UC Berkeley’s College of Letters and Sciences, or L&S, implemented its high-demand, or HD, majors program this fall, with the intention of improving student experiences.
For the first time, students who applied to L&S under any major designated as high-demand are guaranteed a spot in their selected major post-admission, according to Michelle Phillips, L&S spokesperson.
“The new L&S high-demand major policy is intended to provide more peace of mind to students by ensuring that their application will be subject to the Office of Undergraduate Admissions’ holistic review process,” Phillips said in an email. “If they select the high-demand major when they initially apply to Berkeley, they will be guaranteed a spot in the major they selected.”
As of fall 2023, 12 majors were counted as high-demand, including data science, economics and psychology. Statistics will be dropped from the list starting spring. HD majors were identified as majors where student demand exceeds teaching capacity, Phillips noted.
Mainly, the policy undermines the reliance on minimum GPA requirements in major prerequisites. The economics department, like other HD majors, traditionally used a minimum GPA threshold of 3.0 in prerequisite courses to admit students to the major. The new program places greater emphasis on the holistic approach adopted by campus undergraduate admissions.
Students who try to apply into an HD major after enrollment will be reviewed by quantitative and qualitative criteria, Phillips said, making the process more comprehensive.
“We think that all of this is potentially something good,” said Andrés Rodríguez-Clare, chair of the economics department. “This will allow students to have less uncertainty about the major that they are going to be able to enroll in.”
News of the policy change first circulated among student circles on Reddit a year ago. The policy received criticism at the time for preventing students from studying in more than one HD major at a time.
Furthermore, a 2022 appeal from Rodríguez-Clare and the economics faculty chair committee argued that the economics department should be exempt from an enrollment cap, instead working toward meeting demand and scaling up resources. The letter strongly advocated against the limit on double majoring.
“Restricting students from pursuing double majors goes against the mission of the university, would hurt the Berkeley brand, and would worsen the university’s ability to attract the best possible students to Berkeley,” the letter reads.
The letter also noted that the three most popular campus undergraduate degrees with multiple majors were HD majors: L&S computer science, economics and L&S data science. The most frequent combination was economics and L&S data science as of spring 2022.
Responding to the appeal, the L&S executive committee rescinded their decision on the double major policy in September 2022. Since then, L&S advising has worked with undergraduate admissions to update application descriptions and requirements to reflect the changes, according to Phillips.