Preparing an Academic Plan

An academic plan will help:

  • focus your goals
  • motivate you
  • you to be successful

Why an Academic Plan?
The Components of the Plan
Key Questions to Guide You in Preparing Your Academic Plan
Evaluating the Success of the Academic Plan

Why an Academic Plan?

An academic plan is a carefully crafted set of goals that comprises three key elements:

  • the focus of your studies
  • your expectation or intentions with respect to work load
  • your strategies for success.

Building an academic plan is an essential step in preparing for a successful return to studies after an unsuccessful academic year. If you are appealing to have an academic regulation waived, you must provide compelling evidence to the Associate Dean (Studies) that you are now in a position to achieve good academic results. If you are returning to studies after being placed on academic probation or required to withdraw, you will want to avoid the barriers to academic success that you faced previously.

Self reflection is an excellent starting point, but you will also need to supplement this with the "reality check" afforded through consultation with others. You are encouraged to get whatever advice is relevant:

Developing an academic plan will require you to make a significant effort. Remember, however, that the "true" payoff for you will be a successful return to studies in the Faculty of Arts and Science.

The Components of the Plan

Course of Study

The academic plan should describe your proposed degree program, area of concentration and courses in which you intend to register in the upcoming academic session. It may be appropriate to refer to types of courses or options, rather than specifics, when talking about future years of study. Access to undergraduate programs in Arts and Science is competitive, subject to both minimum academic performance criteria and enrolment pressures. Obtain written confirmation from the Undergraduate Chair or Assistant that you are eligible for the degree program, concentration, and courses you are including in your academic plan.

Full time versus Part time status

Consider your ability to be a full time student who would normally attend 15 to 20 hours per week of classes and spend another 20 or more hours studying outside of class time. A lighter course load may be more appropriate given your individual circumstances. Take into account any incomplete coursework from previous academic sessions that you have permission to submit late when considering the number of courses you will take. Also consider whether you need to carry a part-time job while you are going to school. Under no circumstances should a student returning after a difficult year plan to carry more than a normal load of 30.0 course units.

Strategies for Success

Students too often fall into the false belief that if they just try harder they will succeed. Identify what problem(s) stood in the way of your academic success in the past and explain how you expect to avoid or mitigate the problem(s) in the future. Sometimes these influences are obvious; other times its difficult to identify the reasons behind low grades so follow up with an academic advisor or other professionals to ensure that you are addressing the relevant performance issues. Document the resources you have marshaled in support of your proposed return to studies.

Key Questions to Guide You in Preparing Your Academic Plan

1. Academic Preparation

Did you have difficulty with the course content?

If yes, then you should consider appropriate academic remedies such as:

  • retaking courses, especially prerequisite courses;
  • planning regular consultations with the course professor and/or Teaching Assistants
  • seeking assistance from a campus resource like the Writing Centre or Learning Strategies (Stauffer Library);
  • joining a study group;
  • connecting with a tutor or peer mentor;

Do you think your choice of academic programs is the problem?

If yes, you should consider:

  • switching to a program more suited to your academic background and strengths.
  • seeking advice from the Undergraduate Office in the relevant departments, and /or the Arts and Science Faculty Office (F200 Mackintosh-Corry Hall or 613-533-2470) on how to develop the level of academic preparedness needed.
  • gaining insight into your skills, abilities and strengths by working with a Learning Strategist from the Learning Strategies office or a counsellor from Health, Counselling and Disability Services.

Have you acquired the learning strategies that will allow you to be an effective student, for example, time management, study skills, exam mastery techniques, writing competency, presentation skills, etc.?

If not, you should:

  • consult with the Learning Commons, located in the Stauffer Library for advice or access to a peer mentor or arrange for a Writing Centre tutorial.
  • take an on-campus workshop, for example, "Presentation Skills" or "Exam Study Tips" through Learning Strategies.
  • access resources to support effective learning from outside the University.

2. Motivation

Was the material sufficiently interesting, so that working on your academic subjects was generally rewarding? Did you make sufficient effort at your academics relative to your nonacademic activities? Or did you tend to miss classes, avoid your readings and fail to complete the coursework?

If motivation is your problem, you might:

  • consult with a career counselor
  • switch to another academic program that you believe might be more appealing
  • consider whether another educational institution might be more appropriate
  • consider if the very real problem of procrastination or perfectionism is an issue and meet with a Learning Strategies advisor to address these motivation barriers.
  • tutors at the Writing Centre may be able to help
  • take a break from post-secondary study
  • be evaluated by a physician or counsellor for physical or mental health related issues

3. Personal and Financial Resources

Do you have the physical and mental health needed to be a successful student? Do you have the life skills needed to cope with everyday interpersonal and practical demands?

If lack of personal resources is your problem, seek assistance by contacting:

Do you have the financial resources you need to support yourself at university? Do your hours at work interfere with your ability to focus and complete your academic work?

If money is your key problem, you should obtain information on:

  • budget planning from the Student Awards Office of the University Registrar or a financial advisor
  • bursaries and other sources of financial assistance from the Student Awards Office of the University Registrar
  • reducing your academic load if you must supplement your finances with a part-time job.

4. Situational Demands

Were you subject to extraordinary situational demands that prevented you from succeeding?

If life events have placed you in an exceptional situation, such as the death of someone close, accident, legal battle, family emergencies, etc., you should:

  • Be realistic about any long term effects you may experience from these extenuating circumstances.
  • Be able to explain convincingly how you have/intend to overcome any situational demands that prevented you from succeeding and describe the resources you have accessed. This is an essential component of any appeal to the Associate Dean (Studies) to have a regulation to be waived.

Evaluating the Success of the Academic Plan

You should use your academic plan both as a guide to success and as a tool to measure your progress toward meeting your academic goals. As you learn more about yourself and about your areas of interest and strength, you may need to make adjustments to your academic plan.

We encourage you to re-visit your plan periodically with an adviser or counsellor as a way to keep on track and also to acknowledge your progress.

All academic plans submitted with an appeal to have a regulation waived will be reviewed by the Associate Dean (Studies) at the end of the academic year, or probationary period, following your return. You are expected to demonstrate accountability by following through on the particulars in your academic plan.

Ultimately, however, we hope to see the academic success that your carefully crafted academic plan has set out.