International Freshman Registration Guide

Step 3: Learn Registration Vocabulary

Before selecting courses it is important to learn and understand the vocabulary used during the registration process. Please review the following information before you plan and register for your courses.


The academic year is divided into two semesters, fall and spring. Each semester is 16 weeks. The fall semester starts in late August and ends in mid-December. The spring semester starts in mid-January and ends in mid-May. For specific academic calendar information, visit


A unit represents 50 minutes of class time per week. Most classes are 3 units, but can range from 1 to 6 units. As an international student with an F-1 visa, you are required to take a minimum of 12 units per semester. However, it is recommended that you enroll in 15 units each semester to stay on track to complete your degree in four years.

A 3-unit lecture class can meet:

  • Three days a week for 50 minutes
  • Two days a week for 75 minutes
  • One evening a week for 150 minutes

You will take between 120-140 units to complete your bachelor’s degree. This exact number can vary by major.

Class Standing

  • Freshman—has earned 0 to 29 semester units
  • Sophomore—has earned 30 to 59 semester units
  • Junior—has earned 60 to 89 semester units
  • Senior—has earned 90 semester units or more

Course Numbers

  • 100 – 299 are lower division
  • 300 – 599 are upper division

General Education (GE) Courses

General Education (GE) courses are courses from a variety of subjects (Composition, Oral Communication, Math, Science, Humanities) required for every major. GE courses provide you with a solid foundation of skills, perspectives and knowledge preparing you for courses in your major. You will complete your lower division GE courses during your first two years.

More information about GE courses can be found on pages 95–102 of the General Catalog.

Major Preparation Courses

Major preparation courses are lower-division courses that prepare you for the upper-division courses required in your major. Major preparation courses are completed during your first two years. Some major preparation courses also count toward GE requirements.


Course or exam (for example, Chemistry Placement Assessment, Mathematics Placement Assessment, etc.) requirements that need to be met prior to taking some courses.