Case Studies

Learn How To Gain Admissions in UC Berkeley

Miguel Marfori

Know admission procedure in UC Berkeley

Berkeley, California. It's one of the areas in San Francisco that'll get you into the aura of calmness and relaxation. It's also where the University of California at Berkeley, also known as UC Berkeley, is located. It's popularly known as one of the top universities in the USA and offers tons of things for students to do both in and out of the classroom. It's also enlightened many of its students to write great things about them such as this post from Medium. To top it all off, UC Berkeley has notable alumni who are known worldwide such as Chris Pine, Steve Wozniak and Ashley Judd. Oh, and add the beautiful and illustrious design, and you're already in a place that just feels right at home for you.

But it does make you think: Are you worthy of being part of this university? If you're not sure, not to worry because we got a guide laid out just for you. It'll be a challenge but follow what you see, and you may be part of the alumni that's got some celebrities. Ready? Read on! 

1. Have an idea on what UC Berkeley wants

Unlike most colleges, UC Berkeley does a holistic review which means that all the parts of your application matter which they explain more here. It also means that UC Berkeley is very selective so you’ll be competing with other applicants who want to be part of the university. Another thing to remember is that UC Berkeley doesn’t list down the application requirements like most traditional ways so it can take a bit of time to get used to the kind of system they’re using.

2. Achieve the factors UC Berkeley never say out loud

While UC Berkeley is clear about what they want from a prospective student and firmly state that they're not picky on the parts of an application, there are still some factors they don't say out loud. As reported by PrepScholar, here are the ones UC Berkeley look for underneath: 

  • Good grades in difficult classes

When it comes to grades, UC Berkeley strongly goes for the students who got good grades in difficult classes because it tells them that they’re able to overcome obstacles with the challenges they’ll be facing. It’s also another way for UC Berkeley to see that a student has determination and perseverance to get to where they want to be. 

  • Strong test scores

There's nothing like having excellent test scores to boost your application, so UC Berkeley looks for them too. By having strong test scores, it shows UC Berkeley that a student like you can go above and beyond to reach a goal most applicants would just give up. 

  • Positive impact 

This factor is another way to win UC Berkeley over because beyond the scores and grades they're looking for students who've got that aura and charm that'll boost up their reputation. From the extracurricular activities to the awards, they'll look for students who spend their free time doing things that help them grow and expand their intellect while also giving back to the society that’s helped them live. 

When you’ve got these hidden factors, you’ll raise your chance of getting noticed by UC Berkeley. 

3. Develop the spike from within

Of course, the factors you've just learned aren't enough. You need to have something else that'll get UC Berkeley excited with your application. What would that be? A spike. What's that? According to PrepScholar here, a spike, "is what sets you apart from all other applicants. It goes against the spirit of simply being well rounded. By nature of being unique, you don't fit in with all of the other well-rounded applicants; you do something that truly stands out in a meaningful way." It’s a great way of saying you're going to become the person who'll be on top of the world in the area, where you’ll show everyone you’re no slouch in your area. You are, in fact, the one who can show the world that there is more than meets the eye. 

But reaching that kind of level can be daunting and challenging. If you need a little motivation, think about someone like Martin Scorsese. Just a mention of his name and already you can remember many of his great films. He's considered one of the great directors in history. He might not be good at other things, but with movies, he can make one scene very emotional. Still, you have to remember how many years he's been in the film industry and how long it took him to be where is right now. If he can do what he does and let the world see he's one heck of a director, who's to say you can't develop the spike in the area of interest you're indulging in? You can do it.  

When it comes to developing the spike, make sure to choose one area of interest that you’re already good at and extend your skills to the max. You’ll also need to make a weekly plan on when and how you’ll develop your skills so that as you’re devoting your time, you can see that you’re already implementing habits that will show further devotion to becoming spectacular.

