New To Arts: Student Checklist

Welcome to Arts UBC. Prepare for your transition into university by reading through this step-by-step checklist.

  1. Read The Big Picture.
  2. Explore your First-Year Study Options.
  3. Explore First-Year Courses.
  4. Learn about Specializations.
  5. Know your Degree Requirements.
  6. Use the First-Year Planning Tool.
  7. Follow our Registration Guide.
  8. Connect with Arts Peer Advising.
  9. Sign up for an Orientation.

1. The Big Picture

As you enter university, you will be stepping into a new role. Anticipate big and exciting changes! Studying at Arts UBC is about becoming an active participant in your studies. University is not about memorizing textbooks: it is about engaging with the disciplines through reading, writing and reasoning.

Your first year is a time to explore and be inspired. You do not need to declare your major in first-year, so dive in and take a variety of courses based on your interests. You’ll discover the wide range of specializations (majors and minors) available to you. You will likely find a course that stands out or a professor who is especially inspiring. When you experience that level of engagement, we encourage you to explore that specialization further in year two, as this may lead you to your major.

2. First-Year Study Options

You are not asked to declare your major in first-year. Instead, you will choose one of three study options:

  • Coordinated Arts Program (CAP) – choose a theme of study and explore it through a grouping of courses (18 credit program)
  • Arts One – examine great works of literature and philosophy in a small group setting (18 credit program)
  • Custom Timetable – build your own timetable from Arts’ many offerings

Please note: First-year students can add up to 14 additional credits to the 18 credit programs totalling 32 credits maximum.

First-Year Study Options Video

Helpful Hint:

How many courses do I have to take in my first year? There is no correct answer to this question. In order to complete a Bachelor of Arts degree, students must take 120 credits. To do this in four years, students will need to take 30 credits each winter session (September through April), normally divided into 15 credits in term 1 and 15 credits in term 2. Other students prefer to take fewer courses in the Winter Session and add some Summer Session courses.

Another option is to spread your program out over more than four years, allowing you to take fewer courses and spend extra time working or getting involved in extra-curricular opportunities. The choice is yours. Note: there are some minimum credit requirements that students need to consider if you have a student loan, live in student housing, or wish to be eligible for academic scholarships.

Practical Matters

As a new student, planning your first year–the beginning of your scholarly journey in Arts–can be both an exciting and stressful experience! The sheer range of course options in Arts is one of the things that makes an Arts undergraduate degree so unique, but this scope sometimes leaves new students unsure of which direction to take. This next section will provide you with some tools to begin to put together your first year course choices.

First-Year Courses

Arts courses encompass everything from micro economics to Chinese Literature, Canadian History to World Archaeology, Digital Arts to Biological and Cognitive Psychology. Reflect upon the courses you most enjoyed in high school and other discipline areas that you would like to experience.

Start your research by reviewing all of the 100 level courses offered in the Faculty of Arts. The place to begin is the UBC Course Schedule where you can search all first year courses offered within the Faculty of Arts. To narrow your search to 100 level courses, conduct a course search and enter (1*) in the course number field and choose Vancouver for the location field. Some of these courses will have names that are familiar to you (eg., History, English Literature, French), while others may be new (eg., Anthropology, Political Science, Classical Studies). Take the time to look up the courses and read their descriptions. Some instructors will have already posted course outlines where you can get even more detailed information (and possibly an early start on your reading!).

Begin to write down the specific courses (with their numbers) that sound interesting to you. Remember, this is your chance to try something new and different–be open to the possibilities! Keep in mind that all Arts students must take 72 or more credits throughout their degree taught in the Faculty of Arts. First year is the perfect time to begin exploring your many options in the humanities, social sciences, and performing and creative arts taught in your home Faculty! As you put together your list of potential courses remember that, although you have some room in your degree to take courses outside of Arts, it is important to focus on building a program that includes as many Arts courses as possible in your first year. Good course selection now will help you build the foundation you need to be a successful Arts student right through your degree.

Some courses may have high school pre-requisites (e.g. language or science courses), so be sure to look at the pre-requisites listed on each course description. In addition, some courses will require or recommend that you take a placement test or speak with a department advisor before choosing which course to take—instructions on how/when to take the placement tests or speak with the advisor will also be noted on the course description.

Helpful Hints:

Are you interested in specializing (majoring) in Math, Computer Science or Economic and Statistics? If so, you can take the introductory science courses required for these specializations in your first year: Math 104/184 or equivalent, Math 105 or equivalent, Computer Science 110. All your other first year courses should be Faculty of Arts courses.

Have you noticed that some courses are eligible for Credit/D/Fail grading? As a first-year student please note that in most cases this is not a good option for you. Courses taken under this grading scheme may not be used towards your Faculty requirements, your future specializations, or your outside electives – all the things you should be thinking about focusing on this year. If you are considering taking a course for Credit/D/Fail grading please consult with Arts Advising.

