Get the inside scoop on how to get into the UCs from our UC Admissions Expert, Sheelah. She’s seen UC admissions from all sides – she graduated from Cal in 2016 with a B.S. in Genetics and Plant Biology, and has over four years of experience working in UC Berkeley’s Undergraduate Admissions Office.
This will be a three-part series, broadly covering the following categories: 1) evaluation of your academic record; 2) evaluation of your extracurriculars; and 3) fine-print admissions questions. Hope this helps clear up some confusion during this stressful process!
Question: I’m interested in some of the more specialized academic tracks that the UCs offer, and I want to make sure I’m a good candidate. What do more selective programs like Berkeley’s Global Management look for? What is the school looking for in students applying to Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences (EECS)?
Most importantly, make sure you’re familiar with what you’re going to get out of the program, and why you know this is what you want to do. For any major, you should spend some time on their websites really learning what pursuing it will entail, and what you stand to gain from choosing that route. While it’s definitely encouraged for students to have extracurriculars that aren’t strictly related to their major, these particular programs will want to see that you’ve demonstrated aptitude in the field. Included below are the links to the websites for each department mentioned, with additional details. This page will tell you more about Global Management. Look here for Berkeley’s response regarding the EECS program.
Question: What will be a good major to get into medical school?
There is no one major to get into medical school, but there are required science and math courses which you will need to take. More information can be found on the AMCAS website. For context, there are Gender and Women’s Studies majors that have gotten into Yale, Molecular Environmental Biology majors who have gotten into Hopkins—the combinations are endless. What schools are looking for is demonstrated commitment to and aptitude for medicine. If you want to major in something that doesn’t seem like an obvious pre-health major because that’s your passion, go for it! Don’t spend the next four years of your life on something you hate just because you think it will make you look competitive. Instead, discuss how your unique interest (e.g. English and Literature) gives you valuable, uncommon insights and complements your love of medicine and devotion to patient care. In this example, advantages an English major could potentially have over STEM majors are 1) a lot more practice expressing themselves through writing, which is incredibly helpful for crafting powerful personal statements, and 2) a lot more practice explaining technical, perhaps scary information in a relatable way, something doctors need to do with their patients every single day.
Question: Does choosing a non-impacted major give you an advantage over those who choose an impacted major?
No. On the UC campuses, majors are grouped into colleges within a discipline. Here's a complete list of all UC campuses majors broken down by discipline rather than just by college to make things a little easier to research. (UC Santa Cruz is a little different because it has ten residential colleges that are divided by "intellectual themes" instead of major per se. That one is a little bit more of a gray area; check out their website to familiarize yourself with their unique pedagogy.) In general, however, majors within the same college all have the same evaluation criteria for admission into the college itself.
In order to officially declare an impacted major after you are accepted into the school, the guidelines for how you perform in your prerequisite courses are usually stricter (e.g. needing a B or higher in a lower division Biology class to declare a Public Health major, versus a C or higher to satisfy the life science breadth for a Physics major). If you don’t meet those higher standards, it’s not like you’ll be kicked out of the UC (unless you fail to meet general university minimum standards for satisfactory academic progress for multiple semesters or quarters, but that’s a whole other can of worms). While this is a case-by-case situation and I don’t want to say for certain this is what will happen, you will most likely just have to declare another, probably non-impacted major.
If you're looking for even more detailed information about the process of choosing your major at the UCs, subscribe to our blog. We'll have another post on this topic coming soon.
Question: Is it easier to switch majors in the same college?
Yes, it is easier to switch majors within the same college than intercollege. If you’re undecided on a major, that’s ok. In most colleges your freshman and sophomore year, you will be treated as though you’re undeclared anyway because we expect you to change your mind. Familiarize yourself with the major-changing timelines, though, to make sure you’re prepared and have taken the prerequisite courses needed to declare on paper. The requirements to declare for each major can be found on their departmental website. There are hundreds of options, far too many to link here, so get some practice looking through this kind of material on your own!
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