Basic Information – First Year Students

Go to Orientation if it’s at all possible.

This is the way UCLA has planned for you to get a good start, and nothing else works as well.  Your major department gives a presentation that last 30-45 minutes and covers a great deal of information.  If you absolutely cannot go to a regular Orientation session, contact the New Student & Transition Programs Office at www.newstudents.ucla.edu.  They will assist you in picking courses for your first quarter.

Do not enroll in more than three courses in your first quarter.

We know you took a lot more than that in high school.  But keep in mind, things are different here:  UCLA is on the quarter system, and each quarter is ten weeks.  Just 10 weeks.  Chances are you’ll have your first midterm in the third week.  You’ll need to enroll in 13 units your first quarter.  Each course unit means at least three hours of course work during the average week.  Do the math – in an average week (and there aren’t many average weeks when you don’t have a paper due, or a midterm or a final coming up), that’s 39 hours a week.  It’s a full-time job.  Over and over we have seen new first-years crash and burn from taking too many courses.  Give yourself one quarter and from then on, if you get the grades you want in that first quarter, you can take a heavier course load.

What should you enroll in?

Plan to enroll in two science classes, and one non-science class.  Science classes include Chemistry, Math, and Life Sciences.  You can choose your two science courses from the following:  your first calculus course, your first chemistry course, or Life Science 1.  Don’t take Physics during your first quarter at UCLA.

To view the MCDB major requirements, including the lower division preparation for the major (chem, math, life science, physics), see “Major Requirements” on this website.

Life Science vs. Physical Science courses:

The Life Science series:

Chem 14 series, Math 3 series, Physics 6 series

The Physical Science series:

Chem 20/30, Math 31/32, Physics 1 series

Most Life Science majors take the life science series for chemistry, math and physics, but the physical science series are accepted by all of the life science majors.  If you are undecided about which major you will eventually declare, and are interested in a physical science major (chemistry, biochemistry, math, physics, or engineering) you might choose to take the physical science prep courses.


As an MCDB student you have several options to fulfill your math requirement.  Most students place out of one or two quarters of calculus because of their AP scores or by taking the UCLA math placement test.

  • If you placed out of Math 31A:
    • You may take Math 31B and 32A OR Math 3B and 3C.
  • If you placed out of Math 31A and 31B:
    • You may take Math 32A or Math 3C
  • If you do not have AP Calculus credit, or would prefer to complete a full year of math at UCLA:
    • You may take Life Science 30A, 30B, and Stats 13

NOTE: The MCDB department strongly advises students to consider completing the Life Science 30A, 30B, Stats 13 courses to fulfill the math requirement. These courses have been designed to teach calculus as it is applied in the biomedical sciences.  Many high school students take their calculus AP courses during their sophomore or junior year.  Taking a second quarter of calculus (3B or 31B) after a long break since studying calculus in HS can be difficult.  Also – all pre-medical, or pre-health students will need a full year of college level math to apply to health professional schools.  Taking Life Science 30A, 30B, Stats 13, will fulfill this requirement.

What about the third non-science course?

It can be an English class (English Comp 3 if your writing I requirement has not been waived based on AP scores), or a General Education course.

Can I take a fourth class if it’s a Fiat Lux?

Yes.  Fiat Lux courses are interesting and they are one unit.  They do not increase your workload, and they are a great way to explore different subjects without the pressure of taking a full four of five-unit course.

Community College Credit:

If you completed math or chemistry at a community college, the credit should appear on your Degree Audit report.  Check your Degree Audit Report.  If you have any questions about which UCLA courses you should be taking because of community College credit, please contact the New Student & Transition Program Office for help in picking your fall courses.