Cal Week 2020: Freshman Q&A
Academic resources & enrichment opportunities
What are some tips or recommendations to be successful in the College of Engineering as an incoming freshman?
Bioengineering professor Terry Johnson has some really great advice for first year engineering students. You can also feel free to ask our peer advisers for their tips on being a successful student. We think that students who start engaging early with the Center for Access to Engineering Excellence (our tutoring center) are more successful in their classes and make connections with other engineering students.
Are there planned College of Engineering social events that allow engineering students to meet each other and form supportive networks?
Many students make these connections through engineering organizations and teams. At Golden Bear Orientation in August, you will be able to meet students in the College of Engineering. Also, many majors or student groups within a major host welcome events at the start of the semester so you can meet faculty, students and staff in your department.
What are the opportunities for EECS students to engage in clubs and other extracurricular activities in freshman year? Do academic schedules allow for that?
There are many organizations or teams that EECS students might want to join. You are also welcome to also check in with our peer advisers, Ahad and Affton, who are both EECS majors, and they would be happy to chat about clubs they belong to and how they balance their academics and extracurricular activities. We do recommend that first year students not jump into too many extracurriculars their first semester.
How many student organizations/clubs can we sign up for?
While there is no limit on number of organizations and teams you can join, we recommend that first year students not commit to any very time-consuming extracurriculars in their first semester, as you are getting used to college life and the academic demands of college. But you can research the engineering organizations and teams and other more social clubs on campus during your first semester to see what seems like a good fit for you. Employers want to see that you were an actively engaged participant in your engineering club or team and that you took on increasingly responsible roles within the club, which is difficult to do if you are involved in numerous clubs. Many students find that one or two engineering organizations or competition teams is their maximum.
Can L&S students take advantage of College of Engineering (COE) research/career opportunities?
In general, research opportunities in engineering labs are open to all students. Faculty are much more concerned about your skill set and your interest in their research area than your major or college. Students in the STEM fields in Letters & Science are also welcome to participate in many of the career opportunities that are available to engineering students.
I understand that chemical engineering is in the College of Chemistry (COC), but would College of Engineering programs and resources be available to me or would they mostly be under COC?
Yes, many of the programs and resources are open to College of Chemistry students.
Are CS students in L&S able to tap into COE/ESS resources (internships, research, advising, etc.)?
In general, yes, except CS students don’t have access to an ESS adviser, but they have their own very knowledgeable advisers in the EECS department.
Do a lot of your engineering students participate in your Division 1 athletic teams?
We do have some students who participate in Division 1 teams including, football, basketball, crew, softball and swimming.
When can students begin meeting their ESS adviser?
Your ESS adviser will be available to meet with you after you have completed Golden Bear Advising, which is part of Golden Bear Experience, the campus’s online and in-person orientation programs. Golden Bear Advising is an online orientation program that you will complete in early June that prepares you to enroll in your classes in July. As part of Golden Bear Advising, you will respond to a series of questions that will help your adviser better understand your academic preparation. Based on those answers, you’ll get a list of suggested courses for your first semester. Once you have completed Golden Bear Advising, you will be able to make an appointment to meet with your ESS adviser.
How can newly-admitted students get in contact with ESS advisers before the summer if they have questions about Freshman Edge?
ESS advisers are assigned by major, and, for bigger majors, by student last name. You are welcome to contact your adviser if you have questions about which classes you can enroll in. You should also check out the Freshman Edge website, where you will find useful information about the program.
Related to the discussion about advisers, how many students are there per adviser? How often can students meet with their advisers?
There are seven full-time advisers and one part-time adviser. Full-time advisers have about 450-500 students in their advising caseload. Once new students have completed Golden Bear Advising in June, they are welcome to make an appointment with their adviser. We have an online scheduling system, and students are welcome to meet with their adviser as often as they would like. Throughout most of the year, students are able to get an appointment with their adviser for the same day.
Is there an entrepreneurship certification for engineering students?
Yes, the Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology offers a Certificate in Entrepreneurship & Technology.
Is there an aerospace minor?
Beginning this fall, the Department of Mechanical Engineering will be offering a minor in aerospace engineering. The minor is going through the final approval process now.
