Equivilancies & Substitutions

Obtaining Approval for Transfer Courses for Your Major (Equivalency Form)

If an SF State Biology student plans to use a course taken at another university to satisfy a Biology Major requirement, the student must have this approved by a Biology advisor and the chair of the Department of Biology. The Equivalency Form is used to obtain permission from your major advisor to use a non-SF State course as part of your major program. Continuing students must consult with a major advisor well in advance to discuss every single class in the major that may be taken at another college, including courses in math, chemistry, biology, and physics.

This Transfer to the Major is a Two-Step Process

First, the University must approve the transfer. 

Second, the Department must approve the transfer.


Before the Department can consider accepting the course for major credit, the University must approve the transfer of the course, designated on the Transfer Credit Report available through the online Student Center. Transfer students submit their official transcripts to the Registrar's Office prior to entering the University.  Approved courses are transferred for specified units as indicated on the Transfer Credit Report.

To determine equivalency of a transfer course, the the following resource may be of use:

• Articulation web site https://www.assist.org

UC Berkeley Extension courses: In general, we do not accept UC Berkeley Extension courses for use in the Biology major. We follow the same policy that UC Berkeley Biology programs follow: they do not accept UC Berkeley Extension courses (see policy here https://nature.berkeley.edu/advising/courses-grades#extension)

For example, these introductory biology courses are NOT accepted: MCELLBI X15A, MCELLBI X15.1A, INTEGBI X15B, INTEGBI X15.1B.

STEP TWO:  DEPARTMENT APPROVAL (updated for current online approach for review and approval)

Filling out the equivalency form:  The student enters the requested contact information on the top of the form.  Up to three courses may be listed for approval on one form.  For each course, indicate the transfer campus, the course number and title at the transfer campus, the number of units, and specify the semester or quarter when the course was taken, as well as the grade received.  Then, fill out the same information for the SF State course.  The "important notes" below explains restrictions on how many units may be applied toward the major.

HOW TO OBTAIN Department Approval.

If the transfer course is listed on the student's Transfer Credit report as equivalent to a majors course OR there is an existing articulation agreement listed on the articulation web site (https://www.assist.org), then the student is not required to meet with a Biology Advisor. They should submit their form with the supporting assist.org articulation agreement along with an explanation of the request to biology@sfsu.edu. The department level approval will be finalized and the equivalency form will be returned to the student.

Here is an example of the equivalency form filled out: SAMPLE EQUIVALENCY FORM.

However, if there is any variation from the specified assist.org articulation agreement, then the student must meet with their Biology Major Advisor to have their transfer equivalency reviewed for approval.

If the transfer units are not specified clearly by an assist.org articulation agreement, or if the transfer units were completed at a campus that is not covered by an official articulation agreement, then the student must meet with their Biology Major Advisor for review of the transfer units.

In meeting with the Biology Major Advisor, the student should provide these items:

  • The student should have available electronic copies of the syllabi for the courses or the URLs that link to the syllabi. Generally, the course catalog descriptions are not sufficient to determine equivalency. However, for transfer courses completed at a four-year college, it may be useful to have information on what courses biology majors complete. These materials will help either the advisor or the instructor of a course determine equivalency.
  • The student should have available electronic copies of their Transfer Credit Report and SF State Transcript (available from Student Center)

Once the Equivalency Form(s) is approved by the major advisor, the major advisor will forward the equivalency forms to the Department of Biology (biology@sfsu.edu). After the form(s) is approved by the Chair of the Department of Biology, or their representative, the form(s) will be returned to the student.

The student is required to keep the electronic copy of their approved equivalency forms for:

  • demonstrating to an instructor that they have completed a prerequisite course with the appropriate grade,
  • submitting with their graduation application when they meet with the major advisor for approval of their application,
  • submitting with their graduation application when they submit their application to the Department of Biology for Chair level approval.

Important notes:

  • Students cannot receive more units than the University has awarded on the Transfer Credit Report and cannot receive more units than the equivalent SF State course. 
    • For example, City College of San Francisco Math 80 is a 5-unit statistics course that is equivalent to SF State Math 124 which is 3 units. While all 5 units count toward the student's 120 units for graduation, only 3 units will count toward the Biology degree
    • For example, Coastline Community College Biol C180 + C185 = 9 units, and is equivalent to SF State Biol 230 + 240 = 10 units. The student will have 9 units count for their Biology degree, and will make up the missing unit in an upper division major elective.
  • Semester and quarter units:  2 semester units = 3 quarter units.
  • Courses taken at a junior college (two-year college) can fulfill ONLY LOWER DIVISION REQUIREMENTS. However, such course work may be given "content only" credit if the course work is deemed equivalent to an SF State upper division course. Upper division units must be made up by taking additional upper division major elective(s).

Transfer students must meet with their Biology Advisor and obtain both Advisor and Departmental Approval during their first two weeks at SF State. Continuing students must obtain approval of their transfer courses as soon as the course appears on their Transfer Credit Report.  Do not wait until you submit your graduation application for approval of your transfer courses, as they may not be accepted for transfer by the Department.

Note: It is the responsibility of the student to keep all Department-approved Equivalency and Substitution Forms to submit with the graduation application.