First Year FAQ

We've put together a list of questions that our SOSers and peer mentors hear pretty frequently from new students, and we hope this helps point you in the right direction. But don't let that stop you from getting more insight from your peer mentor or another UofL contact. Additionally, you'll come across a lot more questions than these. So if you're wondering about something and it's not listed here, don't hesitate to reach out to and let us know what's got you stumped. We're always happy to help!


Course Planning & Registration

Study Abroad


Orientation Course/New Cards Navigator
















What’s an academic advisor and why do I keep hearing about it?
An academic advisor is a staff member based in your college or school whose job it is to help you navigate all the academic requirements to get your degree. Most schools and colleges require you to see an academic advisor during your first two semesters at UofL, but some require you to continue meeting with them longer. Even if it’s not a requirement, it’s a good idea to maintain a consistent relationship with your advisor. Advisors can give you accurate information about degree requirements, provide referrals to other university offices, and help you make decisions about your academic path.

How do I know who my advisor is? How do I make an appointment to see them?
Your advisor’s name and contact information will be listed in CardSmart around the second week of classes. Find their name under "Your Success Team" on the CardSmart home page. If you need to contact an advisor before then, call your academic unit’s main advising office and they’ll get you connected to an advisor who can assist you.

What if I want to change my schedule?
It’s always a good idea to touch base with your advisor before dropping or adding any classes at the start of the term or withdrawing from a class later in the semester. Your advisor can help you understand the implications of your decision, and how to make the change if that’s what you decide is best.

What's the difference between Full-time (FT) and Part-time (PT), and why's it matter?
FT enrollment means you're enrolled in at least 12 credit hours in the fall or spring semester. If you want to be a PT student (enrolled in fewer than 12 credit hours) that's okay! But there are some reasons why FT might be a better choice. If you're a FT student, you can get your degree faster because you actually need at least 15 credit hours a semester to graduate in 4 years. FT students also save money in the long run, because if you're FT you're paying less per credit hour than you do when you're PT, and being in school for fewer semesters means less spent on housing, fees, and meal plans. You'll also maximize your financial aid benefit if you're FT, and some scholarships even require you to be FT. If you have a scholarship and think that might apply to you, you can check here.

If this is making you think you might want to be FT instead of PT, here are some options for exploring that:

  • Keep in mind that all changes need to be made to your schedule before the Add/Drop period ends. The Add/Drop dates for each term are here.
  • Review your advising notes from your most recent advising appointment to find classes you need and add them. Here's how.
  • Contact your academic advising center to discuss your options with an advisor. Here's how.
  • Stop by the SSC's Registration Assistance Pop Up in the first week of the semester for help.
  • Email for tips, tricks, and help.
What if I want to make changes, like getting out of a class I'm struggling in or don't like, during the semester?

If you’re struggling in a class or realize during the semester and after the drop/add deadline that it’s just not for you, then the process you might want to look into is called withdrawing. Typically it’s better for your GPA to withdraw (W) instead of fail (F) because a W does not get factored into your GPA but an F has a negative impact on your GPA.

There is a deadline for withdrawing just like there is for the add/drop period (find those dates here) and there can be financial implications if you are receiving any aid, so before you withdraw you want to make sure you understand what it means for your situation specifically. You won’t get a refund if you withdraw late in the semester, and your financial aid package could be reduced if you withdraw, so make sure to talk to a Financial Aid counselor before you withdraw (learn how to contact financial aid here)!

If you decide not to withdraw from a class and you fail it, don’t panic. When your final grades post in ULink at the end of the semester, check them! If you fail a course that is required for your degree, please speak with your advisor as soon as possible (learn how to make an appointment with your Academic Advisor here). Often, there is the option to sign up for the course again and repeat it. When you repeat a course, the new grade will replace the old grade in your GPA. There are some situations where repeating a course may require you to go back and take prep courses, or where it might not be beneficial to repeat a course if you are not positive that you can get a higher grade.

Click here to learn more about withdrawals at UofL.

