Choosing Classes as a Transfer Student
Navigating the academic system of a new university felt daunting when I first started my enrollment process. I wanted to do everything correctly to start my first semester off on the right foot. This process was once foreign to me, but after doing it once, it became straightforward. Here are all the tips that I wish I knew that make this process seamless.
1. Check Assist and Class Transferability
The first step in creating an optimal schedule is to see how your previous courses transfer over to Berkeley. It’s important to know how your existing units convert into credits here so you can avoid repeating classes that you’ve already fulfilled. An extremely helpful tool is Assist. Assist automatically creates articulation agreements (a template in how courses in one college transfer to another) in just a few clicks. Choose your academic year, the college you’re transferring from, ‘University of California, Berkeley’ in the “Agreements with Other Institutions” section, and press “View Agreements.” It will take you to a list of majors; choose your intended major, then press view agreement again. This will show what you’ve already completed in your major and what still needs to be done. All transfers come in as undeclared majors and it can take up to an entire semester for all your course credits to transfer, so it’s important to start moving forward with fulfilling the units you need.
2. Familiarize Yourself with Major Requirements
The next step is to become best friends with your major completion sheet. For all undergraduate degree programs and their list of major requirements, visit the Undergraduate Degree Program Guide. Major advisors typically have major completion sheets to make course planning straightforward for their students, or requirements can be found on a major’s webpage. Prior to my enrollment, my major advisors sent out a mass email that had my major completion sheet as a PDF. Using my articulation agreement from Assist, I filled out as much as I could on my sheet, and I knew whatever was blank were courses I still needed to complete. Many were still lower division, so I knew what to look for when I started searching for what classes were being offered during my first semester.
3. Speak with your Major and College Advisors
Even with Assist and a handy major completion sheet, there will always be additional questions that arise throughout planning. What should I prioritize? Which classes have limited seats and don’t repeat every semester? These were some of my questions when I met with my major advisor. Being so close to my enrollment date, longer appointments were hard to come by, but drop-in hours gave me all the answers I needed.
“We generally advise students who haven’t completed the lower-division requirements at their community college for their major to take those their first semester here at Cal. A good way to check to see if you have/haven’t completed these courses is through Assist.org. Other great classes to take your first semester here at Cal as an incoming transfer is an upper division four-unit elective.” — Chloe Keller, English Department Undergraduate Advisor
Speaking to your major and college advisors provides you with clarification on how to best organize your schedule and what classes to choose. As a transfer student, it’s highly recommended to take three four-unit courses and the Berkeley Connect class to help you transition into Cal’s academic atmosphere. Along with completing your major’s lower division requirements, one American Cultures course is required to graduate at Berkeley.
”I purposefully decided to get my American Cultures requirement out of the way in my first semester at Cal.” — Georgina Fakoukaki, junior, Media Studies major
I recommend completing your AC requirement early on so you don’t have to worry about cramming it in your last semester at Cal.
4. Utilize Enrollment Center and Class Schedule
With your major completion sheet and advice from your advisors, go to the Class Schedule tab in Berkeley’s Academic Guide. There, you can choose filters such as your major and upper and lower-division courses. This is the hub for everything that’s being offered in the upcoming semester. Align what’s being offered to what you need to take according to your major planning sheet and advice from an academic advisor. For helpful resources when picking your classes, check out Choosing Classes: 3 Resources. These aid in researching your potential resources, but remember that not everyone’s personal experience may align with yours.
”The most difficult part of picking classes for me was trying to balance getting the classes I wanted for my major and having them not overlap in my schedule. I’d say don’t be afraid to sign up for too many units and drop out of a few after week one.” – Zalea Bjorgum, junior, History Major
In CalCentral under Academics, there is a class enrollment tab that has another schedule planner tab within. In the schedule planner tab, you can add courses you wish to take for the upcoming term and see what’s in your shopping cart; there’s also a handy “generate schedule” button that shows if you have any potential time conflicts from classes overlapping. When you’re ready to start adding classes to your Shopping Cart, go to the Enrollment Center in the Class Enrollment tab in Academics. In the left-hand menu, choose Class Search and Enroll, look up the classes you found in the Class Schedule, press Enroll or Add to Cart and go through the steps. Be sure to specify that you’d like to add yourself to the waitlist if the class gets full. You can’t enroll until your Phase 1 date, so just Add to Cart. You’ll repeat the same process to enroll, except choose the Enroll option. Having all of your classes in your shopping cart is a helpful reference when you can finally officially register.