Are engineering minors (aerospace or materials) possible for physics (astro) and math majors in L&S?
Yes, all Berkeley undergraduates are welcome to complete minors within the College of Engineering.
What minor/certificate path should we take to be equipped to start and manage a startup?
You may want to explore the Certificate in Entrepreneurship & Technology. The Jacobs Institute also offers the Berkeley Certificate in Design Innovation. You can find many other resources for students interested in startups at startup.berkeley.edu.
Is it possible to major in engineering and minor in art at the same time?
UC Berkeley does not have a minor in the Practice of Art. If you are particularly interested in that minor, you should contact the department directly via the undergraduate major adviser, Raty Syka. In general, it is possible to earn a minor in a humanities or social sciences major, as many of the classes for the minor can count toward your Humanities/Social Sciences requirement—which is your general education or breadth requirement for students in the College of Engineering. You can find a list of minors in the Berkeley Academic Guide.
How difficult is it to declare a minor in EECS?
Many non-EECS majors are able to fit an EECS minor into their plans. Your ESS adviser can help you map out a plan to do this.
Changing majors/double major/changing college/simultaneous degrees
How easy is it to change majors within the College of Engineering?
There are general criteria to follow for each major, although some majors do have additional GPA and/or course completion requirements. If you have been offered admission to another school in the major you are most interested in, we encourage you to think carefully about your decision to accept admission to Berkeley Engineering. Some majors, such as EECS and bioengineering, are impacted and changing into these majors is not guaranteed, as there are minimum GPA and/or course completion requirements students must meet in order to change into these majors.
Is it possible to double major in the College of Engineering?
It really depends on the majors you wish to pursue and your academic preparation—i.e. AP/IB/A Level exams, or college courses completed while in high school. Your ESS adviser can help you map out a plan for a possible double major. We also offer several joint majors that were designed to allow students to thoroughly explore two majors in eight semesters.
At what time can people transfer majors within the College of Engineering?
Depending on the major, students can change their major as soon as they have completed their first semester, although some majors require that you complete two semesters. Applications for a major change must be submitted to your ESS adviser no later than before the start of your fifth semester.
Is it possible to double major with a major in College of Engineering and another in L&S (such as economics or data science)?
Completing majors in two different colleges is called a simultaneous degree. It is possible to do this, but it does take careful planning and depends on the majors you choose. Some engineering majors have fewer overall requirements, so it makes a simultaneous degree more possible.
Is there a recommended GPA to declare an engineering major?
Most students admitted to the College of Engineering are admitted directly into a major. Students admitted into our Engineering Undeclared program need a 2.0 to declare any major in the College of Engineering.
If you are interested in a change of college into the College of Engineering, please review the information on our change of college website. Please note that a change of college into the College of Engineering is not guaranteed. Students who have been admitted into an engineering program elsewhere or have guaranteed admission into an engineering program at another university should carefully consider their options before accepting admission to Berkeley.
For the simultaneous degree (completing majors in two colleges), do I have to fulfill the breadth requirements in both colleges? Or is fulfilling the requirements in the College of Engineering enough?
You would need to fulfill the breadth requirements for both colleges, as you are receiving degrees in both colleges. However, many of the courses can overlap and will fulfill requirements for both colleges.
Courses: enrolling, class size, choosing courses, etc.
When/how do we sign up for courses?
You will sign up for classes in mid-July after completing Golden Bear Advising in June. Golden Bear Advising is our online orientation program that helps you plan your first semester courses. There will be information available in July, prior to your enrollment time, that will guide you through the enrollment process.
When do we start picking courses? Is this something we should be doing ourselves or something advisers will help us through?
As part of Golden Bear Advising, our online orientation program, you will learn about your university, college and major requirements. Based on your responses to a series of questions about which exams or college level work you have completed in high school, you will get a list of suggested courses for your first semester that are appropriate for your major and level of preparation. You and your adviser will review the suggested course list and make a fall schedule. You can start planning now by viewing the requirements for each of our majors.
Do they automatically assign us to a discussion class or do we have to sign up for them?
You will choose which discussion sections to enroll in.
