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Graduating in 3 Years? Questions about AP Credit, Requirements, and Registration

Llama231Llama231 Registered User Posts: 53 Junior Member
Too long, did not read: I have 56 semester credits from AP tests and could take a summer course to enter Berkeley as a junior. Is this enough to graduate in three years after taking into account registration problems and course requirements?

Hello. I have been accepted into UC Berkeley College of Letters and Science and would like find out if I can graduate in three years. I plan on majoring in Physics and/or History, but I have yet to make it official.

I have credit from 7 AP exams and am taking 9 more this year. I have researched this topic and have yet to come to a satisfying conclusion. I will describe my current understanding of AP credit compared to credit requirements, majors, class standing, CalSO, and TeleBEARS so as not to bother any of you with what I solved by searching the internet. My core questions are at the bottom.

AP Credit (expectations in parenthesis based on recent practice)
European History 4
English Language 5
Environmental Science 5
Calculus BC 5
[AB subscore 5]
Physics B 5
US History 5
Chemistry 5
Statistics (5)
Psychology (4-5)
Biology (5)
US Government (5)
English Literature (4-5)
Human Geography (4-5)
World History (5)
Physics C Mech (4-5)
Physics C EM (3-5)

UC System Credit
University of California - AP credits
The UC system grants credit for most AP tests each worth 2.7 or 5.3 units (after conversion to semester units). English, Calculus, and Physics credit do not stack with themselves.
5.3: Biology, Chemistry, English (either), Calculus (BC), US History, European History, World History, Physics (all) [8 x 5.3 = 42.7]
2.7: Environmental Science, US Government, Human Geography, Psychology, Statistics [5 x 2.7 = 13.3]
According to this, I would have 56 semester credits for the UC system if I pass all my upcoming tests.

Berkeley College Credit (Letters and Science)
University of California - Berkeley
Computer Science (n/a)
English: Language: 5 or Literature: 4 satisfies first half of Reading and Composition requirement and Literature 5 satisfies entire Reading and Composition requirement
History: United States: Satisfies the American History and Institutions requirement.
Language Other Than English (n/a)
Mathematics: Each test: Satisfies Quantitative Reasoning requirement.
Statistics: Satisfies Quantitative Reasoning requirement.
By this, I have completed the first half of R&C, the Qualitative Reasoning, and American History and Institutions; may complete the second half of R&C
There is no mention of other AP tests but there is no contradiction of the previous list either.
I conclude that this list is for specific requirements that this college requires and the previous list is for raw course credit.

L&S Degree Requirements
Office of Undergraduate Advising: Summary of Degree Requirements
Entry Level Writing: complete many times over with SAT, ACT, and AP scores
American History and Institutions: complete with US History 5
American Cultures: this appears to require a course to complete and not AP credit
Reading and Composition: half complete with Language 5; fully complete with literature 5
Quantitative Reasoning: complete many times over with SAT, ACT, and AP scores
Foreign Language: to be completed with two semesters in college
Breadth: to be completed in college with at least 7 courses (unsure if 7 semesters or year=14 semesters)
Major: [to be detailed later]
Unit: 120 total; at least 60 L&S; 36 upper division; of 36 at least 6 major
Others: [do not appear to be relevant at the moment]

Majors (Physics)
physics @ berkeley - The Major and Minor Program
Requirements: 30 semester units which must include Physics 7ABC; Math 1A, 1B, 53 and 54 or their equivalent
AP Credit: it is important to take college courses for the major and not use AP credit, but AP credit may apply towards the 30 semester units and may allow for taking more advanced equivalents of the required courses for credit
Declaring: should I decide to do so, I would declare my major in my second (of hypothetically 3) years but finish the program over those 2 years; I have yet to delve too deeply into this, but I have heard it is quite possible
Other majors: IU may consider History or specialized majors if they work better for the 3 year plan; or some sort of plan with minors unless it causes problems

Class Standing
[No link, my information is from all over the web, including many previous threads on this topic]
Every 30 semester credits are equivalent to a minimum year of college credit. If I were to take a community college course over summer, I would have 60 credits (even after subtracting redundant credit) and could even enter as a junior. Those who graduate in 3 years must effectively enter as a sophomore, which is a possibility thanks to AP credit. While AP credit may not necessarily replace college classes, it can increase class standing so as to get priority registration for classes. However, so many incoming freshmen have 30+ semester credits it is supposedly not worth as much as they tell you in High School. Still, I have far more credit than almost every AP student I know, so it might make a difference. Because there is no official page about graduating in 3 years or about class standing, I am unsure about the exact details here.

