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Pt 1: UC Application Tutorial – Unit Calculations

With the UC application window on the horizon (November 1-30), I thought I would go over some of the general points that often come up when a transfer student has reached the end zone.

As most applicants know, you need 60 semester (90 quarter) units completed by this upcoming spring in order to successfully transfer to a UC. The University of California is very strict on this policy and missing even one unit can make you instantly ineligible.

So, what encompasses the 60 semester units?
The 60 semester units must be UC-transferable units. No other units are counted and the GPA is only calculated based on the UC-transferable count. So that F you got in basket weaving won’t affect your otherwise sterling 3.9 GPA.

There’s a quick way to determine what courses at a CCC are UC-transferable, but a rule of thumb is remedial, vocational or technical will not be transferable. Also, courses that may be considered off the grid may not transfer over. Work with your advisor if you are unsure. 

One way to look up UC-transferable courses at your CCC is to go on to, and follow these steps:

  1. On the main Assist page, choose your CCC. Do NOT choose a UC.
  2. Instead, go further down the page, and click on UC Transferable Courses.
  3. Work your way through the departments to see the transferable course list.
  4. Any course not on the list is not transferable.

Unit limitations
Some subjects have unit transfer maximums. (If you have 9 semester units in P.E. theory, for instance, only 8 will transfer):

  • P.E. activity – 4 semester/6 quarter
  • P.E. theory – 8 semester/12 quarter
  • Advanced ESL – 8 semester/12 quarter

—>  Also, be sure and check with your CCC advisor about possible unit limitations that might apply within your major. Supposedly, the unit limitations are footnoted up on assist but it appears to be buried in a black hole. The gist is, in some rare cases, depending on the unit limitations within your major, if you take Courses X and Y, and then take Course Z, you only get half credit for Z – or other variations on that theme. I think this is more a STEM-related issue, but the point is you may, in a worse case scenario, lose units without realizing it. Assist has not made it easy to find these limitations. So, if you have a heavy course load of math or science-related courses, you definitely want to check with a CCC or UC advisor.

How many units can you transfer?
The UCs have a rule that if you are only at a CCC, meaning your courses are all lower-division (freshman/sophomore), you can collect as many units as you like. The rule is only 70 semester units will transfer over, however. Any amount over that 70 may be applied as subject fulfillment, as applicable. So, if you have 100 CCC units, no worries. You can still apply to the UC, but only 70 units will be added toward your UC graduation total.

If you have units from a CSU or other non-CCC, the same lower division rule applies. All lower division courses will be enveloped in the 70 unit transfer rule.  However – and this is a big however – if you have any upper division courses from a four year college (upper division means junior/senior level), those units will be added to the 70 unit maximum lower division and can put you in jeopardy if you reach the UC transfer unit maximums. 

The following examples apply UC campus unit maximums (noted in the above link):
CCC to UC:
CCC (one CCC or multiple): 95
TOTAL LD units awarded: 70 (rounded from 95)

Non-CCC to CCC to UC:
CCC (one CCC or multiple):  60
CSU (LD):  12
TOTAL LD units awarded: 70 (rounded from 72)
CSU (UD): 20
TOTAL UNITS:  90 (may be in jeopardy at some UCs)

–> If you attended a UC be aware that all units, both lower and upper division, are added to the 70 unit count.

UC to CCC to UC:
CCC (one CCC or multiple):  76.5
TOTAL LD units awarded:  70 (rounded from 76.5)
UC Riverside (LD):  16
TOTAL UNITS:  86 (in jeopardy at Davis and Merced)

How do you know if a non-CCC course is transferable?
Your courses from your previous college may all be lower-division, but how do you verify that they are all UC-transferable?  That is the million-dollar question, and it cannot adequately be answered until the UCs look over your transcripts. (By the way, all UC courses transfer to other UCs.) However, there are ways to ballpark non-CCC course work:

  1. Look at the course title and description of your non-CCC course. If it closely matches a similar transferable course at a CCC, the odds are you’re good to go.
  2. Most general intro courses are transferable (e.g., Intro to Psych, Intro to Sociology, etc), assuming they have a similar unit count as noted by the CCC or UC. In other words, a 2-unit semester course probably won’t work.
  3. Another area just waiting to wreak havoc involves the mixing of semester and quarter units. Two quarter courses in a three-part series will only fulfill one semester course of a comparable two-part series.

Sequencing issues
Another reason that applicants often lose units is when sequence courses are taken out of order. If you take a lower-level course that is part of a sequence after a higher-level course you will not get unit credit for the misplaced course. (You will get subject credit, however.) Be aware that some courses that look like sequencing aren’t always so. One way to verify is to look at the pre-requisites for each course.
Sequence examples: 

  1. Random Series 4A, 4B, 4C sure looks like a sequence, but in the course descriptions, 4A is not listed as a pre-req to 4B or 4C, and 4B is not listed as a pre-req to 4C. Thus, it is not a sequence series.
  2. Random Series 5A, 5B, 5C notes that 5A is required for both 5B and 5C, but 5B is not required for 5C. In other words, you must take 5A first, but then can take 5B or 5C in any order.
  3. Random Series 1A, 1B, 1C says 1A is required for 1B, and 1B is required for 1C. In this case, these all must be taken in sequential order.

Be extra-careful with:
— The required English composition course is usually required before the English critical thinking/comp course or you’re out of sequence. Be sure to verify.
— Lower level ESL courses taken after a college level English course are out of sequence.
— Lower level language courses taken after a higher level are out of sequence.
In all of these cases, units will be deducted.

Duplication of a course or series
 In terms of any duplication, the UC policy is to award credit to the course or series that will provide the best outcome to the applicant.

  • If you duplicate any course one will be deleted.
  • If  an AP exam duplicates a course, you will lose units from one.
  • If you duplicate any series (most often occurring in math and physics) one entire series will be deleted from the count.

No doubt this all seems quite daunting – and sometimes it is. But most of the time (especially if you have only been at a CCC), unit calculations are straight-forward. If you’re not sure about a course transferring over, you may wish to pad your schedule with an easy 3-units or so to make sure you’re covered in case of loss.

Under all circumstances, go over your coursework with a CCC advisor, which you should be doing regularly, anyway.

The UC application window is open Nov 1-30.  Click here to apply online. 

Coming up next:
Pt 2: UC Application Tutorial – Course Fulfillment
Pt 3: UC Application Tutorial – ECs, Additional Comments, and Submission

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Lindy is an independent UC admissions consultant, who works with both transfers and freshmen. She also has just completed her first novel, a supernatural thriller set in San Francisco.

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