Frequently asked questions

First year

Am I expected to know how to program before I get to Dal?

You do not need previous coding or programming experience to start in CSCI 1105. The basic knowledge and concepts will be taught in the first year and we have many supports in place for students that require extra help.

If you do have prior programming experience, you can start your degree in CSCI 1110.

What do I choose if I already know some programming?

Students who have some programming experience can meet with a CS academic advisor to gauge your level of knowledge in CS courses. If you already know what would be taught in CSCI 1100 then the advisor can arrange for you to begin your studies with the next required course and can help you plan your course selection accordingly.

Starting in the fall of 2015, we are introducing the course CSCI 1110 that is designed for students who already have some programming experience. The course will review the basics of programming quickly and will then complete the content of CSCI 1101 in an accelerated mode.

Do I need to have my own laptop?

A large proportion of laboratories are scheduled in classrooms that are not equipped with desktop computers. There are many work stations available for portable devices, while a limited number have desktops machines available for homework use. 

Read about the laptops we recommend.

What operating system / programs should I have on my computer?

We recommend that you choose an operating system in which you are comfortable. We aim to use programming languages and software that is available on most platforms. When a specialized operating system is needed, Computer Science has computers that run both Windows and Mac OSX available to students. Students can also log in to our main Linux server to complete their work.

We've compiled a list of recommended specs.

Can courses from another university count towards my degree at Dal?

Students who have completed courses at other universities before coming to Dal can have those prior credits examined to determine whether or not they can be used for their Dal degree. The credit would be called a transfer credit. More information can be obtained from the Registrar’s Office by e-mailing



How many courses does a student have to take to maintain a full-time status?

A normal course load in computer science is 15 credit hours per term (5 courses). At least 9 credit hours (3 courses) are required to be a full time student. We have students who take anywhere between 9 and 15 credit hours per term depending on their personal circumstances.


Where can I get help if I’m having trouble in a course?

When you are having trouble with a course, consult with:

  • The course instructor, especially during their office hours
  • The course TA, if the instructor has assigned them consulting hours
  • For CS courses, the CS learning centre on the second floor of the computer science building. Some other departments at Dal also have their equivalent of the learning centre for their courses.
  • The writing centre in the Killam library for writing issues
  • The study skill coach program offered by student services in the Killam library who can also help to find tutors
  • Other students in the class…always taking care to learn the material and not copy answers
  • Academic advisors for suggestions on how to proceed next

When and why should I see an academic advisor?

Treat the advisors like the family doctor for your academic studies. It is a good idea to check in once per year to ensure that your studies are on track and to discuss any options that you’re thinking about.

If any issues arise throughout the year, the advisors can help you think through situations and direct you to services on campus that can help you.

How do I get to see an academic advisor?

Schedule a meeting with a CS advisor by contacting, by phoning the main office at 902-494-2093, or visiting the computer science reception desk.


Where can I find more information about my courses?

The academic calendar provides the official information all computer science courses.




What can I do if the class that I want is full?

The process for registering in full classes at Dal varies by faculty and department. In computer science, all class size enrolments are managed by the Dean’s Office.

When a class that you want is full, add yourself to the class waiting list. As seats become available, seats will be made available to students on the wait list. CS students are given priority to available seats in CS courses.

Can I take courses at other universities as part of my Dal degree?

It is possible to take courses at other universities and use the credit for their Dal degree. You must first get approval from Dal to take the course by completing a letter of permission. Instructions are available at Students must be in good standing and must have completed at least 24 credit hours to be eligible for a letter of permission.

What do I do if I’ve been given permission to register from a wait list but I still can’t register?

Contact an academic advisor.

Permission to register from a wait list only lasts for 3 days after the permission is given. If you try to register after those 3 days, your registration will be declined.

What are my chances to get permission to register from a wait list?

Two key factors influence this answer: when you joined the wait list and the size of the wait list. If you are on a wait list before the end of June for a September course then the chances are good that you will get into the class. If you add yourself to a long wait list on the first day of September for a September class then we recommend that you have a backup plan since you would be counting on students cancelling their course selections at the last minute to make space for you in the course.

What elective should I take?

This question is common and has no single answer. Recommending a public speaking course might be a great suggestion to one student and a terrifying suggestion to another. The best approach is to discuss options with an advisor after first having thought through:

  • What topics interest you (beyond just computing)
  • What topics do you not enjoy
  • Are you looking to explore new topics or stay among topics that you already know about
  • Are you looking to get more depth in a particular area, possibly going to a minor, or do you want to take whatever looks interesting at the time?