Welcome to CalSO!
While researching all of this, I have learned that it is best to register at the earliest possible CalSO in order to have hopes of getting into the courses you want. The soonest day I have heard of is April 21st, but I am not sure if that is an option for this.

[No link because I am not allowed to use the site yet]
Additionally, I have learned about the troubled system of schedule construction at Berkeley and am aware that it may be the greatest challenge to my attempts at graduating in 3 years. While I may have far enough credits to do so, it is apparently impossible to make an optimal schedule due to sheer number of students and budget cuts.

My Questions
Can I graduate from Berkeley in 3 years, saving $32,000 and a year of my time; finally making use of my many AP tests?
Is this possible with Physics as a major?
How can I get around registration issues that may halt my plans?
Do AP tests REALLY mean anything?
Post edited by Llama231 on

Replies to: Graduating in 3 Years? Questions about AP Credit, Requirements, and Registration

  • ForaminiferaForaminifera Registered User Posts: 84 Junior Member
    Can I graduate from Berkeley in 3 years, saving $32,000 and a year of my time; finally making use of my many AP tests?
    Is this possible with Physics as a major?
    How can I get around registration issues that may halt my plans?
    Do AP tests REALLY mean anything?

    1. Yes, very easily. I'd say the majority of students have the ability to do so.
    2. Yes, very easy to do so. You might even be able to do two years. Heck, for my major, I can graduate in 1.5 years but I'm still staying for 3.5.
    3. For upper division physics, registration is not a problem. Sign up for the high-demand (general education classes) in phase one.
    4. For most people, only AP English and AP Calc make a difference (waiver out of classes). Most physics majors who took the AP physics tests still retake 7a/b/c (Honors series) OR skip to upper division (not recommended). The credit gained by AP tests generally just improves your telebears standing (more credit = earlier registration) as far as I know.
  • jonnosferatujonnosferatu Registered User Posts: 602 Member
    Yes, with 56 units of AP credit you'll almost certainly be ABLE to graduate in three years, if you plan things right and never change your mind about what you want to do. Whether or not this is actually a good idea is another story.

    Yes, AP tests mean something. They mean you get to skip some lower-division classes at Cal and spend more time doing stuff that's actually interesting. Some of them (Calculus BC and English Language and Composition) are generally regarded as equivalent to their respective college courses (e.g. a 5 on BC is a pretty good indication that any problems in Math 1A/1B at Cal would stem directly and ~exclusively from laziness). It sounds like you can't AP out of any Physics courses, and that's the only other thing that's really relevant, so...yeah.

    If you came in with >50 units of AP credit, registration issues shouldn't be a problem (at least in my experience - others' mileage may vary). I've consistently gotten ludicrously early Tele-bears appointments.

    However, the big, operative question (the answer to which basically determines whether or not it's a good idea to try for a 3-year graduation rather than an easier 4-year):
    What are you planning to do with your Physics degree?
  • Llama231Llama231 Registered User Posts: 53 Junior Member
    Thank you both! I have a few follow-up questions.

    1) Why do they not? It such a large amount of money...
    2) I will probably not try for 2 years, 3 is good enough. What was your reason for staying longer?
    3) When exactly is phase one? How likely is it that I may not make certain classes? If some are full, can I just take then the next year without too much trouble?
    4) I will focus my studying on Literature then so I can get a 5. I plan to do honors physics even if I get all 5's on the C tests. As teleBEARS seems to be continuous, 50+ should be enough to get priority registration according to jonnosferatu.

    edit: response to jonnosferatu

    I do not know any reasons to stay an extra year worth $30k other than indecisiveness. I have spent more than a year deciding on my major and the large variety of graduate options (not just physics, but law and such) looks promising.

    SO TeleBEARS is continuous, this is most fortunate.

    Primarily, I wish to get into a graduate school and work towards some Physics profession. My dream job is theoretical (not so much experimental) physics, but it is very hard and does not pay so well. I am also considering law, teaching, engineering, and whatever new jobs may be created as technology develops, all of which are supposedly possible to go into from a BA in Physics. I also have a side hobby involving History, but I already know most of what I desire to for it while I have so much I wish to learn for Physics.
  • jonnosferatujonnosferatu Registered User Posts: 602 Member
    In order:
    1) Some combination of indecisiveness, irresponsibility (financial and/or class selection-wise), getting screwed over by registration, wanting to "get more out of college," or (most relevantly to science majors) lack of adequate grad school credentials (see below).

