Undergraduate Frequently Asked Questions (and Answers!) For Pre-Comm Students

What is a “pre-major”?  How do I become a full communication major at UCSB?

A pre-major is a set of required courses that you must complete before you can declare a full major.  For communication, the pre-major consists of four lower division courses:

  • Comm 1: Introduction to Communication
  • Comm 87: Statistical Analysis for Communication (or comparable statistics course, such as AP stats (score of 3 or higher), Pstat 5A/5LS, or Psych 5)
  • Comm 88: Communication Research Methods
  • Comm 89: Theories of Communication

You must achieve a UC GPA of at least 3.0 across these four courses in order to be admitted to the full communication major.  Please see the Undergraduate section of the Comm Dept website for more complete information and details, and be sure also to consult with our Undergraduate Advisor or with a Peer Advisor (SSMS 4005).  

Is attending lecture and section mandatory? What happens if I have to miss?

The pre-major courses have large lectures, so we do not typically take roll during lecture (but individual instructors may vary).  However, the Teaching Assistants (TAs) do take roll in section, and if you do not attend the first section, you may be dropped from the course.  If you know you cannot make it to the first section, you should be sure to email your instructor and/or your TA in advance to see what your options are. 

Each instructor may have different rules for what happens if you miss lecture or section, so be sure to consult your course syllabus or website for that information. Typically, if you miss a lecture, you must find or make a friend in the class whose notes you can borrow. The pre-major courses typically require section attendance, so you are likely to lose points (as well as course material and TA assistance) if you miss section.

Can I take a course for the pre-major P/NP? What if I took Comm 1 P/NP back when I didn’t think I was going to be comm major?

All pre-major classes must be taken for a letter grade. For Comm 87, 88, & 89, there is no P/NP grading option on GOLD, so even if you decide midway through the quarter not to be a comm major after all, you cannot switch the class to the P/NP option. Comm 1 does have the P/NP grading option on GOLD, as the course also meets a GE requirement.  But if you are a pre-comm student, you must choose the letter grade option. If you took Comm 1 P/NP as a GE and then later decided to be a comm major, you need to consult ASAP with an advisor in the Undergraduate Advising Office (SSMS 4005). You will likely need to petition for an exception to policy, and your original letter grade will need to be verified by the instructor of the course.

I’m considering being a communication major.  Is there a particular order in which I should take the pre-major classes?  Do any of them have prerequisites?

NO. Many students who are considering the comm major often prefer to begin with Comm 1, because that course provides an overview of the many different topics that we teach in our upper division classes. 

One important factor to consider in choosing the order of pre-major classes is when they are offered during the academic year.  During the 2017-18 academic year, Comm 1, Comm 87, Comm 88, & Comm 89 will all be offered during Fall, Winter, and Spring quarters. Most of these courses are also taught during Summer Session, but not all of them are offered every summer, so you should plan ahead in any given year if you plan to take your pre-major courses during summer.

**EFFECTIVE WINTER 2018**: Pre-Major courses will be restricted to declared Pre-Comm students ONLY during Pass 1. Please note that Pre-Comm students will NOT be prioritized on waitlists for these courses, so students must use their Pass 1 wisely. Waitlists for Pre-Comm courses will continue to be prioritized by number of units attained. Please be sure to come into our Undergraduate Advising Office (SSMS #4005) to declare Pre-Comm if you have plans to pursue this major. 

How will I know if the comm major is right for me?  What do I do if I came to UCSB specifically for the comm major, but now I’m struggling or not sure?

Talk to us! Consult with our Undergraduate Advisor (SSMS 4005) or with a Peer Advisor (SSMS 4005). Talk to your professor and TAs in your communication pre-major courses. Talk to other comm majors.  Find out if what we study and teach, as well as how we study and teach those things, fits with how you most want to spend your time and intellectual energy.  Our pre-major courses are a good indication of how and what we study, so during your pre-major courses, do some soul-searching:  Ask yourself if the theories, concepts, and methods are “clicking” with you; ask yourself if you want to delve more deeply into these topics and research areas.  If you find yourself struggling, ask yourself why (and why you do better in other kinds of classes). You may just need to brush up on some key academic skills for studying and/or writing for the social sciences, and we’ll try to help you do that. But you may also need to consider the possibility that communication, or at least perhaps our approach to it at UCSB, may not be right for you after all.

