UC Berkeley’s new direct admissions policy will have a large effect on incoming freshmen, but they will arguably affect transfer students even more.
To recap, the new Berkeley direct admissions policy means that for many of the popular majors within the College of Letters and Sciences, incoming students will no longer have to go through an application or GPA cutoff process during their first semester/year to get admitted into the major. Since majors will be determined before you start your first semester, students will no longer have to stress about making a decision to commit to Berkeley without knowing if they can major in the subject they want to. But how will it specifically affect transfer students? There’s two main ramifications, one huge positive and one potential negative.
Let's start with the positive. As a transfer alum, I know firsthand just how stressful it is to go into your first semester without knowing if you’ll be able to declare your major. The process for being admitted into the Economics major as a transfer was relatively simple in my case (GPA requirement for three classes taken in my first semester), but I felt an immense amount of pressure to declare because studying in Berkeley’s Economics program was the primary reason I even chose to commit to the school. This added pressure in addition to the very real challenges of adjusting to a new academically challenging community can and has led to a lot of transfer students not finding their footing. This new policy is an immense help to the mental health of transfer students, and will help them to join clubs, find community, and thrive at UC Berkeley much easier.
It does come with drawbacks, though. This new policy means that students must mark their first choice major on their application, and don’t have the flexibility of adding or switching to another major if that major is a “high demand major,” such as Computer Science. Let’s say for example, that you are a transfer student currently at a four year university who wants to apply to Haas as a Business Administration major and add the Computer Science major in the School of Letters and Sciences after you get admitted. That is basically an impossible task, since as a high-demand major, Computer Science essentially requires students to put down that major as their first choice. If they don’t, then they have to go through a separate application process with the department that they don’t recommend. Tough.
Even with this potential drawback, I strongly believe these scenarios are mostly edge cases and that this new policy will help thousands of transfer students find a home at Berkeley. Being a transfer is hard enough as is, and I’m glad to see that the University is taking steps to alleviate some of that pressure.
David is a Consultant on the Study Hall College Consulting team and currently works as an Associate Consultant at Adobe on the Data, Insights, Personalization & Activation team. David transferred from UC Santa Barbara to UC Berkeley in his junior year of college, and graduated in 2021 with a major in Economics and minor in Data Science. For more application and essay tips, check out our Study Hall College Consulting website at: shcollegeconsulting.com.