    2) For entering Freshman, phase 1 is during orientation. Physics 7A and 7B with good professors is a definite Phase 1 (if you're not taking the Honors ones, you probably want Zettl). I'm not sure malleable Physics is when it comes to prereqs, at least in the lower division.

    3) Entering Freshmen have it during orientation; after that, it's about 2 months into the semester.

    4) So far, the only people I know with better track records on Tele-Bears came in with credit from both AP courses and CCs/other UCs, so...probably.

    RE: Later stuff

    From a practical perspective? Simple: Most undergrads will not be strong graduate school applicants if they've only stayed for 3 years. You can get past this somewhat by pushing for research as soon as you get to Cal, but this generally isn't recommended unless you had research before you got here.

    It's also worth noting that Major decisions made in high school have a habit of changing once you find out what the fields are actually like. I was solidly convinced for all of high school that I wanted to be a surgeon; I started having doubts about that within 6 weeks of getting when I discovered how awesome engineering is, and now I'm very solidly committed to Synthetic Biology (and this time I've got the professional experience to validate that commitment). This kind of transformation has happened to almost everybody I know, and most of us didn't realize how solidly we wanted to dedicate to the new options until our 4th or 5th semesters.

    ...and most tellingly:
    I am also considering law, teaching, engineering, and whatever new jobs may be created as technology develops.

    This gives me the strong impression that you're already suffering from this, and figuring out which one of these is the best option is going to require a lot of work if you want to do it in three years. If you want to go into Law, great - but to check that and to bolster your law school application, you'll want to do at least one law-related internship, which locks you out of doing almost anything else for an entire summer, which dramatically weakens an application to a Physics grad program because that time could have been devoted to physics research. If you're looking at engineering, you'll probably have to change colleges, and do so BEFORE you've had a chance to do the kinds of sampling that my friends and I got to do - and then you'll still need to do internships and/or academic research if you want to get a job, not to mention that "Engineering" is an incredibly broad field made up of a large number of incredibly broad fields.

    There's nothing wrong with graduating in 3 years, especially if money is a factor, but there IS something wrong with committing to something when you don't know if you'll actually like it or do anything with it. The 3 years thing is fine - but you're going to want to spend that first year hunting down and talking to a LOT of people who do Physics, Law, Engineering, etc. professionally so you can figure out whether or not you still want to do it. Law would also be viable in 3 years (though Physics might not do the best job of preparing you for the LSAT - if you decide to go for law, look at taking some discrete math and formal logic courses) as a secondary, but if you decide that Engineering sounds coolest, you're going to want to do a lot of investigation and thinking about how you want to proceed with it, BEFORE you start your upper division physics work.
  • Llama231Llama231 Registered User Posts: 53 Junior Member
    [summary at bottom]

    Yeah, I am pretty open to what may change and I would like to get into a good graduate school...
    I have put a lot of thought into my major though and all of the options I listed are not really competing with Physics but more so backups in case Physics does not work out for me.

    How about this: I go into college with a a schedule set up to graduate in three years, and taking classes from most things I am interested in. Then, if I am still set on Physics, I major in it starting year 2 and stay 4 years if I change my mind and/or money gets better. If I decide to major in something else by year 2, I still have not wasted my time on Physics and can determine what may be better then, still possibly going through with oly 3 years. All the while, I assertively look for internships and jobs related to the fields and if I am lucky, perhaps get some money from it.

    Regarding Law and Engineering, I have found that they pay far better than Teaching and Research (for example) but I am far less interested in them. I am not trying to become particularly rich, I just want to have enough money to live well and have heard that what I want to do is worthless. Again, it is an issue of passion vs. money more so than multiple passions. Also, my non-Physics interests cover many of the courses associated with alternative majors, so that might help with my pan to stick to one on year 2 (junior year effectively). Lastly, I have heard that Physics is less overpacked than, say, Law, so that might actually make it more worthwhile...

    Non-majors stuff: So I do not need to worry about signing up for classes until fall? How hard is it to get involved with research as a freshman?

    Basically, is the gap between the careers really so wide and would my idea of majoring in year 2 of 3 with the possibility of switching to 4 if I change my mind be workable?
  • jonnosferatujonnosferatu Registered User Posts: 602 Member
    By paragraphs:
    Part of the issue is that having them as backups still requires that you put something in to set yourself up, and for engineering especially there's a lot that goes into that. Law's relatively simple to "switch" to, though with only 3 years you're a bit more time-crunched on research (which is by far the most important thing you can do for graduate school).

