How difficult is it to change from Biology to Physics major?

I want to apply to some of the best universities and UCs to pursue physics, but I got a 2 on the AP Physics 1 test and my grades in math have a few Bs and even 1 C. I was thinking of applying in Biology instead and switching to Physics right after since I did fine on the AP exam and okay in the class, but how difficult would it be to do that? Would I regret applying for that in freshman year and then needing to switch out?

Biology is far more impacted at the UC’s then Physics so it could be a harder admit than going with your first choice major of Physics.

Also depending upon where the majors are housed such as in the College of Letters and Sciences, this college does not admit by major.

UCB is the only UC that states they consider AP scores in their application review and AP scores are not required to be reported so you leave off your AP Physics score. Physics also happens to be in the College of Letters and Sciences which does not admit by major at UCB.

Some schools also consider alternate majors so you can apply to both.

Here is how the UC’s admit regarding majors:
UC admission by major:
Division (L&S, CNR, CoC, CED, CoE) matters for admission selectivity.
Within CoE (but not the other divisions), major matters for admission selectivity. Changing majors within the CoE after enrolling is not guaranteed, unless one is CoE undeclared.

Note that L&S admits students as undeclared; admission to capped majors (e.g. CS, economics, psychology, ORMS, statistics, art practice, and a few others) is by college GPA in prerequisite courses (and portfolio for art practice) after attending for a few semesters.

The business major is in a separate division and admits students in a competitive holistic process. Frosh intending business majors begin in another division (usually L&S), take the business major prerequisites, and apply (usually in their second years). They also need to take prerequisites for a backup major in case they are not admitted to the business major.

All students who apply to UC Berkeley and select a major within the College of Natural Resources are evaluated based on their application, not on the particular major they select.

Alternate majors not considered.

Admission decisions are made based upon the qualifications of the applicant pool and the number of available spaces within each academic area:
• College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences admits by college
• College of Biological Sciences admits by college
• College of Letters and Science admits by College
• (Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies; Mathematics and Physical Sciences; Social Sciences)
• College of Engineering admits by academic department
Students applying as “undeclared” or “undeclared/exploratory” are considered within the college/division to which they applied.

Applicants are encouraged to list an alternate major, but not in the
same area as the primary major (e.g., Computer Science Engineering with alternate Computer Science in the College of L&S). Occasionally, we admit to the alternate major.

UCI admits into the University first and then into the major. In the case that UCI is unable to accommodate all qualified applicants in their first-choice major, those students who indicate a valid alternate major may be offered admission in that major or Undeclared.

For the College of Letters and Science, the applicant’s major is not considered during the review process.
The Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science admits students by declared major, with more emphasis on science and math programs.
The School of Nursing also places more emphasis on science and math programs and requires the submission of an additional supplemental application.
The School of the Arts and Architecture; Herb Alpert School of Music; and the School of Theater, Film and Television admit students by declared major (within the school), and put more emphasis on special talents through a review of portfolios and/or auditions, which are the most significant admission factors for these schools.

UCLA only guarantees review of an applicant’s first-choice major.
We typically do not admit to the alternate major

The campus does not admit students on the basis of academic major or choice of UC San Diego undergraduate college. Alternate majors are considered and capped majors are highly competitive. Also note: Capped majors require additional pre-req courses and specific GPA to be able to qualify if changing majors. Also if applying to a capped major, select an non-capped major as an alternate.

College of Letters and Sciences: Choice of major is not considered in selection to the College of Letters and Science. The exceptions to this rule are dance and music performance majors. Both majors require applicants to complete an audition in late January or early February.

College of Engineering: Students are selected by major for all engineering and computer science majors. Only applicants with a solid background in advanced high school mathematics will be considered for admission to engineering. This includes high grades in all math courses through grade 11 and enrollment in pre-calculus or higher in grade 12. A student not selected for their first choice major will be reviewed for admission to an alternate major outside of the College of Engineering if one was selected.

College of Creative Studies:
Applicants to the College of Creative Studies submit a supplementary application in addition to the general UC Application, which is reviewed by Creative Studies faculty. Students are selected within Creative Studies majors only. Applicants not selected for Creative Studies will automatically be considered for admission to the College of Letters and Science.

Important Note for Prospective Engineering Students: Choice of major does not influence the selection of first-year students, except for those applicants interested in a major offered by the Jack Baskin School of Engineering (BSOE). Freshmen who are interested in a BSOE program should be sure to indicate a BSOE proposed major. Students who do not indicate a BSOE program or who apply as undeclared might not be able to pursue a BSOE program.

Admission by major but alternate/2nd choice major will be considered if applicant does not meet their first choice admission standards.

For Business: Freshmen students must apply to Pre-Business under the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHASS). The College breadth requirements and the prerequisites for a Business major are completed during the freshman and sophomore years. An application is submitted at the end of the sophomore year. Upon acceptance, students become Business majors and are then advised in the Business Department. Students from any academic major may also complete a Business minor.


Calculate your UC GPA here: UC GPA Calculator. What is your unweighted GPA, weighted UC GPA and weighted & capped UC GPA? Those GPAs will help us guide you both by major and by school.

You tagged UCB, UCD, UCI, UCSD and UCSB in your post. When you say “some of the best universities” what other schools are you thinking about?

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Be aware that physics is math-intensive, so work on your math skills, since B and C grades in high school math are not great indicators for the most math-intensive majors in college.


My UC u/w GPA is 3.59 and my u/w cumulative GPA is 3.72.
My weighted UC GPA is 4.167 and my capped UC GPA is 4.042.
My weighted cumulative GPA is 4.14 and academic weighted is 4.15.

I’m trying to mainly get into the UCs. By the other “best” universities, I mean very selective colleges like Duke and UChicago. Some of my other prospective reaches are UTAustin, Georgia Tech, IUIC, BostonU, Vanderbilt, USC, Emory, Tufts, Harvey-Mudd, UofMichigan, maybe even MIT, Cornell and Upenn just to try my chances.

Here are the 2020 admit rates by UC campus and UC capped weighted GPA range. 2021 data not yet available and since Biology is impacted/competitive at the majority of UC campuses, expect admit rates to be lower and required GPA to be higher for the best chances.

Realistically UCM,UCR and UCSC look likely. The rest of the UC’s will be tougher admits.

2020 Freshman admit rates for UC GPA of 3.80-4.19 capped weighted and not major specific:

UCB: 14%

UCLA: 8%

UCSD: 39%

UCSB: 40%

UCD: 55%

UCI: 38%

UCSC: 82%

UCR: 90%

UCM: 97%

2020 UC capped weighted GPA averages along with 25th-75th percentile range:

UCB: 4.22 (4.13-4.30)

UCLA: 4.25 (4.18-4.31)

UCSD: 4.16 (4.04-4.28)

UCSB: 4.15 (4.03-4.27)

UCI: 4.11 (3.96-4.26)

UCD: 4.11 (3.97-4.25)

UCSC: 3.94 (3.71-4.16)

UCR: 3.88 (3.65-4.11)

UCM: 3.68 (3.40-3.96)

Stipulating that grades aren’t everything (and we don’t know anything about any of your other grades/stats), and admitting that extrapolating about your ECs based on your other thread (especially b/c of the impact of covid and the fact that it was a year ago) is risky, from here it looks like a student with Bs and a C in math and ECs that are mostly along the ‘I plan to’ line is going to have some challenges being admitted to Duke, MIT et al. Moreover, even if the rest of your profile is amazing, there are very meaningful differences between many of the reach schools you list. You might spend some more time sorting those out. “Just to try my chances” discounts the amount of work crafting essays (not to mention application fees).

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