and even the Centre for International Experience! This is a time to get to know the campus and the many people who will share your new community.
Winter Break: Winter break typically starts in late-December and lasts for about two weeks. This marks the end of the Fall Term. The beginning of the Winter Term starts when students return from Winter Break.
Reading Week: This is a week-long break in February that falls in the middle of the Winter Term. It is a good time to catch up on reading and other assignments, but it can also be a nice time to enjoy Canadian Winter experiences such as skiing and snowboarding. Some academic faculties also have a brief "reading break" during the Fall Term.
U of T offers you the opportunity to interact with world-class faculty and to participate in a tradition of great minds.