first year tips


University fees can be quite expensive, especially when pursuing a degree in engineering or other software related programs. On top of tuition, textbooks will leave a heavy dent in your wallet as well. As members of SESA we've taken a look back at our previous years and have compiled a list of tips and methods that you can use to help reduce these fees and save some extra cash on hand (to maybe spend on that macbook pro you've had your eyes on :p ). Take it or leave it, we sure as hell wish we'd been given these pointers early on! Read More...
Time management

Developing time management skills is a journey that can be quite overwhelming especially in Engineering. You'll notice your Arts and Business friends having the time of their life while you spend endless hours and late nights studying away or pulling your hair out over that one compilation error that you can't seem to get rid of. Plan out your time and prioritize. It’s okay if you have to give up time working on an assignment worth 5% to spend time studying for your midterm worth 20%. Do what works best for you. Don't be worried though, members of SESA have been through the ups and downs and will definitely help guide you to the right direction in developing effective study habits whilst still enjoying your University life. Work hard, play hard! Read More...
Work Experience

The Software Engineering program includes a mandatory co-op experience to develop practical and solution-driven thinking. That means that upon graduating, you will have a good amount of real life experience under your belt that will further increase your chances of landing a job. Some students even get offered full-time positions from previous employers. We at SESA understand the importance of CO-OP and will therefore do our best to prepare you for the interviewing process: Read More...

Opting out of medical or dental insurance plans:

If you are already covered under an equivalent insurance plan, you can opt out of the health and/or dental plan. However, you must apply to opt out before September 30 of every school year. Thats over $100 you can easily save! To opt out, access your statement of account on uOzone. On the left-side menu at the very bottom click Insurance plans opt-out. Fill out the form and voila!

Purchasing pre-owned textbooks:

Let's face it, it may feel nice to own a brand-new fresh mint condition textbook but is the pricing really worth it? Trust us, after 2nd year hits you'll be begging your friends for their old texts or even scavenging for previous editions that are even more cheap. There are many resources in Ottawa to find great prices on pre-owned textbooks:,,

If you absolutely refuse to be an owner of used goods, try out the Agora Bookstore which is literally a 5 min walk from campus. They offer slightly cheaper prices than the school bookstore. Don't forget to get there early, the lineups can be quite lengthy. Most importantly, we would like to mention that google is your friend. And that the only thing better than a cheap a free one. Use your resources, you're in software godamit.If you have some extra cash to spend (or some extra time to spend digging around), we highly recommend purchasing solutions manuals whenever possible. We can guarantee you will most definitely run into a few classes that have assignments with questions ripped directly from the textbook. If you're looking for an easy free 20-40% boost, the investment can be worth it. Just make sure to fully understand how to solve all questions...or you'll be left clueless when exams come.

Apply for OSAP if needed:

Need help paying for school? The Ontario Student Assistant Program will be a lifesaver. Visit: to learn more about who is eligible, the mix of grants and loans available and what information you need before you apply. If you apply for OSAP – you’re automatically considered for 30% Off Ontario Tuition, too. No need for a separate application. Get saving!!

Allocating study time and breaks

Develop and plan for blocks of study time. Determine how long it takes before you become restless and have a short break between. If you have a hard time studying at home, the 3rd or 6th floor of Morisset library is an excellent noise free environment.

Getting enough sleep

Although you may have been able to pull off all-nighters back in highschool, you'll notice sleep deprivation taking a heavy toll on your University life. You'll come to class grumpy and groggy having no motivation to learn. While everyone's body may be different, we recommend you get atleast 7 hours of sleep in order to be functional throughout the day.This is especially important the night before exams.

Prioritizing your classes

We highly recommend that you attend all classes when possible. With that being said, we will admit that certain classes or tutorials may not be worth the effort to go to if you feel that you are not really getting anything out of it. Engineering is a practical science...therefore sometimes it may be better to allocate some of that class time towards actually completing assignments or doing practice problems. Figure out what works but most importantly, don't skip class if you just plan on slacking off.