Do NOT choose the communication major just because it sounds like the closest thing to your career plans. For example, for journalism, PR, marketing, law, or management, the communication major certainly provides principles that could be useful for those career fields (as well as for many other career fields!). But so do several other majors. A UC education is not a “how to” of vocational skills for some specific career.  It’s about learning higher order skills that apply to many careers—thinking, reasoning, solving problems, and developing a unique understanding of the world around you, all in a particular area of study. So, with a few exceptions, just about any UCSB major can be used to achieve just about any career goal. Your internships and work experience, rather than your classes, will likely give you the on-the-job training that will best build your resume.  Your major should therefore be an area of study that you can really wrap your brain around and that truly means something to you.

I really want to get moving on the comm major.  Why do you recommend that I take only one pre-comm class at a time? 

The 3.0 pre-major GPA requirement is the highest in Letters & Science at UCSB, and our pre-major courses are very competitive and challenging.  For these reasons, we usually recommend taking only one pre-major course at a time, so that you can focus your attention and skills on getting the best possible grade in each of these courses. If you start the pre-major courses early enough, there is no reason to hurry, and you may need time to improve your academic skills with each successive quarter, depending on what grade(s) you get in your first pre-comm class(es).  In addition, if you are fairly new to UCSB (whether as a first-year or transfer student), you will also face substantial adjustment to the faster pace of the quarter system and to much higher expectations for your quality of work than you have been used to.

That said, there are both pros and cons to taking more than one pre-major class during the same quarter (see next question).

IMPORTANT: Whether you take the pre-comm classes one at a time or together, you need to prepare a “back-up” plan for another major.  We suggest that you take classes that can apply to your back-up major while you are taking your pre-comm classes.  That way, if you do not reach the 3.0 pre-major GPA by the time you are finished with your last pre-major class, you can slide right into your other major without delaying graduation.

What are the pros and cons of taking more than one pre-major course during the same quarter?  If I do plan to do this, how can I be more likely to succeed?

Pros:  First, taking two courses at once means that you’ll complete the pre-major earlier.  So, you'll know sooner rather than later whether or not your grades will get you admitted to the comm major. This is particularly helpful (and in some cases necessary) if you are starting the pre-major fairly late (e.g., as a junior with a lot of accumulated units) and need to have more time to switch to another major if necessary. Second, if the courses are taught by the same instructor, due dates of papers and exams may be staggered, so that students can more easily manage both classes (but note that this is not always the case).  Third, some students do claim that when they are taking two pre-comm classes at the same time, they get themselves into a "communication groove," in which they really concentrate their efforts into the two intense classes.

Cons:  First, our pre-major classes are fairly intense in terms of their workload. This is especially true of Comm 88 and 89, as both of those classes have two-hour sections with weekly assignments, fairly involved group projects, and a research paper. Those classes also do not count toward any requirements on campus except the comm major, so everyone in those classes is intensely competing to get that B average (median scores on exams are typically pretty high, so there is not much of a “curve”).  Taking 88 and 89 together, or even taking 88 with Comm 1, can be a real challenge.  Second, taking two classes together means that if some other pressures arise in your life (emotional, financial, etc.), then you have no room to “give,” as you cannot afford to slack off in either class. 

To succeed:  If you do decide to take more than one pre-comm class at the same time, Comm 87 (or the statistics equivalent in another department) is probably the best class to combine with another.  This is because statistics courses do not typically have research papers, so the intensity is a bit less.  However, with this combination or any other, make sure you also remove or lessen as many other pressures or responsibilities in your life that quarter as you can.  Try to arrange it so that any other classes that you take that quarter are not workload-heavy or are ones that you can afford not to do as well in.

We know that some students do quite well when taking two pre-comm classes at the same time.  They are either students who work well under pressure or are excellent students capable of high quality work regardless of their workload.  But we also know that there are a great many students who end up with a less-than-desirable grade in at least one (if not both) of the classes.  So, ultimately, you need to consider two main things: 

First, where are you in your education time-wise?  Do you really have to be finished with the pre-major by this Spring (or Fall, or whenever)?  Many students don't declare the full comm major until midway through the junior year (and for transfers often not until the end of junior year), and they still usually have time to complete the major and graduate. As long as you have a back-up plan for another major, you can often afford to take your time with the comm pre-major (but do always consult with the Comm Dept Undergraduate Advising Office about your own particular situation!). 