4. Maintain excellence with other areas of interest

As you’re slowly developing your spike in one area, you’ll need to maintain excellence with other areas of interest. As you've learned earlier, UC Berkeley accepts students who can make a positive impact, so you need to be good at different things as well but with priority. For example, if you're spending time with ten areas of interests, it’s best to keep 4 of them, and the rest will be thrown out. From there, the remaining fields can be improved by yourself through scheduling and goal-setting. When you're in sync with the spike and the prioritized areas of interests you maintain with discipline, UC Berkeley will see one great student already within you. 

5. Select areas of interest that match well with you

While it is a great idea to maintain excellence in a few areas of interest, you have to make sure they're the kind that interests you. If you're going to be great in one area of interest that isn't actually in sync with your personality, then you're going to be putting yourself to torture because you'll be doing it like a chore. So make sure to pick the ones that UC Berkeley knows will like but can also be an opportunity for you to grow. 

6. Tackle a few more AP courses than most students

In most high schools these days, they're offering AP courses. What are they? Also known as Advanced Placement, these courses let you take specialized high school classes that let you earn college credit. It's an excellent way to advance your way into college and know the feel of what it’s like to be there. While some students just take a few, you can make a difference and tackle a few more than usual. Of course, you can’t overwork yourself and think you’re invincible, so make sure to plan out your route and determine how you can achieve your goal when you’re about to tackle the AP exam that’ll mark you as passing the course. You’ll also need to know how many AP courses you can take and understand the limitations. 

But why take a bit more than usual? Because it’ll boost your application nicely for UC Berkeley when they review it as they'll see that you're not just some ordinary student who is looking only to pass the time and lounge around. No, you're the student who is well-determined to get where they want to be and stick to it with confidence. It'll also show them you'll have quite a positive impact because you're genuinely ready to be part of their college. 

7. Have a go with the honours class

But if AP courses aren't your thing or you'd like something a little more different, you can have a go with honours classes. These follow the traditional system of high school but add a bit more material than usual. You can think of it as being on a higher level of education than most students at your age which means while other students finish their work early, you're spending a bit more time on the extra stuff. It's an excellent way to boost your application as well because it gives UC Berkeley the impression you're firm with your academics, and you'll stop at nothing to maintain it just like the other prioritized area of interests you're developing alongside the spike in one area you're genuinely best. 

8. Pick the course at UC Berkeley that’s cool with you

When you've got everything above, it's time to sit down, think and determine the path that's cool with you. At UC Berkeley, there's quite a lot of courses to choose from when you go here. From Architecture to Journalism, you can be amazed at the choices you can make here.  The website lets you narrow down your search with filters to make things easier for you. So in a way, there's no need to rush. Just find a good time to think about what you want and search for it on the website. 

9. Get the requirements you’ll need for UC Berkeley 

When you've finally selected your course, it's time to get the essentials. As we've mentioned earlier, the requirements aren't traditional, but UC Berkeley does state out the minimum requirements for new applicants. You can check for them here but if you need a peek of them:

  • Meet the A-G subject course requirements. (Review the A-G Policy Resource Guide)
  • Have a 3.0 GPA in A-G courses taken in the 10th and 11th grade years. (3.4 GPA for non-residents)
  • Take either the SAT reasoning exam or the ACT exam

As you can see here, the GPA is required, so you'll need to have excellent grades. If it means going above 3.0, then go for it. Got all that? Then you’re ready for the next step. 

10.  Have a look at the scores UC Berkeley accept

The results from the SAT or ACT tests you'll need to take are part of the minimum requirements when applying at UC Berkeley. You might think it’s not much if you think about the students who were accepted, you can already feel the tension and determination they had when they took the tests. So what scores will you need for UC Berkeley to notice you at all? According to what PrepScholar here and here:

UC Berkeley SAT and ACT scores

As you can see, your SAT score must be above 1415 and ACT score must be above 31 to show UC Berkeley you’re not the typical student and let them know you're the spectacular student will go through the challenges and be determined to fulfill the goals.   