Work on side-projects

This is probably one of the biggest issues that SEG students have when entering coop. Employers are looking for students that have a true passion towards programming and having side projects definitely makes you stand out from the bunch. Designing a website, creating an app, even doing different programming tutorials will give you that extra edge to land a placement. Just expect interviewers to ask you about what you do outside of school.

Learn different language

From our experience, the current courses offered at the University do not really dwell too deeply into front-end web development but doesn't mean that you can't learn it yourself. After having a fundamental understanding of Java and C++, other languages can be picked up rather quickly. Learning resources that we recommend would include and Even learning something as simple as HTML/CSS will make you stand out. Programming is an ever-evolving industry and new languages are always being introduced so always make sure to stay up to date with today's technologies.

Brush up on your technical skills (VERY IMPORTANT)

This is probably the biggest mistake you can make going into interviews. This is a technical job therefore expect technical questions. Personality and charm will only get you so far but if you don't know how to code, then you won't get the job. Your COOP advisor will tell you not to worry about technical questions, but from our experience we advise you to not listen. They do not specialize in the tech-industry therefore they have no idea what will be asked. A quick googling of java interview questions or whatever other language required for the job will bring up a nice a list of things to expect.

Finding a Job (COOP or Graduating)

Network with SESA and leverage your personal network(friends, family, colleagues, clubs, meetups, organizations, professors). Find jobs online and through COOP Navigator Index(companies not registered with the COOP Office). Visit the Career Center run by COOP but open to all students. Work Study Navigator (uozone... jobs on campus) and VOLUNTEER!! For more tips take a look at this presentation.

Enrolment Advice
The course sequence for students starting the program in Fall 2018 is outlined here. It is highly recommended to follow this sequence exactly, as some courses are only offered in fall, winter or spring, or are prerequisites. For example a course only offered in the winter may have a prerequisite only offered in the fall, you may need to wait another year (or two if your coop prevents you from taking the prerequisite) to take the course if you don't take the prerequisite in the fall you were meant to. IMPORTANT: Before making changes to your course sequence meet with an academic advisor, if you don’t there may be some issues with your CO-OP status (and no one wants that)
Some courses, especially 1000 and 2000 level, will have more than one section. Some may have more than one lab or tutrorial. You may choose whichever section fits your schedule best or whichever section has a recommended prof. It is unwise to choose your schedule based on rooms or buildings, those are subject to change (even once the semester starts). Always remember it is possible to change sections or courses in the first few weeks. Deadlines can be found on the uottawa dates and deadlines page. keep track of these dates if you think you'll be changing your schedule.
You can view the timetables for all offered courses usually a month before enrollment. Using scheduling tools such as Schedule Generator you can plan different versions of schedules based on sections offered and courses you may want to take. Once the schedule is released you are able to add courses to your shopping cart in enrol. You cannot yet register but if you have the courses and sections in your shopping cart, the registration takes 2 minutes, logging on and simply registering in all the courses in your cart. BE CAREFUL! Classes fill up fast! To guarantee a spot you need to register right away. There's also this schedule tool made by one of our students to add your class schedule to your google calendar.
First add yourself to the waitlist. Then email your academic advisor to find out next steps. Sometimes the advisor has the ability to register you in your course. The wait list allows the advisors to change rooms to allow more students or open up more sections so stay vigilant and keep in contact with your advisor. If you don't get into the class talk to your academic advisor about what courses they recommend you take in the place of the mandatory one. As a last resort you can also take the equivalent course at Carleton if you don't want to fall behind.

Course Advice
Plagarism and Academic Fraud: Plagiarism or any other type of academic fraud will not be tolerated at uOttawa. The penalties are explained here. Visit the academic writing centre for free tutorials and writing support.