Do EECS students have difficulty enrolling in major-specific upper division courses/electives?
In general, the EECS department reserves seats in their courses for declared majors. So students in the major are generally able to get the courses they need. EECS’s information for current undergraduates has more in-depth information about enrolling in their courses.
Do you have to be in EECS to realistically get into computer science classes?
EECS does post information about enrolling in their courses. In general, non-EECS majors have been able to get into the lower division courses. Students also take courses in the summer as enrollment is first-come, first-enrolled during that time. Your ESS adviser can talk to you about strategies for enrolling in EECS courses in July before class registration.
How big are engineering classes?
It really varies. The lower division EECS courses are quite large, ranging in size from 500-1,000, while other engineering courses may be 50 to 100 in a class. Upper division classes can be smaller. Additionally, many classes have lab or discussion components that are much smaller (15-20), which gives you the chance to ask questions in a much smaller setting.
How difficult is it to take engineering courses as an L&S student?
Many engineering departments do reserve seats for their declared majors or other majors in engineering who are required to take their courses. Non-engineering students who want to take courses in engineering will usually prioritize these classes in their first phase of enrollment (continuing students have two main phases of enrollment). They can also try to take courses off-cycle from when College of Engineering students would normally take the course, or take the courses in summer if offered. But certainly, non-engineering majors do get into our classes.
Credit for courses completed elsewhere
Can I take classes at my community college this summer to fulfill credit for some general education classes?
Yes, but you should report all changes in an update form on MAP@Berkeley. You may also want to consult with your ESS adviser about courses you plan to enroll in.
Who should I contact for information on college transfer credits taken in high school?
You can discuss any college transfer credits with your ESS adviser after completing Golden Bear Advising in June. As part of Golden Bear Advising, we will ask you about any college-level coursework you may have completed. Once you have completed Golden Bear Advising, you can speak with your adviser about how to get these courses evaluated and how these courses could work to satisfy degree requirements. You will need the course syllabus for each course you want to have evaluated.
If we have taken courses from Berkeley edX, can we use them to get credits in college?
A limited number of Berkeley edX courses can receive credit. It would be up to our campus Transfer Credit Unit to determine college credit. Your ESS adviser can help you with this after you have completed Golden Bear Advising in June.
Could I take a community college class this summer and a UCB class this summer at the same time? Does this pose a financial aid problem?
You should report all changes in the update form on MAP@ Berkeley. If you are enrolling in the Freshman Edge program, there is information about financial aid, and you can always check in with the Financial Aid office.
Do community college courses that do not satisfy requirements for your major count toward your overall GPA?
Community college grades are not factored into your Berkeley GPA.
When will we receive a review of our course transfer credits from other 4-year institutions and/or AP exams?
Your Transfer Credit Report will be updated on CalCentral, your student information portal, by the end of your first semester. You can see which AP tests will satisfy requirements now, and during the summer, you can begin the course review process for courses you took at two-year or four-year schools with your ESS adviser. For courses completed at a two- or four-year school, be sure that you have the syllabus for each course, as these will be needed for the course review process to determine if the course will be articulated as equivalent to a Berkeley course.
As engineering undeclared, how do I declare EECS?
You will be able to declare EECS after your first semester, assuming you are in good standing—meaning you have at least a 2.0 GPA.
When do engineering undeclared majors typically declare?
Ideally, most will declare by the end of their first year, and you must declare by the end of your second year.
Do engineering undeclared students get the same priority in class enrollment as a student with a declared major?
Generally, yes, major departments try to save seats in their lower division engineering courses specifically for engineering undeclared students.
Can engineering undeclared students declare any engineering major with a 2.0+ GPA?
Yes, they are able to declare any major in the College of Engineering.
How easy is it to use AP/IB/A Level credit to skip preliminary courses in the College of Engineering?
Please see our information about exams and which requirements these exams satisfy. In Golden Bear Advising, we talk more about exams, how you can use them to satisfy requirements and why you may or may not want to use an exam score to satisfy a requirement.
If we’ve taken AP Calculus BC, would you still recommend taking Math 1A/1B?
