Frequently Asked Questions

Career Exploration

What can I do with a CogSci major?

The Cognitive Science major provides an excellent background for those interested in pursuing any number of careers. 

Here are some references to help you achieve the three C's: Clarity (what you might like to do), Competitiveness (the skills necessary to achieve your goals), and Connections. 

Clarity 

       Know Thyself

                  Tang Center Career Counseling Library

                  Read about careers with a social impact

                  Podcast about branding as an exercise in self-reflection

                  Visit the Career Center for in-depth career counseling

       Know the World of Work

                  Massive repository of advice about the workplace

                  Another massive repository of great information about the modern workplace

                  The blog at LinkedIn has some great articles about all aspects of work

Connections

                  @Cal Network connects students with alumns

                  Learn how to become a master informational interviewer

                  Use LinkedIn to your advantage

Competitiveness

                  Get an internship: It's the best way to increase your competitiveness and marketability

                  Volunteer (It's really a lot like interning when you really think about it)

                  Consider post-graduate fellowships or service opportunities

Commencement

When will CogSci Commencement be held?

Each year the departments requests a date during the week before or after University Graduation. We will announce the date to students and on this site as soon as it is announced. The date is usually in the third week of May. 

I'm finishing my final requirements in Fall or Summer, can I walk in the Spring CogSci commencement ceremony?

Yes. Each Spring, the Cognitive Science Program hosts our very own Commencement Exercise. Any Cognitive Science major who has finished their requirements in the Fall or Spring of that year, or anticipates finishing those requirements in the next Summer of Fall term, is invited to participate. 

Keep in mind that walking in Commencement is purely symbolic. It is not the same thing as completing and receiving a degree from UC Berkeley. Each year in the Spring, we will publcize the details of Commencement on this site. Stay tuned! 

Completing your Degree

Can I take Cogsci electives P/NP?

No. All courses, including electives, prerequisites, distribution groups, and lower division requirements, must be taken for a grade if they are to count for the Cognitive Science major. 

DeCals

How do I teach a CogSci DeCal?

To obtain approval to teach a DeCal through Cognitive Science requires several steps which must be completed accurately and on time.

DEADLINES
A complete DeCal Course Proposal must reach Cognitive Science DeCal advisor, in 101 Stephens by:

  • November 1st, for a DeCal offered for the Spring semester
  • March 30th, for a DeCal offered for the Fall semester

Begin by reading our current policy on the sponsorship of DeCal courses (listed below). Please note that IAS and Cognitive Science policies and deadlines may differ from those of other campus departments and from the DeCal website and office personnel. SO, please – read the info below so that you stand the best chance of putting together a fun and successful course, while also making sure that the course gets approved so you can actually teach it!

After reading the IAS and Cognitive Science DeCal policy, some other useful websites to reference are:

Remember, if you are interested in teaching a DeCal through Cognitive Science, have any questions, or need any help, please contact cogscimajor@berkeley.edu.

Declaration

How do I declare CogSci?

Once the grades have posted to your CalCentral homepage for all the required prerequisites, it is time to fill out a declaration application and submit it. To do this, you will need to make a program completion plan. This plan should be thorough; it must contain all requirements that a student has left to graduate. It is also subject to change, so don't worry if you don't know exactly what will be offered in future terms. Just make a plan that could feasibly work to get you graduated. Then, submit the form either during an in person advising appointment or through our online google form. If you submit in person, the advisor will go over the plan with you, confirm the grades you list on the checklist, and declare you on the spot if you qualify. If you submit online, an advisor will review your forms and direct any questions to you over email. Once the advisor is satisfied that your plan is complete and feasible, you will be declared. The turnover for the online form is usually about 10 business days. 

General

Why choose a lower division Philosophy course?

What are the benefits and drawbacks to choosing a lower division Philosophy course?

They are twofold: 

1) Students sometimes struggle to catch on when they go directly into upper division Philosophy classes. 

2) Upper division Philosophy courses are VERY difficult to get into. 

So, the lower division options provide CogSci students the chance to learn Philosophy at a level more appropriate to their typical level of preparation. Also, they are much more likely to be able to get a seat in a lower division course. 

Graduate Study

I want to go to graduate school in CogSci. Help!

The Cognitive Science major provides an excellent background for those interested in pursuing graduate school. If you are interested in graduate school, start preparing early. You will need to keep up your academic performance while also networking, and gaining relevant work and research experience.

Here are some things to consider and links to resources that may assist you.

