New Student Guide

Welcome to UC Berkeley's College of Letters and Science! 

Congratulations on your acceptance to UC Berkeley! Being a new student can be both exciting and overwhelming. It's difficult to know what to expect and you will certainly encounter new challenges throughout your first year, whether you are entering as a freshman or a transfer student. 

There is a lot more to learn beyond Golden Bear Advising and Golden Bear Orientation and it is almost guaranteed that some of what you covered in those experiences will become fuzzy. This Guide is meant to highlight resources, policies, and tips that may be particularly helpful during your first semester or year. 

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Summer on our social media focuses heavily on new students. Follow us on FacebookInstagram, and YouTube to join the community. 

Newly Admitted Students

Resources before orientation

Considering Cal or wishing to learn more about the university? 

  • Admissions is the best resource for getting started. The Admissions Office can also answer questions about new student tasks, such as submitting exam scores, transcripts, and more. 

  • Visitor Services gives campus tours (including virtual options) and can offer opportunities to ask current students what the sutdent experience is like on campus. 

Wish to learn more about L&S Degrees and Degree Requirements?

Golden Bear Advising

Golden Bear Advising is mandatory, self-paced, online course that introduces you to academic resources and your college. Through Golden Bear Advising, you will learn how to build your first semester schedule and prepare to enroll in classes.

The course
 includes:

  • communication with an Academic Adviser (L&S College Adviser for freshmen, Undergraduate Major Adviser for transfers)
  • an overview of academic resources
  • graduation requirements

Incoming transfer credit (including exam scores)

Golden Bear Advising will walk you through assessing high school exam scores and transfer credit earned through a California Community College (you can use assist.org to assess how this credit will transfer). 

The university will perform an Initial Transfer Credit Review for all incoming students and will import the information into each student's CalCentral portal by the end of their first semester. 

Advising for Newly Admitted Students

  • Before Golden Bear Advising, you may access our Virtual Front Desk to ask basic academic questions. 
  • During Golden Bear Advising, you will have an assigned L&S College Adviser to guide you throughout the course. You will be able to contact this adviser with questions. 
  • After Golden Bear Advising, you may make an appointment with an L&S College Adviser. At this point, you should see which advisers are in your L&S Advising Neighborhood. 

First Year Students (Freshmen and Transfers)

Deadlines and Policies

Important Deadlines for your First Semester

While you may have many deadlines and dates to keep track of (financial aid, visa, etc.), there are two main resources for Academic Dates and Deadlines: 

  • Office of the Registrar Calendars: The "Student Enrollment and Deadline Calendar" shows all dates and deadlines for everything from enrollment windows, and semester start dates to when you'll get an add or drop fee. 
  • L&S Semester Deadlines (found on the homepage): Each semester, L&S highlights deadlines for enrollment changes, including adding, dropping, changing grading options, submitting a Late Change of Class Schedule petition, and withdrawing. 

Note that other processes may have deadlines that are not captured on these pages. For example, there are deadlines for changing your Expected Graduation Term or applying for Readmission after an absence. The links above will highlight important deadlines that will be relevant every semester. 

Important Policies for your First Year

Students are responsible for understanding all policies on this website. We recommend spending some time before your first semester clicking through the  Policies section of this website. However, here are a few that we recommend paying special attention to as a new student: 

Note for transfer students: pay special attention to the difference between drops and withdrawals. Transfer students often confuse these terms and make incorrect assumptions about what they will be allowed to do with their schedule based on their experience at different higher education institutions. 

When to declare your major

Each major has its own policies on when you can declare your major. Some majors also have deadlines by which you must have declared the major. See each major department's website for details. 

Registration holds:

  • Admitted as freshman: If you do not have at least one major declared by the time you reach 75 units (not including High School Exam Score credit), you will receive a registration hold that will prevent you from enrolling in courses for the following semester. We recommend exploring multiple majors in your first year to make sure you have options for declaring by this time. 
  • Admitted as transfer: If you do not have at least one major declared after your first semester at UC Berkeley, you will receive registration hold that will prevent you from enrolling in courses for the following semester. We recommend discussing alternative major options with your intended major's Undergraduate Major Adviser when scheduling your first semester, especially if you are seeking admission to a high demand major. 

