The UC Transfer Admission Pathways

Vice President
Curriculum Committee Chair
Transfer, Articulation, and Student Services Committee Chair

Transfer students comprise a significant portion of the students in the University of California system, with nearly one-third coming from California community colleges.  The transfer pipeline from the CCCs to the UC is a vital pathway to socioeconomic mobility for low-income students and for students who are the first in their families to attend college.  Although UC transfer has been a viable option for some community college students, the UC recognized that its transfer admission practices were not providing an equitable opportunity for students to transfer from across the entire CCC system.  As of Fall 2012, half of the students transferring to UC came from fewer than 20% of the California community colleges, creating a barrier to ensuring that transfer students represent the full ethnic, racial, and geographic diversity of California[1]

In an effort to address this problem, University of California President Janet Napolitano convened the Transfer Action Team in the Fall 2013 to develop strategies designed to improve the transfer process for California community colleges students.   The recommendations of the Transfer Action Team were published on May 14, 2014 (  Among the five key recommendations was a commitment to “strengthen and streamline transfer pathways” with the following stated goals:

  • Develop transfer-oriented curriculum pathways that clearly map courses students need to be eligible for transfer into their desired majors.
  • Make it easier for students to prepare for and apply to multiple UC campuses by making pre-major pathways more consistent across the system.

The recommendations and goals provided additional support for the UC system in collaboration with the UC Academic Senate to develop streamlined transfer pathways. Initial efforts focused on ten of the most popular majors, with discipline faculty from the UC campuses working together to create UC Transfer Pathways in anthropology, biochemistry, biology, cell biology, chemistry, economics, mathematics, molecular biology, physics and sociology.  As of June 8, 2015, the UC system approved the pathways[2].

What a UC Transfer Pathway is and what it is not. 

A UC Transfer Pathway is a standardized major preparation plan for a transfer student who intends to major in one of the ten majors included in the initial effort, regardless of which UC campus or campuses to which the student applies.  The intent is to provide advice to potential transfer students on what major preparation coursework they need to complete prior to transfer[3]. This standardization of the major preparation for transfer students across the UC system is a notable step forward for easing transfer to the UC.  Currently, if a student wants to apply to transfer to different UC campuses, the student needs to complete the major preparation courses for each campus.  For example, major preparation in chemistry for UCLA and UC Riverside contain differences in the course requirements for each campus.  With the new UC Transfer Pathway, the major preparation coursework for transfer students for the chemistry major at UCLA, UC Riverside, and all of the UC campuses will be the same.  Thus, the primary benefit to students who intend to transfer to the UC is that they will be able to develop their education plans around the UC Transfer Pathways with the knowledge that if they successfully complete their major preparation courses prior to transfer, they will have completed the requirements for the major for all of the UC campuses.

However, the UC Transfer Pathway is not an Associate Degree for Transfer (ADT) to the UC.  Although for certain majors some similarities and alignment between the Transfer Model Curriculum and the UC Transfer Pathway may exist, in many cases a UC Transfer Pathway may differ significantly from a Transfer Model Curriculum. Furthermore, a UC Transfer Pathway does not come with a guarantee for admission as an Associate Degree for Transfer guarantees admission to the CSU system. While completion of a UC Transfer Pathway may guarantee a comprehensive review of the student’s application, it does not guarantee admission to the UC.  The UC Pathways are also not a mandate for UC campuses to change campus-specific admissions criteria. Each UC campus will continue to make its own admission decisions based on its established criteria, such as minimum GPA and other selection factors[4]. Furthermore, while the major preparation coursework is standardized, departments at each campus can continue to set their own minimum grade requirements for specific courses in a pathway.  For example, one UC campus may allow completion of a certain major preparation course with a C or better prior to transfer, while another UC campus may require completion of the same course with a B or better.  For all these reasons, counselors must continue to work with students to ensure that they understand the admission requirements at each UC campus to which they are applying. 

In order for the UC Transfer Pathways to be effective, articulation agreements must be current and well documented. ASSIST is the official repository of articulation for California public colleges and universities and is accessible to the public online at Note that transferable courses might not be articulated courses.[5] Articulation Officers must continue to work closely with faculty, including counseling faculty, and admissions staff in California public colleges and universities to maintain articulation agreements.

Some students, especially those with life circumstances that require them to remain in a specific location, may wish to apply to both UC and CSU. Because a UC Transfer Pathway is not an Associate Degree for Transfer, students must be advised of the differences. Counselors will need to ensure that students who intend to apply to both the UC and CSU understand the differences between the ADTs and UC Transfer Pathways for their particular majors and advise the students appropriately. Additionally, discipline faculty should be aware of the differences between the ADT requirements and the UC Transfer Pathway for a given major.  Discipline faculty are often knowledgeable of the major requirements at the local CSU and UC campuses and advise students on which courses to take and in what sequence to best prepare them for a major. Furthermore, colleges must offer the necessary courses and schedule them appropriately in order to allow students to complete the necessary coursework for both an ADT and a UC Transfer Pathway.  While the ADTs have 60 semester-unit (90 quarter-unit) limits, UC Transfer Pathways do not have such unit limits.  Therefore, depending on the major, a student who opts to complete both an ADT and a UC Transfer Pathway in a given major may need to take more courses to complete both.

The UC Transfer Pathways are an important step in helping to simplify the transfer process for our students by providing uniform system-wide advice for major preparation. In addition to the ten initial majors, work will begin in Fall 2015 by UC faculty to create pathways for English/literature, film/film studies, history, and philosophy. Faculty and students must remain aware that UC Transfer Pathways are not guarantees of admission and must understand the differences between these pathways and the Associate Degrees for Transfer.  Finally, local senates and curriculum committees must engage in discussions with faculty, including counselors, about the UC Transfer Pathways and how they relate to the ADTs so that colleges can ensure that they are offering courses appropriate to both, that courses are scheduled so that students can complete the required coursework for ADTs and UC Transfer Pathways in a timely manner, and that students are advised appropriately about the similarities and differences between ADTs and UC Transfer Pathways.

[1] More specifically, 25% of transfers come from 7 CCCs, 50% come from 19 CCCs, 75% come from 41% of CCCs, and all 112 CCCs sent at transferred at least one student to the UC (D. Nolden and S. Brick, UC Transfer Initiative: Transfer Pathways, presentation made at the ASCCC Curriculum Institute, July 9, 2015).

[3] For the chemistry pathway, linear algebra is listed as post-transfer.  However, Berkeley, Davis, Merced and Santa Barbara recommend students complete this course prior to transfer in order to be better prepared for upper division study in the major.  At the same time, it is stated that students who wait until after transfer to complete this course will not be negatively affected in competitiveness for admission.  As of now, chemistry is the only major with this particular distinction.

[4] For a list of selection criteria for transfer students, go to

[5] Information on Articulation Agreements between among the California public colleges and universities can be found at