How To Get Into UC Berkeley: Breaking Down Admission Requirements

03/05/202333 minute read
How To Get Into UC Berkeley: Breaking Down Admission Requirements

Receiving a staggering 128,196 applications in the latest admissions cycle, the University of California, Berkeley is one of the most competitive institutions in the United States. UC Berkeley is one of the hardest universities to get into within the University of California system. In This blog, we’ll provide you with tips and strategies on how to get into UC Berkeley in order to maximize your chances of admission.

How hard is it to get into UC Berkeley?

UC Berkeley is one of the most difficult universities to be accepted into, with caps to its enrollment capacity and an increasing number of applicants have increased over the years.

This increase in applicants is reflected in UC Berkeley’s acceptance rate, which has been cut nearly in half in the last decade, dropping from 17.7% in 2012 to under 15.6% in 2023. Students that are accepted to UC Berkeley typically boast a weighted GPA of 4.25-4.61 and the same trend of excellence is also reflected in their extracurriculars.

Getting into UC Berkeley is challenging, but it’s not impossible — especially with a comprehensive personal profile that goes beyond impressive grades and test scores to demonstrate who you are, what’s important to you, and how you’ll contribute to UC Berkeley’s community.

A Day in the Life: UC Berkeley Student

UC Berkeley has not officially released their acceptance rate for the class of 2027; however, given that the university received 125,800 applications and accepted around 19,700 students, its acceptance rate is expected to be around 15.6%.

UC Berkeley Admissions Statistics From the Last Decade
YearApplicantsAccepted StudentsAcceptance Rate
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What does UC Berkeley look for?

The University of California uses a system called the 13-Factor Comprehensive Review System to evaluate applicants. Each campus works with the UC Office of the President to set specific goals and determine how many first-year and transfer students they expect to enroll each fall.

UC Berkeley seeks to enroll students who will contribute to their dynamic learning community. They look for applicants with leadership skills, initiative, tenacity, and intellectual curiosity.

While grades and curriculum choices indicate academic achievement, UC Berkeley considers a broad range of criteria when determining who they admit. The criteria include quantitative and qualitative factors as well as academic and personal accomplishments.

Professionally trained readers review each application using the following faculty-approved criteria. You can find the full explanations for each criterion here.

  • A full record of achievement in college preparatory work in high school
  • Personal qualities of the applicant
  • Likely contributions to the intellectual and cultural vitality of the campus
  • Achievement in academic enrichment programs.
  • Other evidence of achievement
  • Opportunities
  • Challenges

How To Get Into UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley has a selection of minimum requirements for students to be considered for admission — but the great majority of successful applicants far surpass these requirements. While there are always outliers, your academics are among the first criteria admissions officers will look at as an early ‘cutting factor’ to wade through a massive pool of applicants. So strong academics are a must!

1. Achieve a High GPA

The minimum GPA requirement for UC Berkeley applicants is 3.0, but to be truly competitive, students should aim for a GPA of at least 3.89 (unweighted) or 4.25 (weighted) for the best chances of gaining admission.

2. Submit your SAT/ACT Requirements

While UC Berkeley and all the University of California schools do not require SAT or ACT scores to be submitted when making application decisions or awarding scholarships, test scores can be submitted and used as an alternative to fulfill minimum eligibility requirements or for course placement after acceptance and enrollment, and they can help your application stand out.

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3. Submit Your Essays

When it comes to the University of California personal questions, you’ll have eight questions to choose from. From there, you only need to answer 4. Should there be an aspect of you that you want to share, but don’t get the opportunity to, additional comments will be available to include those extra details. See these personal insight questions to start thinking about how you want to answer.

  1. Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes or contributed to group efforts over time.
  2. Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side.
  3. What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?
  4. Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.
  5. Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge. How has this challenge affected your academic achievement?
  6. Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom.
  7. What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?
  8. Beyond what has already been shared in your application, what do you believe makes you stand out as a strong candidate for admissions to the University of California?
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How to Increase Your Chances of Getting into UC Berkeley?