  1. Talk with advisors. The undergraduate advisorscareer center counselorspeer advisorsCSSA, and instructors should be your first resource when considering graduate school.
  2. Gain research experience. This is especially important if you plan to attend a Ph.D. program. There are several things you can do to obtain research experience such as participating in CogSci 199 projects, completing an honors project
  3. Get involved. Join a CogSci student organization and meet other students interested in the field. Join Berkeley Connect in a related field to receive mentorship and meet folks with similar interests. Volunteer in the community through the Public Service Center  to help others, learn valuable skills, and hone your academic interests. 
  4. Attend Career Center events and workshops. Meet with a Career Center counselor to learn about the possible graduate study tracks and their application processes or request a critique of your graduate school essay and application.
  5. Learn about what it takes to apply successfully for grad school.
    • Plan early. Know all the deadlines. Be aware that graduate school application deadlines are often in the late fall.
    • Obtain good references. Letters from faculty members describing your ability to excel in graduate school strongly influence admissions decisions. If faculty doesn't know you, they can't write a good reference letter for you. Ask questions in class, go to office hours, and show interest in the subject. Work in a lab (via CogSci 199 courses, URAP, or as a volunteer) so the professor will be familiar with your work. Also, review the Career Center's tips on obtaining letters of reference.
    • Prepare for graduate entrance exams (GRE's). These exams may be a pivotal aspect of your credentials, and completing a practice exam may be helpful.
    • Spend time writing a good essay. Review the Career Center's Statement of Purpose guidelines, become familiar with faculty and their research, and review recent books and articles written by them. Be specific when explaining your goals.
  6. Search for graduate programs:

Honors in CogSci

How is honors awarded at the end?

Honors in the major, as explained above, is the result of faculty deliberation. However, if you fail to complete your degree with a 3.3 GPA overall, the College will not allow you to be awarded departmental honors, regardless of how well you do in your major or on your thesis.

What happens when my thesis is done?

When you've completed your work you will submit it to your faculty sponsor. (Plan to do this no later than the beginning of finals. You may be asked to do revisions which could delay the grade and your graduation.) They will read and assign a letter grade to your work. You should also submit a copy to your second reader and one to the Cognitive Science advising office at 140 Stephens Hall. The two faculty members who read your thesis will deliberate on the level of honors to be awarded: honors, high honors, highest honors. In CogSci, honors levels are based on the quality of the thesis, not GPA.

What do I need to know about working with human or animal subjects?

Plan ahead! If you will be involving people as participants in your research, or doing lab animal research, check with your faculty advisor before you begin. In many cases, you will be required to complete paperwork which can take several weeks to process, and which must be processed before you can begin collecting data. Trying to fit this into a one semester project at the last minute is generally impossible - so do take care of this ahead of time.

How many units/semesters should my honor's project take?

You must complete a minimum of 3 units of thesis work but not necessarily in one semester. Some students prefer to spend a semester getting set up: gathering sources, doing library work, applying to work with human or animal subjects. Typically, this will result in a unit or two of credit in CogSci H195A. The bulk of the actual research and writing would then be done the following semester under H195B. (Both courses are offered for 1-3 units so your thesis will range between 3-6 units of credit by the time you have finished.) If your topic is very organized and you don't run into any problems, you could finish the 3 units in a single semester of H195A; if it is very complex or you need to budget your time and spread out the work you may need two semesters of several units a piece. Every student's research is different.

How do I find a first and second reader for my honor's project?

Ideally, you will have become excited by a particular area of research after taking courses from a number of CogSci affiliated professors. Don't hesitate to approach a faculty member and ask if he/she would be willing to mentor you. You should be able to formulate a topic of interest through your course work and discussions with that individual. In some cases, students have an idea they'd like to explore, but don't know whom to approach. Usually this issue resolves itself by the time students are seniors, but there are a number of other ways to narrow your search. One of the best portals to faculty research information is the CogSci faculty map created by the CogSci Student Association. Faculty research interests are usually described briefly on their websites, which can be linked to through the map. Students can also begin to acquaint themselves with the scope of cognition-related research taking place on campus by exploring the Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences, and by inquiring in person with the Cognitive Science Student Association.  

Do I qualify for CogSci honors?

In order to begin a thesis project, you will need to be a declared CogSci major with a minimum 3.3 GPA both overall and in your upper division major coursework. You can easily determine your overall GPA through CalCentral.

International Students at Berkeley

How do I obtain authorization for CPT?

International students who have an offer of employment in a CogSci related position may apply to enroll in CogSci 197  (independent study via internship). Once they are enrolled in CogSci 197, a CogSci advisor can sign a CPT form to be submitted to the Berkeley International Office. See our international student resources page for more tools and useful links. 

Internships

Can I get academic units for an internship?

Yes. Cognitive Science offers units of CogSci 197 for students who are hired for internships relevant to Cognitive Science. Please visit our internship credit page for full directions. 

Requirements

How can I connect with the broader CogSci community?

The best way to meet other folks who are intrerested in CogSci is to attend an event hosted by the Cognitive Science Student Association. They hold all sorts of events from enrollment workshops to study groups to a massive and amazing conference each spring called the California Cognitive Science Conference. They also teach a very fun and interesting DeCal called The BROCA DECAL: Berkeley Review of CogSci Articles. 