Can course X be counted as requirement Y?

The BCS requirements list four groups of topics:

  • Writing requirement
  • Science with lab requirement
  • Humanities and social science
  • Business, economics, science, or engineering

A generalization for the humanities and social science is any course in FASS plus economics and psychology. A more specific answer can be found in the undergraduate calendar under the subject groupings in the College of Arts and Science.

A generalization for the fourth category is anything in the Faculties of Science, Management, or Engineering.


What do I do when I want a specialization but one of the main courses isn’t offered?

Students are not required to declare a specialization in their computer science program to graduate. Although we make our best efforts to offer the specialization courses, we can’t guarantee all of the electives all of the time. If a required specialization course is not being offered and you have no alternatives, consult with a CS academic advisor.

What courses at the university won’t count for my degree program in the Faculty of Computer Science?

The list of courses that cannot count towards a computer science or informatics degree at Dal are:

  • COMM 1502 / MGMT 1601 / CSCI 1502
  • CSCI 1200 / ASSC 1000

Can I register for a graduate course while I am an undergraduate student?

Most of the computer science graduate courses are cross-listed as fourth year undergraduate courses. The graduate versions typically have different grading schemes.

In instances where there is no fourth year course equivalent, we require that a student have a GPA of 3.0 or higher, that the course instructor approve the request, and that there is sufficient room for graduate students in the class.

The 3.0 GPA requirement is in place because all graduate students must have a GPA above 3.0 and B- is the minimum possible grade in a graduate courses for any student. Moreover, most graduate students take fewer courses than undergraduate students because of the expected workload in the courses.

The instructor approval is needed because graduate courses don’t use pre-requisites as much to manage pre-requisite knowledge. The course instructors assume that all students in their graduate CS courses have the knowledge from all core CS courses in a Bachelor degree.


Where can I find more information about my courses?

Official, specific, withdrawal dates are available from the registrar.

Unofficially, good time estimates for fall and winter terms are:

  • You can withdraw from a course without any penalty by the date that tuition is due in the term.
  • You can withdraw from a course within the first month of the term without a W. Some fees may be withheld if you withdraw late in that first month
  • You can withdraw with a “W” on your transcript up to the end of the second month of the term.


Is there an honours program? When should I apply?

You can complete an honours degree in the Bachelor of Computer Science program. 

You should begin to plan for the honours program as you enter your third year. It is still possible to enter as late as the start of fourth year. 

Find out more about our honours requirements.

What are my requirements if I am doing a combined honours where my thesis is not in computer science?

If your thesis is not in computer science then we ask the students to follow the CS major requirements as well as the baseline combined honours requirements. For a BSc combined honours with CS as the topic without the thesis then we would need 30 credit hours of CSCI courses at the second year or higher that includes CSCI 2110, CSCI 2112, CSCI 2121, CSCI 2132, CSCI 2141, CSCI 3110, CSCI 3120, CSCI 3130, and CSCI 3171 plus the required math courses (MATH 1000, MATH 1010, MATH 2030).

How do I find my supervisor and topic?

Finding a supervisor and topic requires some work from the student. It all begins with identifying what general topic area you would like for your thesis, which often correlates with the courses that you have enjoyed the most. You don’t need to know exact what problem you want to address, although having some ideas speeds up the process. The next step is approaching faculty members whose research interests match your topic area of interest and opening a discussion with them. The honours advisor can provide advice on who is researching which topics.

How much time does it take to complete honours thesis work?

The time to complete an honours thesis can vary. Although the work can be completed in one academic term, we encourage students to plan for two academic terms to get all of the honours thesis work done and written. Although not required, many honours students completed a directed studies course (CSCI 4192) with their supervisor in one term to set the concept foundations for the honours thesis and then complete the thesis (CSCI 8873) in the following term.

When do I need to do my honours presentation?

All honours students must present their work in a public presentation. The presentations are set so that other undergraduate students can reasonably attend the talks. Consequently, plan for your presentation to be near the last couple of weeks of class in the term when you are completing your honours thesis.

Who arranges for the honours presentation and the reader for my thesis?

Your honours supervisor arranges for the thesis reader and helps to coordinate a presentation time with the honours advisor.