Specializations (Majors & Minors)

Another way to explore first-year courses is to: Review the specializations available within the Faculty of Arts, make note of the ones that interest you, and look up their lower level course requirements. There are over 70 specializations in the Faculty of Arts. In most cases, students will indicate their specialization on the Student Service Centre (SSC) when they register for winter session courses as a third year student. To find out what lower level courses you need to take for different specializations, go to the specializations page and spend some time reviewing all of your options. Within each specialization you can review the ‘Program Requirements’ where the lower level (100 or 200 level) courses will be listed.

Helpful Hint:

There are some exceptions – Some specializations are declared earlier and some require application and/or department approval. The best place to find information about declaring a major is on the website of the department you want to enter. Types of specializations – While most Arts students complete a single specialization (commonly called their ‘major’), many will add a minor or another major. There are also honours programs and combined majors. In all cases, students still complete 120 credits; what changes with added specializations is a reduced number of electives.

Degree Requirements

Review the Faculty of Arts degree requirements. There are five degree requirements in the Bachelor of Arts degree program. The Writing Component of the Writing and Research Requirement is the only requirement that must be attempted in your first year, but it is important to know about all of them. If you enrol in Arts One or Coordinated Arts Program (CAP), you will satisfy the Writing Component of the Writing and Research Requirement. If you choose a Custom Timetable you should register in WRDS 150 or ENGL 100 (recommended for students interested in English Literature).

Helpful Hint:

Are you wondering if you should cover other degree requirements in first-year? In some cases, it makes sense to begin the requirements early on in your degree program. For example, if you took the equivalent of BC French 11 in high school, and plan to complete the Language Requirement with further French studies, the longer you leave these courses the more likely that you will begin to forget some of your French language knowledge.

First-Year Planning Tool

2017 First-Year Planning Tool coming soon!

The Arts First-Year Planning Tool is designed to help you plan your courses effectively and ensure that you are on the right track for registration. When using the Planning Tool, please refer to the information throughout the New Student Checklist—together these resources will guide you through each step of the planning process.

Please keep in mind, the First-Year Planning Tool is neither a registration form nor an approval form and does not guarantee registration in the courses you write down on the sheet.

We highly recommend that new students fill out the planning tool. Before meeting with an academic advisor, we expect students to take some time to go through the initial steps of the course planning process which are outlined in the Arts First-Year Planning Tool. If you need help, the Arts Peer Advisors would be happy to assist.

Registration Guide

UBC Student Services’ website features a Registration Guide with detailed information on:

  • Building a schedule (timetable) or creating a worklist
  • Registering for courses
  • Making changes to your schedule

Helpful HintSome courses and preferred times fill up quickly so it is important that you choose your courses in advance and be prepared to register on your registration day / time.

Course Registration Video

Next Steps

Now that you’ve looked at the big picture and worked through the practical matters, you will have a better idea of what study option and courses you plan to register in. You may still have questions and the Arts Peer Advisors are available to help. Once your course planning is in place, it’s time to start thinking about orientations.

Arts Peer Advising

As soon are you are admitted to the Faculty of Arts, you will receive support from the Arts Peer Advisors. They will help you navigate your transition to UBC, offering information on degree requirements, course selection, and the registration process.

Arts Peer Advising E-Newsletter

Throughout the summer, the Arts Peer Advisors will send a series of emails to all incoming first-year Arts students. These emails will contain important information about academic planning.

Enewsletter #1 Topic: First-Year Study Options
Enewsletter #2 Topic: Choosing Courses
Enewsletter #3 Topic: Degree Requirements
Enewsletter #4 Topic: Registration Wrap-Up

Contact Us

Hours: Monday to Friday, 9am to 4:30pm
Phone: +1 (604) 822-4028
Email: When sending email, please include your student number in the subject line and address the message to the Arts Peer Advisors (ATTN: Arts Peer Advisors, Student no. ########). We aim to respond to all email inquiries within three working days.
Domestic Students –
International Students –
Aboriginal Students –


All Students: Imagine UBC – Kick off your year with UBC’s orientation day. Your first day of classes is replaced with activities and events that introduce you to the Faculty of Arts and UBC. You will start the day in a small group of students with whom you share a class, led by an orientation leader, and end off with a huge pep rally and resource fair. FrAUSh Your Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) hosts a frosh orientations weekend for new students the long weekend before the term begins. You do need to register and space is limited. Click here for more information.

International and Aboriginal Students: JUMPSTART – The Smart Start to Life at UBC Your orientation begins with a two week intensive program starting mid-August. Jumpstart is a great introduction to the academic and social life at UBC.