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Coming in at #8 on the Times Higher Education global ranking and tying for #1 public university in the US News Rankings, the University of California, Berkeley is one of the world’s most highly-rated and prestigious universities. It was founded in 1868, making it the oldest institution in the University of California system, and is famous for being a progressive institute with a strong legacy of civil rights and environmental movements as well as close ties to California’s tech startup scene with its location in the San Francisco Bay Area. It is a large university with 32,143 undergraduates, 150 majors, and over 1200 student organizations. Despite these huge numbers, UC Berkeley maintains a small student-faculty ratio of 18.4 to 1, with 51% of classes having less than 20 students. As a robust research school, its strengths lie in computer science, chemistry, environment/ecology, economics/business, space science, and physics.

For the 2022 admissions cycle, UC Berkeley received 128,278 applications and admitted 14,468 of those applicants for an acceptance rate of 11.1%, making it an extremely selective school. UC Berkeley follows a single application deadline of November 30. This is different from many US universities offering early and regular admission rounds.

As with any top-tier university, you will need stellar grades, well-written essays, and a well-rounded profile to get into UC Berkeley.

Grade Requirements

US universities track high school performance based on a cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA) on a scale of 4. Like UCLA, UC Berkeley requires a minimum of 3.4 GPA for non-California residents and no grades lower than a C in required high school courses. This translates to 35 IB points and ABB in A levels.

Looking at the profile of international students applying to UC Berkeley, we can see that students must be high achieving, as the acceptance rate for international applicants is even lower at 9.1%. To stand a competitive chance of admission, it is necessary to consider the average GPA (not just the minimum requirement). This translates to straight A’s/ 6s and 7s in all your classes. Furthermore, you should be taking hard classes – AP, IB, and H2 in A levels – to show that you are ready for challenging college-level academics.

First-year Admissions Profile (Reflects middle 50% of students)

  • Unweighted GPA: 3.86–4.00
  • Weighted GPA: 4.27–4.62

SAT & ACT Requirements

The UC system has shifted away from standardized tests at different campuses at different paces. We contacted the admissions offices directly to get an update for 2023:

“UC Berkeley is test-free, which means we will not use SAT/ACT test scores in any part of our application process.”

For more information, you can visit their website at: https://admissions.berkeley.edu/apply-to-berkeley/freshmen/freshman-policy-changes/ 

Best Application Practices

The good news about UC schools is that with one application, you can apply to all of the University of California campuses. The bad news is that it is not in the Common App, so unfortunately, you will need to fill out a completely new application system to apply. But luckily, we have some tricks to help this process.

Another significant difference in the UC application is that students share four short essays instead of one major Personal Statement. When filling out the application, you must answer four personal insight questions (350 words) out of eight options. With four essays to craft, we urge students not to wait until the last minute to complete the UC application! Students should share impressive extracurricular experiences and create strong essays for the UC Berkeley application.

Depending on your application strategy, you might develop a personal statement and other essays for other US schools. A great tip for planning your essays is to see which school will have the earliest deadline, considering most schools have an Early Decision (ED) and/or Early Action (EA) around November 1. In many cases, students will need to finish their Personal Statement and other additional essays for their ED and EA options, and since the UC deadline will fall after the early deadline, they can end up using parts of those essays to develop the UC essays. Sometimes, Personal Statements and additional ED and EA essays can easily transition into the four UC essays. In other cases, students must compose several original essays to match the prompts. For students who chose not to apply ED or EA, the UC deadline may be their earliest deadline. In that case, students start by striving to compose four great essays and evaluate how that content can be used for other applications in Regular Decision.

Another major difference we see between the UC system and the Common App system is the activity sheet. While the UC system allows up to 20 activities and 350 characters to describe them, the Common App only allows ten activities with 150 characters. Thus, if you plan to apply to UC and other USA schools, even though the UC deadline might be after your ED or EA deadlines, start with the UC activity sheet format when creating your activity list. Then make a copy, cut down the list to the 10 top activities, and cut the descriptions to 150 characters for the Common App. When choosing extracurricular activities, do note that UC Berkeley places particular emphasis on leadership and innovation. Leadership can be demonstrated through various extracurricular activities, and what matters is your demonstrated commitment to the organization rather than the number of leadership positions you hold. Berkeley is looking for someone who is heavily invested in and contributes to the success of their club, team, or organization.

Finally, students from countries requiring entry into military service upon completing secondary education should not apply until the obligation has been met. UC Berkeley generally does not allow students to defer admission to a later term.

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