11. Score significantly on the required tests

Now that you know the ACT and SAT scores, you'll need to let UC Berkeley know you mean business; your next move is getting those scores. But how? You’re going to set up a way to study well and be ready for the tests. It’s not going to be easy, so here are a few things to remember: 

  • Practice the tests 

As many teachers would say, practice makes perfect, which means when it comes to the ACT and SAT tests, you need to practice until you're fully conditioned for them. It's a matter of knowing the types of questions and activities you'll be answering and getting practicing the ways until you're finally feeling the confidence in you. 

  • Prepare with the apps

Back then, prepping up for the ACT and SAT tests weren’t quite fun. Can you see yourself carrying a ton of books, making space somewhere, and reading them until you could no longer last? But these days, you can simplify the preparation with the app versions. What you’ve learned from your practices can be applied here.

  • Expand your mind 

As you're prepping yourself up for the test, it pays to expand your mind as well. From reading challenging books to watching thought-provoking documentaries, be enthusiastic in giving your brain a helpful little exercise, so when you're about to take the tests, you already got some boost to your intellect and be ready for the journey ahead. 

  • Go to class

While the app versions are there for you, nothing beats being part of a class that'll teach the fundamental ways of the ACT and SAT tests. You'll not only be learning with fellow applicants but also from the people who conquered the tests and are now sharing their ways to help more people pass the tests with flying colors. 

12. Look at UC Berkeley’s acceptance rates

The application requirements for UC Berkeley can be a challenge, so be ready to boost your application with excellence because the acceptance rate is a thing to keep in mind at all times. As some of the sites have discovered: 

UC Berkeley Acceptance Rates

As the data shows, acceptance rates from 2017 were as high as 18.3%. The rate then took a bit of the dip until it came up to 17% this year. It’s estimated that by 2021, it’ll be back to 18.3%. 

What does this mean for you? Though it does look promising that the acceptance rate is slowly rising as the years go by, make no mistake that you still got other students to compete with when it comes to applying so make sure to remember that the rate isn't stable. So be aware of it and still take advantage of what you've got to let UC Berkeley see you're the right student. 

13. Boost your application excellence

Absorbed all the data about the acceptance rates and SAT/ACT scores UC Berkeley likes to see? Then you’re ready to get going and make your application great for the elite college to see you are the one they’re looking for. Of course, it’ll be all for nothing if you just put in what you like so here are a few things to remember when polishing up your application:

  • Be engaging with the essays

When applying for UC Berkeley, you'll be prompted to write three application essays but don't think they're the usual ones you see in most colleges. They're the kind UC Berkeley prepped up, so they get to know about who you are which means you're going to want to tell a few good stories on who you are. You can think of it as a show-and-tell but in words. 

  • Address your strengths confidently

While getting your profile spick and span, it pays to address your strengths with utmost confidence. We're not saying you should boast like you're everything but giving a peek at what you're good at will let UC Berkeley see you've got the factors they never speak out loud. It'll also give them a more in-depth insight into your essay answers. 

  • Get it on with research when applying for a STEM major

If the course you picked out is a STEM major, you can add more oomph to your application by adding research to it. As College Vine says here, the STEM majors are as competitive in terms of academic requirements as the lower-ranked colleges in the Ivy League. It means that if you’re aiming to get into one of the courses under the STEM branch, it pays to have some research that shows how determined you are to go for it. It’ll also add a boost to your application because UC Berkeley can see you’d like to take things up a notch and go to where most students don’t go. 

  • Chat with the experts

As you're slowly reaching the completion of your application, have a chat with some experts. It'll not only give you a second opinion but also learn what you've missed out, what you can change, what you can add and more. You can also ask for an excellent example of how the application should be if they were in your place. 

