Skip to main content Skip to local navigation
Home » Academic Resources » Academic Advising » Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

General Information

What is a reasonable course load?

The days when most students could attend University full-time without having additional paid employment have passed. These days, most students find they must work part time to support themselves in school. In some cases, students work as few as 10 hours a week, in other cases, students may have to work 25 hours or more per week. Unfortunately, many students try to carry a full course load while working long hours at a part-time or even full-time job. Invariably, when students do this their school work suffers, they experience a drop in their grades and/or their health is compromised.

To help students calculate what is a reasonable work load, we suggest that you begin with the knowledge that a full course load (30 credits or 5 full courses during the Fall/Winter terms) is a full-time job, roughly equivalent to a 40-50 hour work week. Some students may be able to do an additional 10 hours of part-time work on top of this, but more than 10 hours would likely compromise your course work, if not your health. It would be reasonable to drop your course load by 6 credits for every 10 hours you work part-time.

Who do I contact for help?

If you need help with the following: a) access to courses b) special permission forms c) late enrolment in courses d) switching tutorial sections in courses e) grade information (after the official release of grades) f ) grade appeals, h) petitions, i ) directed reading forms Contact the Undergraduate office at S672 Ross (on the east side).

Office hours are 9:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. (unless otherwise posted). Via E-mail:

If you wish to discuss your academic program of study, you need an advising appointment. To do you can either come in person and sign up for an appointment at the Undergraduate Office (S672 Ross) or drop in during one of the advising times posted to this web site. Be sure you arrange to meet with the advisor appropriate to your program. Please note: No advising appointments will be made by phone.

Important Dates

What do I do if I am sick?

If you are ill and require and require some accommodation because you have missed classes, an assignment or an exam, you should immediately contact your instructor via E-mail or phone to inform them of the situation.

You will also be required to provide an Attending Physician's Statement to document of your situation, so be sure to bring a copy of the form with you when you visit your doctor. Please note that if you are feeling ill during an exam you must inform your instructor immediately. If you are ill, it is unwise to continue taking the exam.

Enrolment Information

General access to courses

Enrolment access dates are available from the Office of the Registrar's website. In many courses, some or even all of the spaces have been reserved initially for certain categories of students on the basis of their home faculty, year level, major or program. For example, in AS/POLS 4180 6.0 A: Politics and the Mass Media, spaces are reserved for fourth year Political Science, Public Policy & Administration, Mass Communications, and Canadian Studies majors.

Thus, a fourth year student who has a major other than those listed and who might have the necessary prerequisite would be denied access to the course initially, in order to allow these other groups of students the opportunity to enrol in the course. With the exception of fourth year courses, most of the courses in Political Science are not restricted to a particular year level. However, all of our third and fourth year courses are restricted by major.

First and second year courses have most of the spaces reserved for Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies students. Should a course not be filled during the initial enrolment period, the Department will review, at the beginning of August, whether to open any or all of the remaining spaces to other categories of students.

Access to 4000-level courses

Priority access to 4000-level courses is given to Honours Majors and Minors who have completed the equivalent of 84 credits by the end of the F/W academic year in April. Enrolment access dates are available from the Office of the Registrar's website. Non-majors who are Honours students in their fourth year of study may be accommodated in 4000-level courses, if space permits. A review of the availability of Political Science courses will occur at the beginning of August.

Permission to enrol

Students hoping to enrol in courses requiring permission of the Course Director should pick up a Request For Permission To Enrol Form from the Political Science Undergraduate Office (S672 Ross), prior to their Enrolment Access. Once the course director has signed the form it must be returned to the Undergraduate Office for processing.

Course Information

Selecting your upper-level courses

It depends on your program of study: Ordinary B. A.: The Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies requires eighteen 3000-level credits for the 90 credit BA. Twelve of those eighteen must be in POLS. Honours BA: The Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies requires 36 upper-level credits (3000 or 4000 level) for any Honours degree of 120 credits. Eighteen of these must be at the 4000 level.

Depending on your POLS program of study, either 6 or 12 of those 18 4000-level credits must be in POLS. For example, the double major requires 12 POLS 4000-level credits, while the linked double major requires 6.0 4000-level POLS credits. Consult the degree requirement chart appropriate to your program of study. In either case, the POLS credits are counted as part of the overall upper-level requirements. You can also do all of the 18 upper-level requirements in POLS if it suits your other degree requirements.

Supervised Reading and Research courses

A supervised reading course allows a student to work one-on-one with a faculty member to complete a course. Students may take a supervised reading/ research courses, either on a full-year or half-year basis, if they meet the following requirements:

  • For 3990 - a POLS major who has completed at least 54 credits, with at least 18 POLS credits completed
  • For 4990 - a POLS major who has completed at least 84 credits, with at least 30 POLS credits completed
  • Have a good record (6.0 GPA) in previous Political Science courses
  • Found a full time faculty member from the Arts Political Science department whose research interests match his/her proposed topic(s) and who is willing to work with you on the course
  • The planned course should not duplicate the scope and content of a regularly scheduled course, and should be on a topic in which the student already has done some course work
  • Observe the normal term deadlines for completing work and submitting grades

Steps to take:

Pick up the Supervised Reading and Research contract form from the Political Science Undergraduate Office (S672 Ross).

