University of California Berkeley Guide

The Ivy Scholars guide to UC Berkeley’s culture, admissions, and other essential information for prospective students and their families.

Location: Berkeley, California

Mascot: Oski the BEar

Type: Public Research Institution

Population: 43,000 (31,000 undergrads)

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About UC Berkeley

Located in the bay area of California, Berkeley was the founding member, and remains the flagship institution of the University of California system. Known for its strong academics, athletics, and history of student activism, Berkeley is one of the foremost public universities in the US. The Golden Bears, as they are known, are fiercely proud of their school, and invested in its traditions, and for good reason. 

UC Berkeley Statistics

Year Founded: 1868

4 Year Graduation Rate: 75.8%

Gender Distribution: 52% female, 48% male

Acceptance Rate: 17%

Residency: 85% in state, 5% out of state, 10% international

Location Type: College Town

Schedule System: Semesters

Student/Faculty Ratio: 18:1

Average Class Size: 25

Demographics: 36% Asian, 24% Caucasian, 16% Hispanic, 10% Other or Unknown, 2% Black

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National Rankings

US News Rankings:

  • #2 Public Universities
  • #3 Best Business Programs
  • #3 Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs
  • #4 Global Universities
  • #14 Most Innovative Schools
  • #22 National Universities
  • #34 Best Undergraduate Teaching

Independent Rankings:

  • #1 Public University per Forbes
  • #10 Best Value Colleges per The Princeton Review
  • #13 National Universities per Forbes
  • #13 Global Universities per The Times of Higher Education
  • #14 Top Green Colleges per The Princeton Review
  • #22 Career Placement per The Princeton Review

Cal Berkeley Admissions Information

Application Deadlines:

  • Regular Decision: November 30th
  • Transfer Deadline: November 30th

Notification Dates:

  • Regular Decision: Mid-March
  • Transfer Deadline: Mid-April

Acceptance Rates:

  • Regular Decision: 17% 
  • Transfer: 22%

Average Applicant Pool: 87,000

Average Number of Applicants Accepted: 14,000

Average Number Enrolled: 6,000

Application Systems: Apply California

Average GPA: 3.89 unweighted

*Test blind.

SAT Scores: 25th% – 1330, 75th% – 1520

ACT Scores: 25th% – 28, 75th% – 34

Demonstrated Interest:

UC Berkeley does not consider demonstrated interest.

Recommendation Letter Policies:

Some applicants are requested to submit letters of recommendation. Berkeley notifies these students of this fact, and does not want letters of recommendation otherwise. At least one of the two letters must be written by a teacher or instructor, the other may be written by anyone, although Berkeley discourages having them written by family members. All letters must be submitted electronically through the link Berkeley provides, not through Naviance or other means.

UC Berkeley Essay Prompts:

  • Personal Statement (250-500 words)
  • There are 8 prompts, select and answer 4 of them (350 words each). 
  • Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes, or contributed to group efforts over time.
  • 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.
  • What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?
  • Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.
  • 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?
  • Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom.
  • What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?
  • 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?

UC Berkeley Essay Writing Tips

Special Notes:

  • UC Berkeley has specific admission requirements, consisting of classes which a student must have taken in highschool to be eligible to apply. These are a baseline minimum, and going above and beyond the requirements is recommended. 
  • Applying to specific colleges is done by selecting a major in one of those colleges. Different majors and colleges have different acceptance rates. Berkeley does not consider alternate majors listed on your application. 
  • The Haas School of business may not normally be applied to as a Freshman.


  • The minimum requirements in order to transfer are: 60 semester credits/90 quarter credits, a GPA of 3.0, and major preparation courses. There are specific requirements by college.
  • Students cannot have completed more than two years of college.
  • Students must complete their application using the UC website.
  • Students must complete the same essays as first year applicants.

UC Berkeley Admission Strategy

Admissions Criteria:

The most important criteria is academic preparation. Berkeley recalculates students’ GPAs without their freshman year grades. They also do not count grades from non-academic courses (such as band or gym) when calculating GPA. The average GPA for Letters and Science is 4.2, for Engineering its 4.3. A 3.4 GPA for non-California residents and a 3.0 GPA for residents is required to have the rest of your application considered.

Your pattern of grades (whether increasing or not), planned senior year courses, and scores on AP and IB exams are also taken into account when considering a student’s academic readiness.

Other factors which are important are extracurriculars, leadership positions, essays, and hardships overcome. 

Berkeley currently does not consider test scores due to a court ruling, and is on their way to phasing them out entirely. They do not consider race or ethnicity at all, though they do consider socio-economic status.

Around 250 students are designated as recruited athletes each year, and they have a major boost in their admissions chances.

What is UC Berkeley Looking For?

Berkeley uses an aggregate points added system to rate candidates, with points being added to the total rating for each category. They look for more well rounded candidates generally, as opposed to the Ivy League, although this does vary some by school. Students must meet academic minimums in order to be considered as candidates as a whole. Students are compared to others from their school who have applied, in order to give context for grades and coursework. 

Engineering has faculty involvement in the admissions process, and a much higher academic bar. They also like to see research experience and heavy involvement in STEM. Due to attempts to maintain fairly even gender ratios, women have a slightly easier time gaining admission to the school, as fewer women than men apply, so a greater percentage of women from the pool are admitted.

More California residents are accepted than students from outside the state, but admissions requirements are not laxer for students within California. Students meeting certain grade requirements in public school are guaranteed acceptance to a UC, but not necessarily to their first-choice UC.

Berkeley has a new initiative in artificial intelligence, and students who have worked with that may have an edge for CS admissions, although it remains the most competitive major, and should never be assumed.

Berkeley Strategy:

As computer science is offered as a major through both Letters and Sciences and Engineering, students who wish to major in the field will have an easier time applying to the major via Letters and Sciences. The College of Engineering is notoriously difficult to get into. The course offerings and professors are the same, but admissions is easier for one.

Students applying to a specific major, especially in Engineering, should use one of their essays to discuss how they have already engaged with the major, and why they are interested in it. Evidence of past competence is seen as a marker for future potential.

While all UC schools are forbidden from considering race in college admissions, they do look at socio-economic status, and they want to recruit students who have succeeded academically in spite of hardships they have endured. If you have undergone hardship, you should definitely use the essay question on that topic to address it.

The most important thing is to ensure your grades are good enough to be both considered, and in actual contention for admission. Barely meeting the minimum for grades won’t be enough for acceptance unless you are a heavily recruited athlete. As Berkeley gets so many applicants, they need a way to winnow those who are unsuited efficiently, and academic preparation, especially concerning grades, is key here.

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UC Berkeley Academics


Core Requirements:

  • Core requirements vary based on what college students are in, and what major they are pursuing.  
  • Detailed Requirements

Courses of Study: 

  • 150 Majors Offered
  • Option to double major
  • Popular majors include Economics, Cell Biology, Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, and Business Administration.
  • It is possible to change majors, but depending on how popular the major is, it may be better to declare it as a desired major while applying.
  • Minors Offered
  • Course Catalog

AP Credit Policies:

Special Programs

Honors Programs:

Research Availability:

  • UC Berkeley offers numerous opportunities for undergraduates to get involved with research.

Study Abroad: 

Business Options: 

Pre-Med Options:

  • UC Berkeley does not have a pre-med major, but it does offer a pre-med track, which offers a pre-set course selection and advising to those wishing to pursue careers in medicine.

Pre-Law Options:

Computer Science Options: 

Additional Specialty Programs: 

Programs for High Schoolers:

  • Summer Sessions are open to high school students to take classes for credit, either online or on their campus.
  • Summer Pre-College programs offer both residential and commuter options for students to experience college life at Berkeley.
  • Summerfuel is a residential program which allows students to take classes and experience college life at the school.

Student Life at UC Berkeley

School Motto:  Let there be light

Mission and Values:

  • Mission: Consistent with our founding as California’s land grant university and with the state and federal support that has contributed to our success, a commitment to egalitarian and democratic values; to research and scholarly work that serves our community, our state, our nation, and the world; to providing access for students from all backgrounds and communities; and to fostering in our students, faculty, and staff a strong ethic of public service and social justice.
  • Values: Diversity, Excellence, Innovation, Accountability, and Transparency
  • Additional Information
  • Student Testimonials (Niche, Unigo, Grad Reports)

Residential Housing System:

Berkeley runs 7 residence halls for undergrads, each with a different feel and style. It has further “themed” units within its residence halls, catering to students with particular academic interests. Many students also find housing with the Berkeley Student Cooperative (BSC) which runs 20 smaller apartment buildings, and has far cheaper rent rates. Many students live off-campus as well.

