MES Welcome Package

Welcome to the School of Environmental Sciences!

Here are a few notes that will help you with getting started in the MES program at Guelph.

1. When you first arrive on campus, you should pick up your ID card at the Student ID Card Centre, Enrolment Services, University Centre Level 3. During the first week of the fall semester, there will be a welcome and information session for new MES students – this is a great opportunity to meet your fellow students as well as SES faculty.

2. Where do I go if I have questions? Technical questions about your graduate program (for example related to forms and deadlines) can be directed to the SES Graduate Program Assistant Jen LaPorte (, whose office is in Alexander Hall Room 275. Academic questions can be directed to the MES Coordinator (see contact information on the current graduate student page). Each year a Courselink site is set up for students in the MES program – if you do not have access it once the fall semester begins, please contact the MES Coordinator. The Courselink site contains relevant information, documents and links. The Graduate Academic Calendar (accessible through the U of Guelph website under ‘Academics’) is a great source of information about everything ranging from university policies to course descriptions and more.

3. Course registration: For each semester that you will be registered, you must choose one of the following: UNIV*7510*01 Active Full-time Registration or UNIV*7520*01 Active Part-time Registration. Registering for one of these courses serves only to activate your registration. In addition to this basic selection, you must be registered in at least one other course. You will register for courses through Webadvisor (on the University's front webpage).  Consult the schedule of dates in the Graduate Academic Calendar for the timing of course registration periods. While it is often advised to register for courses before the semester begins (some courses can fill up), it is also possible to register during the first two weeks of the semester, after classes begin. For courses that require instructor consent, or courses that you are unsure about, finalizing your course selection and registering during the first week or two of classes can make it easier to connect with faculty for signatures, detailed course information, etc.  If your chosen course does require instructor consent, you will need to fill out a ‘Course Add/Drop/Waiver Request’ form.  It is usually possible to get signature electronically by saving the form as a pdf and emailing it to the faculty member for an electronic signature, then sending it to the graduate secretary for the graduate coordinator's signature.  See more information under graduate courses.

4. How do I decide which courses to take? There are two required courses (ENVS*6501 and ENVS*6502) in the program; beyond these there are lecture or seminar-style courses, field courses, and Special Topics courses to choose from.  It is up to you to select a combination of courses, beyond the two required ones, that best suits your interests and needs (subject to final approval from the SES Graduate Coordinator). Note that ‘Special Topics’ courses are often designed to be directed independent studies with a particular faculty member (this is not the same as the research project; most often, an independent study involves literature research and writing a paper on a topic of interest). You can scope out faculty research interests and narrow down a topic of mutual interest. This provides you with a lot of flexibility to create a program that is best suited for you. Special Topics courses are also sometimes offered as seminar-style courses that examine a particular topic in depth, and these may change from year to year. You will be kept informed of the courses that will be available in any given semester before that semester starts. You must take 4.0 credits worth of courses to complete the program; this normally equates to 8 courses (coursework-only option) or 6 courses plus a research project (coursework+project option). The research project is worth 1.0 credits.

5. How do I know which courses are available? You can consult the list of SES graduate courses for the coming year (this will also be communicated to MES students through email, and also made available on the program’s ‘Courselink’ site). Also provided will be a list of courses from other departments that are suggested as possible courses for the MES program. As with many other coursework-based graduate programs, while graduate-level courses are preferred, you also have the option of taking a maximum of 1.0 credits’ worth (usually equivalent to two courses) of senior undergraduate courses, subject to approval from the SES Graduate Coordinator.

6. Coursework only, or Coursework + Research Project…which option do I choose? MES students can choose to follow a coursework only or a research project plus coursework option. If you are unsure when you first arrive which option you want to take, not to worry! You have time to decide.  A good approach is to spend some time in your first semester learning about the research done by SES faculty (e.g. start with faculty profile information on the SES website), and contact the ones you think you might want to work with on a project of mutual interest. If you choose to do the research project option, you can start working on this at any point but you will register for ENVS*6500 (the research project course) in the semester you think you will complete your project.  For many of you this will be in the summer semester. The first step in doing the research project is to identify your faculty supervisor and second reader (i.e. your advisory committee) and to fill out a learning contract (available on the Courselink site, or contact the MES Coordinator for more information) in consultation with your supervisor and second reader.  

7.  Advisory Committee & Graduate Degree Program Form: by the middle of your second semester, you must submit this form as a record of your planned program. The form asks you to list the members of your advisory committee, and provide the list of courses you plan to take to complete your program. For coursework-only students, your advisory committee will consist of the SES Graduate Coordinator and the MES Coordinator.  For coursework+research project students, your advisory committee will consist of the Faculty Advisor on your project plus a second reader. The Advisory Committee & Graduate Degree Program form must be filled out, signed by you and your Advisor, and returned to the SES Graduate Program Assistant (Jen LaPorte) by the middle of your second semester. Your registration for semester 3 will be blocked if you fail to submit the Advisory Committee form before course selection starts. Any members of the Advisory Committee who are not regular graduate faculty at the University of Guelph must hold Special Graduate Faculty status. Co-advisors must hold Associated Graduate Faculty status. If they do not currently hold Graduate Faculty status, they must be nominated by your Advisor and approved by the Departmental Graduate Studies Committee and the University Board of Graduate Studies. Note: Part time students are also required to submit the Advisory Committee form during their second registered semester.

8. Courseload and tuition: The number of courses you take or the duration of courses does not affect the amount of tuition you pay as a full-time student, and taking only one or two courses in a given semester does not automatically qualify you for part-time status. To transfer from full-time to part-time status requires support from the graduate coordinator and supporting documentation to show that you are unable to commit to your studies full-time due to employment or other responsibilities. Also, part-time status affects the minimum duration of your program.

10. How long does the program take to complete? While it is possible to complete the program in 8 months (2 semesters), many full-time MES students take 3 semesters (one year). Taking four courses per semester for two semesters is challenging at the graduate level; two or 3 courses per semester spread over 3 semesters is more manageable, especially when opting for the research project option. The minimum program duration for the MES, as with most other Master’s programs at U of Guelph, is 2 full-time semesters (or 4 part-time semesters). The maximum program duration is 6 full-time semesters (or 11 part-time semesters).

11. Can I apply for Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) positions and scholarships? Yes. As and MES student, you are eligible to apply for GTA positions and scholarships as appropriate. Available GTA positions and instructions on how to apply can be found on the SES Graduate Teaching Assistant Hiring Process webpage. Graduate scholarships can be found using the Graduate Awards Search Tool provided through Student Financial Services (see scholarship and funding information under the SES current graduate students webpage).

12. Grad student life in SES: Please check the ‘Graduate’ drop-down menu on the SES website for links to information for current graduate students, including a link to the SES Graduate Student Council website.

14.  Lab Safety Training: You must take the following safety courses:

(a) The Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) Lab Safety Course, which is now offered online.

(b) The SES Safety Orientation offered at the start of each semester.