Frequently Asked Questions and CNR Terminology

CNR Terminology

Lower division (LD) courses (numbered 1-99): Much of the lower division coursework is common across CNR majors so it is easy to make progress if you change your major or you are currently undeclared. You will take lower division courses within CNR and outside the College.

Upper division (UD) courses (numbered 100-199): Advanced level courses that often require prerequisite coursework.  Your major may require upper-division courses from both CNR and from outside the College.

Elective coursework: Electives are classes you can choose to take towards your major. Usually a major requires a certain number of elective units and you will have a list of classes to select those units from. Students often use their elective coursework to pursue a specific area of emphasis within a major.

Enrichment courses: General interest courses that introduce students to a range of topics.  Enrichment courses can include discovery courses, DeCal classes, Berkeley connect, Freshman Seminars and other courses that support explorations, learning skills, and success strategies.

Core courses: Each major has core courses that all students have to take. Core courses may be both upper division and lower division. Refer to the major snapshots for a list of the core courses.

Breadth courses: Referred to as "general education" courses at some universities, breadth courses fall into one of 7 categories and are designed to ensure a well-rounded and interdisciplinary educational experience. College of Letters & Science manages the breadth categories but you can take breadth courses from all the Colleges. CNR majors incorporate some or all the categories into their major requirements. Each major is different so be sure to review your major snapshot. You can see the breadth courses available on classes.berkeley.edu by using the "Breadth Requirements" filter on the left-hand side of the page.

Prerequisites: A prerequisite is a course or equivalent that you must have completed prior to enrolling in a particular class. For example, calculus I or an equivalent exam is a prerequisite for enrolling in calculus II.

Reading & Composition (R&C): Reading and Composition is a two semester lower division requirement. You may wave R&C with exam scores or satisfy it by taking an R&C course from any department with offerings on campus. It must be completed by the end of your sophomore year.

American Cultures (AC) courses uniquely designed to critically engage in important issues within the United States by helping students develop a deeper understanding of race, culture, and ethnicity in the context of American society. 

Letter Grade vs. Pass/No Pass (P/NP): Most classes at Berkeley give you the option of enrolling for a letter grade (A, A-, B+, etc) or for a grade a Pass (C- or better) or No Pass (D+ or less). All classes that count towards your major must be taken for a letter grade. The only exception is the Environmental Economics & Policy major which allows for P/NP of breadth courses only.

About CNR

Do I have to decide on a major before applying to CNR?

Not necessarily – students can choose to be undeclared when applying.  Freshmen in their first year in the College are not required to declare a major, although they must select one by the end of the fourth semester. All other undergraduates (including junior-year transfers and students transferring from other UC Berkeley colleges), must be affiliated with one of the major programs in the college. Forms for declaring a major are available in the Office of Instruction and Student Affairs, 260 Mulford Hall, and must be signed by the advisor for the major in question.

How do I switch into CNR from another college on the Berkeley campus?

Students wishing to declare a major in the College of Natural Resources should contact the major advisor for the major they wish to declare. 

Once I’ve declared a major, may I change it, or am I locked in?

Your choice of major should be based on your interests and goals. However, students' interests often change during their first years of college, and students do not need to feel locked into their initial choice. Many of the major programs have similar lower division requirements, and changing majors during the first two years generally with planning, creates no difficulties. Changes in major may be made with the approval of the new major advisor and the Office of Instruction and Student Affairs.

If I am enrolled in CNR, will I be able to take courses from other colleges?

Yes, you can take classes offered by any of Berkeley's Schools and Colleges. In fact, you will need to take classes outside of CNR to complete Reading and Composition, Math, Chemistry and Biology requirements, if applicable. These courses are common to all students at Berkeley so your classmates will be from L&S, Chemistry, and College of Environmental Design, just to name a few. The benefit of taking classes within CNR is that the College saves seats for its own students so you have priority when registering. Although CNR requires its students to make academic progress within their major during each term they’re enrolled, students will also have room for outside electives.

Once I’m a student at CNR, if I decide it’s not for me, will I be able to transfer to another College?

If you enroll in the College of Natural Resources and later decide you'd like to change to a different college, you must apply for admission to another college on the campus.  Note, you will need to spend at least one semester in CNR.   It is up to you to determine the Change of College process for the college you are interested in, and to assess your chances of admission--ability to transfer is not guaranteed.  Advising websites are a good place to start. While you remain in CNR, you must follow CNR's curriculum requirements to remain in good academic standing. If you lose good standing, it will be very difficult to gain admission to another college.

Further, if you are not successful in your application to another college, you will need to finish your degree in one of our majors, and you need to be prepared for that and not fall behind. Be sure to check out all our majors to see if we can meet your needs right here. It may turn out that you can accomplish your goals even more effectively by remaining in CNR.

