As the UC app deadline creeps closer, many high school seniors find themselves with a choice to make: what major should I apply for? At UC Berkeley, applicants who want to study computer science have two options: Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences (offered through the College of Engineering), or Computer Science (offered through the College of Letters and Science). What’s the difference? Does it even matter? Read on to find out a bit more about what exactly differentiates these two majors—and which one is best for you.
At UC Berkeley, the College of Engineering (CoE) has a more competitive undergraduate admissions process than the College of Letters and Science (L&S). Even within the CoE, Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences (EECS) is one of the most competitive engineering majors, and the vast majority of highly qualified applicants are turned away every year. L&S is also a competitive college, but it is easier to get into than the CoE. For students who are very interested in going to Berkeley, it may be wiser to apply to L&S CS than EECS.
2. Declaring the major
Students who apply to L&S CS are subject to the infamous GPA cutoff — that is, they must maintain a 3.3 GPA across three of the lower-div prerequisites: CS61A, CS61B, and CS70. Grades in other CS prerequisites (EE16A, EE16B, CS61C) are not considered when calculating the major declaration GPA. While this GPA cutoff scares a lot of people, it’s not really a huge deal. It’s completely feasible to get a 3.3 GPA (roughly a B+ average) across these three classes. As long as you put in a reasonable amount of effort and don’t overload your first few semesters with a ton of other difficult classes (read: don’t take 20 units every semester while also completing these three classes).
For students who apply (and are admitted) directly to EECS, there is no GPA requirement in order to declare—you’re already declared! EECS students just need to maintain a 2.0 GPA in accordance with College of Engineering requirements to remain in good academic standing. However, for students who are admitted to different majors in the College of Engineering (or undeclared engineering majors), there are some GPA requirements in order to switch into EECS.
EECS and L&S CS students have virtually identical upper-div degree requirements. Contrary to popular myth, EECS students don’t need to focus on electrical engineering, and can in fact complete the EECS major without taking any upper-div EE courses.
College requirements (similar to core curricula at other universities) are somewhat different for L&S CS and EECS students. L&S CS students generally get more freedom to explore different subjects outside of CS during their time at Cal. It’s also easier to double major within L&S, between CS and a non-engineering subject (eg. applied math, cognitive science, history).
EECS majors, on the other hand, are subject to the Humanities and Social Science requirement. This is fairly similar to L&S Breadth requirements (and in fact, the lists of permitted courses for Humanities/Social Sciences are taken from the Breadth requirement lists). However, CoE students can use AP/IB/A-level credits to skip up to two of the six required courses, whereas L&S students cannot skip any Breadth requirements with AP/IB/A-level credits.
4.Getting into classes
EECS and L&S CS students get equal priority for registration in upper-div EE/CS courses and lower-div CS courses. The only difference arises in lower-div EE courses, specifically EE16A and EE16B, where EECS majors get some priority over undeclared L&S CS students during Phase 1 registration. However, EE16A and EE16B are fairly large classes, so this is unlikely to make a huge difference for most students.
Both L&S CS and EECS majors have the same access to professors, office hours, etc for CS/EE classes they’re taking. However, as EECS is in the College of Engineering (which is significantly smaller than L&S), EECS students typically find it easier to get advising appointments than L&S students. However, L&S advising does give priority to freshmen and sophomores over upperclassmen.
There are also plenty of support systems outside of the department itself for CS students. The Computer Science Undergraduate Association, Tau Beta Pi, Eta Kappa Nu, and Computer Science Mentors are just a handful of the organizations that provide social, professional and academic support for CS/EECS students. Organizations like these host events and offer tutoring services and exam prep sessions for EE/CS classes.
Ultimately, the differences between EECS and L&S CS are relatively insubstantial. Once officially declared in the CS major, L&S CS majors have a virtually identical experience to EECS students. So don’t stress too much—no matter which major you choose, you’ll still be attending the #1 computer science program in the country!