FAQ: Prospective Freshman

Join us in-person & outdoors on Saturday, 22 April 2023, for Cal Day!

Department faculty, students, and student services staff will be tabling from 11 am - 2 pm on the upper Bechtel Terrace just south of Davis Hall (in nearly the same location at the COE Dean's welcome!). Unfortunately, four of our student competition teams will be in Chico for the annual MidPac conference, but teams who competed earlier this semester and other student groups will be on hand to share more about student life in the department.

Can't make it to Cal Day?

The Engineering Student Services peer advisors are hosting both virtual and in-person info sessions all month! Learn more here.

Get an overview of CEE via the Major Map.



How are admission decisions made?

The campus selects its freshman class through an assessment process that includes a comprehensive review of your academic performance as measured primarily by these factors:

  • your weighted and unweighted UC grade point average (calculated using 10th and 11th grade UC-approved courses only)
  • your planned 12th-grade courses
  • your pattern of grades over time
  • the number of college preparatory, Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), honors and transferable college courses you have taken
  • your level of achievement in those courses relative to other UC applicants at your school
  • your scores on AP or IB exams
  • your scores on AP, SAT, IB subject tests will be used as "value added"
  • honors and awards which reflect extraordinary intellectual or creative achievement
  • sustained participation in rigorous academic enrichment and outreach programs
  • qualifications for UC Eligibility in the Local Context

In addition, the review includes an assessment of:

  • an examination of your likely contribution to the intellectual and cultural vitality of the campus
  • diversity in personal background and experience
  • qualities such as leadership, motivation, concern for others and for the community
  • non-academic achievements in the performing arts or athletics, employment or personal responsibilities

For more information, visit the Freshmen Admissions page.


What are the UC freshman eligibility requirements?

Because the number of applicants exceeds the space available for admission, Berkeley uses factors that go beyond the minimum admission requirements to select students. Admission to UC is a two-step process: eligibility and selection. All freshman applicants must complete courses from the University of California’s A-G subject platter and present scores on required tests.

Required subjects

A. History/Social Science – 2 years required

B. English – 4 years required

C. Mathematics – 3 years required, 4 recommended, especially for engineering

D. Laboratory Science – 2 years required, 3 recommended

E. Language Other than English – 2 years required, 3 recommended

F. Visual and Performing Arts – 1 year

G. College Preparatory Electives – 1 year

For more detailed information, visit the A-G Policy page.


What is the academic profile of the admitted freshman?

Average unweighted GPA3.83--4.00
Average weighted GPA4.25-4.61

For more detailed information, visit the Student Profile page.

Will I fit in? What does the typical Berkeley student look like?

CEE engineers are rarely just engineers. They march in the Cal Band; they dance; they sing in operas; they compete in gymnastics, or on American Idol; they clean up Strawberry Creek; plant trees in San Francisco; start gardens at the public library; or use smartphones to coordinate water delivery systems in India.

CEE engineers come up with solutions. If they don’t find what they need, they create what they need. They want to be part of the solution, and they want to start now.


If I don’t think I will be admitted into the college or major I want, can I apply to another one and switch after I’m on campus?

Although it is be possible to change from one undergraduate college to another after enrolling at Berkeley, it can be very difficult to do so. You will be expected to register in courses for the college or major to which you were originally admitted. Criteria for approving change-of-college petitions can be as demanding as admissions criteria. Therefore, we advise you to apply to the field of study that best suits your educational goals. Transfer to another college after admission is subject to rigorous review and is not guaranteed.


How do I know if Berkeley is the right university for me?

Visit the campus to find out what Berkeley has to offer. Go on Campus Tours, attend Cal Day, explore the surrounding area, and talk informally to people in the Berkeley campus community.


How much does it cost to attend Berkeley?

Please see the campus cost of attendance student budget reports.


How can I pay for Berkeley?

Tuition has risen, that’s a fact. But a Berkeley education is still a good deal. Berkeley is proud to say that every student is eligible to apply for aid and that 65% of all undergraduates (both in-state and out-of-state) receive some form of financial aid.

Applicants are considered for University-sponsored scholarships automatically when they apply for admission.  A separate form, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), is required for grants, loans and work-study.

It is important to remember that engineering students tend to be hired right after graduation, and they will earn a decent salary. The promising future of a Berkeley Engineer can offset the concern stemming from the higher tuition.


Where will I live?

