What the Heck Are Pre-Reqs?

You have to take certain classes first, before moving to a higher level. Here's why.

Mar 8, 2016

You’ve already had to deal with pre-requisites in high school, even if you didn’t know that’s what they’re called. To put it simply, a pre-requisite (or “pre-req” for short) is a class that you must have already taken and passed in order to enroll in a higher level class. For instance, in high school you need to pass Math 10-1 in order to move on to Math 20-1.

So, why do pre-req’s matter?

Pre-Req’s and Admission Requirements

In order to enroll in your first year of post-secondary, you’ll need to have passed certain high school courses. Each program will have different admission requirements (sometimes also called entrance requirements) which outline the pre-requisite courses you need to pass in order to qualify for enrollment. For instance, you might need English 30-1, Math 31, Physics 30, and Chemistry 30 to enroll in an engineering program.

What about once you’re enrolled in post-secondary?

Just like in high school, you’ll need to take certain entry level courses before you can move on to more advanced ones. For instance, you need to take History 101 before you can take History 201. The difference is that in post-secondary you have a lot more flexibility about choosing your own classes and building your own schedule. So it’s up to you to make sure you take the right classes in the right order.

Why Do I Need Pre-Req’s?

Although pre-req’s can make planning your degree a little harder (because you can’t just take any course at any time you want), they are intended to make sure that you don’t feel completely lost in a class. If you came straight out of high school and your institution allowed you to take an advanced Human Physiology course before completing an Introductory Biology or Human Anatomy course, I’m willing to bet that a lot of the information would be way over your head.

By completing your courses in order, and finishing the necessary pre-req’s before moving on, your instructors can teach with the assumption that you already have some familiarity with the material. As you progress through your program, your coursework will build on that prior knowledge and become more challenging.

This is the main reason why pre-req’s are important: they ensure that students are prepared and have enough background knowledge and familiarity with introductory level material to succeed in more advanced classes.

The Importance of Planning Ahead

Since you can’t just take any courses you want at any time in post-secondary, you’ll have to plan out your studies so that you can finish within a reasonable amount of time. It’s a good idea to review your program requirements so you know what pre-req courses you need to take.

Then, you can plan your courses in advance and roughly sketch out your academic path. You’ll want to do this because if you miss out on taking a certain pre-req this can influence which courses you are permitted to take in later years. If you fail to plan effectively, you might end up graduating late or having to take a first-year, entry level course in your last year of post-secondary.

If this sounds complicated, don’t sweat it! Planning your courses is actually pretty fun. Most institutions have academic advisors that can help you plan each semester and choose your classes, so that you don’t end up registering for a course you can’t take.


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MRU Bachelor Of Health Science grad returning to SAIT to mix in a Medical Lab Tech Diploma who just wants to go skiing already.

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