Navigating UC

Days of the Week: 

Mon or M = Monday

Tues or T = Tuesday

Wed or W = Wednesday

Thur or Th or R = Thursday

Fri or F = Friday

Registrar's Office: The office responsible for enrolling students in coursework. Staff and students often abbreviate the terms “Registrar” and “registration” to “reg.”

Semesters: The academic year (mid-August to mid-May) at UC Berkeley (UCB) and UC Merced (UCM) consists of two 15-week terms, called semesters. The summer term is not part of the regular academic exchange cycle.

Quarters: At all UC campuses except UCB and UCM, each academic year (late September to mid-June) consists of three 10-week terms, called quarters. The summer term is not part of the regular academic exchange cycle.

Units: Not all courses have the same “unit” (credit) value. A course unit is the measure of time spent in the classroom, discussion sections, and labs. Most classes are worth 3 to 5 units.

Grade Point Average (GPA): The average of a student’s letter grades based on each course’s unit value.

Grading Options: A choice given for most UC courses between a letter grade (A, B, C, D, or F, which are calculated in the GPA) and a pass/no pass or satisfactory/unsatisfactory grading option (not calculated in the GPA).

Permission Code or Advisor Code: The special code number assigned by the course instructor or department that allows students to add a particular impacted or restricted class to their schedule. These codes are also called “approval codes” or “add codes.” These codes cannot be traded or exchanged.

Prerequisite: A course that must be completed before registration for another course. A prerequisite course may also be referred to as a “prereq.”

Student Identification or Permanent Number: An identification number unique to each student on a UC campus.

Password, Passphrase, Personal Identification Number: Not to be confused with the identification number, you will need an additional identifier to access enrollment and your UC account. A password or code may be assigned to you or you may be invited to create your own. You should not share passwords and codes with others.

Pace of Studies

The short (10-week) UC quarter makes it difficult to complete the term successfully if you fall behind. Do not wait until the end of the term to begin studying.

Attendance and participation are important factors in determining your grade for a class. Failure to respect requirements may result in your dismissal from the program. Even if your home university will not be assigning credit for all coursework completed while you are an exchange participant, you must respect the rules and requirements for regularly enrolled students at UC.

You must take exams for all courses while on UCEAP.

Full Time Enrollment

Full-time enrollment (12 - 13 units) as defined by the host UC or college/school is required of both US and non-US citizens each term. Most UC students enroll in 14 - 17 units per term. Some Reciprocity students, particularly those whose first language is not English, may consider limiting their first-term enrollment to the minimum number of units required by their UC college or department. Communicate with your home university advisor to ensure that you also comply with your home university’s enrollment requirements while on UC exchange.

UC students typically take two or three courses in their major department each term because the workload can be intense. Reciprocity students may also enroll in general education courses in other departments. Do not plan to enroll in a full schedule of courses only in your host department. Consider taking some general courses of interest to you.

Course Types

  • Lecture: The lecture is the main course where the instructor delivers instruction.  Lecture class size may be from 15 to 500 students.
  • Section (also called Discussion Section): When lectures have a very large student enrollment, you may also be required to enroll in a smaller, complementary section class. The section will be at a different time from the lecture and may be led by an expert graduate-level student or researcher.  The section allows students to explore and use material from the lecture, ask questions and participate in collaborative learning.
  • Lab: A lab is usually a hands-on, required laboratory class associated with a lecture course. 
  • Seminar: A seminar is usually a focused course for small group of students.    

Identifying Courses at Your Level of Study

Not all courses listed in the UC catalog are offered each term or each year. Select a range of courses that satisfy your home university requirements so that you have flexibility in course enrollment. If you must change your academic plans after you arrive, consult with your home university.

Undergraduate Courses
  • Lower-division courses: Courses numbered 1–99 are introductory and are often taken by UC students in their first two years of study. 
  • Upper-division courses: Courses numbered 100–199 are usually taken by UC students in their last two years of study. 

This sample course description from a UC catalog shows the various components: course number, course suffix (or prefix), course title, number of course units, type of course, and course prerequisites.

Graduate Courses

Courses numbered 200 and above are graduate-level classes. Undergraduate Reciprocity students may enroll in graduate courses only if they receive the UC instructor’s permission to enroll. Some departments do not allow undergraduates to enroll in graduate courses.

