Frequently Asked Questions


What is BISP?

The Berkeley International Study Program (BISP) is a unique study abroad opportunity at the top-ranked University of California, Berkeley. BISP students come from a variety of academic backgrounds, spending one or two semesters taking excellent and innovative courses on a space-availability basis. We offer a wide range of classes, cross-cultural events and activities, and advising services for visiting international and domestic students in a vibrant multicultural learning environment.

Check out Academic Overview to learn more.

Why should I consider studying abroad through BISP?

Many students tell us BISP is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, or even a life-changing experience. It is an excellent preparation for graduate study and future career growth. You will grow and learn so much, develop resiliency and life skills, build intercultural competencies, and make new friends from California and around the world. Not to mention all of the fun, new activities and travel you will engage in. And what better place to experience all this than at a globally ranked university in beautiful, sunny Berkeley, California.

Experience Brilliance with us! Learn more about the BISP Student Experience.

What type of advising support is available?

BISP has an excellent team of advisors, including Cultural Peer Mentors, who are there to support you every step of the way. You can expect support from your initial inquiry through the application process, travel preparation, course enrollments, and for the duration of your time in Berkeley.  We help you make the most of your experience in Berkeley and beyond with alumni opportunities. You are never alone, and you will meet many people along the way that will help you understand our program and how things work at UC Berkeley.


Who is eligible to participate in BISP?

BISP welcomes qualified students of all backgrounds, including:

  • Current students at the undergraduate, graduate and community college level
  • Post-baccalaureates and prospective graduate students
  • High school graduates over 18 years of age, or other graduates taking a gap year or time off
  • Working professionals changing careers
  • International as well as U.S. students
How can I apply to BISP? 

BISP has agreements with over 75 universities, in nearly 20 countries. Most students who participate in BISP are from these partner institutions. Such students will apply through their international office, undergo screening for qualifications (which may include academic achievement, proficiency in English, and appropriate study fit) and then be nominated to BISP.

In addition to our partner universities, we also welcome qualified independent students from across the globe. Independent students apply directly to our program, details for which are on Apply.

When can I apply for BISP?

Application deadlines depend on whether you are a student at one of our partner institutions or an independent student.

Students from partner institutions, inquire at your international office about local deadlines to apply and how to be nominated to BISP. They are often earlier than deadlines published here.

Independent students (not a student at one of our partners), apply during the application periods, February to June for Fall semester and August to October for Spring semester. Earlier is always advised to allow sufficient processing time for the student visa. Specific deadlines will vary each academic year and will be regularly updated on the Apply page.

When do classes start?

BISP operates during the academic year (Fall and Spring semesters). Each semester has 15 weeks of classes, RRR Week (final exam preparation) and Final Exam Week.

Fall: mid-August to mid-December
Spring: mid-January to mid-May

Do I need a certain grade point average (GPA) to be accepted to BISP?

No. While BISP does not have a minimum GPA requirement, we do require that all students have high academic achievement verified by their home university in order to be eligible for studying abroad. Students must have strong skills in English writing and speaking, as well as a strong interest in studying at a challenging university.


What course subjects can I take at UC Berkeley?

Your university/academic program may partner with a specific BISP program in one field (i.e. Sociology, Physical or Biological Sciences, or Arts & Humanities) or may have an agreement with a more general BISP program, called BISP in Letters and Science. The courses you can take will depend on the requirements of those program agreements. Check with your department or university’s international office to see which BISP program they have an agreement with and what you are eligible to participate in.

Students who come as independent students will participate in our BISP in Letters and Science program, which offers courses in over 75 academic departments at UC Berkeley in the Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities, and Biological and Physical Sciences.

Will the courses I take count for my degree?

Yes, usually. The majority of BISP students take courses that count towards their degree at their home university. Please contact your home university coordinator regarding the number of UC Berkeley courses you need to take and how to transfer Berkeley course credit to your home degree program.

Participating in BISP does not count towards a degree at UC Berkeley.

What are the classes like?

BISP students often say the Berkeley courses are amazing and an incredible learning experience. Berkeley courses are created by our renowned faculty, who are the top scholars in their fields. Each course is unique and reflects the instructor’s approach to the topic, teaching style, and chosen methods to assess student learning. Class meetings often incorporate a combination of lecture by the instructor and guided discussion among the students. 

U.S. courses operate on a system of continual assessment. That is, expect a schedule of ongoing class meetings, readings, assignments, exams, papers and projects throughout the semester upon which your final grade is calculated.

What are the language skills necessary to succeed at Berkeley?

Most courses at UC Berkeley are taught in English, with the exception of some courses in the foreign language departments. To succeed at Berkeley, it is important that you have an excellent command of the English language:  speaking, listening, reading and writing. Speaking skills are especially important in Berkeley’s discussion-oriented and student-centered classroom style. Active participation is expected in many classes, and learning can be assessed in the form of written papers and oral presentations in addition to traditional exams.

