Advising FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions - ENVS Advising


1. What do I do if I am having difficulty getting classes I need?

2. How do I get academic advising for the major?

3.  What is Complementary Studies requirement, and does it apply to me?

4. Can I double count courses?

5. How do I change my major or emphasis within ENVS?

6. How do I graduate?

7. Can I take a class Credit/No Credit?

8. If I get a 'D' in a course will it still count for the major?

9. How do I find an internship?

10. Can I do an internship in the summer?

11. Can I take CHEM 115 or another major course at a community college or elsewhere?

12. How do I get credit towards the major for coursework taken elsewhere?

13. How do I get credit towards the major for study abroad courses?

14. What are my study abroad options?

15. Where do I find information on scholarships?

16. What is the GWAR writing requirement?

17. How do I take a class at UC Berkeley or a semester at another CSU?

18. How should I use Early Priority Registration?



1. What do I do if I am having difficulty getting classes I need?

a. Follow the registration guidelines, and register as early as you can.

b. Plan ahead!  Check the advising grid for your degree/emphasis to learn which classes are offered frequently and which classes are offered only rarely (F=Fall, S=Spring, E =Every, R=Rare). Take rarely offered classes opportunistically as you discover that they are offered. For example, if you want the Biology of Fungi and see on the schedule that it is being offered, grab it, because it is not offered every year.

c. Don't wait until your junior year to start taking major courses - mix GE requirements with major requirements early on.  (For example, NRMC majors should try to take Bio 230 and 240 as part of lower-division GE.) And while we recommend that you complete 15 units of major requirements before beginning your emphasis requirements, this is not set in stone. Some required lower division courses are offered at community colleges; use to be sure the community college course is an exact equivalent.  Community college tuition is lower than it is at SFSU.

d. Try to get your prerequisites out of the way early on, so that you can register for a larger range of courses and won't get stuck waiting to get a course until you complete the prerequisites. For example, B.A. students should try to take CHEM 115 or 180 early on because one or the other is a prerequisite for ENVS/CHEM 380. NRMC majors should take BIOL 230 and 240 early because they are prerequisites for many upper-division required biology courses. (Click here for information about taking BIO 230 and 240 at a community college)

e. If you don’t get into a class you want, attend the first week of class meetings and ask the instructor (politely) to be admitted.  Sending him/her an e-mail is a good idea; explain that you need the course for your major, that you are so many semesters from graduating, and explain whether  the course is a major requirement or major elective.

f. If you are close to graduation but haven’t been able to get necessary courses, you have a couple of options. You can speak with an advisor and propose a substitute course. This is appropriate if you have tried once or twice to get into the required course without success. Ask an advisor beforehand about a substitution: don’t just take a course and assume that your substitute is okay. If it is a concentration course, ask your concentration advisor. If it is a major course, ask the program director. Second, depending on the course, you may be able to take an equivalent or a suitable substitute at another campus - one of the many nearby community colleges or even UC Berkeley. Course equivalence can be checked out at In many cases, the major will accept courses that are not exact equivalents, but are similar or are otherwise suitable substitutes. Again, ask an advisor beforehand. .

2. How do I get academic advising for the major?

First, check our website; some of your questions may be answered there. For advising, see the “Advising” page of the ENVS website to figure out the person you should see, which will depend on whether your question concerns the ENVS core or is an emphasis question.  Contact information for all of the above can be found on the Advising page of the website or on the bulletin board next to HSS 332.

3.  What is the Complementary Studies requirement, and does it apply to me?

SFSU requires all B.A. students to complete 12 units of courses outside their major in order to ensure that students learn outside their major discipline.  Because the number of units required to complete the ENVS B.A. is relatively small, (usually 45 units), we require students to take an additional 12 units of non-ENVS courses that form a coherent body of knowledge (that is, Complementary Studies courses cannot be double-counted with the courses used to satisfy major requirements*).  With the approval of an advisor in the major, courses which fulfill complementary studies units may be lower or upper division units, resident or transfer units, or units taken in approved study abroad programs.   For more information on complementary studies, download this pdf.