How to declare: 

Each major has different requirements in order to declare and different processes. Most major departments in L&S have clear guidelines for declaration on the major’s website. If you have trouble finding your department’s website, you can always go to the Berkeley Academic Guide to look up your major. Click to find the department’s website link under either “About the Program” or under “Contact Information.”

Any additional questions regarding declaration requirements or deadlines should be directed to the Undergraduate Major Adviser. 

Navigating Advising and Other Resources

Who do I go to for....

UC Berkeley is a large campus and it can be challenging to figure out where to go to get help for specific questions. Our Get Advice and Make Appointments page will not only guide how to get support for your academic questions, but also highlights where to go for other common topics. If you're still feeling lost, this page will also guide you in how to talk with our intake staff to get navigational support. 

What is an "Advising Neighborhood"?

At UC Berkeley, you will work with both L&S College Advisers and Undergraduate Major Advisers. While L&S College Advisers are more generalists when it comes to your academics, it can be helpful to work with an L&S College Adviser who has some expertise in your intended or declared major. 

Advising Neighborhoods help you find L&S College Advisers with expertise in your intended/declared major. They also help you easily find Undergraduate Major Advisers for your major-specific questions. 

Note: New students will not start working with their Neighborhood L&S College Advisers until after Golden Bear Advising. 

Should I see an L&S College Adviser or an Undergraduate Major Adviser?

See our College Advising vs Major Advising page for more information on the differences between these two types of advisers and learn how to direct your question to the most knowledgable adviser on that topic. 

Resources and Tips

Academic Skills and Transition to College

It can be intimidating to transition into UC Berkeley. There are big changes to be expected in the way you will need to approach studying, writing papers, and working with faculty. In addition, you may have concerns about feeling like you belong, meeting students like you, or dealing with home sickness. 

The L&S Mentors are PhD students who work with the L&S Advising Office to provide coaching and mentorship to students in the following areas: 

  • Adjusting to campus life
  • Wellness and work
  • Choosing a path (major and career)
  • Study strategies
  • Making the most out of your major 

For course-specific academic support (tutoring and study groups), or support with writing skills, check out the Student Learning Center (SLC).

Exploring Major and Career

Get help discovering and narrowing down options: 

  • View L&S's famous 7 Steps to Choosing a Major webinar for actionable steps you can take right now to assess and narrow down major options. 
  • Career Counseling Library. While the Career Center focuses more on how to pursue career ideas, the Career Counseling Library focuses on helping students identify those career ideas in the first place. They offer assessments and career counseling. Expect that this will be a process that may take multiple meetings or further exploration after your visit, but this process can be very helpful to identify themes you wish to pursue in career, which can help you find a major that could help you explore some of those themes. 
  • L&S Mentors. For help with researching options or if you just need a someone to talk to while trying to decide, the L&S Mentors can help you think about your bigger picture goals and discuss how major will be part of the journey to get there.

Office Hours: How to approach professors and GSIs (even when you're nervous)

Faculty and GSIs (Graduate Student Instructors) hold office hours. These are times set aside specifically so that you have a chance to ask questions and engage with faculty. 

It is common to feel nervous about using office hours, either for support in a course or when you are trying to get to know faculty or GSIs but do not have a question in mind.

Tips:

  • Introduce yourself by email or in person
  • You can go to office hours for faculty even if you are not enrolled in one of their courses
  • Use office hours early if you are struggling in a course or if something comes up in your personal life that might affect your ability to meet deadlines
  • You do not need to stay the whole time--this is a window of time where your faculty or GSI is available

    Opening lines to break the ice:

    • I'm still trying to figure out my major, and I wanted to know how you knew you wanted to study your field?
    • In the reading, I found X [specific example] interesting because of what it tells us about Y [larger phenomenon].  
    • I think I understood the reading, but I am not sure. Could I go over it with you?
    • Could you tell me two specific areas where I could improve for next time?
    • I’m having difficulty in class right now because of an issue that is impacting my work. Could I talk about it with you?
    • This assignment is very hard for me. Could we talk about how to do it together, step by step?
    • Just popping in to say hello. I am enjoying the class.
    • I was really interested in [X] topic, can you recommend any other books in this topic? 

    Interested in getting more support? Our L&S Mentors can work with you one-on-one to help you approach office hours in a way that works toward your goals. They can also provide support with related topics, including enhancing your academic skills or planning for graduate school