Not in first year? Click here for more general info and advice for SEG courses at the University of Ottawa.
Introduction to Linear Algebra

Intro to Linear Algebra (MAT 1341) starts off as one of the most difficult courses in 1st year. In MAT 1341 you will be learning about complex numbers, vector and scalar product, projections, vector spaces, linear independence, function spaces, solutions to systems of linear equations, matrix algebra, determinants, eigenvalues, eigenvectors, projections and linear transformations. The course can move very quickly since it has a lot of material to cover.

For the mathematically inclined, the first half of the course will offer a good challenge. For those who struggle with math, you may find it quite difficult. However the second part of the course is much easier. If you are struggling with the first midterm's material, we encourage you to keep working at it, as it will get easier as the semester progresses. The assignments can be very challenging but offer good practice for the midterms/final. We suggest to head down to the math help centre located in the basement of Marion and work on the assignments there. You will be able to ask questions to the tutors as well as to other fellow classmates.

Introduction to Computing I

Introduction to Computing I (ITI 1120), for most people this will be their first programming experience. This course uses the Python programming language. You will be learning about variable types, classes, conditions, parameters, methods, loops, recursion, arrays, 2d arrays and a small introduction to object oriented programming. This class at first seems simple and straightforward, however for those who have relatively no previous coding experience, it can prove to be quite challenging.

It's no lie that when learning how to code you MUST practice. If you don't understand a concept presented in class, there is no better way to clarify it for yourself than to jump in and play around with some code. However if you're still having difficulty understanding a concept or completing an assignment don't be afraid to ask someone for help. You can ask a TA, your professor, a friend or even us here at SESA. SESA also offers academic study sessions for this course.

If you want to prepare, practice or just get ahead of the game check out the following learn-to-code sites:,,,

Introduction to Computing II

Introduction to Computing II(ITI 1121) starts off where Introduction to Computing I (ITI 1120) ended. Unlike ITI 1120, ITI 1121 uses Java as the main programming language instead of Python. No need to panic, Introduction to Computing II starts off with a quick introduction of Java followed by a review of object-oriented programming (OOP) then continues on to Abstraction principles, and finally finishes off with an introduction to data structures such as lists, stacks, queues, binary search trees, and processing of data structures. ITI 1121 builds off of the principles that you learned in ITI 1120 and teaches you more advanced principles to further develop your programming knowledge.

Also the assignments can be done in teams of two. Since the assignments are designed to be done in teams, they can be quite difficult and time consuming. The assignments get exponentially more time consuming and more difficult, make time for them and start earlier than you think you should! We suggest that you do NOT leave it to the last minute as you WILL have a hard time to complete it on time. Again if you need help with an assignment or understanding a concept from class, don't hesitate to ask a TA, your professor, a friend or even us here at SESA.

We cannot emphasize enough that this course IS difficult, and it WILL take a lot of time and effort, do not underestimate this course, it is a prerequisite for other courses later on so it is important that you understand the content.

Here are some useful links to help you make the transition from Python to Java:
Java vs Python
A comparison of the syntax of Python and Java
From Python to Java
Comparing Python Object-Oriented Code with Java

Engineering Mechanics

Engineering mechanics requires a very technical mindset and a lot of patience as well to solve problems. One mistake in any calculation will throw the answer off completely and do not expect all professors to be lenient in giving part marks. To be fair, in the real world, that one small mistake can result in severe consequences (bridges/structures collapsing). We advise you to double or even triple check your answers before finishing midterms/exams. A solutions manual will definitely come in handy for assignments (most questions will be assigned from the textbook). A little bit of googling may even help you find some solutions online ;). Make sure to understand all questions thoroughly though. Your exams/midterms will most likely consist of a few long answer questions combining all the concepts learnt throughout the course, so make sure not to miss out on any topics.

Physics 1

We highly recommend that you attend all classes for this course. Many practice problems and important examples will be discussed during lectures. From our experience, Engineering Physics is significantly harder than the type of physics learnt throughout highschool. Just memorizing examples will not fly by in this course. You will have to read up and understand the concepts and theory behind all questions. Doing well in this class will take up a significant amount of your study time so do not be afraid to consult the professor for extra help after class.

