Planning Your Academic Program

UC Santa Cruz is on the quarter system. Three quarters—fall, winter, and spring—constitute the regular academic year. Most courses are 5 quarter credits and require approximately 15 hours of work per week  in a 10-week quarter (three hours per week, per credit). You are normally expected to enroll in 15 credits each quarter; enrolling in fewer than 12 or more than 19 credits requires approval. If you maintain a B average, you may enroll in more courses without special approval.

Students who enter as frosh are expected to graduate in four years. To do so, you must pass an average of 45 credits per year, to reach a total of 180 credits, the minimum total credits for graduation. Transfer students generally enter with 90-105 credits, and may need more than two years to complete all requirements, depending on their major.

Undergraduate courses are classified as lower division or upper division. Lower-division courses (numbered 1–99) are designed for first-year and sophomore students but may be taken by more advanced students. Upper-division courses (numbered 100–199) are designed for junior and senior students, but may be open to first-year and sophomore students who have sufficient background, or instructor support.

Graduate courses (numbered 200–299) are generally restricted to graduate students. Some undergraduates may enroll in select graduate courses if they can show the instructor that they have completed sufficient preparation for the subject matter of the course.

Here is what to expect during four years at Santa Cruz:

Your advisers can help you plan a program that fulfills graduation requirements while meeting your educational goals (see Advising: From Course Selection to Careers). 

During your freshman year, complete your college core course and satisfy the Entry Level Writing Requirement. Begin to take foundation courses for potential majors, along with general education requirements.

If you are uncertain about your choice of major, you may intentionally explore different fields of study during your first two years at Santa Cruz by taking foundation courses that will help you both identify whether a major is a good fit for you and will satisfy prerequisites for declaring the major.

Students who enter as frosh or sophomores are required to declare a major before enrolling in the equivalent of their third year. Students who enter as junior transfers are required to declare their major in their second quarter at UCSC. This means that students interested in majors requiring heavy course prerequisites should be certain they start the appropriate sequences as soon as possible. Transfer students should complete any lower-division requirements for their intended major that are offered at their current campus, and should ensure they have completed any major preparation requirements for admission. Some students may also find it helpful to complete courses that fulfill general education requirements.

During your junior and senior years at Santa Cruz, you will concentrate on the upper-division and comprehensive requirements for your major, as well as completing your general education requirements. If you entered UCSC without having fulfilled the requirement in American history and institutions requirement, you will also need to do so before you graduate.