Independent Studies
  • Undergraduate: Independent studies have numbers in the 190 series.
  • Graduate: Independent studies have numbers in the 290 and 590 series.

If you must complete a home university thesis or research project while at UC, request enrollment in independent studies to earn unit credit for your work. You and the instructor determine the course structure. You must make your own independent studies arrangements with the instructor. Most students find it easier to coordinate an independent studies project for their second or third term.

UCEAP cannot guarantee the availability of an independent study. Instructors are not required to enroll you in independent studies. Request this option only if work cannot be covered through regular course enrollment.

Helpful Enrollment Information

Enroll Early

You may need to register for some classes after arrival but enroll in as many courses as you can before leaving home to ensure full-time enrollment. 

Students attending UC enroll using the host UC campus enrollment system. Each campus has different enrollment deadlines and procedures.  UCEAP cannot guarantee the availability of courses. 

  • Take your home university academic advisor’s contact information with you.
  • Keep copies of all papers and syllabi from your UC classes in case your home university has any questions about the content of the work that you completed while on exchange.
Schedule Adjustment

During the first week of the term, most UC students adjust their schedules by adding and dropping (removing) courses. Many students “shop” for classes by attending classes in which they are not yet enrolled and requesting permission to add the course. 

Identify yourself as a UCEAP Reciprocity student who will be attending UC for one year or less. Do not be overly aggressive, as this would be detrimental to your requests, but demonstrate your interest in enrollment. 

Enrollment is fluid; do not despair if you do not have your final schedule before you depart for UC. Once the preferred add deadline has passed, there may be a small charge for each schedule change.

Repeating Courses

You may repeat a course only if you have received a grade of D, F, or U/NP. Check your host UC campus policies. If you repeat a course that you took for a letter grade, you must choose the same grading option when you repeat it. Repeating a course more than once requires approval by the college. Both grades will show on your transcript, but only your most recent grade will be included in your GPA.

Withdrawal from Courses

If you decide to stop attending a course, follow your host UC campus procedures for dropping that course from your schedule. If you do not officially withdraw from the class, you will receive a grade of F on your UC transcript at the end of the term. Low or failing grades on your UC transcript can have a negative impact on future job and graduate school applications. 

If you decide to withdraw from a course, you must be certain that you meet the full-time unit load requirement of your visa.

In the UC system the final exam grade alone does not generally determine the overall grade for the class. Class attendance and class participation are obligatory. Cooperative learning activities and group projects may represent a significant part of your grade. Grading in most UC courses is cumulative and requires that you perform well in all work assigned during the term to receive a high grade.

We understand that earning excellent grades abroad is the focus for many students. If for some reason, the grades you earn at UC deviate from what you aspired to, use any opportunity in future applications and interviews to emphasize the skills that you learned navigating an unfamiliar culture and educational system abroad.

Letter Grade

Grades used to report the work of students at UC:

Grade Meaning
A Excellent
B Good
C Adequate
D Barely Passing
F Not Passing
P Pass
NP No Pass
S Satisfactory
U Unsatisfactory
I Incomplete
IP In Progress
NG No Grade Reported
W Withdrawal

The grades A, B, C and D may be modified by plus (+) or minus (-) suffixes:

Grade Grade Point Average (GPA)
A+ 4.0
A 4.0
A- 3.7
B+ 3.3
B 3.0
B- 2.7
C+ 2.3
C 2.0
C- 1.7
D+ 1.3
D 1.0
D- 0.7
F 0.0

UC students work toward achieving grades of B– to A+. Grades of C– to C+, while officially adequate, are not desirable for students planning to pursue graduate-level studies. Grades below C– are not considered acceptable.  Students with a GPA below 2.0 are not in “good academic standing” and may be subject to academic probation or dismissal.

Pass/No Pass & Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory Grades

The grades I, IP, P, NP, S, U, and W are not counted in the GPA, but grades of I , IP, or NG (not recorded) become F grades if not completed by the campus deadline.

You may have the option of selecting the pass/no pass (P/NP) or satisfactory/unsatisfactory (S/U) notations instead of letter grades. There are also some courses for which P/NP or S/U is the only grading option.