As part of completing Golden Bear Advising, our online orientation program that you complete in June in preparation for enrolling in classes in July, you’ll have the opportunity to review some sample final exam problem sets for Math 1A and 1B to determine how comfortable you feel with the material covered in these courses. This is really a personal choice, as only you know how confident you feel with the material.
Will UC Berkeley be granting IB credit given the cancellation of IB exams worldwide?
UC will continue to award credit for designated IB subjects passed with scores of 5, 6 or 7, as well as extra units for the IB diploma completed with 30 points or more.
How does AP and IB credit work? Can I skip some humanities classes? Also, since IB exams got cancelled, how does that work?
See the previous answer about IB Exams. Please review our exams page for an explanation of how AP/IB/A Level exams can be used to satisfy requirements.
Because the AP tests are covering less material this year, would you recommend retaking a class next year even if we get a 5 on the test?
Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. As part of completing Golden Bear Advising, our online orientation program which you complete in June in preparation for enrolling in classes in July, you’ll have the opportunity to review some sample final exam problem sets for Math 1A and 1B to determine how comfortable you feel with the material covered in the courses. This is a personal choice, as only you know how confident you feel with the material. All of the engineering majors are designed to be completed in eight semesters and assume that the student has not received any credit from exams or transfer work. Therefore, if you choose to take the course, you will still be on track to graduate.
I am assuming calculus and physics AP tests need a score of 4/5? What about english and history/government? Does a 3 get credit?
Please review our AP exam information to see which tests and test scores count to satisfy requirements.
When will we receive a review of our course transfer credits from other four-year institutions/AP exams?
Your transfer credit report will be updated on CalCentral, your student information portal, by the end of your first semester. You can see which AP tests will satisfy which requirements now, and during the summer you can begin the course review process with your ESS adviser for courses you took at two-year or four-year schools. Be sure to retain your syllabi for all college level courses completed, as they will be needed for the review process.
Will having a lot of AP credits lighten our class load?
AP exams can lighten your load. Depending on what tests you took and your scores, you may be able to exempt yourself from quite a bit of the freshman year curriculum for your major. You could also have a head-start in satisfying your Humanities/Social Sciences requirement as you can use up to two AP Exams towards the requirement.
Fall 2020 and COVID-19
Any news on how students are going to transition into the fall semester with the COVID-19 situation?
At this time, we don’t know exactly what Fall 2020 will look like. Campus leadership is working hard to plan for Fall 2020 and will inform everyone as soon as they can.
I am an international student. I wonder how the current COVID-19 situation will affect the international students in the fall. Because of the current travel ban, it may be a possibility that many international students will not be able to go to Cal Campus in the fall. If that’s the case, will there be remote instruction? Or will thousands of students be deferred to the spring semester? And how will it affect our graduation in 2024?
We understand that international students are very impacted by the current situation. At this point, unfortunately, we don’t have answers, but the campus will be communicating with students as soon as they have concrete information to share. Be sure to stay connected with the Berkeley International Office. Their New Students website has important information, including links to online webinars.
Will research funding be affected by COVID-19?
We don’t know, as this is an evolving situation.
If COVID-19 comes back in late fall, would classes be done remotely?
The campus has been working on teaching resiliency plans for quite some time and is prepared to continue teaching remotely, if needed.
If fall term classes do not resume on campus, is it possible to request a deferral to the next year?
You can request a deferral, but you first need to accept your offer of admission, then put in a request through your MAP@Berkeley to defer. Unfortunately, deferral is not guaranteed; each request is looked at on a case-by-case basis.
Freshman Edge/Summer session
Am I required to do Freshmen Edge?
No, it is definitely not required. While it can be a chance to try out Berkeley courses, the courses are taught at an accelerated pace. Summer courses cover essentially the same course material as is taught during the regular semester, but they cover the material in six, eight or ten weeks (depending on the session the class is offered in) rather than in 15 weeks.
Can an international student enroll in Freshman Edge and/or PREP remotely?
Yes, international students can participate in Freshman Edge, taking classes remotely. PREP is being offered remotely, so that could also be an option.
As an international student, I wish to participate in summer online courses. But the website says that there is a minimum requirement of face-to-face classes. Since there are not going to be any face-to-face classes, would this requirement be reviewed to enable me to take online courses this summer?