You have a wide variety of housing choices at Berkeley. The campus guarantees housing to new students who are admitted to the fall semester and who meet the housing application deadline. Most residence halls offer dining facilities, seminar/study rooms and on-site academic services such as tutoring, advising, and computing assistance. In addition, the campus maintains over 1000 apartments for students who are married, single parents, or domestic partners. Also available are "theme houses" that combine residential living with a particular academic focus as well as nearly 3500 spaces in student cooperatives, fraternities, and sororities. 


What can I do when I’m not in class?

American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). The UC Berkeley student chapter of ASCE has grown to be one of the most well regarded engineering societies on campus and throughout the US. Cal ASCE has repeatedly been voted “Best ASCE Chapter of the West.” The chapter offers career fairs, résumé and interview workshops, review sessions for professional exams, field trips to construction sites, monthly meetings with guests speakers, as well as faculty-student socials and intramural sports events. 

The CEE department sponsors 4 competition teams: the Concrete Canoe Team, the Construction Team, the Environmental Team, the Seismic Design Team, the Steel Bridge Team, the Sustainable Solutions Team and the Transportation Team. There's also the Institute for Transportation Engineers Student Chapter, Chi Epsilon Honor Society Pioneers in Engineering, Society of Women Engineers, Engineers without Borders, etc.  See Student Life.

Over 400 Campus Student Organizations. The Berkeley campus is eclectic, a feature that is truly reflected in the range of clubs and student organizations available. Join the Marching Band, the Cal Hang Gliding Club, radio station KALX, ethnic associations, humor and literary magazines, the debate team, or a variety of cultural and political groups. If you can't find one that suits your interests, form your own! New groups are constantly being established and evolving to serve the needs and interests of Berkeley students.

Volunteer and Internship Opportunities. Many students take Berkeley's public service mission to heart. Berkeley's Public Service Center coordinates a wide variety of programs for students who want to volunteer for a community organization, work with an established campus group, or pursue internship opportunities to augment their classroom experience. The Berkeley Career Center is an excellent resource for internships, both in the corporate and nonprofit arenas.

Arts and Cultural Events. Take advantage of on-campus lectures, concerts, forums, seminars, festivals, plays, exhibits, and films offered by world-acclaimed scholars and performers. See UC Berkeley Events Calendar.

Arts, entertainment and sports activities are within minutes from campus in San Francisco, Oakland and other surrounding Bay Area communities.

Cal Bear Athletics. Berkeley is a member of the PAC-10 Division I Conference and offers a full range of men's and women's intercollegiate sports.  Follow the Cal Bears or take advantage of campus' sports and recreational facilities and a comprehensive intramural sports program.


What is the average class size in the major?

The largest CEE course will have 100 students. These larger classes are taught by faculty with the assistance of Graduate Student Instructors (GSIs). Both faculty and GSIs hold weekly office hours to answer students’ questions.

Once you start taking your core requirements in CEE, you will be in classes of 50 or less. Your design classes will have 30 students; your technical requirement classes will have 25-30.

In all classes, you will have opportunities for 1:1 interaction with instructors.


Will I be able to get additional help if I need it?

Both faculty and GSIs hold office hours each week to answer questions and address needs for additional help. Office hours are very popular. Many students take advantage of them. CEE faculty and GSIs are conscientious. They help students so that they thoroughly understand the material.

Tutoring is another way to get additional help.

The honor society Chi Epsilon offers weekly peer tutoring sessions for undergraduates. Students help students directly or the Society gets them in touch with existing study halls on a particular topic. The College of Engineering offers the Center for Access to Engineering Excellence which offers drop-in tutoring for core engineering coursework, review sessions, study groups and skill-building workshops.

Faculty, GSIs and Chi Epsilon all offer mid-term and finals review sessions.


What are Freshman Seminars?

Freshman Seminars are specialty courses sponsored by the Office of the Chancellor. They often feature topics that reflect a faculty member’s pet research topic or provide a format where you can participate in a creative approach to a subject, an approach that would not be covered in the regular curriculum.

Freshman Seminars are an excellent way for you to get to know faculty in a small class format. Typically seminars have 20 students. Many seminars feature engineering topics. 

One student said, “It was awesome to have a casual discussion weekly with a man so well known in his field.”


Will I be able to get the classes I need?

We have never had any CEE students who need to extend their time at Berkeley because they could not get a class or classes they needed to graduate.


Do CEE undergraduates get to do research? How easy is it to join a lab?

Many freshmen and sophomores learn basic engineering skills by joining one of our  competition teams—while they take their core requirements. The teams teach hands-on skills, basic research principles, problem-solving, teamwork, project management, and leadership. They also provide a setting where you can get to know the team faculty advisers, and get to know CEE graduate students. Such connections often lead to opportunities for lab research in the junior and senior year.

Approximately 50 freshmen and 50-75 sophomores participate on the teams every year. By junior year, half of our students are doing active research. By senior year, one-fourth of our students are involved in honors research.

Many students advance their research skills by assisting on faculty-initiated research. The Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program (URAP) helps match undergraduates to faculty researchers in every field of knowledge. Apprentices work with faculty as they learn the discipline essential to research.


How many courses are taught by tenured faculty?

At least 90%.


Will CEE faculty know who I am?

Classes are a small enough size that allows for faculty to get to know students. It will depend, of course, on the kind of visibility the student seeks. Some students prefer high visibility, some low. There is room for all.

One of the hallmarks of CEE at Berkeley is the extremely high caliber of teaching among its faculty. Course evaluations indicate that CEE faculty members are some of the best teachers on campus. Part of being a good teacher involves being concerned for whether your students understand the material as well as concern for students’ welfare. CEE faculty do both.


How will I get advising in Berkeley Engineering?

In the College of Engineering, you will have 3 advisers. You have a faculty adviser, who is available to you as a resource for class selection and career advice. You have a College of Engineering adviser, who tracks your progress and makes sure you have met all requirements necessary for graduation. And you have a CEE staff adviser, who can advise you on your schedule. The CEE adviser can suggest course pairings that will prevent you from taking too heavy of a course load. S/he can also direct you to research opportunities, to the competition teams, to student organizations, and/or to many campus resources.

Many CEE students say that the CEE department feels like home base. No matter what is going on for them, they know that they can show up in Davis Hall and they will be greeted by faculty, staff, and other students.


Is CEE at Berkeley highly competitive? 

Although your classmates are bright and enterprising, the spirit of CEE at Berkeley is one of teamwork and collaboration. Many courses are structured around team work—which replicates the experience of engineering practice as a whole.

There is also a strong culture of personal and professional ethics among CEE engineers that reverberates through the entire CEE at Berkeley community. Students do not undermine one another; they collaborate and bring out the strengths of others in their cohort.


Does Berkeley teach hands-on engineering skills?

Every year our CEE students astound us with their ingenuity, resourcefulness and hands-on skills. This is apparent in the CEE design courses, which are all project driven. And it is especially evident in the competition teams.

For example, on Concrete Canoe, you learn about mixing materials, design, testing, presentation, and teamwork. On Steel Bridge, you learn welding, fabrication, design, stress, efficiency and economy. On the Seismic Design Team you learn about materials, construction, structural dynamics, as well as how to build a structure that can withstand a simulated earthquake on a shake table.

Every year the Environmental Team constructs a water treatment system out of everyday materials. In their annual competition, the Construction Team designs products to meet real life challenges assigned by industry professionals who once had to solve these exact problems. In all situations, students learn how to manage a project from start to finish.

Berkeley teaches you the skills to solve problems of the future. You are taught to think critically and creatively. You learn problem solving, project management, and the leadership skills that will stand you in good stead throughout your lives, no matter where your career path leads. Many employers look to hire Berkeley graduates for exactly these qualities.


What is the Professional Development Certificate Program?

The Professional Development Certificate Program is an optional program and it is open to any undergraduate student in CEE.

The Certificate Program is intended to develop professional skills, such as team building, communications, and leadership, through selected elective coursework, DeCal courses, seminars and workshops, participation in CEE student groups and competition teams, and industry experience (e.g., internship). There is no separate admissions process. 


How do alumni feel about their experience at Berkeley?

CEE alumni say that their years at Berkeley exposed them to big concepts, the most current social challenges, and the most cutting-edge research. They comment that they would not have gotten this exposure anywhere else. Our alumni were challenged to think, and to think big.

Many of our alumni stay connected to the department. Although they go on to engineering jobs, they come back to campus to lead info-sessions for undergraduates on job skills, professional development, and communication skills. The annual ASCE Alumni Student Barbecue brings many alumni to campus each fall.


I still have questions.