Transferring Majors (Nutritional Science to Biochemistry)

I’m a senior in high school and I kind of want to be a biochemistry major (or chemistry/chemical engineering), but I don’t have much research experience or hospital volunteering experience. My college counselor wants me to apply as a nutritional science major because it’s easier to get in with and I’m also interested in nutritional science, but I would still prefer biochemistry. She said that I could just transfer majors in freshmen year if I wanted to.
(And just for scope, I’m applying to schools that rank between 10-40ish and I’m applying to UCs)

How hard would it be for me to transfer majors from nutritional science to biochemistry after one semester? (how about transferring to chemistry or chemical engineering?)

Thank you!!

Your counselor is generally correct. Many students change their major.

Rules for transferring may depend on whether a particular major is limited to a set number of students. This will vary from university to university.
Each major has prerequisites and often are not declared or settled until fourth semester. So you could plan your first three semesters to take prerequisites for biochemistry or chemistry.
Some will want to transfer out of biochemistry, which would then open seats for students to transfer in.

Transferring into engineering could be more difficult. It depends on the university and whether the student has taken prerequisite courses.

Example see UC Davis.

“ Change of Major Accompanied by Change of College

A change of major petition, available on the OASIS portal at, must be approved by a faculty or staff advisor of the new major you are selecting. In addition, admission to the new college will require that dean’s approval. To obtain that approval, you must be in good academic standing (qualitatively and quantitatively), meet all minimum GPA criteria, including those for the major, and satisfy any other admission requirements established by the new college.”

For the UCs, apply as a nutrition science major might give you a slight boost. Let say that you are in NS at a UC, do take the chemistry, physics and math series that are required of the Chemistry/ChemE majors, to give you flexibility in case of future transferring. I think that the basic Chem/Physics/Math requirements for Biochemistry and NS are the same, do check. I am glad to hear of your interest in NS. NS used to be a very popular major for those in with ‘Pre-Med’ inclination in my days, perhaps is still.

More thoughts. You are not required to declare a ‘major’ on your UC application, unless you are applying directly, for example, to College of Chemistry as a freshman. Do you mean indicating a field of interest on your application, which is NOT declaring a major at UC. Check (yourself, not just ask your counselor) whether NS, not the College of Letters and Science, would take in freshman formally as a NS major.

There are other ways to demonstrate interest in biochemistry other than lab experience and hospital volunteering. How did you become interested in biochemistry in the first place? Have you sought to nurture your interests by trying to read relevant journals, such as, Nature, Science, Journal of Biological Chemistry. Have you tried to learn, on your own, more about, say, how CRISPR works. It is more difficult to document these activities, but you might be able to incorporate them in your essays.

Changing majors will vary by school. Some will require that you complete some major pre-req’s with a specific GPA to change into the major and some will make it as simple as filling out a change of major form.

You need to research each school in which you are applying to determine their change of major policy.

Here is how the UC’s admit Freshman, so find out which school the Nutritional Sciences major and Biochemistry major are housed.

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 division within the 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.


  • Freshman Selection:
    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 need 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.

Thank you guys so much for your input; it was really helpful! :slight_smile:

Other than just transfer policies, I’m a bit worried that biochemistry (or chemistry/chemE) is too competitive or crowded to transfer into from nutrition (which is clearly less competitive). How hard it is to transfer into these majors at my colleges regarding competitiveness/available spots (NOT considering pre-reqs, GPA requirements, forms, etc)?

I tried to search “change major nutrition to biochemistry” and “how hard it is to change to biochemistry major,” but nothing useful about the difficulty of transferring majors pops up. I believe that each of the college’s websites don’t inform me of this either. Is there any resource that I can use to determine this (I feel like there likely isn’t, which is why I am asking on threads like these)?

Side note, but these are the non-UC schools I’m applying to if this helps at all:
Cal Poly SLO
Boston College
Case Western
Johns Hopkins
Purdue (Main Campus)

Found this on:

Students from other colleges/schools at UC Berkeley (Letters and Science, Engineering, Natural Resources, etc.) who enter as freshmen may apply for on-campus transfer to the College of Chemistry after completing two full semesters at Berkeley. We strongly suggest that students adopt our curriculum as soon as they have decided to transfer into our college.

