Unit Ceiling and Semester Limit

This page covers the overall unit and semester limits for your time at UC Berkeley. If you are looking for the maximum units you can take during a semester, see the Unit Minimum and Maximum page. 

Time Allowed for Degree Completion

Because space on campus has limits, the University must graduate students in order to make room for newly admitted students. All UC campuses therefore have limits on how much time undergraduate students have to complete their degrees. UC Berkeley’s College of Letters and Science (L&S) has one of the more liberal time limits on campus. This page will walk you through understanding how much time you have to finish your degree.

Semesters Allowed 

As a student in the College of Letters and Science, you start at Cal with a certain amount of allowed semesters.

  • If you entered as a freshman, you are given eight semesters to complete your degree.
  • If you entered as a transfer student, you are given four semesters to complete your degree.

Semesters are defined as Fall and Spring terms. Summers do not count toward your allowed semesters. 

If you are able to graduate within your allowed semesters, you can take as many units as you want and your unit ceiling will not be assessed. If, however, you want to take additional semesters beyond the above allowances, this will depend on your unit ceiling, which we will explain next.

Your Expected Graduation Term (EGT) is set based on these allowed semesters. 

Double Majors / Simultaneous Degrees

If you are declared in a double major, you are allowed one extra semester (a 9th semester for freshmen, a 5th semester for transfers). Adding additional majors beyond a double major does not add additional semesters. This policy is for majors only, adding minors does not increase the amount of semesters allowed. 

For simultaneous degrees, L&S allows one extra semester as long as the other college also agrees to allow the extra time.

Unit Ceiling

Again, if you are able to graduate within your allowed semesters, you can take as many units as you want and your unit ceiling will not be assessed. The unit ceiling comes into play only when you want to take additional semesters

If you will finish your final semester at or under the unit ceiling, you can be extended to the next Fall or Spring semester. 

  • For students declared in a single major, the unit ceiling is 130 units. 
  • For students declared in a double major or more, the unit ceiling is 136 units. 

College credit earned before you graduated high school, including college exam credit (AP/IB/etc), will not be counted toward your unit ceiling. 

Example

A student declared in a single major will earn 140 units by the end of their 8th semester. However, of those 140 units, 15 are units from AP exam credit. This means that they will have 125 units that count towards the unit ceiling by the end of their 8th semester. Since the student will not exceed 130 units, they are eligible to request an extension of their EGT to the next semester. 

If that student wished to extend their time another term, the process would repeat. In this case, if the student took 13 units in their 9th semester they would exceed the unit ceiling (125 + 13 = 138) and therefore would not be allowed to extend to a 10th semester. If the student wished to take more coursework, they would need to explore other options besides regular enrollment in a Fall or Spring semester. 

Students on financial aid should contact the Financial Aid & Scholarships Office to determine if their aid package will cover the cost of additional semesters.

 Options if You Exceed Your Allowed Time

UC Berkeley Summer Sessions

If you exceed the unit ceiling and are blocked from enrolling in Fall and Spring semesters, you may still enroll in Berkeley classes during UC Berkeley Summer Sessions

It is important to note that while UC Berkeley summer sessions do not count toward the semester limit, the units earned in UC Berkeley summer sessions do count toward the unit ceiling. Units earned at other institutions during summer may or may not count toward the unit ceiling and it is valuable to discuss your academic plan with an L&S College Adviser if you believe you will be exceeding your semester limit.

If you plan to graduate in a UC Berkeley Summer Session and were not enrolled in the Spring semester immediately prior, meet with an L&S College Adviser to make sure you are on the degree list.

UC Berkeley Extension

If you exceed the unit ceiling and are blocked from enrolling in Fall and Spring semesters, you may still enroll in Berkeley classes through UC Berkeley Extension’s Concurrent Enrollment program, assuming seats are available. Please contact UC Berkeley Extension for more information.

Please note that UC Berkeley Extension has a different payment and enrollment structure than attending a regular Fall or Spring semester. Research this with UC Berkeley Extension and, if applicable, Financial Aid. See our Transfer Credit: UC Berkeley Extension page for more information about how this credit may transfer into your record.

If you wish to explore this option, you will need to:

  1. Make sure the coursework will satisfy your outstanding degree requirements. Review the transfer credit page above.
  2. Make sure your residence requirements have been satisfied. 
  3. Add yourself to the degree list for graduation (see our instructions for non-registered students on our Preparing for Graduation page).

Because finishing your degree through Extension is complex, we recommend meeting with an L&S College Adviser if you are considering finishing your degree this way. 

Attending Other institutions

If you exceed the unit ceiling and are blocked from enrolling in Fall and Spring semesters, you may still take courses at other institutions (see our Transfer Credit pages for more information). 

If you wish to explore this option, you will need to:

  1. Make sure the coursework will satisfy your outstanding degree requirements. 
  2. Make sure your residence requirements have been satisfied. 
  3. Add yourself to the degree list for graduation (see our instructions for non-registered students on our Preparing for Graduation page).

Because finishing your degree through other institutions is complex, we recommend meeting with an L&S College Adviser if you are considering finishing your degree this way. 

Semester Limit and Unit Ceiling FAQ

How transfer credit affects time limits

If, while on a break from Cal, you take classes at another institution during a Fall or Spring semester, these semesters will count toward your semester limit. So if you took two semesters at Berkeley, withdrew, then took one semester at a community college, when you return to Berkeley, you will have used three of your semesters toward your semester limit. 

Depending on when you earned transfer credit, it is possible this could be deductible from your unit ceiling. Meet with an L&S College Adviser if you would like to discuss taking transfer coursework but have concerns about the impact to your allowed time. 

If you are ever considering taking courses elsewhere while on a break, you should discuss this with an L&S College Adviser.

Extra time beyond unit ceiling

Although it is possible to appeal for excess units in order to be extended past these enrollment limits, this is rarely granted, and only in exceptional circumstances. Not having completed degree requirements is not a reason extra time at Berkeley would necessarily be approved. Students who have not completed their degree requirements will often need to look at other enrollment options, which may not be covered by financial aid. 

To inquire about appealing for excess units and/or learning about other potential enrollment strategies, meet with a L&S College Adviser.

Unsure if under the unit ceiling

The unit ceiling is a complicated policy. You are always welcome to meet with an L&S College Adviser who can help you understand where you are toward your unit ceiling, aiding with the deduction of high school enrichment units and any other deductions you may be eligible for.

Moving EGT

If you are certain you are under the unit ceiling, you may request to move your Expected Graduation Term to a future Fall or Spring semester. You are eligible to move your EGT to a Summer term regardless of whether or not you are under the unit ceiling. You can do this by submitting the Change EGT form to L&S Advising. 

For full information on moving EGTs and special circumstances that may require extra steps to make sure you graduate, review the Preparing for Graduation page. 

Changing major late

If you are considering changing a major later in your time at UC Berkeley (especially after earning 75 units), a common concern is whether you will have enough time to complete it. 

While having outstanding degree requirements does not mean you can have your EGT extended beyond the unit ceiling, students high in unit count may be able to complete some lower division prep work at a California Community College and have that deducted from their unit ceiling count. This is a complicated rule and best discussed with an L&S College Adviser. 

Learn more about changing majors in our Majors & Minors section.