Watch out for weekly assignments and quizzes each week which can be time consuming, don't leave them to the last minute. Some profs offer bonus points, so keep a look out for them! If you’re having trouble, there’s a Physics help center in Tabaret. To get the most out of your visit to the physics center, make sure that you’ve tried solving the problem (aka don’t bring your blank assignment expecting people to help you fill in the blanks), and pinpoint where exactly what you don't understand of where you got stuck.

Calculus I

The best advice we can give for Calculus I is practice, practice, practice. Don’t fall behind on the homework questions, some of this material may start off as high school calculus but as new material is introduced the course gets significantly harder to handle if you don't start off with a good work ethic. Do ALL the homework questions as the material is covered in class and try to tackle extra problems if you have time. A lot of questions are going to be assigned so last minute crunching will not work with this course. Wolframalpha will be extra handy especially if you are stuck on what steps to do when integrating. The majority of your study hours will be spent on this course so make sure to stay organized and not fall behind in class.

Calculus II

Things become even more difficult with Calculus II. If you did poorly in Calculus I, prepare yourself for the worst in Calculus II. If you did well in Calculus I, still expect the content to be extremely tedious and difficult. Once again, practice, practice, practice. You’ll be diving into new concepts such as power series, directional derivatives, and eulers method for differential equations. Make sure to show up to all classes and solve problems using the specific technique taught by the professor. Your answer may be correct but there’s a possibility you will lose marks for not following their method.

Exams and tests will generally include one question from each section covered, so it's important to understand the material and be able to solve the math problems related to them. Online assignments are a great way to improve your grades, so don't skip out on them!
DGD's are usually mandatory for both these classes, they will either take attendance or have pop quizzes, so go to the class from start to finish to be sure you won't miss out.

Digital Systems

We will admit this is one of the easier courses for the semester but that does not mean you should take it lightly. Logic functions may seem simple at first but things will become more complex as you start building sequential circuits. Expect to be stuck waiting in lab tutorials for an extended period of time. The TAs will be scarce and even if you have completed your objectives, you will spend the majority of time waiting for the TAs to come over to verify your results. A solution to this situation would be to complete the labs prior to the lab on one of the SITE computers and show the TAs when the lab starts. Very little theory is required in this course, just finish all questions and assignments assigned and you should be able to pass with a decent grade. The solutions manual will be very handy to have in the course as well.

Discrete Mathematics for Computing

If you have taken discrete mathematics in highschool this course should be fairly easy for you. However, most people find discrete to be one of the more difficult first year courses. It begins simple with truth tables and propositional logic and then becomes more difficult when 'proofs' come into play. Students find 'proofs' difficult because this will be the first time for most of you to prove a mathematical statement formally - for example: prove that two odd numbers always add to an even number. The latter statement is extremely simple but chances are that if you havent taken discrete you would know how to answer that question as fast as you should.

Answer: An odd number can be written as '2k + 1' where k is an arbitrary integer. Then for arbitrary integers m and n, (2m + 1) + (2n + 1) = 2(m + n + 1), which is even divisible by two and therefore even.

This course is an introduction to the math that is most commonly used in computing. You will be using and developing from these basics in many courses during your undergrad. If you need help see your prof, a TA, a friend or a SESA member.

Principles of Chemistry

Principles of Chemistry (CHM 1311) Consists mostly of a review from High school. In CHM 1311 you will be learning about: chemical bonding, molecular geometry, chemical equations, matter, solutions, redox reactions, electrochemistry, kinetics and equilibrium, ionic equilibria and acids and bases. Principles of Chemistry seems to aim at being a review from high school while increasing the difficulty.

