College of Letters and Science

UC Berkeley students sitting in front of Sproul Plaza

Getting Started in the College of Letters & Science

Transfer students come to Berkeley well-prepared for what lies ahead. They understand the importance of time management, planning, communicating with professors, and effective study strategies. However, even with such excellent preparation, Berkeley does have a few surprising differences in store for new transfer students. The following information is for transfer students in the College of Letter and Science. A majority of incoming transfer students are in this college.

Your First Steps

1. If you have already decided on a major, you are welcome to contact an undergraduate major adviser (UMA). Bring your transcripts and discuss your academic plans one-on-one. Transfers are expected to declare a major in the first semester. Review On Transfers Declaring Majors (link is external).

2. Some majors have application deadlines, GPA restrictions, and must be declared at the conclusion of your first semester. You may be denied admission into a competitive major, so you need to plan for an alternate major.

3. You have at least two advisers: an undergraduate major adviser (UMA) to plan your major, and a College Adviser to plan general requirements. Visit them regularly to stay on track toward graduation.

4. Review L&S Degree Requirements and our handbook Earning Your Degree.

5. Review the College of Letters & Science Video Overview

6. Find class descriptions in the Berkeley Academic Guide, and create schedules in CalCentral.(link is external)

7. Review your Degree Audit Report (DARS)(link is external) to check your academic progress. It can take up to one semester for coursework to be reported in DARS.

8. Ensure you sent all transcripts to Berkeley and review Transfer Credit if you plan additional work outside of Berkeley.

FAQ: College of Letters and Science


What is the College of Letters & Science?

The College of Letters & Science (L&S) is UC Berkeley’s liberal arts college and is the largest of the university’s schools and colleges. It is also known as "the College".  L&S offers over 80 majors in Arts and Humanities, Biological Science, Physical Science, Social Science, and Interdisciplinary Studies. Earning a degree in the liberal arts provides you with a rich and varied educational experience and allows you to explore fields of knowledge beyond your major.

How many classes should I take during my first semester?

All L&S students are required to take a minimum of 13 units each semester (taking fewer than 13 units requires approval from the College). Most courses are worth 3-4 units.

  1. In order to make a smooth transition to UC Berkeley, we recommend you take 13 to 15 units, typically 4 courses, during your first semester. While this may seem like a small amount, remember that UC Berkeley classes tend to be more challenging than community college courses. Additionally, you will also be learning new ways to structure your time while adjusting to life on campus.

  2. Do not worry about falling behind. You will have plenty of time to add more courses in subsequent semesters or take courses during the summer. It is better to begin with a manageable course load and start the year off successfully than to overload yourself.


Should I declare my major during the first semester?

Yes, if possible. Some majors will require you to complete prerequisite courses prior to applying to a major. Declaring your major as soon as possible will allow you access to seats in upper division courses that are reserved for students in that major.

How do I declare my major?

All students in the College of Letters & Sciences enter as “undeclared”, despite any indication of an intended major on their application. Please note that no student at UC Berkeley is declared until you have met with an undergraduate major adviser (UMA) and apply to the major. Contact the UMA in the major department that you are interested in to evaluate the courses you have taken at other institutions and find out if the courses fulfill major prerequisites. Make sure that during your first semester you take any prerequisites that you lack for your intended major. Always bring copies of your transcripts (official or unofficial) when you visit a major department.

What is a “capped” or "restricted" or "limited" major?

Entry requirements vary by major and some majors are in high-demand. Consult with your intended major department regarding major prerequisites, GPA guidelines, and deadlines to declare.

How can I get help choosing a major?

To explore possible majors, use the Berkeley Academic Guide(link is external), and visit the departmental websites of the majors that you are considering. Talk to a College Adviser in the College and visit the Career Center and the Career Counseling Library. In the spring, the College of Letters & Science organizes a major fair staffed by undergraduate major advisers (UMA). Some departments also offer workshops to help students choose majors. When you have narrowed down your choices, visit the UMA for detailed advising.

What will happen if I do not declare my major during my first semester?

It is best to declare as early as possible. L&S will block your registration if you have not declared a major by the time you enter your senior year, i.e. by the time you reach 90 or more total units (including in-progress units) without a declared major.

Do I have more time if I want to declare a double major or simultaneous degrees?

Students pursuing a double major or simultaneous degree are allotted 5 semesters or up to 136 units to complete all graduation requirements - whichever comes second. If you are intending a double major, begin talking with your undergraduate major advisers and a College Adviser as soon as possible.

What is IGETC? How do I know if I have satisfied (completed) IGETC?

The Intersegmental General Education Transfer Curriculum (IGETC) is a series of courses that California community college students may complete to satisfy the lower-division breadth/ general education requirements at UC Berkeley. You must complete IGETC before you transfer. Otherwise you will be required to satisfy specific lower-division general education requirements of the College. Once your complete the IGETC coursework, ask you community college to send your IGETC certification to the UC Berkeley Admissions Office.
Note: If you’ve never heard of IGETC, you probably haven’t satisfied it.

Does IGETC satisfy the American History, American Institutions and American Cultures requirements?

IGETC does not automatically satisfy American History and Institutions (AHI) or American Cultures (AC). However, courses that you have already taken may have fulfilled one or more of these requirements. Check ASSIST(link is external) under General Education/Breadth to see if you have satisfied any of these requirements. Most students from California satisfy AHI with coursework taken in high school. For more information on these requirements, visit American History & Institutions(link is external) and the American Cultures(link is external) website.

Transfer Credit

What is the transfer unit limit?

No more than 70 units of community college course work may be applied toward the 120 unit graduation requirement. Units above 70 may be eligible to receive subject credit toward completing degree requirements. Students transferring from a California community college can check ASSIST(link is external) to determine whether a community college course will satisfy a major or college requirement.

Information obtained from the College of Letter of Science, UC Berkeley