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.
Newly Admitted Students
Resources before Golden Bear Advising
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 student 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
Click the link above to get started on your GBA course through bCourses.
INCOMING FRESHMEN ADVISING
Once GBA begins for freshmen, an L&S College Adviser will reach out to you in your GBA bCourse with a welcome announcement or message. Check your inbox and your announcements to learn which L&S College Adviser will be working with you during GBA. It may be helpful to know that bCourses will label your GBA L&S College Adviser as a "TA" for the course.
You will not have an academic adviser assigned to you on CalCentral during the GBA period and will instead work directly with your GBA L&S College Adviser.
INCOMING TRANSFERS ADVISING
Once GBA begins for transfers, you will have an opportunity to connect with your intended major's Undergraduate Major Adviser. This adviser will help you assess which courses you should take in Fall based on your progress toward the major and make sure you understand how to declare your major when you are ready.
ALL INCOMING STUDENTS
The academic adviser you work with during GBA is different than your Admissions Officer, who you can find through your MAP@berkeley Admissions portal. Your L&S College or Undergraduate Major Adviser will focus on your academic questions related to starting at Cal. Your Admissions Officer will answer questions about your new student checklist or questions related to your admission.
Transfer Students: First Semester Schedule Planning Tips
During GBA, your intended major adviser will help guide you through which major courses you should enroll in for your first semester at Cal. Sometimes, students have questions about what to add to their schedule to meet the 13 units minimum.
- First, review the L&S Degree Requirements page to get a sense of all of the general education and unit requirements you will need.
- If you do not have seven-course breadth satisfied, that can be a good place to start to round out your first semester schedule. Since your Initial Transfer Credit Review will not yet be completed, see if there are any breadth requirements you are confident you have not yet satisfied with previous coursework (or use assist.org if you took California Community College coursework but did not satisfy IGETC).
- If you satisfied IGETC or UC Reciprocity, you may still have the following general education requirements remaining, which could be planned into your first semester schedule:
- American History
- American Institutions
- American Cultures
- If you have completed all general education requirements, you can work on elective units. You may wish to start making progress toward the degree requirement of needing 6 upper division units outside of your major
For more information on all of these requirements, please see the Degree Requirements page (linked above).
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, freshmen will have an assigned L&S College Adviser to guide you throughout the course. You will be able to contact this adviser with questions. Transfer students will work with a major adviser in their intended major throughout GBA.
- 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.
- Freshmen may also join a virtual Neighborhood Block Party: a small group Zoom session to get to know an L&S College Adviser in your neighborhood and other students intending your major.
- Both Freshmen and Transfers are invited to Major/Minor Exploration Month in August 2020. Check out this list for the advising hours of 47 different Letters & Science departmental advisers. They've set aside specific times for new students to either drop in to their zoom rooms, or make zoom and google hangout appointments with them. They welcome your questions about their majors and minors and are excited to meet you and help you with your major decisions!
After Golden Bear Advising, you will be invited to a bCourse that will guide you through how to enroll in courses. It will walk you through how to use the shopping cart and how to understand if you got a seat in a course, were put on the waitlist, or were not able to get a seat in a course.
Your First Year at Cal (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:
- Enrollment: Add or Drop a Course
- Grading Options (Letter Graded or Pass/No Pass)
- Late Change of Class Schedule (one semester only)
- Concurrent Enrollment (taking transfer work after starting at Cal)
- Registration Holds (policies that can impact your ability to enroll in courses: Reading and Composition, Undeclared at 75 Units, and Unapproved Course Schedule--taking below 13 units without permission)
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.
- 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 a 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.
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 knowledgeable 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).
Navigating Enrollment for your Second Semester and Beyond
As a continuing student, enrolling in classes will be a little different than when you enrolled in courses during Golden Bear Advising (GBA).
Phases for Continuing Students are Different
While incoming students have a Phase 1 (17.5 unit limit) and an adjustment period (20.5 unit limit), continuing students have three different enrollment periods:
Phase 1: 13.5 unit limit
Phase 2: 17.5 unit limit
Adjustment period: 20.5 unit limit
These limits include enrolled and waitlisted units. For more information and tips on how to strategize your schedule planning, see our Semester Schedule Planning page.
Enrollment times are released several weeks before your Phase 1 begins. You can find your Phase and Adjustment Period times under your CalCentral’s “My Academics” tab in the “Class Enrollment” block. When Phase times are available for the next semester, you will see that semester appear at the top of this block, which you can click on to find the dates and times for your Phase 1, Phase 2, and Adjustment Period.
For more information on common enrollment questions, see our Enrollment (Add/Drops) page.
While as an incoming student, you had Golden Bear Advising to support building your first semester schedule, as a continuing student, you will be planning your schedule on your own.
Because of the high demand for academic advising around Phase 1, here are some tips for getting advice:
Review online resources. Visit the Academic Guide page and/or the website for your intended major(s) to understand prerequisites. Sample schedules are sometimes provided.
Know which adviser to contact. Save yourself time by contacting the right resource the first time around. See the College Advising vs. Major Advising page to learn how to choose the right advising office for your needs.
For questions about particular courses, contact the department that hosts the course. This includes questions about enrollment management, course content, pre-requisites or reserved seats, time conflicts, and more.
Plan early. Students sometimes panic when they realize all the advising appointments are booked out leading up to their Phase 1. Try making an appointment with an adviser early to get ahead of the traffic. If that is not possible, remember that Phase 1 is just the beginning of your schedule planning. Do your best with your online resources and get some seats at the beginning of Phase 1, then make an appointment as soon as you can to see if you need to make adjustments.
See if the Virtual Front Desk can help. The L&S Advising Virtual Front Desk (VFD) is a wonderful resource for many questions. While the VFD may not be able to give you the depth of an appointment in assessing schedule ideas, they can often clarify common questions such as overlap rules, Phase limits, general schedule planning strategy, and more.
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.
Creating a Program Plan
New students are often interested in planning out their time at Cal to understand what experiences they wish to fit into their time at Cal. This can be most valuable for incoming transfer students. To help, here are some resources to explore:
- Our Create a Long-Term Program Plan page offers an overview of whether you need to do this work now and provides step-by-step guidance. You can also find ideas for exploring outside-of-the-classroom opportunities including study abroad, internships, and research under "Helpful Links for Program Planning" on this page.
- Our Majors & Minors section includes several pages that will help you learn more about declaring or changing majors, adding double majors and simultaneous degrees, minors, and more.
- Our Unit Ceiling and Semester Limit will help you understand the time allowed for degree completion.
- Note: Transfer students who are concerned about being able to fit in study abroad, research, the UCDC Internship program, or similar experiences into their time at Cal should meet with an L&S College Adviser during your first year to discuss options.
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.
- 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.