Freshman Edge has modified their face-to-face class requirement. Please contact the Freshman Edge program staff with any questions.
How rigorous/time-consuming would it be to participate in Freshman Edge (taking Computer Science 61A) over the summer? Would I have time to, say, work a job or an internship at the same time?
The summer classes are essentially the same version as the class taught in the regular semester, except at a much more accelerated pace. The CS classes are time-consuming and students spend upwards of 20 hours per week on CS 61A. If you have a programming background and are not working too many hours, you may be able to balance this. However, be aware that courses completed in the summer do factor into your Berkeley GPA, and if you are an EECS major, CS 61A is your foundational programming course, so you want to give yourself time to build a solid foundation.
Where can one find the application to the summer programs (I couldn’t find the actual application)?
Details about how to enroll in the program can be found on the Freshman Edge website. Look under the Freshman Edge checklist, under “Before you opt-in.”
For undergrad civil engineering, are there any summer classes/Freshman Edge or other online courses that are suggested?
You may want to contact your ESS adviser for course suggestions.
Can I do a 5th year masters in four years?
While that is possible, it does depend to some extent on your major and how many courses you may have completed already via exam credit and/or college coursework while in high school. If your goal is to complete both your B.S. and M.S. in four years, your ESS adviser can help you make a plan based on your academic preparation to determine if it is possible.
Can L&S computer science students apply to the 5th year masters program?
Yes, this program is available to both COE/EECS and L&S/CS undergraduates.
Is there a special application process to get accepted into the 5th year M.S. engineering program?
Yes, each major department has information about the application process on their website. You may also want to explore the one year MEng program offered through the Fung Institute.
Does the 5th year masters from the EECS department give a master’s degree in specific fields such as robotics?
Review the information about the EECS 5th year masters. You may want to review the EECS 5th year master’s FAQ as well.
Graduation requirements—what do I need to take?
What exactly does “breadth courses” mean?
Students in the College of Engineering complete a six-course breadth requirement that we call the Humanities/Social Sciences requirement. These are courses outside your major requirements that provide more depth and breadth to your education and give you practice in those important soft skills such as writing, communication and critical thinking. You will learn all about the requirements in Golden Bear Advising, our online orientation program that you will complete in June.
What is the difference between general education classes and lower division classes for our major?
The general education courses are usually those that are outside of your field of study. In the College of Engineering, we have a six-course breadth requirement—called the Humanities/Social Sciences requirement. These six courses include both upper and lower division humanities/social sciences. These are taken in addition to the required courses for your major.
Is there a foreign language requirement for College of Engineering students?
No, we do not require more foreign language beyond what is required in the A-G requirements for admission.
Is there a maximum number of semesters for a student to graduate with an engineering degree?
Freshman students have eight semesters to complete their degree. If a student spends a semester abroad or takes a semester off for a co-op (internship), that semester is not counted as one of the eight semesters.
Can the physics 5 series satisfy the same requirements as the physics 7 series?
Not all engineering majors automatically accept the physics 5 series, but it is possible to petition the department for an exception.
How do you coordinate a course petition by exam? I would like to place out of Math 53 and Math 54.
College of Engineering policy does not allow petition by exam for Math 53 or 54. Students are welcome to talk to their ESS adviser about the process to petition to take upper division math courses if they feel they have already completed equivalent work in high school for Math 53 or Math 54.
Does Cal have an official co-op/internship program?
While we don’t have an official co-op/internship program, many engineering students complete summer or semester long internships. We have strong relationships with companies that actively recruit our students for internships. We partner with the campus Career Center to bring companies to campus for info sessions, recruiting and career fairs.
What are some of the internship/co-op opportunities available to College of Engineering students (and specifically mechanical engineering students)?
Mechanical engineering (ME) students have many opportunities. Some of the companies at which ME students have interned include: Apple, Tesla, Boeing and General Motors, just to name a few. Additionally, students intern at small start-ups around the Bay Area. College of Engineering students are highly sought after.
Orientation: Golden Bear Experience
What is orientation like? When does it start?