Transfer students are evaluated based on their preparation for their major.  Switching majors once admitted to Berkeley is extremely difficult and depending on your preparation, may not be possible.  Consult with your major advisor if you have questions.  As with freshman, if you are not successful in your application to another college, you will need to finish your degree in one of our majors, and you need to be prepared for that and not fall behind. 

Majoring and Minoring

When must I declare a major?

Incoming first-year CNR students come in as either declared into a major, or as undeclared. Students must declare a major by the end of their second year.  Junior transfers enter CNR declared in the major under which they applied. 

How do I declare a major, or switch majors?

To declare or switch majors, you must meet with the major advisor whose major you wish to declare.  Bring the change of college or major petition form to the meeting so that the advisor can help you plan your schedule.  

Can I have both a CNR and an L&S major? 

To add another major from one of Berkeley’s other colleges, use the simultaneous degree petition.  Meet with your current major advisor and the advisor whose major you wish to add.  After obtaining their signatures, submit the form to 260 Mulford.  After CNR reviews the petition, it will be forwarded to your new college for final approval. It is important to remember that adding a simultaneous degree will make you subject to the rules for both of your colleges. 

Can I pursue a second major or a minor?

Yes. Right now it is important to focus on your primary major but please share your interests with your advisor. Some students will declare a second major within CNR or pursue a simultaneous degree with a second major from another College at Berkeley (e.g., Letters & Science). Other students will declare one of CNR's minors or a minor from outside the College. You can review all of Berkeley majors and minors in the Academic Guide.

Is it possible to double major and/or minor and still finish in four years? What about studying abroad?

The key is meeting with your major advisor early to work out a plan that fits your goals.  Many students pursue double majors, minors, or study abroad, and graduate on time, but it is crucial to begin planning as early as possible.

How can I declare a minor?

Begin by speaking with the specific advisor for the minor program you are interested in.  Minor requirements differ by program, so make sure you are informed about the course requirements for the program that interests you.  You must declare your minor by the semester prior to graduation.  Minor completion forms must be signed by your major advisor and returned to your minor advisor.  

Which majors have the Seven Course Breadth requirements?

Environmental Economics and Policy is the only major within CNR that requires the entire Seven Course Breadth.

Classes, Grades, and Credit

How many classes should I take during my first semester?

You are required to enroll in a minimum of 13 units every semester but in order to make a smooth transition to Berkeley, CNR recommends you take 13 to 15 units during your first semester.  While this may seem like a small amount, remember that Berkeley classes tend to be more challenging than high school or community college courses. Additionally, you will also be learning new ways to structure your time while adjusting to life on campus.  Do not worry about falling behind; you will have plenty of time to add more courses in subsequent semesters.  It is better to start with a lighter load and start the year off successfully than to overload yourself and have to worry about the impact of a low grade that could have been avoided.

Typically, students take two courses for their major requirements and one course to satisfy other college and university requirements. In addition to these three classes, we recommend an enrichment course such as a Freshman Seminar, Berkeley Connect, or a DeCal

Are there any classes that I should avoid in my first semester?  

Freshmen are not advised to take upper division courses (#100-199) or graduate level courses (#200+) in their first year. We also discourage students from taking more than 2 technical courses in a semester (such as Chem 1A, Math 16A, and Bio 1A).  Additional major requirements may also be recommended depending on your major (see 4-year plans). In general, it is important to review the prerequisites listed for a course in the Academic Guide before enrolling to ensure you are prepared to succeed.

What are the deadlines to add courses, drop courses, and change grading options?

For a comprehensive description of the deadlines and fees associated with them, visit the Registrar’s website. There, you may also review the student enrollment calendar detailing other dates and deadlines pertaining to registration.

How do waitlists work, how hard is it to get in?

Waitlists can be processed automatically as people add and drop the course, or they may be processed manually by the instructor or the department.   

If you are on an automatic waitlist, you can estimate the likelihood of being added by looking at the maximum capacity of the class in relation to your position on the waitlist.  For example, being fifth on a waitlist in a class with a maximum of 300 students is generally a safer bet than being fifth on a waitlist in a class with a maximum of 20 students.  Regardless of your position, it never hurts to attend the first few class sessions and ask the instructor about your chances of getting into the course.

Remember to monitor your schedule carefully; even if an instructor says you will drop off the waitlist, it is your responsibility to ensure you have either added or dropped the course.

What are discussions/labs?

In addition to a lecture, many courses require a discussion and/or a lab section.  Discussions and labs are used to augment the material covered in the lecture. Generally, lectures and discussions/labs must be taken concurrently, and CalCentral will prompt you to sign up for them after enrolling in a lecture. 