5. Set Reminders for Your Enrollment Time
Your enrollment time will appear in the top right box of your Academics tab in CalCentral. It’s typically split up into two phases: Phase 1 and Phase 2. New students, both freshmen and incoming transfers, are allowed to enroll in 17.5 units during Phase 1 (rather than 13.5 for continuing students). This is to allow for a smoother transition. Phase 1 and Phase 2 unit enrollments are only applied to your second semester and onward at Cal.
Set a reminder in your calendar for your enrollment date, posted on the Class Enrollment tab under Academics in CalCentral. Be ready to enroll in the classes already waiting for you in your shopping cart. Don’t wait to plan on the day of your enrollment. Spots fill fast, especially when there’s a priority given to already declared students. Along with planning your ideal schedule, have backup classes in case you’re unable to enroll in a class or are waitlisted.
When I was planning my schedule, I put a couple of English seminars in my cart and chose the one where I wouldn’t be waitlisted when my enrollment date came around. During the Adjustment Period that follows Phase 2, you can enroll up to your college’s maximum, so I wanted to wait to add on classes later if I found that these seminars no longer had a waitlist or if I decided that I wanted to risk it. However, I recommend choosing classes with more limited seats so you can secure your spot, as there’s a higher likelihood of adding a course later on that has 100 open seats rather than 17. Remember that you need at least 13 units to be considered full-time to receive financial aid.
6. Consider Your Personal Interests
Even though you’re planning according to your major requirements, there’s still room to take classes that sound the most appealing to you. When I was looking for classes that would fulfill one of my English seminars, there was a myriad of interesting choices. Certain requirements had multiple options to choose from. I decided on Reading and Writing About Science Fiction so I could integrate some creative writing into my schedule, which is my main academic interest. There are many ways like this to make your schedule enjoyable and avoid the feeling of trudging through a requirement.
”I chose classes that I need to declare my major as fast as possible because I felt like I was at a disadvantage to the people who are doing their full four years here. But I need to be in classes that I enjoy so I picked some that are fun and make me want to get out of bed an hour earlier in the morning and on weekends to work on them.” — Tatiana Fakoukaki, junior, Cognitive Science major
DeCals are also a more direct route in taking something that interests you. DeCals are Pass/No Pass student-run classes that give academic credit ranging from 0.5 to 2 units. These units can count towards your major, but be sure to confirm each class’ transferability. They usually consist of fun and eclectic topics or teach useful skills.
”Decals are a great way to smoothly integrate into the college experience. They’re less stressful and you’re fulfilling units.” — Georgina Fakoukaki, junior, Media Studies major
This semester I’m taking a Young Adult Literature DeCal which is a genre that I typically enjoy reading the most. I’m learning about the publishing side and components of this relatively new literary scene. I’m able to indulge in a genre that I’m interested in writing in as well as earn credit!
7. Lean On the Transfer Center and Berkeley Connect Class
The Transfer Center’s transition course, Berkeley Connect, prepares transfers for the academic rigor of Berkeley and introduces non-academic resources as well. These Transition Courses are also major-specific. Everyone I know who transferred, myself included, was recommended to take these classes. Since it’s recommended that transfers take three four-unit courses their first semester, this makes them fall a little short of being considered studying full-time. Taking these one-unit courses makes your schedule full-time. Besides Berkeley Connect, the Transfer Center offers academic advising, transfer success workshops, and a transfer mentorship program. The Transfer Mentorship Program pairs continuing transfer students with incoming ones of the same major and helps them navigate everything from class schedules to finding a support system.
You’re on your way!
With these helpful tips, you’re ready to successfully enroll in your first semester at Cal. Going by previous course transferability, your major completion sheet, and advising, you can get a sense of all the courses you need to take. Utilizing tools such as the Enrollment Center and the Berkeley Connect class, you’ll be able to put this knowledge into action. Don’t forget to consider your personal interests to make a fun schedule! By the time your enrollment date comes around, you’ll be registering for classes like a pro.
Preslee Vanlandingham is a third-year at UC Berkeley majoring in English.