Cal Week 2022: Freshman Q&A
Academic resources & enrichment opportunities
Bioengineering professor Terry Johnson has some great advice for first year engineering students. You can also ask our peer advisers for their tips on how to thrive as a Berkeley Engineering student. We find 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.
Many students make these connections through engineering student 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.
There are many organizations or teams that EECS students might want to join. You are welcome to check in with our peer advisers, some of whom are 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.
While there is no limit to the number of organizations and teams you can join, we recommend that first year students avoid committing to any time-consuming extracurriculars during their first semester, as it is important to have time to transition to college life and the academic rigor of Berkeley Engineering. However, you can research the engineering student organizations and teams and other more social clubs on campus during your first semester to see which ones seem 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 being involved in one or two engineering organizations or competition teams is plenty.
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.
Yes, many of the College of Engineering programs and resources are open to College of Chemistry students.
In general, yes, except CS students don’t have access to an ESS adviser, but they do have their own very knowledgeable advisers in the EECS department.
We do have some students who participate in Division 1 teams including football, basketball, crew, softball and swimming.
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 will receive 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.
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 for the summer. You should also check out the Freshman Edge website, where you will find useful information about the program.
There are nine full-time advisers in Engineering Student Services. Advisers carry a caseload of 450-500 students. 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 either in-person or online and 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.
Yes, the Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology offers a Certificate in Entrepreneurship & Technology.
Yes, the Department of Mechanical Engineering offers a minor in aerospace engineering.
Yes, all Berkeley undergraduates are welcome to complete minors in the College of Engineering. Similarly, all College of Engineering undergraduates are welcome to pursue minors in other colleges on campus.
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, and many of the classes for the minor can count toward your Humanities/Social Sciences requirement—which is the general education or breadth requirement for students in the College of Engineering. You can find a list of minors in the Berkeley Academic Guide.
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
There are general criteria to follow for change of major; however, some majors do have additional GPA and/or course completion requirements. If you have been offered admission to another school in a major that is preferable to the major in which you were admitted at Berkeley, we encourage you to accept admission to that school. Changing majors within the College of Engineering is never a guarantee. Some majors, such as EECS and bioengineering, are impacted and changing into these majors is very challenging. In some cases, students are unable to change into their preferred major.
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 explore the intersections of two majors in eight semesters.
Depending on the major, students may be able to 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 before the start of your fifth semester. Keep in mind, however, that you may not be able to change into your preferred major.
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.
Most students admitted to the College of Engineering are admitted directly into a major. Students who have been admitted into our Engineering Undeclared program need a UC GPA of 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 are encouraged to accept their offer of admission to that school.
Fulfilling the breadth (Humanities and Social Sciences) requirement in the College of Engineering would not automatically fulfill the breadth requirements in other colleges. However, there are some accommodations made for simultaneous degree students if their other major is in Letters & Science or the Haas School of Business.
Courses: enrolling, class size, choosing courses, etc.
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.
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 during high school, you will receive 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 decide on your fall classes. You can start planning now by viewing the requirements for each of our majors.
You will choose your own discussion sections when you enroll in classes.
In general, the EECS department reserves seats in their courses for declared majors. 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.
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.
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 affords you the opportunity to ask questions in a much smaller setting.
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 them, or take the courses in summer, if offered. However, non-engineering majors do get into plenty of engineering classes.
Credit for courses completed elsewhere
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.
A limited number of Berkeley edX courses can receive credit. It would be up to our campus Central Evaluation Unit to determine college credit. Your ESS adviser can help you with this after you have completed Golden Bear Advising in June.
Community college grades are not factored into your UC GPA.
Your Transfer Credit Report will be updated on CalCentral, your student information portal, by the end of December. You can see which exam scores will satisfy 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. For courses completed at a two- or four-year school, be sure that you have the syllabus for each course, as this will be required for the course review process to determine if the course will be articulated as equivalent to a Berkeley course.
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 UC GPA.
Ideally, most will declare by the end of their first year, and you must declare by the end of your second year.
Generally, yes, departments try to save seats in their lower division engineering courses specifically for engineering undeclared students.
Yes, they are able to declare any major in the College of Engineering with at least a 2.0 UC GPA.
Please see our information about exams to determine 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.
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.
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.
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.
Please review our AP exam information to see which tests and test scores count to satisfy requirements.
Your Transfer Credit Report will be updated on CalCentral, your student information portal, by the end of December. 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.
Exam credit can lighten your load. Depending on which tests you took and your scores, you may be able to exempt yourself from several of the freshman year courses. You could also have a head-start in satisfying your Humanities/Social Sciences requirement as you can use up to two exams toward that requirement.
Freshman Edge/Summer session
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) rather than in 15 weeks.
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 UC 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.
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.”
You may want to contact your ESS adviser for course suggestions.
While that is possible, it does depend to some extent on your major and how many courses you may have fulfilled 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.
Yes, this program is available to both COE/EECS and L&S/CS undergraduates.
Graduation requirements—what do I need to take?
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 critical 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.
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 classes. These are taken in addition to the required courses for your major.
No, we do not have a foreign language requirement in the College of Engineering.
First year 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.
Not all engineering majors automatically accept the physics 5 series, but it may be possible to petition the department for an exception.
College of Engineering policy does not allow exam scores to fulfill 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.
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, recruitment and career fairs.
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
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.
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 in early June and will have about three weeks to complete this online program.
Yes, PREP is a three-week program that begins at the end of July and ends just before Golden Bear Orientation begins. Freshmen Edge begins earlier in the summer and continues until mid-August.
Visit the PREP website to learn more about the program and apply.
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.
Students do not receive unit credit for PREP or T-PREP.
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 wait until their second year to think about research. It is important 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 participate in research. Many engineering students gain meaningful experiences through participation in engineering student organizations and competition teams.
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 Office adviser regarding restrictions for paid employment.
In general, most research experiences 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.
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.
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.
The global internship programs are offered during the summer.