BISP requires a minimum TOEFL 90, IELTS 7.0, or Duolingo 125 test score. This requirement can be waived for students whose language of instruction is at least 50% English at their home university or who have completed one or more years of high school or university that has English as the primary language of instruction.

How difficult will the courses be at UC Berkeley?

The University of California, Berkeley, is a top-tier public university that is consistently highly regarded in global and national rankings. Although coursework may be considered rigorous by some, BISP students tend to do very well in their courses. You can expect a high volume of reading, problem sets, and homework assignments; however, don’t let that deter you! The type and amount of assignments varies from professor to professor. To support your journey, BISP advising staff may refer students to a variety of free academic support services such as the Student Learning Center, the Writing Center, and subject librarians. Check out Student Resources to learn more about how to make the most of your brilliant academic journey.

What kind of support is there for students with disabilities? 

All learners are welcome at Cal! Through Disability Support Services (DSS) at UC Berkeley Extension, BISP students can request accommodations to support academic achievement. Once accepted to BISP, please contact DSS as soon as possible to plan for additional support.


Will I be a registered UC Berkeley student? 

BISP students register through UC Berkeley Extension’s Concurrent Enrollment program. You take the same rigorous courses as UC Berkeley students and have access to the libraries, online course systems, and many other resources that Berkeley students have.

What is Concurrent Enrollment?

The Concurrent Enrollment (CE) program is the means by which visiting students, like those invited by BISP, enroll in UC Berkeley campus courses on a space-availability basis without formal admission to the University. BISP students are subject to Concurrent Enrollment policies.

If I enroll through UC Berkeley Extension, am I taking Extension coursework?

No. Students who enroll through BISP are taking UC Berkeley coursework side-by-side with UCB students on a space-availability basis. This means that UC Berkeley students enroll first; then, visiting students (such as BISP students) are added to classes.

How does course enrollment work?

Enrollment is on a space-availability basis, which means there must be room in the class. Hundreds of courses have space, and BISP staff provide information about those courses and how to get enrolled at the beginning of the semester. If there are prerequisites required for a particular course, it is the student’s responsibility to review these requirements in the course guide, communicate with their home institution, as needed, and to only register for courses that they are prepared for.

How does grading work?

BISP students are held to the same standards and requirements as UC Berkeley degree-seeking students. The standard grading system for most courses is A, B, C, D, F (with + and -), and students can elect to be graded Pass/No Pass if desired and allowed by their home university. These grades, and not the numerical score, will be listed on the official transcript at the end of the semester.

Will I get a  transcript?

Yes. After the completion of the semester, you may order an official transcript from UC Berkeley Extension that will list the UC Berkeley courses completed, with a notation that the classes were taken through Concurrent Enrollment.

It is our hope that these courses can be transferred to any other institution, but it is your responsibility to confirm that with your own college or university well in advance of registration.


What kind of housing is available?

There are many options for housing for our visiting students very close to the campus. Most students choose to live in a local apartment that they rent or lease for the duration of their stay. Incoming BISP students often find apartments from outgoing BISP students.

Some students prefer to live in dormitory-style accommodations, where they share a room with another international or U.S. student and have meals in a cafeteria. International House (I-House), right on the edge of campus, is popular due to the variety of activities and chances to meet students from all over the world. Space is limited at I-House, so apply early. 

Detailed housing resources are shared with students upon acceptance to BISP.

What if I get sick?

There are high-quality clinics and hospitals within a mile of UC Berkeley where you can get treatment for illness or injury. For mental health, BISP students may use the on-campus Tang Center. Confidential individual and group counseling is available in multiple languages. 

Am I required to have health insurance?

Yes. All students attending UC Berkeley must have health insurance. You will be automatically enrolled in the health plan through UC Berkeley Extension. This plan includes local clinics and hospitals.
Visit Student Resources and Costs to learn more.

How do I stay safe in Berkeley and during my travels?

The campus is relatively safe, and Berkeley is located in a large metropolitan area. With any large urban area, there are crime awareness and prevention measures to be taken, such as keeping an eye on your possessions, walking with a friend at night or utilizing free night campus escort services. UC Berkeley has its own police force and many “blue light” stations where you can call for assistance at any time. 

How easy is it to get to different places around the San Francisco Bay Area and Berkeley? 

Students can easily walk, bike or take transit to class year-round due to Berkeley’s mild weather. Many BISP students find that public transportation is quite simple and readily available. Whether a student commutes to campus by a local AC transit bus or travels to San Francisco by the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system, navigating public transit in the Bay Area is relatively easy.