    That's pretty much what I was thinking, yeah. The main thing's just going to be sitting down and talking with people who do stuff professionally and finding out what the job is actually like (e.g. if you were doing Chemistry, there's a chance you'd be in trouble, because a lot of academic chemistry research is about as far from HS chemistry as it's possible to get without changing fields).

    And yeah, I saw it as passion vs. money...but the "vs." part is still the problem. I'm inclined to say you should go with passion, but Theoretical Physics is harder to spin into a well-paid job than most other fields, which could make things a bit sticky. Still, jobs in STEM tend to involve long hours, and if you love what you're doing, that can compensate for the lower salary - if you love what you're doing, ten hours very fulfilling hours can fly by pretty damn fast.

    Getting involved with research as a freshman is...difficult. It's definitely possible, but it requires more work because there's not much for them to evaluate you on (largely untested as a college student, won't have any prior research, etc.). It's also generally discouraged, though I'm not ENTIRELY clear on why (I know it would have been a bad idea for me to try to juggle that much when I was a freshman, but I don't know if my experience generalizes there). If you're interested in it, just write up a cover letter stating who you are, that you want to do research, and why you want to do it (and be honest on this one - saying you're limited on time and want to find out what research is like before you commit is a LOT more likely to get you hired than coming up with something fancy), and start emailing it to professors who are doing interesting work (with some customization - at least change the names).

    RE: career gap...well, like I said, it's definitely feasible if you play it smart. One other advantage here is that if you apply to grad schools and law schools a year earlier than everyone else does, you'll have another year to build your application if you don't get in anywhere particularly good. The possible switch to engineering will get a lot harder the longer you wait on it, though, so figuring out whether or not physics is "right" for you will be very important during Freshman year.
  • flutterfly_28flutterfly_28 Registered User Posts: 1,515 Senior Member
    Wow, you have put a lot of thought into this already! Your plan seems fine, start off focused and get your lower-division physics classes done. Take at least one class in a different field every semester to keep yourself sane and to explore other options. You can look for a research position for the summer after freshman year, contact professors around this time next year.

    It is pretty easy to graduate from Berkeley in 3 years. I have some friends who are doing that. I chose not to graduate early because I wanted to double major and be ready to apply to graduate school (which I did during my senior year). I also preferred to stay and enjoy my last year, and take some more classes that seemed interesting to me even if I had already satisfied the requirements. Unless money is a big issue, people generally prefer to stay and finish the fourth year.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 63,517 Senior Member
    Assuming that you use your 5 on AP Calculus BC to skip Math 1A and 1B, the physics major's longest prerequisite sequence is six semesters:

    Physics 7A/H7A - 7B/H7B - 7C/H7C - 137A - 111 (3 units) - 111 (3 more units)

    (Note: Math 1A is a prerequisite for Physics 7A, and Math 1B-53-54 are the minimum co-requisites for Physics 7A-7B-7C, so a student who does not start in a math course more advanced than Math 1A faces a seven semester long prerequisite sequence for the physics major.)

    It may be possible to shorten the sequence by taking 7C in the first summer (either at Berkeley or at a community college that offers a course that articulates to 7C). This may be desirable in any case since some have reported that physics major advisors are reluctant to approve a schedule with more than two upper division physics courses in the same semester (eight upper division physics courses (counting 111 twice) are needed for the major, so starting upper division only three semesters before planned graduation may run into this issue). If you do not take 7C in the summer and the major advisors do not let you take three or more physics courses in the same semester, then you will need seven semesters to graduate.

    AP English Language or Literature with a 4 will get you out of the Reading and Composition A requirement, while a 5 on Literature (not Language) will get you out of both A and B. The L&S 7-course breadth requirement cannot be satisfied with AP credit, although physics courses will automatically cover one of the courses.
  • rider730rider730 Registered User Posts: 2,980 Senior Member
    summer is a great way to knock down requirements, both breadth and long sequences like described above, although it may preclude internships or other activities that you also want to achieve to make yourself maximally competitive for grad or professional school.