Golden Bear Experience is UC Berkeley’s four part orientation program. Golden Bear Advising and Golden Bear Prep are online and will be available in June and July. As part of Golden Bear Advising you will learn about your University, College, and Major requirements, and based on your responses to questions about which exams or college level work you have completed in high school you will receive a list of suggested courses for your first semester. Golden Bear Orientation is the on-campus, in-person orientation that happens the week before classes begin. We are not yet sure whether or not Golden Bear Orientation will be online or in-person this fall.
How long after we commit should we expect to receive the Golden Bear Advising email?
You will start receiving emails from the College of Engineering soon after the May 1 deadline to accept your offer of admission. You will be able to access Golden Bear Advising starting June 2 and will have about three weeks to complete this online program.
Has it been decided that freshman orientation will be online? And have any decisions been made regarding fall classes?
Golden Bear Advising and Golden Bear Prep have always been online modules that students complete in June and July. Final decisions have not been made about Golden Bear Orientation, which usually happens on campus the week before school begins. The format for Fall 2020 classes has not yet been determined.
International students may be able to arrive in the US only a few days before classes start. Will you keep us in mind?
International students should be in contact with the Berkeley International Office and New Student Services, who run Golden Bear Orientation, about how much of orientation they will be able to attend.
Does PREP coincide with Freshman Edge courses?
Yes, PREP is a three week program that takes place July 27 to August 14. Freshmen Edge begins earlier in the summer and continues until August 14.
How does one learn more and sign up for the PREP program?
Visit the PREP website to learn more about the program and apply.
One of my admission requirements is to participate in PREP. Does that mean that I am guaranteed acceptance into this program?
If completing the PREP program is part of your conditions of admission, you are guaranteed a slot in the program. We do ask that you fill out the Pre-Admission Questionnaire, even if you have an admissions mandate.
Do PREP and T-PREP cost money? Do they require a separate application?
Both programs are 100% free to students. PREP is designed for incoming first year students, while T-PREP is designed for students transferring from a community college. Both applications are now available on their respective web pages.
How will the product development component of PREP work if the program is online?
PREP and T-PREP include a group design project. Typically these are done on campus, but this year’s projects will be slightly different. However, students will still gain valuable teamwork and presentation skills through their participation in these programs this year.
Does the PREP program give college credit?
Students do not receive unit credit for PREP or T-PREP.
How do you recommend we go about getting into labs and get research experience? How necessary is research to get a job after college?
UC Berkeley is a major research university, and many students participate in research while at Cal. Your ESS adviser can talk to you about how to get involved in research. In general, we encourage first year students to not get involved in research but to use their first semesters to get acclimated to college life and to gain skills that will be useful for future research. For students who are interested in graduate school, research is very important. Working in a lab also helps you develop skills applicable to internships and jobs and will strengthen your resume. However, not all students do research. Many engineering students gain meaningful experiences through participation in engineering organizations and competition teams.
Are there any major limitations in research opportunities for international students?
Most lab experiences are volunteer experiences, so there are no limitations for international students about volunteering. If you are getting paid, you should consult with your Berkeley international adviser regarding restrictions for paid employment.
Is research typically paid, or does it really depend?
In general, most research experiences, especially during the school year, are not paid, as most research funds help support our graduate students. Depending upon the lab, funding and research needs, there may be opportunities for paid research. Also, there are opportunities for paid research experiences through the summer REU programs sponsored by the National Science Foundation.
Are there study abroad programs that allow engineering students to graduate in four years and without taking an extra semester?
Yes, there are many study abroad programs that have excellent engineering programs, and students are able to complete courses for their major and graduate on time. Your ESS adviser can help you plan for study abroad.
What is the best time for an engineering student to study abroad? What classes should one take?
This is really based upon your individual situation, but generally most engineering students will go abroad sometime in their third or fourth year. Your ESS adviser can help you decide the best timing for you, and can help you decide whether to go abroad for a summer, semester or full year. In terms of courses, most students take courses for their major, but some students can also complete courses for the Humanities/Social Sciences requirement or just study for personal enrichment.
What are those programs that allow us to find global opportunities?
The global internship programs are offered during the summer.