CHM 1311 consists of two parts: a lab and a lecture. Every week students will have a 3 hour lab along with a lab report, 3 hours of lectures and an assignment on the infamous Mastering Chemistry. Principles of Chemistry is probably the most time consuming course you will encounter in your first year. While the midterms/final can be quite difficult, doing good on the assignments, lab reports and in class participation marks can give you a much needed grade boost. We recommend working on the homework questions with some friends, it will make them much easier, less time consuming and maybe a little fun. For some chemistry can be quite difficult, however luckily there is a lot of help available if your having a hard time. Make sure to get help as soon as possible before you fall too far behind.

Technical Report Writing

The focal point of this course is to teach you how to structure and write technical reports. Your final exam will be replaced by a final report in which you will demonstrate all the skills you have learned over the course of the semester. This course will be easy if you attend your lectures and DGDs, the profs will give examples in class as to their expectations, so if you don't show up, you will miss out on some good tips! If you’re stuck while writing your report, don’t fret because there are tons of resources to help you out: check out the library (you can book a researching session with the librarian), make an appointment at the Academic Writing Help Center and as always ask questions in class to your prof or TA. This course will be very helpful for writing your CO-OP report and techical writing during your CO-OP placement.

Technical Report Writing

The focal point of this course is to teach you how to structure and write technical reports. Your final exam will be replaced by a final report in which you will demonstrate all the skills you have learned over the course of the semester. This course will be easy if you attend your lectures and DGDs, the profs will give examples in class as to their expectations, so if you don;t show up, you will miss out on some good tips! If you’re stuck while writing your report, don’t fret because there are tons of resources to help you out: check out the library (you can book a researching session with the librarian), make an appointment at the Academic Writing Help Center and as always ask questions in class to your prof or TA. This course will be very helpful for writing your CO-OP report and techical writing during your CO-OP placement.

General Advice

If you’re having trouble with concepts and course material, you can visit your prof/TAs during office hours. They’re here for you and ready to help!

Actually listen in lectures. This seems like a no brainer but listening in class and taking notes can save you hours of reading on your own time.

You’ve heard this a million times now (all you procrastinators) and you’ll hear it again: it really pays to start early. University courses place a lot of weight on exams so you don't want to start studying the night before a midterm worth 30% of your overall grade. This being said the course syllabus will often show a breakdown of how your final grade will be determined (as well as important test dates). Use this to your advantage!

University life should not only be about studying and trying to get good grades. Get involved! Tons of options: volunteering, work-study, clubs, hackathons, conferences, research, school events, international exchange... the list is endless. Remember, balance is important.

You’re not in high school anymore, and you’re no longer confined by the limitations that high schools have placed around you. Keep that in mind as you get involved and explore your interests.

There are SO many resources on campus (academic help centres, etc), and not all of them are always used. Make sure to check them out and use them!

If you’re worried about failing a class, talk to your prof and undergrad office. Undergrad office peeps are super nice and will help you guys (a lot), because we don’t want you dropped from the program. But don't put this off, the undergrad office works with defined deadlines, be responsible and look it up ahead of time.

Group studying sessions are amazing (if you dont get distracted)!!

Probation Advice
First Priority
Take only as many courses as you can do well on. Know when the drop deadline is and consider dropping courses unless you are sure you are going to get a reasonable grade. Minimum C+ for pre-req courses and electives (Math, Scinece etc.) and minimum B+ for core courses (ITI, CSI, SEG, CEG).
Second Priority
Retake courses in which you received a D,D+,E and F. Don't bother with taking a supplemental exam unless you can get a C or higher.
Third Priority
ITI1121 is a hard course. Make sure you do well in it. It is also offered in the summer, you do not need to take it during the winter semester.
For more info check out Liam Peyton's Presentation for 1st year students on probation.

Campus Safety Plase read this article for guidlines on how to work and communicate respectfully with others.

In case of emergency on campus call 4511 for Protecton Services... they will call 911 directly if it is needed (911 does not work on campus)

Be safe at night on campus, there is a free student-run service offered on campus called Foot Patrol. Two student volunteers will walk with you so that you don't have to walk to or from class on your own.