14. Learn more about the inner workings of UC Berkeley’s admission process

As you’ve learned earlier, UC Berkeley’s admission process is holistic, which means that all parts of the application matter equally. Another way to put it: One piece doesn't mean it's better than the others. It can be a little confusing, but in the long run, it'll grow on you. You can even learn more about how it all works and what they mean from Femi Ogundele, Director of Admissions, who spoke about it in an interview here. When he was asked about the holistic review system, he said, “Yeah, I think the first part to understand is that admissions is much more of an art than it is a science. And so what I mean by that is I think that a lot of folks believe that doing the evaluation pieces or choosing the class is so rubric and formulaic, and in fact that’s not true. Especially at highly selective institutions like this one. I mean, the fact of the matter is, is that the applicant pool that we see here is incredibly strong every single year. It does not create a natural bell curve of students who are incredibly high achievers and students who are not. Most of the students who apply to an institution like this are academically strong. So, I think then where the real work comes in, is really understanding the nuance, and also understanding the university’s identity when it comes to building a class of students that are supposed to continue the excellence that the university has been producing.

So for us, that means being incredibly thoughtful in how we outreach. Not just where we go, but what we’re saying. I think admissions makes a lot of decisions when describing an institution. And so it’s our job to really create a narrative that we think is reflective of not just who we are, but who we want to be. And that’s critically important. In the evaluation phase of that, I think that also requires us to have deep and strong understandings of what’s happening, not just here at Berkeley, not just here in California, but what’s happening nationally in regards to students who are entering the college-going pipeline. And so what are those barriers, what are those opportunities that students have to show, and how that’s going to interact with our applicant pool?

And then I think on the back end of that, the third part of our cycle, which is the yield cycle, understanding that right now, students are applying to more institutions than they’ve ever applied to before. And the students that get into our institutions are students that are likely getting into a majority of the institutions that they apply to. And so we have to take an active, and I think, intentional steps to making sure that we are yielding our students, rather than just believing that students are lucky to be here, really kind of shifting that and saying that we are incredibly lucky if they choose us.” In a way, UC Berkeley dynamically sees the admission process. There's a lot more going on than you think, so when it comes to applying, know that UC Berkeley reviews the applications deeply. 

15. Submit everything, cross your fingers and hope for the best

Once you've got it all under wraps, make that submission, cross your fingers, and hope for the best. It's not a guarantee you'll get right in, and it'll take time since UC Berkeley’s selection process goes through a lot of steps and layers, but go for it and see where it goes. 

Not Accepted? 

You finally get a response after waiting for some time. The result? Negative! You were rejected and aren't part of the other students who were accepted. Yes, it’ll get saddened and think of the hard work you had to go through just to submit it all. Does it mean all is lost? No, because there is an alternative option you can try if you're still determined to be part of UC Berkeley. It's not a usual option, but if you still want to try, here it is: 

Alternative Option: Attend a different college and transfer to UC Berkeley later

You can try applying for a different college and transferring to UC Berkeley later. The requirements for transferring can are here. While most elite colleges have a low transfer acceptance rate, UC Berkeley surprisingly has a higher rate. How high? According to Campus Reel, the transfer acceptance rate in 2019 was 22.49%, which is higher than the acceptance rates for new students. Still, you can’t be complacent about this because UC Berkeley will already see that you applied with them before and there may be a chance they’ll reject your application. But on the plus side, being in a different college means you can boost yourself and do other things that UC Berkeley will surely like to see. Once you're ready to apply for a transfer, you can show them how much you've grown and let them know you are a part of the crew. 


UC Berkeley is a college many see as their home. It's also part of the Berkeley side of California that shows how beautiful and gorgeous it is. It's also the college many applicants seek to be part of only to find they're not meant to be. But when you look at its notable alumni, the high places it has, the environment and the other things that give it a beautiful view for everyone, you can't help but feel that you do belong here. So with the guide we've got for you, you know that in your heart you can do it and become part of this tremendous elite college!



We have helped 10,000+ students achieve their dream SAT/ACT Scores. We can help you too. days free trial.

We have helped 10,000+ students achieve their dream SAT/ACT Scores. We can help you too. 14 days free trial.

Yes, I Want a Great SAT Score
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.