How to Get Into UC Berkeley 2021: Acceptance Rate & Tips

UC Berkeley has a reputation for academic excellence across a huge variety of disciplines. It is also steeped in a culture of free expression and individuality.

The sprawling UC Berkeley campus has been iconic throughout each stage in California’s transformation in recent decades. Through robust undergraduate and graduate business programs at the Haas School of Business, Berkeley sends young professionals to top firms across the region and the country.

The university’s ties to the San Francisco Bay Area tech scene are particularly storied. Yet opportunities also abound in the sciences, engineering, humanities, social sciences, and arts. UC Berkeley is one of the few universities that truly does it all at the highest level.

And with this overall excellence comes stiff competition for admission. Berkeley has maintained its post-hippy aura yet begun to draw students with diverse backgrounds and ambitions. And the vast majority of these students are at the top of their class.

Given that UC Berkeley received over 112,000 applications for its Class of 2025, it’s staggering to consider how many gifted and driven students are turned away. And this represents a 28.1% increase in total applicants over the previous year, when just over 88,000 students applied for a seat in the Class of 2024. It’s worth taking a look into the admissions report to see just how impressive the admitted students have really been.

University of California Berkeley

Acceptance Statistics: Class of 2024

Applications AdmittedAcceptance rate
88,06615,46117.6%

GPA

Unweighted GPA3.86-4.00
Weighted GPA4.27-4.62

ACT/SAT Scores

Unweighted GPA3.86-4.00
Weighted GPA4.27-4.62
ACT*29-35
SAT*1330-1530

Notes:

For more detailed information on transfer applications and demographics, see UC Berkeley’s official Student Profile for the Class of 2024.

The numbers are daunting to say the least. But they don’t always give the full picture. And they’re representative of macro trends in worldwide education that are outside any single person’s control. That’s why it’s more effective to first understand these numbers in context, then use your time to focus on preparing your own personal application as best you can. 

What do you need to apply to UC Berkeley?

UC Berkeley, like every other university in the University of California system, uses the UC Application as its exclusive application portal. And in May 2020, the UCs decided to completely eliminate the consideration of standardized test scores in their admissions process, going one step further than the majority of other US universities, which went test-optional. This means that UC Berkeley will only look at an in-state applicant’s ACT or SAT scores in order to assess their eligibility for the California statewide admissions guarantee, using this as an alternate way to fulfill eligibility requirements for course enrollment after matriculation. 

Though this change in testing is good news for many, it puts added emphasis on distinguishing yourself through other areas of your application. And you’ll need to do this by the UC’s only application deadline of November 30. So what are your options for making your application to UC Berkeley shine?

Here is the essential checklist of materials and information you will need to prepare and submit in order to be considered for admission to UC Berkeley:

If applying for an application fee waiver or the Educational Opportunity Program:

More information: Filling out the UC Application

The UCs also provide a space for additional comments on any issues a student would like to discuss that are not captured fully in other parts of the application. The university system specifies that this should not be an essay. It is worth noting that the UCs do not require nor read recommendation letters at the standard time of submission, but certain campuses may later request them as part of a supplemental review.

For details on submitting financial aid materials to UC Berkeley, use the university’s site on financial aid.

What is UC Berkeley looking for?

Beyond exceptional academic performance, UC Berkeley cares most about their pioneering holistic review of an applicant’s profile. The admissions committee prides itself on evaluating each component of an application with equal weight placed on different areas, from activities, to GPA, to personal insight essays. In this way, the university seeks to admit a diverse group of students, the majority of whom receive financial aid. UC Berkeley sees itself as a champion of accessibility and social mobility in higher education, and its admission decision-making process bears out this ideal.

Here are some key factors to keep in mind when thinking about how your application will be assessed by UC Berkeley:

  1. Academic ambition and achievement
    • First and foremost, UC Berkeley readers will assess your level of academic preparedness. They will measure how many challenging, college-preparatory courses you took and how you performed in these in order to determine whether you are capable of excelling in academics on campus. 
  1. Personal qualities and likely contributions 
    • UC Berkeley values passion, open-mindedness, and uplifting others. It prefers to admit applicants who have formed personally meaningful systems of principles and ethics, and who will use their values to enhance the university’s social life. In addition, UC Berkeley likes to bring quirky hobbies and interests to campus. Readers will be compelled if they can clearly envision how you will contribute to improving the UC Berkeley experience both intellectually and culturally.
  2. Achievement and impact beyond academics
    • Given how many notable alumni UC Berkeley has produced over decades of success, it’s unsurprising to know that leadership and commitment outside of school are big factors in how the admissions team will assess your application. UC Berkeley alumni find success in every field, from acting, to sports, to entrepreneurship, business, technology, and the sciences. Admissions readers are looking for demonstrable dedication to sports, arts, creative or intellectual pursuits, professional activities, or clubs and organizations: they want students who are genuinely passionate about creating impact in their own unique way.

How can you get into UC Berkeley?

There’s no one way to go about being admitted to a school as selective as UC Berkeley, which is a dream school for tens of thousands of students across the world. Nonetheless, there are a few specific things you should do if you’re dedicated to giving yourself the best shot at attending UC Berkeley:

If you’re able to achieve an outstanding GPA in the hardest classes, engage meaningfully with personal interests and community problems, and demonstrate an ability to take charge of your own goals by acting on your principles, you’ll set yourself up to submit an application that will impress the UC Berkeley Admissions Committee. None of this is easy, but if you’re deeply motivated to be at UC Berkeley, use every tactic we’ve listed above in order to show it.

What are your chances of getting into UC Berkeley?

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