Which Math class should I take?

There are three series of calculus at Berkeley -- 1A/B, 10A/B, and 16A/B. Unless you are pursuing the Physical Science track within the Environmental Science major, the Microbial Biology major, or the Genetics & Plant Biology major, you should take the Math 16 series. 

If your major does not require a lot of math classes and you scored high on the AP Calculus exam, you may be able to pass out of some math requirements.   If you feel your high school math preparation was insufficient, you have the option to register for Math 32, Precalculus. It is important to talk to your major advisor before making either decision.

Many students end up taking Math 16A even if they could technically pass out of it.  Math at Berkeley tends to be much more rigorous than even the hardest high school classes, and it is crucial to get a good foundation in the early classes.  Additionally, medical schools generally require college-level math courses regardless of AP scores.

How do DeCals work?

Democratic Education at Cal (DeCals) are student-run courses that are sponsored by a faculty member.  Topics vary from community organizing to analysis of pop culture.  Most DeCals are offered on a P/NP basis for a low number of units. For more information and enrollment procedures, visit the DeCal website.

What is the difference between a letter grade and pass/no pass?

All major requirements MUST be taken for a letter grade including Reading & Composition. The Passed/Not Passed (P/NP) grading option is intended for students who want to take electives without worrying about their grades. Grades of P correspond to a C− or better. P/NP grades are not calculated into your cumulative GPA. Some courses are only offered as P/NP such as DeCals and independent study. It is important to review our academic grade policies and to consult with your advisor if you have questions about the grading options.

How do P/NP classes affect my GPA?

Courses taken on a Pass/No Pass basis are not factored in when calculating your GPA.  A passing grade will give you course credit, while a no pass will give you none. 

All major requirements must be taken for a letter grade (this includes the breadth requirements for some majors).  Additionally, the number of P/NP units must be less than one-third of the total units completed at UC Berkeley. It is important to review our academic grade policies and to consult with your advisor if you have questions about the grading options.

What do AP, IB, and Community College classes count for?

AP and IB exams can help you earn credit towards the 120 units required to graduate. Whether or not the exam can satisfy a major requirement is dependent on the rules of the major and your score. Use CNR’s AP and IB exams credit chart to determine how exam credits are factored into in each particular major.  If you plan to use an exam score to meet a course requirement, we recommend discussing the substitution with your major advisor.  Though your tests can cover key subject areas, it may leave you under-prepared for certain foundational courses at Berkeley. In addition, very few medical schools and health professional schools accept test scores in lieu of coursework. See the Career Center's Pre-Health Advising FAQ for more information.

If you have taken community college courses, you can check to see if they fulfill a Berkeley class by visiting Assist.org.  To receive credit for community college work, follow the instructions on this website to have your coursework transferred to Berkeley: https://admissions.berkeley.edu/submitting-transcripts-uc-berkeley  If you have any other questions about transferring credit, please speak to your major advisor.

Should I take Chem P or Chem 1A first?

Refer to the Chemistry overview page

Pre-Med/Graduate School

Berkeley’s Career Center has compiled a comprehensive guide to medical school that helps answer many questions pertaining to the pre-med track.

Which classes do I take for pre-med?

While med schools requirements may differ slightly depending on the institution, most share the same basic requirements.

Can I satisfy the requirements for medical school or other pre-health programs at CNR?

Yes, most of CNR's Biology majors require the lower division coursework that will prepare you for medical school and other health programs. Talk to your advisor about how you can incorporate these common prerequisites into your 4-year plan.

Which major is good for pre-med?

Many of the CNR bioscience majors like Microbial Biology, Molecular Environmental Biology, or Nutritional Science have major requirements that overlap with pre-med requirements. But you are free to pursue any major and still apply to medical school.  While completing the medical school prerequisites is crucial, it is also important to major in something that interests you, as that passion will show through in your application.

Can I satisfy the requirements for business and law school at CNR?

For Business, academic aptitude, quantitative proficiency and personal qualities are evaluated along with professional experience.  No particular major is required, though a strong academic performance, a rigorous curriculum, and solid test scores are beneficial.  Work experience for certain programs is key, and often professional references are needed to apply. As each program differs on the test requirements and academics focus, consulting early with the program to which you'd like to apply can help in your planning.

For Law, there are no required majors or courses for law school, admissions officials look for solid academic courses taken as part of a rigorous undergraduate program. A solid knowledge of the English language and good writing skills should be developed. Likewise, courses that stress the ability to reason logically, systematically, and analytically are necessary. Courses that provide a general understanding of the business world and economics are quite helpful. A broad understanding of human institutions will provide knowledge of the social context of legal problems as well. Classes that inspire debate or require oral presentations will provide additional preparation.