New Freshmen Q&A

Congratulations on your acceptance to UC Berkeley!

Check out these frequently asked questions to learn more about MCB and to help separate fact from fiction! Undergraduate Student PerspectivesIf I Knew Then... pages and connect with our Peer Advisors.

General Questions


Still have questions?

Can I call, email, or come to the Undergraduate Affairs Office even though I'm not declared yet?
ABSOLUTELY! During the fall and spring semesters, we have peer advisors Monday through Friday beginning at 10a. In addition, there are academic advisors in the Undergraduate Affairs Office (VLSB 3060), M-Th 9-12, 1-4 and F 9-12, 1-3. For quick questions, you can also email We check this email daily so we'll be sure to get back to you as soon as possible. If you would like to speak with someone immediately, please call 510.643.8895. 

General Questions

What can I do with a degree in Molecular and Cell Biology?

Students earning the BA in MCB have been successful in medical/health-related programs, graduate school, and work in a multitude of areas. Check out the MCB career page for more information. 

If I am pre-med, is MCB the right major for me?

Maybe. Students are admitted to medical school with a variety of majors, such as spanish, history, german, political science, etc. We suggest majoring in MCB if you have a true interest in science and, in particular, genetics, immunology, biochemistry, neurobiology, or cell biology. If your interests lie in another major, you can always take the classes needed for admission to medical school while majoring in the subject that is most interesting to you. More information can be found on the Career Center's medical school preparation website.

Why do I receive a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree even though I'm studying MCB?

The word "Arts" in Bachelor of Arts does not mean arts in the modern sense. You are receiving a "liberal arts" degree in the classical sense: the term refers to those subjects that were considered essential for a free citizen to study in ancient Rome--and those subjects included mathematics and astronomy! Like Harvard undergraduates, who also earn a BA degree, you attend a liberal arts college. A liberal arts education will ensure that you graduate with both a depth of knowledge in your major and a breadth of knowledge across the disciplines, making you well prepared for a range of graduate school, medical school, and other career options.

Specifically, the MCB major is housed within the College of Letters & Science and is designed to balance depth in the science and knowledge of subjects beyond your major, such as anthropology, legal studies, economics, etc. Many students use this opportunity to declare a minor, participate in the Course Threads program, and/or demonstrate success in a multitude of areas. 

How do I learn about the current research being conducted in MCB?

As many of you know, Cal is world-renowned for its academic research and offers many opportunities for students to be involved. MCB-type research occurs all over campus. As incoming students, we encourage you to take your first (and even second semester) to learn about the university, adjust to the academic rigor of the coursework, and discover the many opportunities to get involved. Once you’re settled and you're academically successful, then start exploring the many types of research and projects occurring at Cal and the surrounding area. More information about research can be found on the MCB research web page or check out the Office of Undergraduate Research website. Most students start research in their third or fourth semesters on campus.

If I'm not able to attend Cal Day, how can I still keep up-to-date with MCB related events?

If you're planning to attend Cal in the fall or spring, we suggest signing up for the MCB Infoline email (see sidebar on this page). During the academic year, we send out a weekly email highlighting upcoming deadlines, events, and campus opportunities that are relevant to MCB students. We also encourage students to talk with the peer advisors, as they are a great resource for getting to know the campus, schedule planning, learning how to be successful in MCB-related courses, and so much more. 

How can I get in touch with other students to get their opinions about certain classes?

When school is in session, we have peer advisors in our office every day of the week (beginning at 10a). They are here specifically to talk to you, the prospective major, the undeclared student, the student with questions. More information can be found on the peer advising webpage.


What are the lower-division MCB requirements?

Please see the Major Requirements Summary for all lower division course requirements. Any deviations from this course list must be approved by the MCB major advisor prior to completing the sequence.

I've heard that you can't graduate in 4 years if you want to major in MCB. Is that true?

No, that's a myth. See the Berkeley Academic Guide and the individual emphases pages to see typical 4-yr plans. 

I was admitted to the Fall Program for Freshman (FPF). Will I be behind the rest of my MCB peers?

Absolutely not. While you might think you'll be behind, you will be on track as other intended MCB majors, though your schedule will be slightly different. Every year, we have FPF students declare the major and graduate in four years (without summers). Often for FPF students, we usually recommend one summer session to help gain some flexibility in your schedule, but it's not necessary to still graduate in four years. Check out this schedule to see a 4-year plan for FPF, Global Edge, or spring admit students.

What should I take in the fall as a new freshman?

There are many variables that must be considered, but as a general rule, most incoming students intending MCB will take Chemistry 1A/1AL and Math 10A. In addition, many first semester students will take a reading & composition course and/or a breadth course. Ideally, students should register for Chem 1A/1AL and Math 10A during phase 1, but it is up to you to determine your priorities. Golden Bear Advising will help guide your scheduling choices for your first semester at Cal.

What math courses does MCB accept?

MCB prefers students to take Math 10A and 10B. This sequence includes calculus and statistics, which are both very important for upper division MCB classes. However, students are also allowed to take 2 semesters of calculus, Math 1A and 1B, which may allow them to double major or minor in a department that requires that sequence. We highly recommend students take an introductory statistics class (Stats 2, 20, 131A, PH 142 etc)  if they choose the 1 series. For students who took AP Calculus and feel fully prepared to take higher level math, MCB will accept Math 53, 54 and/or 55 to fulfill the math requirement, please carefully consider this decision as these classes are quick paced and assume a Berkeley level understanding of Math 1A/1B. All students must have 2 semesters of math and AP does not waive this requirement. Please see a MCB advisor for further clarification. 

Are there any resources for Math 10A or Chem 1A/1AL?

You can find past midterms and final exams for Math 10A/B here, and outlines here. The SLC also offers an adjunct courses, drop-in tutoring, and study groups (Math 10A, Chem 1A/1AL)

What about AP or IB scores? Can I waive out of other prerequisite courses for the MCB major?

AP and/or IB scores can substitute for some of the MCB prerequisites (see chart below). However, we strongly suggest that you take all lower-division courses here at Cal so that you have a solid background in biology and chemistry before you begin your upper-division course work. We particularly recommend taking Biology 1A/1AL regardless of AP credit. The classes at Cal are typically more in-depth, taught differently, and designed to prepare you for success beyond Cal. Also most health professions programs require that you have, for example, two semesters of general biology with labs, taken at the college-level, most programs do not accept AP or IB credit.

Exam Required Score Course
AP Chemistry 4 or 5 Chem 1A/1AL
AP Biology 4 or 5 Bio 1A/1AL and/or Bio 1B
IB Chemistry 5, 6, or 7 Chem 1A/1AL
IB Biology 5, 6, or 7 Bio 1B only
A-Levels Chemistry A Chem 1A/1AL
A-Levels Biology A Bio 1A/1AL