How do I know what classes I need for my major?
The Undergraduate Catalog is THE source for all academic requirements. Your academic experience is governed by the catalog that was published the same term that you started at UofL (so if you first enroll in Fall 2021, your catalog is 2021-22). The catalog lists all the requirements for every major and minor, as well as all other academic policies. If you have questions about anything you read in the catalog, consult your advisor.

What is a Flight Plan?
A Flight Plan is an example of a sequence of courses that will allow you to graduate in four years (4.5 or 5 years for some majors). In the Catalog, there is a Flight Plan listed for every undergraduate major. UofL doesn’t require you to take that specific sequence of courses, but the Flight Plan is a great tool to help you consider when to take which courses and to help you know whether you’re on track for a timely graduation.

How do I pick classes for the next semester?
Based on the degree requirements in the Catalog and the suggested courses in your Flight Plan, you and your advisor will talk about which classes you should take. It’s a good idea to review your degree requirements and have some classes in mind BEFORE meeting with your advisor.

How do I actually register for classes? When do I do this?
The Registrar sets registration windows for each term. When your registration window opens, you will log in to ULink to register for classes on your own.

How do I study abroad?
UofL offers many opportunities to study abroad. You can learn about different types of programs on the Office of Study Abroad and International Travel's website or in person at Brodschi Hall. Once you’ve narrowed your options, you’ll need to meet with a Study Abroad Advisor.
How do I get an internship?
Internships are a great way to gain real job experience before you even graduate. The University Career Center helps connect employers looking for interns with UofL students. Some colleges, namely College of Business and Speed School, have their own career services offices you’ll want to check with if you’re enrolled in those academic units.


What is an orientation course?
Every school or college requires students to take an orientation course, typically within their first semester of enrollment at UofL. This course introduces you to the university environment, guides you in your goal setting for college, and helps you understand expectations for and from you.

What is New Cards Navigator?
New Cards Navigator is a series of online learning modules that you’ll complete as part of your orientation course. It is intended to support students in being successful and having an outstanding in-class and out-of-class experience. The modules provide information to help you navigate the university and introduce you to a number of helpful resources. Learn more via the New Cards Navigator Frequently Asked Questions.

I’m worried about my classes. What do I need to know?
Every class is different. The most important thing you can do is go to class, read your syllabi, and understand what is expected of you at different points in the semester. Some classes will have attendance policies; some won’t. Some classes’ grades will be mainly based on tests; some will be on written assignments. Sometimes you’ll do group work; sometimes it’s only an individual project. A great resource for getting practical tips for navigating your new academic setting is your peer mentor.

How do you study for college classes?
How you study is based on both your learning style and what’s being asked of you in your courses. In general, you should plan to study continuously throughout the semester—cramming rarely goes well. You’ll see students writing and rewriting their notes, making flash cards, and studying in groups. You need to determine what works best for you. Your peer mentor is a great resource if you want to talk with an experienced student to get some ideas about ways to study.

What are professors like?
Every professor has a unique style in the classroom, but one thing you can count on is that they like students who are prepared and proactive. Go to class. Introduce yourself to your professors. Go to their office hours. Do your reading and assignments, and ask questions when you have them. College professors aren’t nearly as likely as your high school teachers to extend deadlines, offer bonus points, or otherwise bail you out when you haven’t kept up with your work.

What can I expect on the first day of class?
Sometimes you’ll just go over the syllabus and then be dismissed; sometimes you’ll hit the ground running and the professor will lecture right away. Make sure you’ve checked your email the day before classes start, so that you’ll know if there’s anything you should prepare for. If not, just show up on time and bring something to take notes with.


How do I get tickets to football/basketball games?
Check out football/basketball athletics for information on student ticket options and purchasing tickets.

How do I go to other sporting events?
Check out all other athletics for information on prices and purchasing tickets.


How do I know which books I need?
Whether you order online from the bookstore or go in person, you’ll need your course schedule, including your section number, to get your books. Books are organized according to department, then course number, then course section—you could have different books than a friend who’s taking the same class, but with a different professor.

Do I have to purchase all the books for every class?
Sometimes books are marked “optional” by your faculty member. If they don’t have that specific designation, you should plan on purchasing or renting them.