Consult with full-time members of the Department to locate a full-time faculty member willing to work with you on your course. Approach faculty members in person with a written plan of what you would like to do, including a bibliography. For a list of full-time faculty in Arts Political Science, see the faculty section of our mini-calendar. Note: Arts faculty members are often unavailable during the summer, so it is best to plan a reading course for September to April.

In consultation with the faculty member, complete the form, including an outline, a description of the reading course, grade breakdown, and reading list, etc.

The student must return the signed form, in person, to the Undergraduate office (both the faculty member and the student must sign.)

Once the course has been approved, you will be given special permission to access the course through the Online Enrolment System.

How do I drop a course after the drop deadline?

The Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies receives many petitions, the bulk in the late winter or early spring. You may not know the outcome of a petition that you submit during this period until after the session is over and possibly not until after you have received your report of final grades. Should your petition for late withdrawal be refused, you will receive a final grade. Therefore, it is important that you think your situation through carefully before you write and submit your petition. This information sheet will help you determine a course of action appropriate to your circumstances.

  1. THE PETITION SUBMISSION DEADLINE. Senate legislation states that “Normally petitions for late withdrawal from a course will only be considered if they are submitted within 30 days of the last day of classes [of the relevant course]. Such petitions may be considered for a period of up to one year if they are based on special circumstances.” See point 5 (below) for the deadline to petition for deferred standing.
  2. THE DROP DEADLINE IS IMPORTANT. It is the final day to use the enrolment system to drop a course. If you do not want a final grade in a course, then you must use the enrolment system to drop the course by the withdrawal deadline. You are responsible for the accuracy of your enrolment record, and for the accuracy of any adjustments you make to your record. You should review your courses after every transaction add, drop, or section change and prior to every withdrawal deadline. It is important that you not remain enrolled beyond the withdrawal deadline in any course for which you are not prepared to receive a final grade.
  3. EXTENUATING CIRCUMSTANCES. You may have circumstances that you believe justify waiving the drop deadline. You should be aware, however, that you are expected to assess your academic progress in each of your courses, and the impact that your personal, family, medical, financial, or employment circumstances are having on each course, before the withdrawal deadline. If you could have assessed the need to drop a course before the withdrawal deadline, then you must explain why you did not. If the Petitions Committee believes that you could have determined the need to drop a course before the withdrawal deadline, they may refuse your petition to drop it after.
  4. SELECTIVITY. Requesting to drop some but not all of your courses in a term or session may be considered selective. Therefore, you will be required to provide an explanation even when your circumstances are otherwise considered compelling.
  5. DEFERRED STANDING. For circumstances arising after the withdrawal deadline, you would normally be expected to arrange deferred standing more time to complete the outstanding term work or final exam. Even if you petition for late withdrawal, the Petitions Committee may decide that your circumstances warrant deferred standing. Since you then would be subject to the deferred standing application deadline, it is important that you always petition immediately following the development of your circumstances. Senate legislation states that “Normally requests for deferred standing must be communicated within one week following a missed examination or the last day to submit course work.” Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies legislation states that petitions for deferred standing “will not be accepted more than one month after the last day of examinations for the term in question without evidence of circumstances which account for the delay.” For details on requests for deferred standing, visit the Registrar’s Office website.
  6. DOCUMENT YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES. The Office of the Registrar and the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies will not solicit supporting documentation. You must submit any supporting documentation that you wish to have considered with your petition. It is very important to provide date specific evidence of the grounds of your petition. For courses completed in your first year of study see point 13.
  7. GRADED FEEDBACK. By the withdrawal deadline, course directors are expected to provide graded feedback: 15% of the course grade for fall (F term), winter (W term), or summer term courses, and 30% for fall/winter (Y term) courses. You are responsible for completing your work on time so that it can be graded on time, and for informing yourself of your grade. The failure of the course director to provide the class with the expected graded feedback is grounds for late withdrawal only if you petition immediately after the required feedback was made available to the class.
  8. DIDN'T KNOW YOU WERE IN THE COURSE. These are considered weak "grounds", since it is a very simple procedure to check on the courses in which you are enrolled.
  9. DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT THE DEADLINE, OR HOW TO DROP A COURSE. Again, these are considered weak "grounds", since the withdrawal procedures and deadlines are published on York’s web site.
  10. COMPUTER ERROR. The enrolment system does what you ask it to do, or tells you why it cannot. If you ask it to drop a course, it will, or it will give you a reason why it cannot. If you present computer error as grounds, we will review a log that records the time, date, and nature of your transactions, and the system's corresponding messages to you. If the log refutes your grounds, your petition may be refused.
  11. DISSATISFIED WITH YOUR GRADE OR ITS IMPACT, OR NO LONGER NEED OR WANT THE COURSE. These are not compelling grounds for late withdrawal. These are issues to be considered, requiring decisions to be made, before the drop deadline.
  12. THERE ARE NO GUARANTEES. The support of your course director, or tutorial assistant, is helpful, but does NOT guarantee the success of your petition. Office staff cannot predict the outcome of your petition. If your course is in progress, you must decide whether or not to continue in the course.
  13. A SPECIAL NOTE ON COURSES COMPLETED IN A STUDENT’S FIRST YEAR OF STUDY. The Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies recognizes that the transition to York can be difficult, and as a result some students are not able to perform to their potential. Further, students in their first year of study may not appreciate the importance of the published withdrawal deadlines, and may not have the experience to accurately assess their progress in courses, or to exercise good academic judgment. The Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies understands that this is a situation in which many of our students in their first year of study find themselves and, therefore, has a policy of special consideration for these students. If you had difficulties in your first year of study at York, then you may want to consider submitting a petition to withdraw without academic penalty from the course(s) in which you did poorly that year.

