BISP Special Focus Program


Overview and Program Benefits

For those visiting students who will be taking courses at UC Berkeley as Concurrent Enrollment students, the Berkeley International Study Program provides an option to follow the BISP Special Focus program. Students who choose to participate in this program will be part of an active community of scholars and will take coursework, and complete a project, that fulfills the requirements for their selected BISP Special Focus. For students who have not yet been accepted to a Concurrent Enrollment program at UC Berkeley, go to BISP Program for additional information and how to apply.

Click on the links below to a description for each of the BISP Special Focus topics:

In addition to the three elective courses in the BISP Special Focus, all students will complete a culminating project of their choosing through the required independent study and research course. The culminating project will be shared with other BISP students via a short talk, poster, shared paper, or other type of presentation.

BISP will recommend additional programs and lectures on campus that may be of interest to students in the BISP Certificate Program and provide opportunities for students in this area to come together during the semester to discuss topics of interest. 


The BISP Special Focus program is open to any visiting (non-matriculated) student, domestic or international, enrolling in UC Berkeley courses as a Concurrent Enrollment student through UC Berkeley Extension. Preference for participation will be given to students who are enrolled in BISP, but students from other Concurrent Enrollment programs may be considered. Please contact BISP for more information.

The BISP Special Focus program is open to qualified students at many levels of study – undergraduate, post-undergraduate, graduate, post-MA or PhD, and in some cases post-high school (gap year) students. Most of the courses listed on our pre-approved list for each BISP Special Focus program topic are at the undergraduate (bachelor) level. Interested graduate students should contact to inquire about course options at the graduate level.

Curriculum Requirements

All students who are working towards one or more of the BISP Special Focus Program topics must satisfy the following course requirements:

ONE REQUIRED COURSE: Sociology 199, Supervised Independent Study and Research (1-4 units)

  • All BISP Special Focus students will receive a course number from BISP to enroll in Sociology 199 once classes have begun. Students will meet with the course instructor to determine the number of units to take based on the scope of the project they intend to work on.
  • This course is graded on a Pass/No Pass basis only. Students must earn a Pass grade by doing work equivalent to a C- or better.
  • If the BISP Special Focus coursework is spread across multiple terms of enrollment (including summer), the Sociology 199 course must be completed during the last term of enrollment.

THREE ELECTIVE COURSES: taken from the list of pre-approved courses for the BISP Certificate track

  • Three elective courses for the selected BISP Special Focus topics, each a minimum of 3 units per course (unless otherwise specified). Please note: the BBISP Special Focus in Language and Culture has specific requirements for the electives – one must be a language course and then two culture courses for electives.
  • Minimum grade C- for each course, and an average 2.0 for all three courses.
    • Courses will be either upper division (numbered 100 – 199), lower division (numbered 100 or lower), and in some cases a graduate-level course (numbered 200 and above).
    • Students should consult with their BISP Advisor on selecting courses that are appropriate for their chosen BISP Special Focus topic, to make sure that they are fulfilling course requirements and have the necessary preparation and background. 
    • Courses can be taken all in one semester, or spread across multiple terms of enrollment (including summer). Sociology 199 must be completed during the last term of enrollment.
    • Students can use one course to overlap for two different BISP Special Focus topics, if desired. All other courses must be counted separately for only one BISP BISP Special Focus topic.
    • There may be other courses that have not been reviewed for the pre-approved course list, and students may submit requests to BISP for possible approval for the certificate if they are deemed substantially relevant to the respective BISP Special Focus topic.

All BISP (Concurrent Enrollment) students are admitted to courses on a space availability basis, after UC Berkeley degree students have enrolled. The BISP Special Focus topics work best when you can identify at least 6-8 courses you would be interested in taking from the list of pre-approved courses, so that you have alternatives to choose from. Many of the pre-approved courses are anticipated to have space for visiting students.

Applying for the BISP Special Focus Program

Before you can apply for the BISP Special Focus program, you need to first be admitted to UC Extension as a Concurrent Enrollment student, either through BISP or another program. 

  • If you are not already accepted to the BISP Program through your home university if it is on our BISP Partner list, please inquire at your university to apply to be nominated to BISP, and then let us know you are interested in the BISP Special Focus. Please review the Academic Program page for details about the BISP and UC Berkeley advantage.
  • If you are not attending one of our partner universities, you may apply to the BISP program directly as an Independent Student 
  • If you are in another UC Extension Concurrent Enrollment program, please let us know you are interested by contacting us:

Once you are admitted to UC Extension as a Concurrent Enrollment student, please contact BISP as early as possible, preferably before the semester begins, to let us know you are interested in pursuing the BISP Special Focus program and which topic(s) interest you the most. This will allow us to provide information to you including deadlines that are coming up.

More Information

After reviewing the information we provide on our website about the optional BISP Special Focus program, please contact us if you have any questions: