UC Application How-To Guide, Part I: Pick Your Major

This is the first installment of a four-part series. See Part II: Additional Comments for examples of information that should be included in the “Additional information” and “Additional comments” sections of your UC Application, Part III: Personal Insight Questions Tricks for tips on how to quickly shorten and improve readability of your responses, and Part IV: Application Fee Payment for a detailed explanation of the fee payment options and fee waiver.

Wondering how your choice of major will affect your admission to the UC campuses? Here’s how you find out!


Pick a Major for Freshman Admission

The UCs no longer publish an explanation of how choice of major affects freshman admission evaluation. If you need detailed information on how major choice affects your chance of admission, purchase a back issue of my July 2022 Freshman Newsletter for a complete, campus-by-campus explanation ($25; on the PayPal payment confirmation page, scroll down and click “Return to Merchant” button to access download – please note, purchase of a digital product is NONREFUNDABLE).

Considering engineering majors? Keep in mind that applying to engineering is all or nothing at Berkeley and UCLA (you either get in with engineering or not at all; for more information about Berkeley EECS vs. CS in L&S, see this post), and engineering admission is exceptionally competitive at both UC campuses. The rest of the UCs screen for engineering preparation and that can affect admission (many UCs are also moving away from considering alternate major).

Here’s a list of campuses that publish freshman admit rates by major if you want to try to guess your chances:

  • Irvine – Admissions Selectivity and Yield (change the criteria in “School” and “Report Type”) contains admit rates for every major (latest data is from Fall 2020)
  • UCLA – Admissions Data contains admit rates by College or School (latest data is from Fall 2020)
  • Merced – Undergraduate Applicants, Admits, and Enrollments (choose “Table: Single Year by Major”) contains admit rates for every major (latest data is from Fall 2020)
  • Santa Barbara – New Student Profiles (select the “Data Tables – Academics” tab) contains number of admitted students by College/Division or Discipline (latest data is from Fall 2021)
  • Santa Cruz – Frosh Application and Admission Summary contains admit rates for every major (latest data is from Fall 2020, starts on page 7 of the PDF file)

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Pick a Major for Transfer Admission

On pages 45-46 of the Quick Reference Guide to UC Admissions, look at the columns “Does the campus admit students to a specific major or to the campus?” and “Does the campus admit students in an alternate major if they cannot be accommodated in a first-choice major?” Keep in mind that, for most UCs, transfer admission is major-specific and the admit rate can vary widely between majors. Take the time to understand how competitive your major is and prepare for admission accordingly.

Don’t want to slog through the scattered data? Purchase a back issue of my July 2022 Transfer Newsletter for a complete, campus-by-campus explanation ($25; on the PayPal payment confirmation page, scroll down and click “Return to Merchant” button to access download – please note, purchase of a digital product is NONREFUNDABLE).

To find transfer admit rate by UC campus and major, look at the Transfers by Major data table from the UC Information Center. Choose the UC campus for which you want to see the data, and look at data for all majors or use “Search for major name” to locate a specific major. See this post for additional useful data you can find at the UC Information Center.


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Questions or Comments?