Students who enter as junior transfers are generally ineligible to change into the College of Chemistry, though some exceptions may apply.

The difficulty question you posed can be assessed according to (at least) these factors:

  1. Is it possible (allowed) ?
    From the above, we know that it is possible to transfer from CNR (nutrition science, for example) into Chemistry/ChemE.
  2. Are you prepared?
    Take the series of math, chemistry and physics courses for chemistry majors, even when registered as a nutritional science major in the CNR
  3. Is there room?

My guess is that if you maintain a GPA of about 3, there is not great difficulties in transferring among these colleges (Chem E is in the College of Chemistry, not College of Engineering).

You can ask the College of Chemistry how many of their chemistry students are admitted as freshmen. I think very similar factors are at play in regard to transferring from NS to biochemistry. Just ask the different departments and colleges, your application would not be penalized.
Note that one applies to the College of Natural Resources, and then select one of their twelve majors (there are three pathways in the nutritional sciences), not quite as applying as a nutritional science major.

Cal Poly SLO change of major policy:

2 caveats at SLO when changing majors:
As a Freshman admit, you need to be a qualified applicant for the major change at time of admission. Meaning you cannot back door your way into a more competitive major

Also changing majors within Colleges is easier than between Colleges. In this case, going from the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences to the College of Science and Mathematics.

Ah, I see. Thank you!

Also, students typically do not formally “declare” their major until the end of fourth semester. So does that mean that the major I put on my application merely shows interest? Does it put me on a “tentative list” of students in that major? Do I HAVE to continue on the major path I chose on my application unless I change my major?

Your questions:
So does that mean that the major I put on my application merely shows interest?
Does it put me on a “tentative list” of students in that major?
Yes to both.

Do I HAVE to continue on the major path I chose on my application unless I change my major?
No, you do not have to continue on the major path you chose on your application, as choosing a major on the application is NOT declaring it as your major. Declaring a major is a formal administrative process that requires paper work and approval by the dean or chairman.

If you apply to Berkeley as a freshman, then you need to apply to one of these colleges: College of Letters and Science; College of Chemistry; College of Engineering; College of Environmental Design; College of Natural Resources. (there is also the School of Business, which does not take in freshmen as majors).

Once in a college at Berkeley, you would be assigned an advisor from the college, and with the advisor’s help, you choose courses most suitable for the program in which you intend to major (in the case of CNS, even an ‘undeclared major’ is available). Some students would choose to declare formally a major early on, but, as you said, it is not required until the end of the fourth semester. As Gumbymom said, it is easier to move around programs (pathways) within a college; whereas transferring between colleges takes more work, but not impossible in MOST cases, nor is it extremely difficult. Of course, if you choose your curriculum carefully and meet the GPA requirements, the transfer process is more straight forward.

Reinforcing what Gummymom said about ‘back door your way into a more competitive major’, note that the College of Chemistry at Berkeley states on its webpage that “Admission to the College of Chemistry is as competitive as admission to the College of Letters and Science.” I was wrong in stating in post #2 that “For the UCs, apply as a nutrition science major might give you a slight boost.”

For Cal Poly SLO specifically, you declare your major at time of application. If you want to change majors, you then have to go through the ICMA policy process to change majors.

Things You Should Know about Changing Your Major

You must complete at least one quarter at Cal Poly before your eligibility can be determined.

When your first quarter is completed, you can submit an Eligibility Inquiry Form to your proposed major department.

The department will evaluate basic criteria to determine your eligibility to enter into an Individualized Change of Major Agreement (ICMA).

To determine your eligibility to enter into an ICMA, departments may consider:
Your admissions criteria (would you have been admitted into that major when you applied to Cal Poly?)
Your Cal Poly academic record (GPA, coursework, etc.).
Your ability to complete degree requirements in the new major in a timely manner.
If you are eligible to enter into an ICMA, successful completion of the ICMA will result in change of major.
You are allowed one ICMA per major. If you do not successfully meet the requirements of your ICMA, you will not be issued another ICMA for that major.
The change of major will be approved once you have successfully met all of the requirements of the ICMA.