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 PSTAT 5A/5LS or AP Stats with a score of 3 or higher.)
  • Comm 88: Communication Research Methods
  • Comm 89: Theories of Communication

You must achieve a UC GPA of at least 3.0 across the above courses if completed at UCSB in order to be admitted to the full communication major. If a student took one or more of these courses at a non-UC institution, the credit is earned but the grade does not factor into the pre-major GPA; so it would be based only on the courses taken at UCSB. Please see the the Major Requirements section of the Comm Department website for more complete information and details, and be sure also to consult with our Undergraduate Advisor or with a Peer Advisor by emailing comm-advising@ucsb.edu or visiting SSMS 4005.  

If you are fairly sure you want to be a communication major, we strongly encourage you to declare your major officially as "pre-comm" as early as possible. Declaring pre-comm will give you priority to enroll in the pre-major classes during Pass 1, and it will allow our undergraduate advising office to alert you to information that may be important for your planning. 

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 or PSTAT 5A/5LS 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 and PSTAT 5A/5LS do have the P/NP grading option on GOLD, as these courses also meet GE requirements.  If you are a pre-comm student, you must choose the letter grade option, if you choose P/NP and earn a P, you are no longer eligible for the Comm major. If you were not declared or making progress toward Pre-Comm you took Comm 1 or PSTAT 5A/LS for the P/NP grading option as a GE and then later decided to be a Comm major, you will need to submit a petition for an exception to the grading option policy, and your original letter grade will be calculated into your pre-major GPA.

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. 

All four courses are offered in every quarter during the academic year, and all courses aside from Comm 87 are also taught during both Summer Sessions A and B, so you should plan ahead in any given year if you plan to take your pre-major courses during summer. PSTAT 5A is usually offered in both Summer Sessions A and B.

Pre-Major courses are restricted to declared Pre-Comm students ONLY during Pass 1. Waitlists for Pre-Comm courses will continue to be prioritized by major standing, then number of units attained. Please be sure to declare the Pre-Comm major 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 another equivalent statistics course 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 change your major to Pre-Comm or to declare a double major with pre-comm, please download the Change of Major petition and complete it (either digitally or by printing and scanning/taking a photo). Double majors should also complete the Memo of Understanding for Double Majors. Please email the completed materials to comm-advising@ucsb.edu or come to the Undergraduate Advising Office (SSMS 4005) or the Peer Advising Office (SSMS 4005). 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. Please note that petitions can take several weeks to process, so if you want to be able to enroll in Pre-Comm courses during pass 1, you'll need to submit your change of major petition at least several weeks before your pass 1 begins.

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) are restricted to Pre-Comm majors ONLY during Pass 1 (and Pass 2 during Fall). 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 download the Change of Major petition and complete it (either digitally or by printing and scanning/taking a photo) and email the petition to comm-advising@ucsb.edu or visit the Undergraduate Advising Office (SSMS 4005) or the Peer Advising Office (SSMS 4005) to fill it out or drop it off.  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?

If you are currently enrolled in your last pre-major communication course, you should download the Change of Major petition and complete it (either digitally or by printing and scanning/taking a photo). Please email the petition to comm-advising@ucsb.edu or come in to the Undergraduate Advising Office (SSMS 4005) prior to the end of the quarter to fill out the petition to declare the Communication major.  Once the pre-major course grades come in, only those students who have filled out the petition in advance will have their major change processed.  If you meet the GPA requirement, you will be sent an email notification. If you do not meet the GPA requirement, you will be notified if you are eligible for an appeal to the major and will have one week to submit your appeal. If you are not eligible for an appeal, you will be notified that you did not meet the requirements and you will need to prepare for an alternate major.

You cannot enroll in upper division communication classes (except during Summer Session) until you are a fully-declared communication major, and your major status in GOLD says COMM.  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 at the beginning of your first pass. 

During Pass 1, we recommend enrolling in at least 12 units of any remaining GE/minor/elective requirements you may have. If you have satisfied all other requirements, we recommend enrolling in 12 units of electives (upper or lower division). Run a Major Progress Check in GOLD to confirm what requirements outside of Comm you have remaining. Since your acceptance to the Comm major is not guaranteed, so it's also a good idea to enroll in courses that apply toward an alternative major's requirements, this way, if you end up not being eligible for the Comm major, you won't be delayed another quarter in preparing to change to another major. If UD Comm courses become full during Pass 1, you can add yourself to the waitlist even though your major status is not yet COMM. When you attempt to do this, you will see the message, "This course is limited to majors only." You will then need to click the check box next to "course info" and then scroll down and click "Add to Waitlist." You can waitlist up to 3 UD comm courses during Pass 1 (using the course linking function which allows you to link your waitlisted course with a less desired course that you're enrolled in to surpass the unit max). It's best to get on the waitlists for courses with lower waitlists to increase your chances. You can see how many students are on the waitlist when you go to add yourself. You must be enrolled in at least 12 units to add yourself to any waitlist. Do not email instructors or the advising office to request an add code for an UD Comm course.

You can see the waitlist criteria by clicking the "course info" button in GOLD. Waitlists are ranked by unit standing, not first-come first serve, which means that you'll rank higher than anyone with a lower unit standing than you and vice versa. This is the fairest way to ensure that students who are closest to graduation get the courses they need. Students are auto-added to the course from the waitlist as space becomes available once their major status has been updated to "COMM".

You could also look into taking fall Comm courses through the Cross-Campus enrollment program. Courses must be numbered 100-199 to apply for major credit. Be sure to have any Comm courses approved by the department prior to enrolling. In addition, our major sheet indicates courses from other departments that can be applied to your Comm major requirements.

Change of major petitions are processed several weeks after grades are released for your final pre-comm course. Depending on the quarter, you might be able to enroll in upper division Comm classes at the end of pass 1 or 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 yourself to the GOLD 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/5LS) or a transfer equivalent?

No. The College only allows students credit for ONE introductory statistics course (e.g., Comm 87, Pstat 5A, or Pstat 5LS).  If you enroll in a second statistics course after earning units for the first, you will get dropped. Whichever UCSB statistics course you take, the grade you in earn in that course is the one that the Communication Department must use to calculate 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) or earned an AP Statistics score of 3 or higher, credit for the course would transfer, but not the grade/score. Please note that the following UCSB statistics courses cannot satisfy the Pre-Comm Statistics requirement: PSY 10B, PSTAT 109, and POL S 15.

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 UC 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.

Note that if you choose to repeat a pre-major course, whether by purposely failing the first time or otherwise, your pre-major GPA after re-taking must be at least 3.0 in order to be eligible for the full major. Students with repeated courses do not have the option to "appeal" to get into the major (see Question #15 below), because repeating a course is already a "second chance" opportunity that other students do not get. 

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 Department of Communication 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. 

Note that if you choose to repeat a pre-major course, whether by purposely failing the first time or otherwise, your pre-major GPA after re-taking must be at least 3.0 in order to be admitted to the full major. Students with repeated courses do not have the option to "appeal" to get into the major (see Question #15 below), because repeating a course is already a "second chance" opportunity that other students do not get. 

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, and if you have not repeated any pre-major communication classes, then you will be eligible to appeal. (Also, if you are a transfer student whose entire pre-major GPA is based only on one class, you are eligible to appeal with a 2.7, which is one B- grade.) 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 you are not eligible to appeal, then you must find a new major. We do NOT make exceptions to allow ineligible students 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.