Second, you have to know your own academic strengths and weaknesses and your ability to handle workload (some people work better under pressure, others need to pace themselves).  If you struggled in Comm 1, then you may not want to jump in right away with TWO classes with that same instructor at the same time.  You might even consider skipping a quarter (especially if you are a first-year), so that you can take the time to figure out and correct what went wrong before you dive back into more pre-comm classes. You cannot afford still to be "learning" how to take those tests while you are in the middle of two of those classes.  But if your first pre-comm class went very well, then you might feel ready to tackle the next two together.

Do I need to declare “pre-comm” officially as my major?

We would like all students committed to pursuing the major to officially declare it! To declare pre-comm, come to the Undergraduate Advising Office (SSMS 4005) or the Peer Advising Office (SSMS 4005) to fill out the gold Change of Major petition. We strongly encourage students who are planning to become communication majors to declare as “pre-comm” majors officially. This is because when you declare pre-comm, you meet with one of our undergraduate advisors and get fully informed about our program and its requirements.   

Declaring pre-comm also helps us to estimate more accurately the numbers of our students. Effective Winter 2018, our Pre-Comm courses (Comm 1, 87, 88, & 89) will be restricted to Pre-Comm majors ONLY during Pass 1. Declaring the major will give you a greater chance of enrolling in one of our pre-major courses (given that you use your pass time wisely). 

However, you are not required to declare the pre-comm major before declaring the full major.  If you have met the pre-major requirements, then you can be admitted directly to the full communication major (see next question for how and when to declare officially).

How do I declare the full comm major?  When should I fill out the paperwork?

During the quarter that you are enrolled in your final pre-major course, you must come to the Undergraduate Advising Office (SSMS 4005) or the Peer Advising Office (SSMS 4005) to fill out the gold Change of Major petition.  An advisor will let you know at that time any additional information that you should be aware of (such as the grade you need to get, etc.).  After grades are final, you will receive an official email from the Undergraduate Advisor notifying you of whether or not you are admitted to the communication major.

It is important that you fill out the Change of Major petition DURING your last pre-major  quarter, so that as soon as your last pre-major grade is available from the professor, the advisors can process your petition and, if you are eligible, approve you to enroll in upper division comm courses for the following quarter. Once the pre-major course grades come in, only those students who have filled out the paperwork in advance will be processed for a change of major. 

So, if you wait until after you know your grade to do the paperwork, you may well have to wait another full quarter before you will be able to enroll in upper division communication classes.

Can I take upper division communication courses before I am a full communication major?

During the regular academic year (Fall, Winter, and Spring quarters), upper division communication courses are restricted to full majors only.  However, during Summer Session, non-majors and pre-majors may enroll in and take upper division communication courses.

I’m finishing my pre-major comm classes this quarter, and I need to register for next quarter.  GOLD will not let me enroll in upper division comm classes because I am not yet a declared communication major.  What do I do?  Will I be able to get into upper division comm courses for next quarter?

A: You cannot enroll in upper division communication classes unless you are a fully-declared communication major (except during Summer Session).   You cannot be a full major until your grades in the pre-major courses are completed and you achieve at least a 3.0 GPA.  So, during your last pre-major class, you will not be able to enroll in any upper division classes for the next quarter during your first pass. 

If you are currently enrolled in your last pre-major communication course, you should come in to the Undergraduate Advising Office (SSMS 4005) prior to the end of the quarter to fill out the paperwork to declare the communication major (the gold Change of Major petition).  Once the pre-major course grades come in, only those students who have filled out the paperwork in advance will be processed for a change of major.  If you meet the GPA requirement, you will be sent an email notification, and you will be able to put your name on open waitlists for upper division communication courses.

