Adjusting to university

What can your student expect?

Classes are different

  • Classes can be large and students come to Dal from across Canada and around the world.
  • Students are fully responsible for selecting their own classes and making their own course schedule.
  • New teaching styles: Instruction is primarily lecture based and students take notes independently. Some classes will also have lab or tutorial sessions, often facilitated by a teaching assistant (TA).
  • There are typically fewer hours of in-class time and many more hours
    of homework and independent study. According to experts, students should spend a minimum of 2–3 hours of study for every hour of class.

How you write is important

The most common types of writing are academic assignments, such as essays, research papers, and business or lab reports. These assignments are usually rather formal, requiring good academic writing skills. Professors expect assignments and papers to be properly formatted, and they expect students to source and cite research material. Students are encouraged to utilize the services and supports offered at the Writing Centre (Halifax or Truro).

Grading is different

Students are assigned an academic standing code at the end of their first year. This determines whether they can continue their studies at Dalhousie. There are three different types of academic standing: good standing, probation and academic dismissal. Learn more at

Self-management and organization

Every class doesn’t happen every day, which leaves a student’s schedule with lots of perceived “free time.” However, this needs to be used to read or study for assignments. Careful time management is essential to academic success and students are responsible for managing their own time.

Independent research and thinking

  • Familiarity with and effective use of library resources is essential.
  • There is typically less individual attention from instructors, unless initiated by students. Students are encouraged to contact professors  and TAs during office hours. Students can drop in and ask questions about assignments or class topics.
  • Faculty and staff want students to succeed, and many personal and academic support services are available, but students need to seek  out these resources and speak up if something isn’t going well.
  • Encourage your student to learn more academic support available (Halifax or Truro).