4.  Can I double-count courses?

You can never double count units, and you can’t double-count courses within the major.  For example, if you’re in the ESSJ emphasis, you will see that ENVS 570, Local Sustainability, appears in two places on the grid:  It can be used to satisfy the “Sustainability and Social Justice” requirement in the ENVS core—but if you use it that way, you can’t use the course in the ESSJ “short list of electives.” 

In other cases, however, you may be able to able to double-count; that is, use a single course to satisfy two requirements. For example, GEOG 101, Our Physical Environment:  is a course and units that can fulfill the “Human Environment” section of major electives, and at the same time the course can fulfill a lower-division GE requirement.

5. How do I change my major or emphasis within ENVS?

a.  Changing from an ENVS B.A. to a B.S. (or vice versa) is the same as changing your major, so you have to use the university’s Change of Major form (available from the SFSU website). Fill it out, get the required signature, and bring it to the ENVS/PACE office in HSS 210. 

The university discourages changes of major if you’ve completed over 96 units in your original degree program, so if you do want to do it, you need to show that you can complete your new major within a relatively short time.   If you have over 96 units, you must petition to change your major using the Changing Major with 96 Units or More form, which requires seeking advising and signatures from both the ENVS department and the Undergraduate Advising Center.

To change from one B.A. emphasis to another, you don’t need to fill out the change of major form, but you should be sure to see your advisor so that you’re on track in your new emphasis.

6. How do I graduate?

A year before you think you want to graduate, fill out an advising grid and see a concentration advisor or major advisor to see how you are doing. To graduate, you need to fill out a graduation application, and get it signed first by your concentration advisor and then by the ENVS Program Coordinator. The applications are available online. List any non-SFSU courses that you’re using to fulfill major requirements with the original titles and course numbers rather than with the SFSU equivalents. Make sure to list any work-in-progress classes on the front page of the application. If you will be graduating in summer, list here any summer courses you will be taking. Once the application is complete with signatures, take it to the Bursar’s office and pay a filing fee (currently $100), and then hand it in to the Student Services building.  Deadlines for submitting graduation applications are typically around the third week of the semester in which you want to graduate – late September for fall graduation, and late February for spring and summer graduation. Note: there is no Fall graduation ceremony. If you graduate in the Fall you may come back in the Spring for commencement. In May, the ENVS Program has its own celebration just for ENVS graduates – usually during the week before the campus-wide commencement.

7. Can I take a course Credit/No Credit?

Yes – the major has no rules about whether or not a course is taken for a grade or CR/NC. However, SFSU has an overall limit on the number of courses taken CR/NC: No more than 30% of the units earned at this university and applied toward an undergraduate degree may be taken for CR grades.  To earn credit you must receive a grade of C- or higher. See the SFSU bulletin for more info on the CR/NC grading option.

8. If I get a ‘D’ in a course, will it still count for the major?

Starting with the Fall 2009 bulletin, majors are required to earn a grade of C or better in ENVS 300 and ENVS 450. You cannot continue in the major with a grade below a C in these courses. For all other courses the major has no minimum grade requirement. A grade of D- counts, but an F grade does not. University rules require that you earn an overall major GPA of 2.0 or better. 

9. How do I find an internship?

Subscribe to the ENVS list-serv to see job and internship openings available to all majors.  Click here to subscribe: You can also visit the Jobs & Internships page on the ENVS website. This page has a database with a list of environmental organizations in the Bay Area, and links to environmental job sites. A similar database is on the ENVS 680 webpage. You can also check with any of the ENVs faculty for ideas.  Or, if you know of a particular organization you’d like to work for, check its website for openings.

