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. Admissions also offers you the opportunity to chat with current students(link is external).

  • 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?

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

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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 
  • 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, starting July 16, 2021, 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 (check back for live link in July): a small group Zoom session to get to know an L&S College Adviser in your neighborhood and other students intending your major. 

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 (@berkeley.edu) twice each Fall and Spring, includes a button to add deadlines for the semester to your bCal (Berkeley Google Calendar). You can then set your calendar to alert you as these deadlines approach. 
  • 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 75 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 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. 

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.

HIGH DEMAND MAJORS

If you plan to apply to a high demand or “impacted” 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. Our Get Advice and Make Appointments page provides information on:

  • How to get support for your academic questions
  • Where to go for other common topics
  • 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?

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

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 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.

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: 

  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. 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. 

  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: 

  • 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 and the Career Center. These are separate offices with different types of support.
    • The Career Center focuses more on how to pursue career ideas. They host many events that connect students to alumni and employers and their advisers can help you with things like resume writing and interview skills.
    • 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.
  • Pre-Professional Graduate Advising at L&S Advising. These advisers can offer support with planning for Masters & PhD programs, Law School, and Pre-Health and Pre-Med planning. 

  • Office of Undergraduate Research & Scholarships. Opportunities to get involved in research or receive funding for college, graduate school and/or research.

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.

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

    Sophomore Rising: Make the most out of your second year

    As you end your first semester or year at Cal, you will hopefully feel a little more comfortable with the basics of being a UC Berkeley student and be ready for some bigger picture questions such as: 

    • Identifying where you are and what next steps you should take in major and career decision-making processes
    • Which campus resources can help you meet your basic needs and reach your potential and how to access them
    • How to assess your progress toward graduation and make a plan for your remaining semesters

    Check out our Sophomore Rising bCourse, meant to be taken during the summer after your first year, for support in transitioning into your second year and beyond!

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