    The important fact is to have a direction, a plan of record such as you have, but realize that every semester is actually a chance to amend, hone or replace the plan. The benefit of the planning you did is that you have a list of types of classes you are ready to take. Each semester when it is time to register, if class A is full, pick class B. next semester, you get into A. Except for sequential requirements like the chain, a lot of what you will need is a bit flexible. Some courses are only taught one semester a year (and a few are only taught in summer! - although those are all options among other classes you could take for your major), but generally, if you go into registration knowing there are X major classes you might take, in priority order, and Y breadth classes left to take, with this semesters list of qualifying classes ranked in priority order, and Z personal desire courses in priority order, you can quite definitely move along at a pace to graduate as fast as you wish.

    Registration is divided into two 'phases', where you can get your first X units of classes booked in Phase 1 (x not important to be precise about now but think 10 units, then the remaining classes in phase 2. This allows all students a better chance to get their priority classes, because people who will register in a class that is not that urgent for them may well wait until phase 2, picking their more important classes in phase 1 - leaving spaces for students with later registration appointments who consider this class a priority for phase 1.

    It is not as pure as that, because some classes are in such demand that they would fill entirely in phase 1, thus anyone wanting that class requests it in phase 1, not just those that 'need it the most'. Other classes are so sure to be open that, even if it is urgent for you, you will leave it to phase 2 and use your '10' units for more popular classes.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 63,517 Senior Member
    Note that lower division physics courses are in high demand, and are therefore among the "early drop deadline" courses. So definitely include those in your Phase 1 registration (the honors versions may be less in demand, but still tend to get completely full).
  • Llama231Llama231 Registered User Posts: 53 Junior Member
    (at the bottom: THE PLAN)

    Engineering: Of the 4 examples I used, this one was last. While I may not be willing to sell my soul to Wall Street for money, this would be the equivalent for me. I would have done the 5-year major plan (or 4-year in this case) if I was planning on going into it and the trouble caused by switching in to such a major late makes it not really worth it. In hindsight, I should not have listed it as an example.

    Professionals: I plan on levying what little social skill I have to socialize with these people as soon as possible, no matter what my career path is. As for research, I will see what I can do along the way. Different topic for another context, I think. This is probably the most compelling reason to stick around longer. Or I could always go to Berkeley as a graduate too and deal with the same people.

    Passion/Money: What is STEM? I am relatively good with working tons of hours on such things, so that is not too much of an issue. I worry more about insecurities and chance associated with the career. Also, I have a hobby based on my interest in History that I may cultivate into money but it does not require anywhere near as much education to go about with. I want to do physics for the knowledge and contribution, not money. Hence why the money is such a big issue now.

    0) Make sure to get a 5 on English Literature, or at least try.
    1) Take any summer course required for the rest of the plan to work and get a job for money.
    2) Register as soon as possible, focusing on the honors Physics classes and those required to graduate.
    3) Complete requirements for majors I am interested in over the first year and declare one going into second year based on what I have learned about them. Possibly take some summer classes as long as they fit with work.
    4) Aim to complete the major and graduate by the end of the third year.
    5) Apply to graduate schools on third year.
    6) Based on success with applications and other previously mentioned factors, decide whether it is better to stay another year or not.

    All the while, I focus on social connections, research, jobs, hobby, etc. Possibly go 4 years with double major of some sort.

    There is no secret about getting priority registration besides doing well with credit, right? No secret early days to go in and register?
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 63,517 Senior Member
    STEM is an acronym meaning Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics. It is often used, sometimes misleadingly, when people want to refer to all of these fields as distinct from Humanities, Social Studies, Arts, and Business. However, the characteristics vary; one of the misleading notions is that "STEM major = good job", which is not really true, since biology is the most popular STEM major but has relatively poor job prospects (biology is fiercely competitive for the top PhD research and academic faculty jobs). Physics majors may find jobs in physics scarce, but some use their mathematical thinking skills to move into computer software or finance jobs, and some move into some types of engineering jobs (though physics majors are likely to be second choice candidates for these types of jobs). If you want to improve your job prospects hedge, consider a few courses in these areas if you are interested in them (CS 61A-61B-61C may be particularly helpful).

    Choose the earliest CalSO (orientation) to get the earliest Phase 1 course registration for your first semester.

    And here is some information about choosing your first math course:
  • Llama231Llama231 Registered User Posts: 53 Junior Member
    I plan to take CS courses, I need to learn programming, etc.

    Is there a CalSO on April 21st, or is the first not until the October 27th one? I can not figure out the website...

    For math, it looks like I should do Math 53 and 54 but not quite as far as the honors, is that right?
This discussion has been closed.