I like CogSci but I struggle with some of the classes. What other majors can I consider?

Many students who enjoy thinking critically about the nature of thought, cognition, and the mind may not want to take all the courses required by the CogSci majors. They might consider the following majors: 

American Studies

Anthropology

Computer Science

Interdisciplinary Studies Field Major

Linguistics

Media Studies

Psychology

Sociology

Does CogSci require a capstone thesis?

No. Only students in the honors program are required to write a capstone thesis in order to receive department honors. 

Which classes/departments do CogSci students have reserved seats?

All courses listed or cross-listed under CogSci will have seats reserved for Cognitive Science majors. Sometimes, other courses in partner departments (most commonly Psychology, Linguistics, and Anthropology) will reserve a subset of seats for CogSci majors. These arrangements, unlike cross-lists, are made on a semester-by-semester basis. Students can view the seat reservations at courses.berkeley.edu once the schedule goes live. This site will also provide such information on the enrollment tips page. 

Can I minor in CogSci?

No. The Cognitive Science program does not offer a minor. Many students with interests in Cognition minor in: Computer Science, Education, Linguistics, Applied Language Studies, Anthropology, Art Practice, Bioengineering, Data Science, Disability Studies, Global Poverty and Practice, Human Rights Interdisciplinary, Music, Philosophy, Public Health, Statistics, Math and Science Education (CalTeach). The UC Berkeley Guide's minor page contains information regarding these and the many other minor programs available to students. 

Research & Research Credit

Answers to questions about finding research opportunities and how to get credit for the research work you do. 

How do I declare a double major?

Students already declared in one major and wanting to add another must complete the internal application required by each individual major department, AND complete the College of Letters & Science double major form. Follow the directions on the double major form to get the proper signatures and submit the form to L&S advising on the second floor of Evans Hall. 

How can I get financial support for my project?

Most honors theses are done in individual faculty members' laboratories, and receive support through faculty research funds. Occasionally, however, such support may not be available. The Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarships is a tremendous resource for research and funding questions. 

How can I find a lab that fits my interests?

CogSci students find labs to work in through many channels. They may answer an open call for applications they find on the CogSci newsletter/listserv [insert link], or by browsing the opportunities published by other relevant departments on campus (Psychology has a particularly robust listing of opportunities). 

Many students also make their first foray into research via the Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program or other program supported by the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarships

Still others may learn about research opportunities by visiting faculty or GSI office hours. Most instructors love to chat with interested and engaged students! 

The CSSA faculty map is helpful to students who want to acquaint themselves with the different types of research CogSci affiliated faculty are conducting. The map links to faculty and lab websites that may contain advertisements for research positions. 

Study Abroad

Can I use Study Abroad courses to fulfill my 6 core distribution groups?

No. We accept petitions for courses from abroad programs to count as electives only. Distribution group courses must be taken on campus. 

Can I get CogSci major credit for courses taken abroad?

Yes. We accept petitions for courses from abroad programs to count as upper division electives only (distribution groups must be completed on campus). You can use our online elective petition form to request that your study abroad courses be evaluated. Please do not submit petition requests until after you know for sure what will be offered the semester you will be abroad. Also please note that courses must transfer into your Cal transcript as upper division in order to count as electives for CogSci, and that the number of units awarded by UCB after transfer can sometimes be difference from the number of units listed at the institution at which the course was taken. 

How do I pick a study abroad program?

Most students are able to find at least one elective course if they choose a school that regularly offers a variety of social science courses (i.e. Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology). So, if you make a program plan that allows you to take all but one elective at UC Berkeley, then you can pick from a wide variety of programs. If you need to take two or more electives while abroad to finish your degree requirements on time, then you should look more closely at the historical course offerings at potential programs. Then, try to pick one that tends to offer, on a regular basis, more classes that have an explicit connection to the study of the mind. Fruitful departments to look for include Computer Science, Philosophy, Rhetoric, and interdisciplinary programs centered on human thought or behavior, in addition to the social sciences listed above. 

Transfer students

How many prerequisites do I have to complete before transferring

It is possible to declare in time and complete the CogSci major in 4 semesters with 2 of the 6 required lower division courses complete before the first semester of coursework at Cal. However, it is highly recommended that students complete as many lower divs as possible before transferring.

Equivalents to the following courses are offered at California Community College (they may or may not be offered at YOUR college)

Math 1A/16A

CS61A/E7

Math 55

MCB C61/C64

Phil 3, 12A, 25A, 25B

This will enable students to have more freedom in course selection and more time for extracurricular activities, research, non-major courses, etc.  

I'm an incoming transfer student. When do I have to declare CogSci

Starting in Fall 2020, incoming transfer students will be required to declare by the end of their second semester on campus. For students who began at Cal before that term, there is no deadline to declare the major.