New Freshman Student Guide

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

Congratulations on your acceptance to UC Berkeley! Many students find that themselves both excited and full of questions after they get their acceptance. You may be wondering what to expect and how to sort through the huge amount of information out there.

Whether you have just learned you've been accepted to Cal or are already in your first year, this guide will highlight resources, tips, and policies that might be particularly helpful for you at each stage of your transition into Cal.

Transfer student? Check our New Transfer Student Guide instead. 

The L&S New Student Guide

Newly Admitted

Getting Started

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? Check out:

If you still have questions about academic issues, see "Golden Bear Advising" and "Advising for Newly Admitted Students" below for more resources.

Interested in learning more about ways to enhance your undergraduate experience? Check out our Discover Opportunities and Connect on Campus.

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

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

What to Expect:

  • Please set up your Berkeley email address.
  • Log onto bCourses to accept the “L&S GBA bCourse” Course Invitation.

Click the link above to get started on your GBA course through bCourses. 


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.

L&S Advising does not assign advisers on CalCentral. During the GBA period, you will have an L&S College Adviser assigned to you only through your GBA bCourse. 

Academic advising vs. Admissions advising

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. 

Pathways Program for Incoming First-Years

For your first semester, are you interested in a small-class experience that helps you satisfy breadth requirements? 

The Pathways program allows you to take three themed courses focused on a particular topic. You'll deep dive into an interest, all with a supportive cohort of 25 students led by a renowned professor. Each class will satisfy a general education requirement and you'll skip the uncertainty of class scheduling, getting guaranteed access to the courses in your Pathways cluster. This program is available only in the Fall semester for incoming first-year students, so don't miss out on this opportunity if you're interested. Learn more at the link 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 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. 

If you took courses at other institutions, check out our Transfer Credit pages for ideas about what to expect from this initial review. 

Advising for Newly Admitted Students

  • Before Golden Bear Advising, check out the "Getting Started" FAQ above. You may also access our Virtual Front Desk to ask basic academic questions. 

    Some major departments offer advising services for newly admitted students with questions about particular majors. Use the Academic Guide's Degree Programs page to find websites for particular majors and learn more about services that may be available. 
  • 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. See the Orientation website for dates and deadlines. 
  • After Golden Bear Advising, after Enrollment Day, you may make an appointment through our Appointments & Advice page. 

    L&S College Advisers are different than Undergraduate Major advisers. If you're looking for advising particular to a major, visit that department's website to find major advising services for undergraduates. 

Enrollment Support

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. 

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What is the College of Letters & Science?

During Your First Year at Cal

Essential things to know once you start at UC Berkeley

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 related to Preparing for Graduation, applying for Readmission after an absence, or declaring/changing majors, minors, or colleges. If there are relevant deadlines to keep in mind, you will find these deadlines or application windows on the relevant page on this website. 

Want some support remembering deadlines? 

  • The L&S Advising Newsletter, sent to your bMail address ( twice each Fall and Spring includes deadlines for the semester. 
  • Follow us on Instagram or Facebook for reminders of upcoming deadlines, policy reminders, and updates (along with showcasing student voices, advising tips, and more)

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: 

When to Declare your Major

In general, as student who started as a freshman, you should plan to declare your major by the time you reach 90 units earned at UC Berkeley (units earned in high school are not included). Generally, this is by the end of your second year or beginning of your third year. It is important to note that each major department has its own policies on when you can declare and some departments even have deadlines by which you must declare the major. See each major department's website for details. 

Registration holds

If you do not have at least one major declared by the time you reach 90 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. 

In most cases, as long as you are making good progress on the major prerequisites and GPA requirements, your Undergraduate Major Adviser can remove the hold. An L&S Adviser can help you explore alternate major options if you are not happy with your major or major progress. 


If you plan to apply to a high demand major that has more restrictions for declaration, it is valuable to take classes toward an alternate major throughout your first few semesters. You are also welcome to speak with an L&S College Adviser for support exploring alternate major options. 

How to Declare or Change your Major

how to declare

Each major has different requirements and procedures to declare. Most major departments in L&S have clear guidelines for declaration on the department'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 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.

Changing majors

Cal has a huge variety of majors to choose from. Sometimes, students feel they are too far along to choose something new, but you often have more options than you think. We recommend meeting with an L&S College Adviser if you would like to explore other major options that may appeal to you and discuss how a change of major might fit into your degree plan. Read more about this topic on our Declare or Change Major page.

Navigating Advising

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. We have resources that can help! Our Appointments & Advice page has a lot of great options, including getting live advising, making appointments, and other ways to get support. 

Our Virtual Front Desk is a great starting point if you feel lost!

What is an "Advising Neighborhood"?

At UC Berkeley, you will work with both L&S College Advisers and 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. 

L&S College Advisers are also in Advising Neighborhoods, meaning that they have familiarity with particular L&S majors. Neighborhoods also help you easily find Major Advisers for your major-specific questions. To find L&S Advising appointments or links to major advising, visit Appointments & Advice. If you're still exploring, select "Undecided" at the top of the majors list. 

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?

Both! Once you start classes at UC Berkeley, you can meet with both L&S College Advisers and Undergraduate Major Advisers.

For more information on the differences between these two types of advisers and contact information, select your intended major (or majors) on our Appointments & Advice page.

Resources and Tips

Academic Skills and Transition to College

It can be both exciting and intimidating to transition into UC Berkeley. There will be lots of new opportunities, new people to meet, and interesting courses to take. During your first year at Cal, you may also find that you will need to make changes to the way you 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 homesickness. Whatever you may be feeling, know that this is normal and there are folks here to support you.

For academic support resources, finding community and mentorship, and other ways to find your place at Cal, check our our Discover Opportunities and Connect on Campus page.

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: 

  1. Phase 1: 13.5 unit limit

  2. Phase 2: 17.5 unit limit

  3. 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.

Seeking Advising

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: 

  1. 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. 

  2. Know which adviser to contact. Save yourself time by contacting the right resource the first time around. If you make an appointment through the Appointments and Advice page, you'll be given information about College vs. Major advising. Read this carefully and choose the best resource for your particular questions. 

    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. 

  3. 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. 

  4. 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: 

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. 

  • 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 "Options for enhancing your program plan" 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. 

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.

Check out our mini-article on Icebreakers for Office Hours.

Our Discover Opportunities and Connect on Campus page can help you find even more ways to find mentorship and academic support. 

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