What is UC Berkeley Known For?

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What is UC Berkeley known for? Founded in 1868, it was the first university in the University of California System (UC System), and it is the second-oldest institution of higher education in California. 

 

Today, UC Berkeley is thought of as one of the most prestigious schools in both the UC System and the country. UC Berkeley consistently ranks in the top two public universities and the top 30 national universities.

 

Here are some other standout aspects of UC Berkeley that you should know.

 

Overview of UC Berkeley Admissions

 

Location: Berkeley, CA

Undergrad Enrollment: 30,800

Acceptance Rate: 17.6%

Middle 50% SAT: 1330-1530

Middle 50% ACT: 29-35

 

There are highly specific academic prerequisites for admittance into any UC school, Berkeley included. The majority of students who attend public high school should meet those requirements, however, students from private schools or who are homeschooled will need to plan more carefully. For example, STEM-focused students sometimes neglect the required one year of coursework in visual or performing arts. 

 

Admission to STEM programs at UC Berkeley is very competitive, its academic requirements rivaling those found at lower-ranked Ivy League schools. Students with research experience will have an advantage in the admissions process. 

 

UC Berkeley highly values its application essays—students are required to answer four of eight personal insight questions, each requiring a 350-word essay. To gain admissions, an applicant will need four distinct, moving stories. 

 

Unique Aspects of UC Berkeley 

 

With a fantastic location between San Francisco and the Silicon Valley, a history of producing stars in fields ranging from science to the silver screen, and a gorgeous campus in one of the country’s most interesting cities, there are a lot of factors that set UC Berkeley apart from other schools. 

 

Academics

 

What is UC Berkeley known for academically? A little bit of everything. The school has graduated famous scientists like David Bromm, tech giants like Steve Wozniak (co-founder of Apple), award-winning actors like Gregory Peck, and notable cartoonists such as Rube Goldberg and Scott Adams. 

 

UC Berkeley offers 150 different undergraduate majors and minors—from Architecture to Scandanavian—through its five colleges and one school. Berkeley’s five colleges and one school are:  

 

  • College of Letters and Science
  • College of Chemistry
  • College of Engineering 
  • College of Environmental Design
  • College of Natural Resources
  • Haas School of Business

 

Keep in mind that several majors are competitive and have a capped enrollment, such as Business Administration, Computer Science, Psychology, and others. Requirements vary for each major, but you will likely need to apply during your freshman year and meet a minimum GPA or grades in specific courses. 

 

While all of UC Berkeley’s programs are known for their prestige and academic rigor, one program stands out: the College of Engineering. UC Berkeley’s is sixth on our list of best colleges for engineering, and is the best public program on the list. Berkeley’s College of Engineering breaks its undergraduate programs into nine departments:

 

  • Bioengineering
  • Civil & Environmental Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering & Computer Sciences
  • Engineering Science
  • Industrial Engineering & Operations Research
  • Materials Science & Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Nuclear Engineering
  • Undeclared

 

Graduating students within four years is a point of pride for Berkeley’s College of Engineering—98% of undergraduates in the school earn a degree in four years or less. 

 

But engineering isn’t the only STEM field that UC Berkeley is known for. The school’s science department is renowned. Former faculty members at the college include J. R. Oppenheimer (who developed the atomic bomb) and Ernest Lawrence (inventor of the cyclotron, which played a key role in the discovery and creation of 16 elements at the Berkeley Lab). 

 

In fact, UC Berkeley has set an incredibly high standard in seemingly every field. Berkeley alumni, faculty, and researchers include 99 Nobel laureates, 30 MacArthur Fellows (sometimes known as the “Genius Grant”), 23 Turing Award winners, 14 Pulitzer Prize winners, and 5 Fields Medal winners.

 

Famous UC Berkeley faculty include: 

 

  • Saul Perlmutter, winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics
  • Robert B. Reich, former Secretary of Labor
  • Randy Schekman, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
  • Janet Yellen, Chair of the Federal Reserve between 2014 and 2018
  • Jennifer Anne Doudna, winner of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

 

Extracurriculars

 

Along with a reputation for outstanding academics, UC Berkeley is also known for its athletics. Berkeley alumni have earned more Olympic medals than any school not named UCLA, 185 in total: 105 gold, 47 silver, and 33 bronze. 

