Planning Your Academic Program

UC Santa Cruz is on the quarter system. Three quarters—fall, winter, and spring—constitute the regular academic year, and summer is an opportunity for all students. Most courses are five quarter credits, and require approximately 15 hours of work per week in each 10-week quarter. Students should estimate three hours per week, per credit.

Students are normally expected to enroll in 15 credits each quarter; enrolling in fewer than 12 or more than 19 credits may require approval. If you maintain a 2.5 grade point average, you may enroll in more than 19 credits 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:

Students who are admitted as frosh complete their orientation course, college core course, and satisfy the Entry Level Writing Requirement during their first year. They also begin taking foundation courses for potential majors, along with general education requirements. Your advisors can help you plan a program that fulfills graduation requirements while meeting your educational goals (see Advising: From Course Selection to Careers).

If you are exploring majors 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 (called "major qualification requirements).

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 UC Santa Cruz. This means that students should be certain they start taking major qualification courses as soon as possible. The program statements in this catalog indicate for each major whether it is important to begin taking classes right away. 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 UC 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, you will also need to do so before you graduate.



Updated 9/26/23