With impressive students all around the world applying to UC Berkeley, what differentiates those who are accepted from those who are not?

1. Achieve stellar academics

Academically, the university’s admissions committee will consider:

  • Your weighted and unweighted GPA through your last two years of high school
  • Planned academic schedule for the 12th grade
  • The pattern of your grades over time
  • The AP, IB, honors, and transferable courses a student has access to and takes advantage of
  • How an applicant’s achievement in courses measures up to competitors
  • AP, IB, and SAT subject test exam scores

2. Highlight the right qualities

Beyond academics, UC Berkeley looks for students with extracurriculars and responses to their personal insight questions that demonstrate these characteristics:

  • Leadership ability
  • Tenacity
  • Initiative
  • Insight
  • Originality
  • Motivation
  • Intellectual independence
  • Maturity
  • Character
  • Responsibility
  • Demonstrated concern for others and the community

3. Ace your personal insight questions

When considering your answers to the UC personal insight questions, admissions officers will look for evidence of initiative, service to others, leadership, cultural engagement, persistence, motivation, and special potential. Achievement is considered within the context of the opportunities available to the applicant.

When discussing hardships, write about how you have confronted and overcome them and reflect on how you have learned from obstacles to highlight the character traits that UC Berkeley wants on their campus.

4. Take recommended courses

Courses that are not mandatory to take or report, but could benefit your college application, include

5. Participate in the right extracurriculars

UC Berkeley takes a holistic approach to assessing applications, meaning that both academic and non-academic features of an application are important. The university wants students who will contribute to the intellectual and cultural vitality of their campus.

Extracurriculars that show how likely an applicant is to do this can make a big difference in admissions outcomes. For more tips on how to maximize your extracurriculars for UC Berkeley, check out our ebook: How to Build an Extracurricular Profile for Top US Universities.

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How to Apply to UC Berkeley?

With hundreds of students applying to UC Berkeley and many thousands applying across the University of California system’s nine campuses, the UC application was created to streamline the process.

The application timeline for University of California applicants is as follows:

Key Deadlines for UC Schools
DateApplication Status
August 1UC Application Opens
November 1UC starts accepting applications
November 30Last day to submit applications
Late MarchFirst-year applicants receive decisions
Late AprilDecisions for most transfer applicants released

UC Application Sections at a Glance

About You

This section is where you include basic information about you and your family.

Campuses & Majors

In this section, you’ll select which campuses you’d like to apply to and mark your major if you have one. You may choose “undecided” if you haven’t chosen a major yet.

Academic History

This section is where you’ll record your high school courses and grades.

Test Scores

The UC schools do not consider ACT and SAT scores in their admission decisions. If you need an alternative method of fulfilling your minimum eligibility requirements, you may add these scores as part of your application.

You will record your scores for AP exams, IB exams, TOEFL or IELTS, and International exams on separate pages. If you haven’t taken these tests yet, you’ll need to indicate if you’re planning on taking them in the future.

Activities & Awards

Record the activities and awards you’re most proud of and the ones that you believe would make you a great candidate for UC Berkeley admission. Six categories classify the awards and honors:

  • Award or honor
  • Educational preparation programs
  • Extracurricular activity
  • Other coursework
  • Volunteering/Community service
  • Work Experience

Scholarships & Programs

In this section, you can select any scholarship categories that apply to you. The UC system offers support services while you’re at a UC. If you’re interested in their Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), you indicate it in this section.

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International Student Requirements

UC Berkeley students represent over 50 countries. International students can apply as a freshman or as a transfer student using the UC application.

For students whose primary language isn’t English but demonstrate English proficiency, UC Berkeley accepts results from any of the following language tests:

If you submit the TOEFL test results to one UC campus, they will automatically go to all campuses you apply to. You must submit IELTS and DET results to each campus separately.

How Crimson helped Dafi get into UC Berkeley

Is UC Berkeley Right For You?

