How “x” does academics: x = Berkeley

October 20, 2006 at 5:14 am Leave a comment

Posted by Doreen

In previous blog posts, Dee has written about the importance of knowing about the schools you are applying to. This is particularly important for answering questions about what you want to major in, or what you are looking for academically in a school, whether it be in an essay or short answer format, or during an interview.

I was talking to Dee about this once. She told me that during her Princeton interview, the interviewer asked what Dee wanted to major in. Dee said that she wanted to double major in economics and something “science-y.” Except, Princeton apparently doesn’t have double majors. Oops.

So, every week or so, AdmitSpit is going to commission students from top universities around the country to write blog posts about how academics are done at their school.

Since we have a Cal student on the AdmitSpit staff, we decided to start off here.

Basically, Berkeley is a big school, with lots, I mean lots, of classes to choose from. Most classes are usually 3-4 units, language classes are usually 5 units, and seminars are 0.5-2 units. There are over 100 different departments at Berkeley, and they’re organized into 14 different colleges and schools. Of the 14, most are geared towards undergrads with few exceptions; only the Graduate School of Education, School of Information, Graduate School of Journalism, Boalt Hall (Law School), School of Optometry, and the School of Social Welfare have pretty much exclusively grad programs. The College of Chemistry, College of Engineering, College of Letters and Science (the biggest one), College of Environmental Design, and the College of Natural Resources, are the most prominent undergraduate colleges. The School of Public Health and Haas School of Business offer both grad and undergrad degrees. And, the Richard & Rhoda Goldman School of Public Policy offers a minor for undergrads, but otherwise is grad school focused.

Depending on which college you’re in, there are different course requirements. Also, each college has different minimums and maximums for the amount of units you can take. For example, the L&S (Letters and Science) minimum is 13 units. Most Cal students take 3-4 classes. You can double major. Or, you can do minors as well that can be noted on your diploma.

Also, you can take seminars and DeCal classes, which are accredited pass/no pass courses. (Speaking of pass/no pass, you can take classes for a letter grade or, for most classes, pass/no pass.) Seminars and DeCals meet usually once a week, or once every other week, and involve more field trips, activities, and guest speakers. Normal classes meet more often, usually several times a week.

It’s no secret that Berkeley has some pretty large classes. Chemistry 1A for example has over 1000 students enrolled in the class broken down into three lecture sections with about 400-500 students in attendance. But, with these large classes, only the lecture portion is done in such a large group. Then, these massive classes are broken down into discussion or lab sections. These sections involve smaller groups, between 10-40 people depending on the type of class, with a GSI, or graduate student instructor, leading. These sections meet at least once a week to supplement the material that was covered in lecture. Oftentimes, GSIs will be the ones who actually grade your work, and they are very accessible for any questions or comments students have.

Most classes have midterms and finals. Depending on the class you could have anywhere from 1-3 midterms probably. Finals are pretty standard even though many classes don’t have them. Berkeley is on a semester schedule. Finals are completed before winter break, so most students get about 4 weeks of vacation depending on their final schedule.

In terms of signing up for classes, registration is done in two phases so that all students are given a more or less fair shot of getting the classes they need and want. There is priority given to students in higher grades, so there is an advantage to taking a lot of APs in high school so that you can be at sophomore-standing as a freshman and get higher priority in choosing classes at Berkeley.

So, that’s a snapshot of how academics are done at Berkeley. If there’s something you’re really curious about that I didn’t cover here, send us a comment! Also, feel free to put in your requests for the next top school we talk about.


Entry filed under: Academics, AdmitSpit, AP, Boalt Law School, Business, California, Chemistry, Classes, College trends, Colleges/Universities, Economics, Education, Engineering, Environment, Essays, Final, Grades, Graduate school, Guest speaker, Haas School of Business, High school, Interview questions, Interviews, Journalism, Letters and Science, Major, Midterm, Natural resources, Optometry, Organization, Pass/no pass, Princeton, Public policy, Public schools, Registration, Richard & Rhoda Goldman, School of Information, Science, Seminar, Social welfare, Teacher, Trips, UC Berkeley, Units, University of California, Vacation.

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