  • Tip: Before you choose the P/NP or S/U option, confirm that your home university will accept this form of grading in place of the standard letter grades. Once the grade option deadline passes, you cannot receive retroactive assignment of letter grades.

The difference between P and NP varies among the campuses. Refer to the chart below before deciding if the P/NP or S/U option, compared to a letter grade, would be best for you.

Campus Undergraduates Graduates
UC Berkeley
UC Davis
UC San Diego
C- and above = P
D+ and below = NP
B- and above = S
C+ and below = U
UC Merced C- and above = P
D+ and below = NP
B and above = S
B- and below = U
UC Irvine
UC Los Angeles
UC Santa Barbara
C and above = P
C- and below = NP
B and above = S
B- and below = U
UC Riverside C and above = S
C- and below = NC*
B and above = S
B- and below = NC*
UC Santa Cruz C and above = P
D and below = NP
B and above = S
C and below = U 

*NC= No Credit

Incomplete (I) Grades

The instructor may assign an incomplete (I) grade when work is of passing quality but is incomplete due to circumstances beyond the student's control (such as illness or other serious problems). Once an incomplete is assigned, it remains on the transcript until the campus deadline. If the work is not completed by the campus deadline, the grade becomes an F, NP, U or NC accordingly.

Forms of academic dishonesty may include cheating, fabrication, plagiarism, multiple submission, or facilitating academic dishonesty (see University of California Policies Applying to Campus Activities, Organizations, and Students).

You are responsible for knowing and following UC academic standards. Ask questions of your instructors if you do not understand what is expected. The consequences of academic dishonesty, whether intentional or unintentional, can be serious. They may include but are not limited to: a warning from the professor, a failing grade on the assignment or in the course, a hearing by officials and your student peers, special coursework or training in ethics, or dismissal from the University.

How to succeed academically:

  • Learn to organize and manage your time to prepare for examinations and assignments.
  • Cite and document other people’s words, ideas, and other intellectual property.
  • Ask the instructor which citation style to use.
  • Take good notes and clearly mark them as quotes, summaries, paraphrases, or your own original thoughts to avoid accidentally plagiarizing.
  • Make sure you understand what is considered acceptable group work.
  • Shield your work to prevent other students from copying.
  • Do not allow others to use your computer, user ID, or password. Take advantage of the writing and tutoring resources at your host campus.

Services Available for Your Success

College & Department Advisors

Each academic department has an advisor to help students plan enrollment and determine if they meet course prerequisites. Ask your advisor about tutoring or study programs.

Office Hours

UC professors and teaching assistants (TAs) have regularly scheduled times (“office hours”) when they are available to students to address any academic or administrative (enrollment) questions about your courses.


There are more than 100 libraries throughout the UC system. Article databases and other electronic resources can be accessed from any UC campus. The Interlibrary Loan system allows you to borrow materials from UC libraries and other libraries across the country. Library services include borrowing books and textbooks, computer and Internet access, copying, printing, and quiet study areas. Libraries have evening hours and most extend their open hours during final examinations.

Academic Support Services

UC Berkeley
UC Davis
UC Irvine
UC Los Angeles
UC Merced
UC Riverside
UC San Diego
UC Santa Barbara
UC Santa Cruz

Students who have initially planned to attend UC for less than a full academic year often find that they would like to stay longer. Participation in the full year is the most valuable academic experience you can have. Extension of your UCEAP studies is possible but not automatic. Your request must be approved by your home university (international office and major department), your host UC department and UCEAP. Contact UCEAP and your home university as early as possible with your request.  

Your UCEAP studies cannot be extended to include participation at a different host UC campus. For example, if you are placed at UC Los Angeles in the fall, you cannot transfer to UC Santa Barbara for the winter or spring terms.

Academic Progress Reports

For immigration purposes, you must be registered full-time to maintain your student visa status.

  • If your GPA drops below 2.7 or you are enrolled in insufficient units per term, UCEAP will contact you and your home university.
  • If your GPA is below 2.0, you may be subject to academic probation or dismissal.

Final UC Transcript

An official UC transcript will be sent to your home university at the end of your academic program. To obtain a personal copy of your transcript, arrange for it to be sent to your permanent address before leaving UC. There is a charge for each official transcript requested while in the US, but payment from abroad can be expensive.