The Basics

The Basics

University comes with its own language, and this can be confusing—especially when it comes to course registration. For example, what are core requirements, and do they have anything to do with sit ups? (Thankfully, the answer to that is no.) Here, we go through the basic terms you’ll need to know to take the confusion out of course reg. You don’t need to read through all the information. Just refer back to this page whenever you’re stumped by a term you don’t understand.

Let’s get started!

What is a major?

Your major is your main area of focus while you’re earning your degree. You’ll spend most of your time studying this subject. If you’re not sure which major to choose, that’s okay—you have lots of time to decide. The best thing to do is select courses that interest you. Always keep an open mind; you may discover something you never thought you’d love!

If you decide to change your major before classes begin in September, simply contact your enrolment advisor. Should you decide after classes have started, contact your academic advisor or the Academic Advising Office.

What are electives?

Electives are courses you need to complete your degree, but they can be from any subject you choose! Some options are:

  • Courses you find interesting
  • Courses to fulfill a minor or concentration
  • Extra courses in your major

What are minors and concentrations?

You’ll spend less time studying your minor or concentration than your major. You can take minors or concentrations in areas of study you find interesting, or that help you achieve your career goals.

Not every student will have a minor or a concentration. Some programs don’t have room for minors and concentrations, while other programs require you take at least one. To learn more, check with your enrolment advisor.

What are the university's core requirements?

As a liberal arts university, TWU offers classes in a range of subjects. These courses ensure you receive a broad education—and become a well-rounded person who can look at life from many different angles.

If you’re still not sure which major, minor or concentration to take, our core courses are a great way to test out different subjects. Find out what you’re passionate about— and still be on track to graduate on time.

View Core Requirements

What is a semester hour?

A semester hour (sometimes abbreviated as s.h.) is a measurement of how much a course is worth toward earning your major, minor, or concentration. You might also see semester hours referred to as “credits.”

Most courses are worth 3 semester hours. If you’re taking a 3 semester hour course, you’ll spend about three hours a week in the classroom, and in some courses, between one and three hours in a lab or tutorial.

What is a course load, what should my course load be?

A course load is the amount of class work you take in a semester. To be considered a full-time student—and to be eligible for financial aid—you'll need to take at least 12 semester hours (approximately 4 classes). Most students take 15-16 semester hours in their first semester.

Your course load should be what you feel most comfortable with when you factor in your family commitments, part-time job, and other responsibilities.

Each semester hour usually translates to 1 hour of in-class time and 2-3 hours of homework per week. With a course load of 15 or 16 semester hours each semester, you’ll be on pace to graduate in four years.

What are labs, discussion groups and tutorials?

Some courses have required labs, discussion groups, and tutorials. The time spent in these settings is either included in the total semester hours for that class or listed separately, particularly in the sciences.

Labs give you the opportunity for hands-on study. Discussion groups allow students and professors to meet in smaller class settings, and tutorials provide an opportunity for you to get extra help if you need it.

What do the course codes mean?

Each course you take at TWU is distinguished by a course code. The code tells you the discipline and level of the course.

Course levels range in the 100s, 200s, 300s, and 400s. Lower-level courses—100 and 200 levels—are usually taken by first and second-year students, while the 300 and 400 level courses are usually for upper-level students in their third and fourth years. For example, the course code “PSYC 105” means it is the Psychology discipline and is a first year course.

What can I learn from a course description?

One of the best resources for researching courses is the Academic Calendar. This guide outlines the courses offered in each discipline, and shows you the requirements for each major, minor, or concentration.

Each entry includes:

  • Course number
  • Course title
  • Semester hour value
  • Lab component, if applicable
  • Course description
  • Prerequisites (other classes you must take before you can enrol in the class)

Example 1


An analysis of the aesthetic experience arising from a response to the visual arts, architecture, music, and literature. The nature of beauty, the development of taste, the question of objective standards of criticism, and the role of the artist’s intention as a factor in a response to art. 
NB: Not offered every year. See Department of Philosophy chair. 
Cross-listed: PHIL 370. 
Prerequisite(s): Third or fourth year standing or 6 sem. hrs. of Philosophy or instructor’s consent. (3-0 ; 3-0)

The numbers within the lower parentheses indicate the semester in which the course is offered and whether there is a lab component. Fall courses are listed before the semi-colon and spring semester courses are listed after it. Two numbers are listed for each semester: the first number indicates lecture hours, the second indicates lab hours. A middle number, when included, indicates tutorial hours.

Next Step: 

First Semester Recommended Courses

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