 

In addition to exceptional amateur athletics, many UC Berkeley alumni have gone on to have successful careers in professional sports. Recognizable UC Berkeley athletes include: 

 

  • Aaron Rodgers 
  • Jaylen Brown
  • Marshawn Lynch 
  • Jason Kidd 
  • Tony Gonzalez
  • Alex Morgan 

 

Not exactly an extracurricular activity, but UC Berkeley has sent more volunteers to the Peace Corps than any other college. By 2020, 3,741 Berkeley graduates had volunteered since the program’s inception in 1961. 

 

UC Berkeley’s campus is home to more than 1,000 student groups recognized by Student Organizations, Leadership, and Engagement (SOLE), nearly guaranteeing a student finds a group that matches their interest. 

 

One favorite extracurricular program is the university’s student-run newspaper, The Daily Californian, which covers both the university’s campus and the city of Berkeley. One of the oldest newspapers on the west coast, The Daily Californian was established in 1871 and is entirely run by current and recently graduated UC Berkeley students. 

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Traditions

 

One of the oldest and best-known UC Berkeley traditions is the “Stanford Axe,” which has been awarded to the winner of the annual football game between UC Berkeley and Stanford (known as the “Big Game”) since 1933. The history of the “Stanford Axe” is more nefarious—it made its first appearance at a Stanford pep rally in 1899 and was stolen shortly thereafter by Berkeley students, who possessed it for the next 31 years, until a group of Stanford students known as the “Immortal 21” recaptured it. 

 

A newer UC Berkeley tradition is to rub the stone sphere in front of the Campanile before taking an exam for good luck—leading to students calling the monument the “4.0 ball.” 

 

Dorms & Campus

 

UC Berkeley is commonly thought to have one of the most beautiful campuses in the country. Its 307-foot tall Campanile (the Sather Tower) is the third-largest bell and clock tower in the world, and arguably the most recognizable landmark in the East Bay. 

 

Overall, 95% of freshmen and 27% of undergraduates live in university housing. 

 

Financial Aid

 

As a public school, the cost and admissions standards of UC Berkeley vary for everyone from in-state students to out-of-state students to international students. One thing that remains constant is the value of UC Berkeley. Forbes ranks the school fifth on its list of Best Value Colleges, right behind two other UC System schools, UC Irvine and UCLA.  

 

One notable financial aid program is the University of California Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan, which allows eligible California students from families with annual incomes below $80,000 to pay no tuition at all after grants and scholarships. 

 

Resources

 

Berkeley is one of the 14 founding members of the Association of American Universities, an organization of American research universities devoted to maintaining a strong system of academic research and education. Some of the world’s most well-known research institutes are found on Berkeley’s campus, including the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute and the Space Sciences Laboratory. 

 

When students escape the classroom or lab, they can enjoy UC Berkeley’s botanical garden. Its 34 acres feature nine regions of naturalistic planting and one of the globe’s most diverse landscapes with over 10,000 types of plants, many of which are rare and endangered.  

 

Location

 

There are near limitless career opportunities for Berkeley students, thanks in part to its location between Silicon Valley and San Francisco. Silicon Valley is home to the densest concentration of tech companies in the world, while San Francisco is home to a variety of industries ranging from high-tech to tourism.  

 

While the university and surrounding area are known for technology and innovation, the city of Berkeley itself offers an artsy, progressive, and quirky atmosphere. It has had a long-standing reputation for activism–Abbey Hoffman attended UC Berkeley and the Black Panthers have roots in both Oakland and Berkeley. You’ll also find no shortage of the arts with the Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley Art Center, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, and Aurora Theatre Company. 

 

What are Your Chances of Acceptance at UC Berkeley?

 

Admission to UC Berkeley is extremely competitive, even more so for out-of-state students. For example, the middle 50% SAT score is 1300-1530 for in-state students and 1440-1550 for out-of-state students. Regardless of your geographic location, students hopeful to gain admissions to this stellar school will need excellent academics, superb standardized test scores, exceptional extracurricular activities, and an ability to compose compelling essays. 

 

If you’re interested in learning your odds of admission at UC Berkeley, or at 600 other colleges and universities, CollegeVine can help. Our free chancing engine uses a variety of factors—from grades to extracurricular activities—to estimate the chance of you getting into your dream school. In addition, CollegeVine’s chancing calculator offers insight into how to improve your application, giving your odds of acceptance a boost.

 

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Short Bio
A graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in English, Tim Peck currently lives in Concord, New Hampshire, where he balances a freelance writing career with the needs of his two Australian Shepherds to play outside.

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