Should I buy books in person, online, rent or e-books?
That is largely personal preference, and your budget might make you decide a certain way. UofL recommends buying books at the campus bookstore because they’ll definitely have what you need, the location is convenient, and if you need to return a book that you end up not needing, they make the process easy. Plus, they have a price match program, so you won’t pay more than you have to. More info about your options and the UofL Campus Store.

When should I buy books?
Students should plan to have all their books in hand by the first class meeting, whether that’s renting, borrowing, or purchasing. If you buy early, you have a better chance of getting used or rental books, which are cheaper. Also, college classes move at a much faster pace than you’re used to in high school, so if you don’t have your books it’s easier to get behind and struggle to catch up.

What if I can’t afford my books by the time I need them?
You can request an advance of your KEES money in ULink. UofL also has Student Success Coordinators who can help you problem-solve this and other obstacles to your academic success.

What school supplies do I need?
You’ll get a Cardinal Compass planner from your orientation course instructor during the first week of class. It’ll be preloaded with important dates at UofL (breaks, registration, tuition deadlines, etc.). Aside from that, it’s up to you to decide how to stay organized. Your professors probably won’t tell you to get a certain type of notebook or binder like your high school teachers did, so you’ll need to develop your own system. Visit the Campus Store or call 502.852.6679.


What is a Cardinal Card? Where do I get a new one if I lose mine?
Cardinal Card is the official ID card for UofL students, faculty, and staff. You need it to check things out from the library, print in the library and computer labs, use your meal plan, get into residence hall doors, access athletic events, ride campus shuttles, and more. You can also use it like a debit card with Cardinal Cash at many on-campus and off-campus locations. If you lose your Cardinal Card, you need to visit the Cardinal Card office in the Houchens Building to get a replacement for a fee.

How can I check my Cardinal Cash balance or add funds?
You can check your balance and add funds here.


How do meal plans work? Can I change mine?
Depending on where you live, you can choose among a variety of meal plans. Plans differ from each other in the number of meal swipes and amount of flex points that are included. It’s important to understand how many meal swipes and flex points your plan has and to consider how you’ll need to spread those out across the semester. Where you live (on-campus or off-campus, specific residence hall, etc.) can determine which meals plans you’re eligible for.

What is the difference between meal swipes, flex points, and Cardinal Cash?
Meal swipes may be used at the all-you-care-to-eat Ville Grill or exchanged for combo meals at all dining locations except P.O.D. convenience stores and Starbucks. Meal swipes expire at the end of each semester.

Flex points are a dollar-for-dollar declining balance account that is accepted at any on-campus dining location. All purchases made using flex points receive a 6% discount. Unused fall points will transfer to the spring, but all flex points expire at the end of the spring semester.

Cardinal Cash is a voluntary account linked to your Cardinal Card that can be used for purchases at various locations on-campus and off-campus. Cardinal Cash is required for printing/copying services on campus. Cardinal Cash is accepted at all campus dining locations and can supplement your meal plan if you run low on meal swipes or flex points. You may also use Cardinal Cash on-campus at select vending machines, campus bookstores, and off-campus locations such as Yellow Cab, most Cardinal Towne restaurants, and many other restaurants around town.


How do I pay my bill?
Your bill is payable to the University Bursar. Information on paying your bill is available here.

What if I don’t have enough money to pay my bill?
UofL wants to make sure that you understand your bill and have access to all available forms of financial aid. If you don’t understand something you received in the mail, don’t know how you’re going to pay your bill or buy your books, or have another financial concern or question, contact Financial Aid or a Student Success Coordinator. The best time to seek help regarding your bill is AS SOON AS you realize you might have a problem.

What is the FAFSA?
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the annual application used for students seeking federal, state, and some institutional financial aid. You will need financial information from your parents/guardians to complete it. 

When should I submit the FAFSA?
The earliest you can file the FAFSA for the following academic year is October 1. The closer to October 1 that you can file, the better, because some forms of financial aid are first come, first served.

Are there scholarships I can get? How do I apply?
Information on institutional and outside scholarships is available here.