Housing Statistics:

  • 95% of freshmen live on campus
  • 27% of students live on campus overall

Campus & Surrounding Area:  

  • Located in the town of Berkeley, in the Bay area of California, Eastern parts of the campus also extend into the city of Oakland.
  • The campus has a botanical garden, and the West end of campus extends into downtown Berkeley and the Gourmet Ghetto, the birthplace of California cuisine. 
  • Strawberry Creek runs through campus, and many of the trees that dot its banks date to the founding of the university. The campus has numerous forested groves, including Founders Rock and the Eucalyptus grove.
  • UC Berkeley has safety programs to ensure student security on campus.
  • Virtual Visits, Virtual Tour



  • Stanford Axe An axe head serves as the trophy for an annual game, and as a focus for pep rallies.
  • The Big GameAn annual football game between Berkeley and Stanford, one of the oldest rivalries in sports. 
  • 4.0 BallThe stone ball before the Campanile is referred to as the 4.0 ball, and students rub it for luck before exams.
  • Daffodil FestivalAn annual fundraising festival where daffodils are sold.  

Student-Run Organizations: 


Greek Life: 

20% of students are involved in greek life, including social, service, and academic organizations.


  • Students can easily travel through the bay area, into downtown San Francisco and Oakland, as well as downtown Berkeley, to find bars and clubs. 
  • Fraternities and Sororities have parties most weekends.
  • There are student shows most weekends, and the Greek Theater on campus has many performances.
  • The #8 party school in California according to Niche

Financial Information

Yearly Cost of Attendance:

  • Total: $69,692
  • Tuition and fees: $14,254 (+29,754 non-resident fee)
  • Room & Board: $17,952
  • Books: $1,094
  • Personal Expenses: $1,792
  • Health Insurance: $3,536

Financial Aid:

All students who apply must complete the Free Application for Federal Student AId (FAFSA), to be considered for aid. All scholarships and aid are based on financial need, none are purely merit based. The majority of funding goes to California residents and continuing (above 1st year) students with high academic achievement, due to limited funds generally.

Additional Financial Aid & Student Loan Information


There are a number of more selective scholarships, open to students who meet certain criteria. Students must fill out a form when applying to determine which of these scholarships they are eligible for. Many students change their residency status to California residents in order to qualify for additional scholarships and aid.

Fun Facts

  • UC Berkeley was the founding school in the UC system, and was the first full-curriculum public university in the state.
  • The Campanile is the tallest bell tower in the US, and the 3rd tallest in the world. 
  • There are numerous steam tunnels on campus, when students chained the Chancellor’s doors closed in 1960 in protest of his stance on the Vietnam war, he was forced to escape through the steam tunnels. 
  • The final play of a 1982 football game between Berkeley and Stanford was so controversial it has its own wikipedia page
  • Notable alumni include Steve Wozniak, Aaron Rodgers, Marshawn Lynch, Jack London, and Chris Pine. 
  • Berkeley originally had live bear cubs as mascots, but they grew too large to be safely handled. 
  • Robert Oppenheimer was a physics professor at Berkeley before working on the Manhattan project. 
  • When the school was founded, military training was compulsory for all male students.
Wendy Y.
Below is my son's review. He was accepted to his dream Ivy League school!

From an admitted student's perspective, I am incredibly grateful to have met Sasha - he has been instrumental in helping me achieve my educational dreams (Ivy League), all while being an absolute joy (he's a walking encyclopedia, only funnier!) to work with.

Many people are dissuaded from seeking a college counselor because they think they can get into their desired college(s) either way. Honestly, going that route is a bit short-sighted and can jeopardize your odds of acceptances after years of hard work. The sad truth is, the American education system (even if you attend a fancy private school and ESPECIALLY if you go to a public school) doesn't really tell students how to write a compelling and authentic application. Going into the admissions process alone, without speaking with an advisor, is like going to court without a lawyer - you put yourself at a significant disadvantage because you don't have all the facts in front of you, or the help you need to negotiate the system.