Can I just do 1 or 2 co-op terms to see what it’s like?

You must be planning for 3 co-op terms to be admitted to the co-op program. The co-op program is not a one-term job placement service.

When and how do I apply for co-op?

Apply for co-op at the end of your first year.

Applications can be processed as late as the start of September of your second year.

Apply by submitting a study plan in the "myCareer" section of myDal and registering for CSCI 8890 in the fall term of your second year.

Learn more about our co-op option.

What are you looking for in a co-op plan?

The co-op plan lists when you plan to take courses and co-op terms to eventually graduate. We are looking to ensure that all of your required courses are planned for terms in which those courses are usually offered. We are also looking to ensure that you are planning for enough courses to graduate.

Where will the jobs be?

The majority of the computer science jobs are in the Halifax and Nova Scotia area. However, there are job opportunities further afield, such as in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, and Calgary.

Can I find my own job?

Yes. If you find your own job and if that job meets the co-op requirements on duration, type of work, supervision, salary then the job can be approved as a co-op placement. The approval must happen before starting the job. See the Self-found Jobs section of the student handbook.

Can I take a course while on a work term?

Yes, as long as the course doesn’t interfere with your job. If the course is during business hours then we require the approval of your manager.

Students who want to take a course while on work term must submit a request to exceed the normal workload form

What do I do if my co-op job isn’t going well?

If you are having problems with your co-op job, the first step is to discuss your situation with your manager. Discuss your expectations and what is troubling with them. If that discussion doesn't help or if you feel that you cannot approach your manager then contact the co-op office or the CS co-op advisor.

What do I do if I get a great job offer after I have accepted a co-op placement for a term?

Once you have accepted a job for a term, we expect you to honour that commitment. In exceptional circumstances and with sufficient notice, the co-op office may be able to coordinate a change with the employer to whom you have already committed. Contact the co-op office in these instances.

What is the point of writing a work term report?

Co-op is an educational experience, not a work placement. As a result, all co-op students are required to complete a work term report for each co-op term. The report is your opportunity to reflect on some element of work from the term. It is not a chronology or diary of what you did or a description of your duties or a list of features of an app you worked on. Instead, it asks you to pick one situation in the work term where you had to do some critical thinking and an evaluation of some sort, outline the information that you considered, and provide the reasoning why a particular direction should be taken.

How do I find a topic for my work term report?

Look to the points in your work term where you had to do the most important thinking on a problem. There is often a topic lurking there. Speak with your manager early in the work term about possible topics since your manager may be willing to assign some project elements to you that best suit particular topics. You can also contact the CS co-op advisor for advice on a topic.

Common types of topics include:

  • Showing your reasoning that considered several design or library alternatives and resulted in you selecting one of them.
  • Identifying the reasons behind why you designed a particular piece of software or process in the way that you did.
  • Looking to some recurring issue or problem in the company, examining the conditions that lead to the problem and the constraints that surround a solution, and thinking of a feasible solution within the company’s situation.

What makes a good work term report?

All work term reports must contain some element of analysis. Analysis includes presenting some issue, presenting data around the issue, and using that data to arrive at a conclusion. Arriving at a conclusion without the basic data and without using the data in your reasoning is opinion rather than analysis.

Reports will often include sections on what are the requirements that a solution to the problem must satisfy, a description of the solution(s) considered, an assessment of the solution(s) against the requirements, and a final conclusion.

How can I ask other questions about co-op?

You can make an appointment to see the Co-op Advisor by emailing or you can email your questions to



With what other programs at Dal can I combine my studies?

You can combine your BACS or BCS degrees with any of the minors listed.

Students who want to consider a double major or combined honours can do so under the BSc and BA umbrellas with any of the programs in the Faculty of Science or the Faculty of Arts and Social Science. Please connect with an advisor to discuss these options.



What do I do if I'm experiencing an issue in one of my classes?

If there are conditions in a class, lab, or tutorial that make you uncomfortable, address them to the TA and the course instructor. If the problems persist, speak with one of the academic advisors, other instructors in CS, or the Dean’s Office.

We often try for informal resolution to uncomfortable situations, if it suits the situation since most people are more receptive to the informal approach. However, if an individual wants to follow a more structured or formal approach, they can always contact Dalhousie’s Human Rights, Equity, and Harassment Prevention office.