Getting started in Physics: 2023-2024 Entering Frosh


Students are admitted to UCSC with a "proposed major" in most cases, and later petition to officially declare the major. Admission to UCSC does not guarantee acceptance into a particular major. Students must be declared in a major by the end of the second year (or equivalent), so learning about and preparing for a major is a primary goal for first-year students.

Importance of an early start:

This major is highly course-intensive and sequential; students who intend to pursue this major must begin taking classes for the major in their first quarter at UCSC.

Qualification requirements and/or prerequisites for the major:

Review Major Qualification Requirements in the General Catalog.

Frosh who intend to pursue this major should do the following things prior to the beginning of fall term...

  • Ensure your official transcripts arrive to UC Santa Cruz by July 1; all official test scores, including AP scores, must arrive by July 15.
  • Complete parts 1 & 2 of the Slug Orientation Course process to receive your enrollment appointment date.
  • Students who have taken college-level transferable classes that may apply to the requirements of this major should submit an unofficial transcript to the advisor prior to July 1, in addition to the official transcript that is required by the UCSC Admissions Office.
  • Complete the Math Placement process. It takes up to three business days for ALEKS PPL placement to post in your student record. Completing the assessment by July 16 will ensure your placement is posted before enrollment begins (although depending on your enrollment appointment, you may have more time!).

...and should take these courses their first term:

  • Enroll in the highest course in the following sequence that you are eligible for: MATH 2, MATH 3, MATH 19A, MATH 19B, MATH 23A, MATH 23B. Physics students should not take MATH 11A or MATH 11B. 
  • Students who come to UC Santa Cruz with credit for MATH 19A, and have room in their schedule, should take PHYS 5A and PHYS 5L (unless they have a score of 5 on the AP Physics C Mechanics examination) in their first term.
  • Those who come to UCSC with credit for MATH 19B and PHYS 5A and PHYS 5L, and have room in their schedule, should take PHYS 5C (unless they have a score of 5 on the AP Physics C Electricity & Magnetism examination) and PHYS 5N in their first term.

Special enrollment procedures:

Enroll in your PHYS lab section first. You cannot enroll in the lecture until you have successfully enrolled in the corequisite lab section.

Sample Academic Plan:

Review the Sample Academic Plan in the General Catalog.

Other Information:

Graduating in four years is still possible for a student who places into MATH 2 or MATH 3; the department undergraduate advisor and the department's alternative paths webpage should be consulted.

Links to Review:

Physics Program Description (Catalog)
Physics (Astrophysics) Program Description (Catalog)
Applied Physics (Catalog)
Department Website

Advisor Contact Information:

Brandon Day

(831) 459-1347 or
211A Interdisciplinary Sciences Bldg.