10. Can I do an internship in the summer?

Yes unless it’s an EPA internship (EPA internships are only offered during the regular academic year), you can do your internship service during the summer and take the internship course, ENVS 680, the following fall.  Be aware that you need to do certain homework assignments for the internship course during the summer. You must get a signed work agreement from your supervisor and you must keep a log/journal while you’re doing your service   (a total of 8-10 pages, single spaced); and if your internship ends during the summer you should have your supervisor complete an evaluation of your work. See the ENVS 680 webpage for course information including a draft work agreement form, supervisor’s evaluation form and details on the log/journal assignment.  Email the supervisor evaluation to Glenn Fieldman at

11.  Can I take CHEM 115 or another major course at a community college or elsewhere?

Yes, community colleges offer exact equivalents of some of the courses that are required for ENVS majors, and taking courses there is a good way to take classes that are difficult to get into at SF State. Check out for equivalent courses.  NRMC majors wanting to take the BIO 230/240 sequence at a community college should read this first.

 12. How do I get credit towards the major for coursework taken elsewhere?

If you have coursework from other colleges, there are two routes to getting it to count toward the major:

a. If you took equivalent courses at a California community college, CSU or UC these courses should show up on your transcript when you get your transfer evaluation. You can check to see course equivalents. Anything indicated as an equivalent to one of our major courses automatically can be used for the major. You do not need to see an advisor to get approval to count exact equivalent courses.

b. If you have non-equivalent courses that you believe are similar to major courses, you should see either the program director (for major core and electives) or your concentration advisor (for concentration courses). In general the best way to proceed is to come to the advisor with a proposal in the form of “For course xxx in the major I would like to substitute course yyy taken at such and such school.” Have the course number and full title, along with how many units (semester or quarter). It is also helpful if you bring course descriptions for the courses taken elsewhere.

13. How do I get credit  for study abroad courses?

The ENVS program coordinator can approve study abroad courses to be used to meet major requirements – that is, you can be exempted from a course requirement in the major based on your study abroad experience. Be sure to see the program coordinator before you go abroad to review the courses you plan to take. This does not mean you are granted SFSU “credit” for your study abroad work – if you want official SFSU credit you must go through the Office of International Programs.

14. What are my study abroad options?

Check out the Study Abroad page on the ENVS website.

15. Where do I find information on scholarships?

Check out the Scholarship page on the ENVS website.  SFSU also has a scholarships page:

16. What is the GWAR writing requirement?

Writing requirements have been integrated with content courses at SFSU.  Each program has designated a course to serve as its writing course; ENVS majors will get writing in the curriculum in ENVS 450: Environmental Law and Policy – GWAR. This course will teach Law and Policy through intensive writing, and (along with ENG 214 which is a prerequisite) will serve to satisfy your writing requirements.  You must earn a grade of C or better in ENVS 450 in order to pass and receive credit. WE STRONGLY ENCOURAGE YOU TO TAKE ENVS 450 EARLY ON IN THE MAJOR. (Note that passing ENVS 300 with a grade of C or better is now a prerequisite for ENVS 450).

17. How do I take a class at UC Berkeley or a semester at another CSU?

As an SFSU student you can cross-register for a class at UC Berkeley. There are also special arrangements to allow you be a visiting student at another CSU campus for a semester. For more info on these and other special enrollment programs see:

18. How should I use Early Priority Registration?

This is a hard question to answer generally because it may change from semester to semester. Here are some rough guidelines: Definitely use early priority registration to get: ENVS 300, USP 514 & 515, PLSI 354, BIOL 230 & 240, and CHEM 115 or 180. Possibly use early priority registration for: ENVS 450 and ENVS/CHEM 380. You definitely do not need priority registration for ENVS 680 or ENVS 690. . Comments on these guidelines are always welcome – please send them to


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Contact ENVS

Hours: Monday through Friday, 9am - 5pm


Phone: (415) 338-1149

Fax: (415) 405-0771

Address:1600 Holloway Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94132, HSS Building, Room 210