First-Quarter Guide for Freshmen

students in front of rock hall first day of classes

The following guide will provide important information that you will need to select appropriate courses, balance your schedule, and start satisfying your graduation requirements. You will also find resources and tips to help you explore your interests and ensure your first quarter at UC Davis is a success.

Before you start, download our Aggie Advising Checklist. Use this checklist along with the guide to keep track of your requirements. Collecting this information will also help your advisor provide specific recommendations when you meet for your Aggie Advising appointment.

Getting Started

Here are a few important questions to answer before you begin selecting classes for Fall:

  • Have you satisfied the Entry Level Writing Requirement (ELWR)?
  • All students must fulfill ELWR prior to enrollment or within their first year at UC Davis. It is important that you determine if you have satisfied ELWR before selecting courses as you cannot earn General Education Core Literacy Writing Experience (WE) credit or enroll in an English Composition course until it has been satisfied. To see if you have satisfied EWLR visit Entry Level Writing.

    If you have not satisfied EWLR, you should make this your first priority as you plan your first quarter schedule. For detailed information on your course options visit Fulfilling EWLR at UC Davis.

    Multilingual Students: Some multilingual International and Domestic students may be directed to the English Language Placement Exam (ELPE). Based on ELPE scores, students may be required to complete UWP 21 or UWP 22 prior to beginning their Entry Level Writing course. For more information on ELPE and pathways consult the Multilingual Writing team.
  • Do you know your Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) Exam Scores?
  • If you completed any Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) exams while in high school, check your scores to see if you receive credit toward a specific course or requirement (such as Foreign Language or English Composition). Note: AP/IB exams do not count toward the General Education Requirement (GE).

    It's also important to check your score before enrolling as some courses may not be taken for units if you have equivalent credit on an AP/IB exam. Review the charts below carefully.

    Advanced Placement Chart
    International Baccalaureate Chart

    Note: If you completed Advanced Level (A-Level) exams, see our FAQ section for more details on how credit can be applied.
  • Do you need to take a Placement Exam?
  • If your major requires one of the courses listed below, then you will be required to take the appropriate placement exam prior to enrolling (or before instruction begins). If your major does not require one of the courses then you are not required to take the exam, but it is still recommended if you are still exploring other majors. If you're not sure, check your major's first quarter recommendation guide.

    Math Placement required for MAT 12, 16A, 17A, 21A, or 21M
    Chemistry Placement required for CHE 2A or 2AH
    Computer Science Placement required for ECS 36A
  • Do you need to complete the Foreign Language requirement?
  • All students who plan to complete a Bachelor of Arts degree in the College of Letters & Science must be proficient at the 15-unit level in a single language. In addition to taking courses, the Foreign Language requirement can be met with a qualifying SAT exam score, AP or IB exam score, or an equivalent transfer course.

    If you studied a language in high school or are already fluent in a language other than English, you may consider taking the Foreign Language Proficiency Exam. This is a proctored exam administered by the UC Davis Language Center and is used to demonstrate language proficiency or determine proper placement in a language series. If you demonstrate proficiency beyond the 15-unit equivalent based on this exam then you will satisfy the College’s foreign language requirement. *Note: The Language Center also offers a non-proctored placement exam—this exam cannot be used to satisfy the foreign language requirement.
  • Did you complete courses at a community college or other college/university?
  • If so, you may have earned credit toward specific university, college or major requirements. If you attended a California Community College, then check the Assist website to see if your courses articulate for credit.

    If you attended a community college outside of California, or any other 4-year accredited institution, ask your advisor about the process for reviewing these courses for credit.

How to Pick Classes and Build a Balanced Schedule

First, it's important to know that there is no established program of courses you must take in your first quarter. Your decisions about courses should be based upon what you want to create for yourself in your college education. Second, everything counts! Whether it's for your major, General Education (GE), or units, every course you take in the fall will meet a requirement.

With this in mind, we want to provide some suggestions as to the types of courses you should consider taking during your first quarter.

General Advice:
  • Take one to two major courses. You'll want to begin making progress in your major. See specific first quarter major recommendations here.
  • Take a writing course.
    • If ELWR is required, register for the appropriate course.
    • If ELWR has been satisfied, consider taking a course to satisfy your Lower Division Composition requirement: Comparative Literature (COM) 1, 2, 3 or 4, English (ENL) 3, Native American Studies (NAS) 5, or University Writing Program (UWP) 1.
  • Explore another major or minor. Many departments offer introductory-level courses designed for first-year students.
  • Take something just for fun! Choose a course in an area of particular interest to you or take the opportunity to explore courses that you may have never considered before. UC Davis offers a wide range of courses in areas such as cultural diversity, world literature, environmental issues, art, drama, language, and music appreciation, just to name a few.
  • Take a First-Year Seminar. These are small, innovative classes that reflect an instructor’s intellectual interests. Limited to 19 students each, these once-in-a-lifetime courses promote intellectual exchange, critical thinking, and community. These 1- or 2-unit courses can be a great way to round out your schedule.
  • Need some help deciding? Use the First-Quarter Course Recommendation Tool (1QCRT) to help you find a course that's right for you.
Creating a Balanced Schedule:
  • In general we recommend taking 15 units in your first quarter. By completing an average of 15 units per quarter, you will be on track to graduate in four years. Remember, you must be enrolled in a minimum of 12 units to be considered a full-time student.
  • Avoid taking too many math and science courses. Even if you in a math or science major, you should consider taking no more than two courses to avoid overloading your schedule. 
  • Avoid taking too many writing intensive courses (denoted with WE). Courses with large reading lists and heavy writing assignments can become overwhelming if you're not careful. No more than two of your courses should be heavily focused on writing during your first quarter.
  • Don't take more than 16 units your first quarter. Remember, instructors will expect you to spend two hours in out-of-class preparation for every hour that you spend in class. For example, a 16-unit course load implies 48 hours of work on your part every week (16 hours in class and 32 hours outside of class). You should consider this workload as you plan your first quarter.
Before You Register:
  • Make sure you've reviewed the AP or IB exam charts. You want to avoid registering for a course that you won't receive credit for.
  • If you have not satisfied ELWR, do not register for a course that has GE Writing Experience (WE).
  • Identify several back-up options. You may not get your first choice schedule, so be sure you have a list of courses you could take instead.
  • All courses on your plans should be Lower Division (numbered 1 - 99). You should not be enrolled in any courses numbered 100 or above during your first year.  

Prepare for Your First Year

Once you've successfully registered for your first quarter, you'll need to start planning for the rest of the academic year.

  • Familiarize yourself with the additional College and University requirements that are required for graduation.
  • Make an academic plan in OASIS. This helpful tool will allow you to plan out future quarters. Both you and your advisor can update and adjust it as you progress throughout your academic career.
  • Get ready for Mandatory Advising.