New To Arts: Student Checklist

Welcome to the Faculty of Arts. Prepare to transition into university with 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. Attend Orientation.

1. Read the Big Picture

As you enter university, you will be stepping into a new role. Anticipate exciting changes! Studying at the Faculty of Arts is about becoming an active participant and engaging with the disciplines through reading, writing and reasoning.

Your first year is a great time to explore. You do not need to declare your major yet, so dive in and take a variety of courses based on your interests. You’ll discover the wide range of specializations (majors and minors). You may find a course that stands out, or a professor who is especially inspiring – this may lead you to your major.

2. Explore your First-Year Study Options

You do not have 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 the many offerings in Arts

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

How many courses should I take in first year? There is no correct answer to this question. You need 120 credits to complete a Bachelor of Arts degree. To achieve this in four years, you will need to take 30 credits each winter session (September through April), typically divided into 15 credits in term 1 and 15 credits in term 2. Others prefer to take fewer courses in the Winter Session and add some Summer Session courses.

Another option is to spread your degree out over more than four years, taking fewer courses per term and spending extra time working or involved in extra-curricular opportunities. The choice is yours. Note: there are some minimum credit requirements 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 can be exciting and stressful. The sheer range of course options is what makes an Arts degree so unique, but can leave new students unsure of which direction to take. This section provides tools to help you plan your first-year course choices.

3. Explore 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 on what subjects you enjoyed in high school and other discipline areas you would like to experience.

Start by reviewing all the 100-level courses offered in the Faculty of Arts. Begin with the UBC Course Schedule and search all first-year courses in 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 courses will have familiar names (eg., History, English Literature, French), others may be new (eg., Anthropology, Political Science, Classical Studies). Read the course descriptions. Some instructors post course outlines providing additional information and readings.

Write down the specific courses (with their numbers) that sound interesting. Remember, this is your chance to try something new – be open to the possibilities! Keep in mind that all Arts students must take 72 or more credits within the Faculty of Arts throughout their degree. First year is the perfect time to explore options in the humanities, social sciences, and performing and creative arts. Although you may take courses outside of Arts, it is important to include as many Arts courses as possible in your first year.

Review the pre-requisites listed - some courses may have high school pre-requisites (e.g. language or science courses) or require that you take a placement test or speak with a departmental advisor first.

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 in the Faculty of Arts.

Have you noticed that some courses are eligible for Credit/D/Fail grading? These courses are not recommended for first-year students, as they do not apply towards your Faculty requirements, future specializations, or outside electives – all the things you should be focusing on this year. For more information on Credit/D/Fail grading, click here.

4. Learn About 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, go to the specializations page and review your options. Within each specialization review the ‘Program Requirements’ where the lower level (100 or 200 level) courses will be listed.

 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. 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.

5. Know Your 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 take the time to review the others. 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).

 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. For example, if you took the equivalent of BC French 11 in high school, and plan to take a French course to complete the Language Requirement, the sooner the better! 

6. Use the First-Year Planning Tool

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

Keep in mind, the First-Year Planning Tool is not a registration form nor an approval form and does not guarantee registration in the courses you write down on the sheet.

We highly recommend filling out the planning tool. Before meeting with an academic advisor, we expect students to take 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.

7. Follow our 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

 Some courses and preferred times fill up quickly so 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 should have a better idea of what study option and courses 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.

8. Connect with 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 and share 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 contain important information about academic planning.

Enews #1 Topic: First-Year Study Options
Enews #2 Topic: Choosing Courses
Enews #3 Topic: Degree Requirements
Enews #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 - arts.advisor@ubc.ca
International Students - arts.international@ubc.ca
Aboriginal Students - arts.aboriginal@ubc.ca

9. Attend Orientations

All Students: Imagine UBC
This is the first day of your UBC experience – definitely an event not to miss! Join 9,000 other new-to-UBC students for a day of activities and events introducing you to the Faculty of Arts and UBC. Led by an Orientation Leader, you will be assigned to a small group with other new students you share a class with. In August, look out for an email with details about where to meet your Orientation group and your schedule for the day.

International Students: JUMPSTART
An 11-day immersion program beginning in August that supports students through their first year at UBC. Jumpstart combines academic, social and logistical components to introduce you to the university, your faculty and new friends. You need to register to join Jumpstart.

Aboriginal Students:
The UBC Longhouse hosts a wide range of events to welcome new Aboriginal students to UBC. Find everything you need to know about what's planned for you at the Longhouse, with your faculty, and Imagine UBC on this page. Check back regularly, as event details are subject to change.