Depending on the quarter, you might be able to enroll in upper division classes during pass 2 or pass 3, if your major status gets processed in time and if there is space.  If all classes are full, then you’ll need to add your name to the online waitlist(s) before the quarter starts and then attend lecture on the first day.  Be sure to read the Comm Dept Waitlist Policy and FAQ carefully, so that you know how it works.  Do NOT email professors to try to get them to hold spaces for you. You are one of a multitude of new comm majors all trying to get into upper division classes—please use the waitlist system. Just in case you are NOT able to get into any upper division comm classes, please be sure to enroll in at least 12 units of non UD Comm courses to ensure full time student standing (and so that you're able to add your name to any waitlists). 

Can I take Comm 87 if I’ve already completed another statistics course at UCSB (e.g., Pstat 5A) or a transfer equivalent?

No. The College only allows students credit for ONE introductory statistics course (e.g., Comm 87, Pstat 5A/5LS, or Psych 5).  If you enroll in a second statistics course, you will get dropped. Whichever statistics course you take, the grade you in earn in that course is the one that the Communication Department must use to compute your pre-major GPA, so choose wisely.  Of course, like all transferred courses, if you transferred your statistics course from another college or university (other than UC), credit for the course would transfer, but not the grade.

Can I repeat a pre-major course if I do not get the grade I want/need?  Can I ask my professor to lower my grade or fail me after the quarter is over to allow me to retake?

The University’s repeat policy only allows student to repeat classes in which they receive a C- grade or lower, including grades of NP (pre-comm courses must be taken for a letter grade in any case).  If you repeat a course, the second grade replaces the first grade.  However, once you have exceeded 16 units of repeated coursework at UCSB, both grades will then be averaged together to compute your GPA.

If you receive a grade of solid C or higher, then you may not repeat the course.  In most cases, professors will not lower your grade to a C- to allow you the opportunity to retake.  Grades must be a legitimate reflection of your performance, so professors are required to give you the grade you earned.  In rare cases, such as if you were on the C/C- borderline in the first place or if extra credit is what boosted you to a C, the professor could legitimately lower your grade.  But this is an unusual circumstance.

It seems unfair that if one of my pre-major grades is not-so-great (C or C+) then I’m stuck with it, but someone who gets a worse grade (C- or below) gets another chance to take the class. How do I make sure that I’m not stuck with a low grade?

The retake policy (C- or below) is the University’s, and the Comm Dept has no control over that. We also cannot just arbitrarily change grades because of it.  We’re sorry, but there is just no way to aim for a good grade in a class (such as the A or B you need in order to get to 3.0) while at the same time trying to ensure the opportunity to retake if your grade doesn't end up high enough.  You can only try your best, and take what comes.  The only way to guarantee a grade low enough to retake is to purposely fail a class, and that brings with it a whole set of other terrible consequences, so that is a bad strategy too (be sure to consult with the Advising Office and your professor before even considering doing that!).  It might help you to know that the majority of students who do retake our courses do NOT actually end up doing that much better on the retake anyway, so at the end of the day they have spent another whole quarter for the same end result regarding the comm major. 

What happens if I do not reach the 3.0 pre-major GPA? What if I am really close? Is there anything else I can do? 

The Communication Department does have an “appeal” process for the major.  If your pre-major GPA is between 2.85 and 2.99, then you will be eligible to appeal. Remember to fill out the Change of Major paperwork with the advising office during your last pre-major class.  If, at the end of that quarter, you are eligible to appeal, you will be notified via email by the Undergraduate Advisor. We will not know if you're eligible to appeal unless we have your Change of major paperwork on file!

In an appeal, you have a chance to try in writing to convince the Communication Undergraduate Committee that there is a compelling and unique explanation for your academic record that warrants us making an EXCEPTION for you to the 3.0 GPA policy. However, you should NOT assume that submitting an appeal will result in your admission to the major. The Committee will only approve cases in which the uniqueness of a student’s academic record warrants an exception to our policy. The closer students' pre-major GPA is to 3.0, the better chance of admission to the full major.  If you are not admitted on appeal, then you must find a new major.

If your pre-major GPA is below 2.85, then you are not eligible to appeal, and you must find a new major. We do NOT make exceptions to allow students with a pre-major GPA lower than a 2.85 to appeal. 

You should always consult with an advisor in the Comm Dept prior to taking your last pre-major course to be sure you know your own particular grade situation and to understand your options. In the event that you need to find another major, your pre-major professors and the advisors in the Comm Department are happy to try to help you, but you should also consult with an advisor in the College of Letters & Science.