There are multiple factors that come into play when considering whether a university is a right fit for you. To start, consider these questions:

  • Does UC Berkeley excel in programs related to your planned area of study?
  • Does living on an urban campus in Northern California sound like a fitting environment for you?
  • Will the university culture and social life match your personality? University life goes beyond academics — what will your average day look like attending this college?

Before choosing UC Berkeley, examine the pros and cons and determine if they align with your interests, goals, and personality. If your academics and expectations align with UC Berkeley, you should apply! If not, you might like one of the other UC schools more — or you may want to check out these other leading US universities!

UC Berkeley Overview

Founded in 1868 in Berkeley, California, the University of California, Berkeley was originally born with the hope, originating from the state’s constitution, to “contribute even more than California’s gold to the glory and happiness of advancing generations.” 

Set in Northern California’s Bay Area, Berkeley is an energetic city situated about 20 minutes east of the city of San Francisco and about an hour north of Silicon Valley giants like Apple, Google and Facebook. Considered one of the US’s most prestigious public universities, UC Berkeley is home to 14 schools and colleges, including a number of renowned graduate and professional schools like the Haas School of Business, the Division of Computing, Data Science & Society, the School of Law and the Graduate School of Journalism.

UC Berkeley has consistently been socially and academically regarded as one of the top universities in the nation. The 2022 US News National University Rankings place the university at 22nd in the US, and the 2022 QS World University Rankings place it at 32nd in the world, positioning UC Berkeley among (and even above) many of the most competitive universities across the globe! Alongside other UC schools, we’ve listed UC Berkeley as second to only the University of California, Los Angeles.

This high achieving institution offers over 350 degree programs, including more than 150 undergraduate majors and minors across 50 fields of study. Its diverse student population consists of 17.5% international students and 21% transfer students, and nearly one quarter of current freshmen are first-generation college students.

Final Thoughts

The University of California, Berkeley appeals to students all over the world for many reasons. Its academic rigor, high achieving programs and alumni, and ideal location are just a few of the factors that attract ambitious high school students. 

Accepting opportunities available in your school and community is an important way to showcase the type of person you are now, and the potential you will bring with you to campus. 

To maximize your chances of admissions success, it’s critical to get started early on your college application and ensure you have plenty of time to build a personal profile that showcases your strengths, priorities and potential.

Crimson’s global network of university admissions experts are themselves former and current students at the high-caliber institutions our students strive for, and they’re available to help you craft an application that demonstrates the exact qualities that make you a good fit for UC Berkeley.

Schedule a free consultation today to begin your journey to your dream university!

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What Makes Crimson Different

UC Berkeley FAQs

Where is UC Berkeley located?

UC Berkeley’s sprawling campus is located in the San Francisco Bay.

Its main campus, housing the majority of its academic buildings, sits on the lower 178 acres adjacent to the city’s downtown area. With sunny beaches about an hour away and snowy mountains about three hours away, recreational opportunities abound for UC Berkeley students!

What is UC Berkeley known for?

UC Berkeley is known broadly for its academic excellence and rigor as well as the breadth of its study offerings. Its Computer Science program is one of the best in the country and it is consistently ranked among the top five research universities in the world.

UC Berkeley’s undergraduate programs are divided amongst six divisions: the Arts & Humanities Division, the Biological Sciences Division, the Mathematical & Physical Sciences Division, the Social Sciences Division, the Undergraduate Studies Division and the Division of Computing, Data Science and Society.

What is UC Berkeley’s Ranking?

The 2022 US News National University Rankings place UC Berkeley at 22nd in the US and the 2023 QS World University Rankings place it at 27th in the world.

What are the Best Majors at UC Berkeley?

Although there is no shortage of study pathways available to UC Berkeley admits, its most popular majors are the following:

  • Social Sciences (19%)
  • Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services (12%)
  • Biological and Biomedical Sciences (10%)
  • Engineering (10%)
  • Mathematics and Statistics (6%)
  • Multi-Interdisciplinary Studies (6%)
  • Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services (4%)
  • Physical Sciences (4%)
  • English Language and Literature/Letters (3%)

Big Questions Ep. 13: UC Berkeley