That said, you need a good lawyer just like you need a good college counselor. And that's where Sasha distinguishes himself from the crowd of people claiming they'll get you into Harvard. I came to Sasha worried about and frankly dumbfounded by the college admissions process. I was unsure what to write about and how to go about drafting the essay that perfectly captured my passion, interests, and self. And I was highly skeptical that anyone could really help me. But, damn, did Sasha prove me wrong. From the beginning, Sasha amazed me with his understanding of the process, and ability to lend clarity and direction to me when I desperate needed it. After interviewing me about my background, experiences, activities, outlook, and vision, he helped me see qualities about myself I had not previously considered 'unique' or 'stand-out.' This process of understanding myself was so incredibly important in laying the groundwork for the essays I eventually wrote, and I'm certain I would've drafted boring, inauthentic essays without it.

Looking back, Sasha's talent is that he can see where your strengths lie, even when you don't see them. The truth is, although we don't always realize it, everyone has a unique story to tell. Sasha helped me see mine, and with his big-picture insight I was able to write the application that truly encapsulated my life and vision. He inspired me to dig deeper and write better, challenging me to revise and revise until my essays were the most passionate and authentic work I had ever written. As clichéd as that sounds, that's really what universities are looking for. In retrospect, it makes sense - in the real world passionate (not simply intelligent) individuals are the ones who make a difference in the world, and those are the individuals colleges would like to have associated with their brand.

In the end, I was accepted to the college of my dreams, a feat I could not have achieved without the direction Sasha lent to me. Essays (and the personal narrative you develop through your application) matter so much, and can literally make or break your application. I have seen so many of my 'qualified' friends receive rejections because they wrote contrived essays that didn't truly represent who they were; conversely, I have also seen so many friends with shorter resumes accepted because they were able to articulate their story in a genuinely passionate and authentic way - I fall into the latter category.

As a former admissions officer at Johns Hopkins, Sasha knows what types of essays jibe well with universities, an invaluable asset to have in the admissions process. He is responsive, flexible, creative, positive, and witty. For anyone who is serious about going into the college admissions process informed and prepared, I highly recommend Sasha.
Arda E.
I used Ivy Scholars to mainly help me with college applications. Within weeks of using this service, Sasha was able to simplify the already complex process. When it came to writing the Common App essay, Sasha didn’t just help with grammar and syntax, he brought my essays to life. Sasha also worked tirelessly to help solidify my extracurricular activities, including research and internship opportunities. Without his help, I would have never had an impressive resume.

Sasha is not only an extremely knowledgeable tutor, but also a genuine brother figure. His guidance, throughout my last two years of high school, was everything I needed to get me an acceptance letter from my dream schools (UC Berkeley, Tufts, Emory).

When it came to testing, Ivy Scholars worked like a charm. Sasha offered a very comprehensive plan when it came to completely acing my standardized tests. Without his test taking strategies I would have never gotten straight 5s on my AP tests and a 35 on the ACT.

Working with Sasha, I didn’t just become a good student, I became a genuine scholar.
Samson S.
We worked with Ivy Scholars during my son's senior year. I was concerned that we may be too late to take advantage of college advising but the Ivy Scholars team quickly and confidently directed us through the steps to ensure no deadlines were missed. Sasha's knowledge about schools, what they looked for in candidates, and how to maneuver the application process was invaluable. Mateo and Ryan worked with my son to help him create an essay that would get noticed and I am so appreciative he had their guidance.

Prior to securing Ivy Scholars, we tried using a less-expensive online service which was a terrible experience. As a parent, Ivy Scholars brought peace of mind to an area that was frankly overwhelming. This service was invaluable in the knowledge that we gained throughout the process. He has also met with my freshman daughter to provide guidance for her high school courses, career paths, extracurricular activities, and more.

Prior to signing with Ivy Scholars, I tried a less expensive online service and was very disappointed.

As a result of our work with Ivy Scholars, I am pleased to say that my son will be attending Stern Business School at New York University this fall! I highly recommend Ivy Scholars. Highly recommend!