Are there jobs on campus for students? How do I find them?
Many on-campus and off-campus full-time and part-time jobs are posted in the Cards Career Connection system, accessible via the University Career Center’s website. You will also see flyers around campus for student jobs in some departments, such as the SAC or academic departments.


How do I know where my classes are? Where is a campus map?
The UofL New Cards app has an interactive campus map with listings for every building on campus. On the web, you can get a look at the lay of the land.

What are some campus transportation options?
UofL partners with Transit Authority of River City (TARC), the city bus system, to help students get around campus. More information is available here.

Where can I park?
Everyone who parks their car at UofL needs a permit. Check UofL Parking to see what kind of permit you’re eligible for, how to get one, and where the corresponding parking lots are.


What do I need to bring to my residence hall?
Campus Housing has a “what to bring” list on their website.

What are the rules in my hall?
Campus Housing policies and procedures are listed on their website.

How do I meet people in my hall?
Your Residence Assistant (RA) will plan events to help people get out of their rooms and interact—go to those events! More informally, invite your hallmates or suitemates to walk to dinner together, or go somewhere to study together. If you’re not outgoing enough to make the invitation yourself, accept an invitation if someone invites you.

I’m worried about living with a roommate. What if we don’t get along?
Almost no one gets along with their roommate every minute of every day—when you live in a pretty small space with someone, things are going to get a little tense from time to time. The biggest key to avoiding a real blowout fight is communication. Your roommate can’t read your mind, and you can’t read theirs. It’s important to tell them what you’re expectations are and what’s bothering you if something is. If you need help setting ground rules or recovering from a disagreement, talk to your RA.


I signed up for clubs over the summer, but I haven’t heard anything.
Remember that club officers and other student leaders are probably off-campus for the summer. Member recruitment, meetings, and events will start happening when the fall semester begins.

How do I get involved on campus?
There are lots of ways to get involved. The first is to log on to Engage and browse organizations’ pages to see what you might be interested in and when their meetings and events are. Another way is just to keep your eyes open on campus—student orgs post flyers, give out handbills, and use sidewalk chalk to advertise what’s going on. You can also follow lots of organizations on social media platforms, and you might hear about some academically-focused clubs in your classes.

What is Engage?
Engage is UofL’s online portal for recognized student organizations (RSOs). You log in using your UofL username and password. RSOs keep track of their membership rosters, meeting and event attendance, important files, and more using Engage. Students seeking to get involved in an RSO can browse organizations there. 

What if I don’t want to get involved right away?
That’s okay! College takes some getting used to, and we want your priority to be your academics. So if you want to delay getting involved so that you can focus on your classes, or if you have a job that takes up some of your out-of-class time, waiting to dive in to a student organization might make sense for you. But don’t stay away because you’re nervous or afraid that you’ll be the only person at a club meeting who doesn’t know what to do. First of all, EVERY first year student is nervous about something, so you’re not alone. And second, it’s the upperclassmen and officers’ job to make new students feel welcome in their student organization. They’re excited to meet you!

How many organizations should I belong to?
It’s entirely up to you! There’s no one right answer for this. Some students choose to become deeply involved in just one or two RSOs, while others participate more moderately in several. You don’t want your extracurricular participation to interfere with your academic goals, so you need to work to find the right balance for yourself.


Dean of Students Office: What does the Dean of Students Office do?
The Dean of Students Office can help you when you aren’t sure where to turn. They support students during crisis or distress, assist with student complaints, provide student conduct services and offer many other support services.

Disability Resource Center: I have a documented disability and need accommodations. What should I do?
UofL’s Disability Resource Center (DRC) provides support for students with documented disabilities. It’s your responsibility to request any needed accommodations and to provide the appropriate paperwork to the DRC. The sooner you take care of this, the better so you have everything in place when the semester begins.

Library: How do I use the library?
The UofL Libraries are a much larger system than you’re accustomed to using in high school. They offer a lot of services, from online scholarly journals you can access for your papers to personalized support understanding how to use the various databases and other resources to tackle your work. The best starting point or any question is the Library’s help page, which links you to online chat, contact info, and their own frequently asked questions. 