For a copy of the petitions package, including all related forms visit the Registrar's Office website.

For more information on petitions, visit this LA&PS Council website.

Graduation and after

Graduation - what do I need to do?

If it is time for you to graduate, you need to apply on line. Follow the instructions under "My Student Records," Graduation Status, on how to apply for graduation.

Scholarships for graduate studies

Preparing your Resume: A resume for scholarship applications should include the following item, in order of importance, with the most significant and recent things first:

  1. Education:
  2. Awards/Scholarships: Be sure to include the award criteria (for example: Best student in third year), the dollar amount, and whether it was an in house, local, provincial or national award if it is not already obvious from the name of the award.
  3. Publications: (if you have any, if not, just skip) Undergraduates may have written for a school paper, or local newspaper, for example.
  4. Employment history: If the work is not relevant to what you are applying for, just list the position, employer and dates. If it is relevant, elaborate on the duties and skills required for the job.
  5. References

Scholarship Deadlines:

Applying to graduate school

Improving your GPA If your GPA is not high enough to be accepted for graduate studies you have two options. First, you can re-take York courses to try to improve your GPA. The second grade will become the grade of record; the first grade stays on your transcript but is not included in your GPA. Alternatively, you can take additional courses to improve your GPA. You should target courses that are relevant to your plan of study in graduate school.

You should also try to take courses from the senior tenured faculty at the 4000-level (list of tenured faculty is in our mini-calendar and on our web site). If the course is cross-listed with graduate studies (check the grad POLS calendar), all the better because the faculty members can write a letter comparing you to other graduate students.  Keep in mind that there is no guarantee that a higher GPA will get you into a graduate program.

Graduate Admissions looks at the whole file. Even if the minimum requirement is a B average, normally the admissions is as follows: A average gets in A- average - many get in, some don't B+ average - some get in many do not B average - rarely get admitted without exceptional circumstances General: 1. While grades are important, all elements of the file (letters of reference, plan of study, and grades) are taken into consideration. 2. Read the application instructions and follow them to the letter. 3. Make sure all the forms in your application are complete. Incomplete applications will not go forward. 4. Write clearly and legibly. Have your application proof read to eliminate typos and grammatical errors. Do not rely solely on your spell checker -- do a careful proofread.

Writing the statement of interest or plan of study

This is the hardest part of the application process. Take your time to do it right. Be prepared to do multiple revisions based on feedback from your reference writers. Content: Evaluators will read your plan of study looking for: Analytical skills Strength of your academic background Appropriateness of your background for your plan Ability to communicate clearly and succinctly Familiarity with academic trends in the discipline Originality of the research project Significance of the research project Your plan should reflect this. Organization: What you have done to date? Explain how prior education and experience provides the necessary background for your proposed course of study. How do your current studies shape what you want to do for your M. A.? What do you want to study in graduate school? You need to be specific, not vague.

Link this to important trends in the discipline. Why is it significant for the discipline? What plans do you have for after the MA? Style: Remember your file will be read by people outside the discipline. Avoid jargon or wordy phrases. Do a scrupulous proof read -- have it proof read by others. Be succinct! Letters of Reference Meet in person with professors most familiar with your best work to ask them for a reference letter. Have a package of material ready to give to them, including a transcript, copy of your plan of study, copies of papers or work they have graded, and the forms required forms with all the necessary information completed.

If you have any special circumstances that need to be addressed (for example, a weak grade because of illness, death, or employment) let them know so they can address it in their letter. Ask them if they are comfortable writing you a strong letter of support. If they hesitate, find someone else. Be sure to remind them a few days before the deadline.

Awards, publications and Achievements Be sure to include all scholarships and awards, including the dates, terms of reference, and dollar value. List any significant and relevant publications or other significant academic achievements. I encourage you to have an alternate plan, just in case. There are many wonderful careers which don’t require graduate studies. Check out our careers web site and join the listserv, POLS-careers, for further career postings.