What Does a Capped Major Mean?

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Now that you’re looking to get into a high-demand major in college, you’d probably hear people say things like “capped majors,” “impacted majors,” etc. The truth is that such majors exist, and your understanding of what they mean can determine whether you’ll get into your dream school.

Here’s an article that explains everything you should know about capped majors, including what they are and why they are harder to get. However, before diving deep, let’s review some definitions.

What Does it Mean if a Major is Capped?What Does it Mean if a Major is Capped?

The work capped in “capped Major” means limited capacity. So, it’s safe to say that not all students aspiring for the major will get into it. So, if a major is capped, it simply means that it has high applications and a corresponding low admission rate. In order words, many applicants apply to get into such courses, but only a tiny fraction get in.

Some universities use the word selective. However, you’d also hear the words “impacted major” thrown around. They all mean the same thing and can be used interchangeably. In any case, it means that the designated majors will:

  • Have many applicants vying for a few admission spots
  • Have a below-average admission rate, making it more competitive
  • Have a higher GPA compared to most other majors.

Essentially, when determining how selective a major is, you need to look at the admission rate. For example, Berkeley’s bioengineering has an admission rate of 4%, while French has an admission rate of 56%. From the above percentages, you can easily tell which UC Berkeley capped majors admit more students.

So the general rule is lower admission rate = more selective majors. And vice versa.

How Do You Get into a Capped Major?

How Do You Get into a Capped Major?

Most capped majors exist to balance a high-quality education with the limited resources available to pursue such majors. Thus, the university may cap the major by limiting overall admission rates. However, one question that often comes to mind during the admission process is, “how can I get into capped majors?”

Unlike uncapped majors at UCSD and other top universities, you must go through a separate admissions process to join capped majors. The admission office determines your eligibility for these programs based on how well you meet the requirements.

However, applying for capped majors and meeting all requirements does not guarantee admission. Thus, you also need some elements of luck to get in.

That said, here are some requirements to apply to a capped Major. Please note that these are specific requirements for UCSD-capped majors obtained from their website. You can always refer to a university’s website for specific information on what it takes to get into their capped majors.

Eligibility Courses

First, you must complete four eligibility Courses and a minimum of eight units to be able to get into capped majors. The eligibility courses include:

  • CSE 8B or 11
  • CSE 12
  • CSE 15L
  • CSE 20

In some cases, students can’t use CSE with transfer courses for these eligibility requirements. So they are allowed to take screening courses to meet the eight units minimum. In addition to the eligibility courses, the screening courses include:

  • CSE 21
  • CSE 30
  • CSE 100

When you apply to the capped Major, the system checks to be sure you’ve completed all eligibility courses and that you’ve completed at least eight units of relevant courses.

Cumulative GPA

Another area schools look at before letting you in on a capped course is your cumulative GPA. They’ll typically screen out students with a lower than 3.3 GPA in the above courses.

Application Timeline

Most schools also have an application timeline for capped majors. We recommend keeping these application timelines when applying. For example, at USCB, there are two application cycles per year:

  • Open start of spring quarter
  • Open start of summer

Please note that schools typically have a maximum number of application attempts for capped majors, and it is also counted as an application account when students apply when ineligible. Therefore, we advise that you work with your academic advisor to know the best time to apply and the best combination of courses that fits your application.

What are Majors with Capped Status?

What are Majors with Capped Status?

Los Angeles, San Diego, Berkeley, Davis, Santa Barbara, and Irvine are among the most sought-after UC colleges by students. The trend keeps increasing, with some campuses topping 100,000 applicants in a single year. With such a level of interest, you can imagine that some majors will receive more attention from applicants. Remember, such majors, are known as capped majors.

Knowing the capped majors at the various campuses can help students calibrate their application and expectations while making informed decisions about which capped majors they should choose. Here’s a handy list of capped majors to have as students work on their applications. Our list will focus on UC campuses. However, you can always check a university website to see what’s applicable or not in terms of capped or selective majors.

UC Berkeley

College of Engineering:

  • Aerospace Engineering: This is a new major for 2022, and we are yet to find out whether it’ll be a capped Major. However, with all engineering majors at Berkeley being sought after, it’s safe to classify aerospace engineering as high in demand.
  • Bioengineering
  • Civil & Environmental Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering & Computer Sciences
  • Engineering Science
  • Industrial Engineering & Operations Research
  • Materials Science & Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Nuclear Engineering

College of Chemistry:

  • Chemistry, B.S.
  • Chemistry, B.A.
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Chemical Biology


College of Applied Science and Engineering:

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
  • Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Computer Science
  • Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Materials Science and Engineering
  • Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

College of Nursing:

  • Nursing B.S.
  • College of Letters and Sciences
  • Business Economics
  • Economics

UC San Diego

  • Division of Biological Sciences
  • Bioinformatics
  • Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution
  • General Biology
  • Human Biology
  • Microbiology
  • Molecular and Cell Biology
  • Neurobiology

Halicioglu Data Science Institute

  • Data Science

Division of Physical Sciences:

  • Physics

School of Public Health:

  • Public Health

School of Engineering

  • All majors in these departments

School of Business:

  • Business Administration, B.A.
  • Business Information Management, B.S.

School of the Arts:

  • Dance
  • Music

School of Nursing:

  • Nursing Science, B.S.

School of Information and Computer Science:

  • Computer Science
  • Informatics: B.S in Informatics, Game Design, Software Engineering
  • Data Statistics

UC Santa Cruz

Baskin School of Engineering:

  • Computer Science B.A.
  • Computer Science B.S.

UC Merced School of Engineering:

  • Bioengineering
  • Computer Science and Engineering
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Materials Science and Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Undeclared Engineering

School of Natural Sciences:

  • Applied Mathematical Sciences
  • Biological Sciences
  • Chemical Sciences
  • Earth Systems Science
  • Physics

Why are Capped Majors Harder to Get Into?

Why are Capped Majors Harder to Get Into?

The answer to the question is simple and the same in all colleges. Whether it’s UC Berkeley capped majors or capped majors at UCSD, one thing is sure – getting in is pretty difficult. But why’s it so difficult? Why does a capped major application have to be as complicated as it sounds?

The main reason why capped majors are challenging to get into is that most schools limit the number of applicants that get into them. These majors are usually popular and get more applications than many other majors. However, because the university has placed a cap on them, not all applicants will get in, leaving the admissions office with slightly more work to do. Thus, admission officers often use additional criteria to screen applications for these courses.

While the reason for this difficulty remains the same across different colleges, the additional criteria used by admission officers may differ from college to college / major to major. We recommend checking the college website to see the specific requirements for your major if you’re applying for a capped or impacted major.

Wrapping Things Up: What Does a Capped Major Mean?

As we’ve discussed in this article, most capped majors exist to balance the equation between high-quality majors and the available resources for running them. Thus the need to cap the number of admissions into such majors. The word capped major directly translates to capacity limitation, meaning that students may find it difficult to get into such majors. If you choose a capped major on your admissions application, we recommend selecting an alternate major. This will help give you something to fall back on if you don’t get admission into the capped major.

Knowing which majors are capped and which aren’t in your choice campus can help you navigate the application process. It can also help shape your expectations, giving you an excellent base to make an informed decision.

This article contains all the information you’ll need about capped majors as you work on your college applications. We’ve also added an exhaustive list of capped and highly selective majors across different campuses to help you. However, if you still feel lost or need help knowing what’s best, we recommend contacting your admissions counselor to discuss your specific needs.

If you liked this post, you’ll definitely want to check out our other college study tips too.

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Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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