Office of Diversity and Equity
UofL organizes many programs and events, and sponsors several student organizations for students of diverse backgrounds. Visit the Office of Diversity and Equity for more information about the wide variety of support offices, departments, and organizations.

Peer Mentoring: Is there an experienced student I can talk to and ask questions of?
Yes! Every first-time freshman will have a peer mentor in the academic orientation course you take in your first semester. If you're a transfer student, you can request a Student Success Ambassador via the Student Success Center.

REACH: What is REACH? How do I make an appointment?
REACH, or Resources for Academic Achievement, is the university’ centralized academic support unit for undergraduate students. They offer peer tutoring, exam prep, and student success seminars. 

Student Success Coordinators: What is a Student Success Coordinator? How do I meet with one?
Student Success Coordinators are a resource for students that need extra assistance navigating their college experience, overcoming obstacles, and completing the path to graduation. You can make an appointment at any time, for any reason, by calling the Student Success Center at 502.852.7969.

Writing Center: Is there a place I can go to get help with papers?
Yes! If you need help with the research aspect, the Library’s Research Assistance office would be your first stop. In addition, the Writing Center serves everyone in the UofL community. They can help you at any point in your writing process, from getting started with an idea, to working on a first draft, to revision and copyediting. 


What is Blackboard? How do I log on?
Blackboard is UofL’s portal for students to see their course syllabi, participate in online course discussion, submit course assignments, and more. Some professors use Blackboard heavily, and some only put the syllabus there. You log in using your UofL username and password.

How does the wifi work?
Information Technology Services maintains wifi networks outside of the residence hallsResidence halls all have wifi, but how you connect can vary based on which hall you’re in. See campus housing staff for instructions.

I don’t have my own computer. Are there computers I can use on campus?
Yes! There’s a list here


What’s the deal with Welcome Week? Do I really have to go?
All first-time freshmen are encouraged to attend the Signature Events throughout Welcome Week. Signature events are designed to help you transition into your first year at UofL and help make UofL your new home. For more information on Welcome Week and to see the list of Signature Events, check out the UofL New Cards app. 


I’m worried about staying healthy in college. What resources are available?
Health Promotion exists to promote the vitality, health, academic excellence, and resilience of the UofL campus community. They offer an array of services, programs, and resources that can help you maintain a healthy diet, manage stress, and build resilience during your first year. As a student, you also have access to an amazing Student Recreation Center, which houses fitness equipment, classes, personal trainers, as well as Intramural and Sports Clubs programs. 

What is the required online sexual assault prevention programs?
Consistent with federal law, UofL requires that all incoming students complete online sexual assault prevention training. You will hear more about this via your academic orientation course. You can visit UofL's Title IX page for more information on these requirements.

I’m homesick.
Lots of students experience homesickness. It might be tempting to go home every weekend when you’re missing your hometown, your family, and your high school friends, but often the best homesickness fix is to stay on campus and engage with others! Go to programs in your residence hall, invite your neighbor to dinner, find people from your classes to study with, or attend an RSO meeting. Talking to your RA or peer mentor is also a great idea. Odds are good that you’ll learn that they, too, experienced homesickness at some point, and they can share how they overcame it.

I’m not feeling like myself. I think I’m having trouble adjusting to college.
You are not alone! Adjusting to college is hard. Talking to someone about what you’re going through might help. Your peer mentor is available to talk through transition issues, and the Counseling Center provides short-term individual and group counseling. All of their counseling services are free to currently enrolled students. 

How do I stay safe on and around campus?
CardSafe is a program to help protect all members of our campus community. From the well-lit L Trail to multiple safety apps, UofL offers a variety of resources. Of course, no one can absolutely guarantee your safety, but by utilizing these programs and using some common sense, you can greatly reduce your odds of becoming a victim on or near any of our three campuses. 

I don’t feel well. Can I see a doctor on campus?
Campus Health Services provides both preventive and acute care for students, including routine office visits, routine gynecological exams, lab services, allergy shots, immunizations, and other services.