What is UC Berkeley’s Acceptance Rate and Admissions Requirements?

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UC Berkeley accepts 17.6% of applicants. What does it take to get in?


The University of California, Berkeley, fondly known as UC Berkeley or Cal, is the flagship college of the University of California system. Located in Berkeley, California, and just a 25-minute drive from San Francisco, the campus has a lot of exciting things to offer undergraduate students. Consistently ranked the #1 public university, UC Berkeley is one of the largest and most prestigious undergraduate research institutions in the country.


Your chances of getting into UC Berkeley depends on a variety of factors, including your residency status and the major you’re applying for. Getting admitted into UC Berkeley is fairly competitive overall, however. For a quick summary on applying to UC Berkeley and what it takes to get in, read on.


Want to learn what UC Berkeley will actually cost you based on your income? And how long your application to the school should take? Here’s what every student considering UC Berkeley needs to know.


UC Berkeley’s Acceptance Rate


The UC Berkeley Admissions website reports its undergraduate acceptance rate from 2020 at 17.6%, up from 16.8% in 2019. However, this acceptance rate fluctuates a bit depending on residency status.


UC Berkeley Admissions Requirements


UC Berkeley has a holistic review process, which means that they do not screen applicants for certain scores or traits, nor do they value one part of your application over another. Rather, they consider your application as a whole. One thing to note is that because affirmative action is banned in California, there will be no bias against or for certain races in the admissions process.


In order to apply to this prestigious institution, there are a few minimum requirements:


  • You must have completed the preliminary course requirements in high school. If you attend high school in the United States, you should have met all of these requirements if you’ve taken all mandatory courses at your high school. However, if you’re homeschooled or have attended a private school, you should check these course requirements to make sure that you are eligible to apply to Berkeley.
  • You must have at least a 3.0 GPA in the aforementioned courses taken in 10th and 11th grade. (This GPA requirement rises to 3.4 for non-California residents).
  • You must take either the SAT or ACT.


Once you have fulfilled the minimum requirements, it’s time to apply! To apply to UC Berkeley, you will need to fill out the UC application, the online application used at all UC schools.


In this application, you must provide your academic information, your personal demographic information, and a few “Personal Insight” questions (think of these as college essays). You are allowed to submit two letters of recommendation, but UC Berkeley does not require them. In addition, you must send the university your standardized test scores separately for your application to be considered.

Due to COVID-19, UC Berkeley will be test-optional for those applying during the 2020-2021 admissions cycle. To learn more about test-optional policies, visit our blog post.


Important Dates and Deadlines


The application period for UC Berkeley is a bit unique, so if you’re looking to apply, you need to know these important application dates and deadlines well ahead of time. Here are all of the important deadlines you need to know:


  • The period within which the application is open: November 1st-November 30th
  • SAT test date deadline: December 31st
  • Application Deadline: November 30th
  • Freshman decisions posted: end of March
  • Deadline to accept an offer of admission: May 1st

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So, how does one get into UC Berkeley?


UC Berkeley prides itself on a holistic application process, so you should do your best to make sure every aspect of your application is the best that it can be. Here are some things we recommend you highlight in your application:



  • Academic achievement: Berkeley students pride themselves on academic excellence, so high grades and test scores are a must. Make sure you are accurately reporting your grades, test scores, GPA, and class rank for the university. If your academic transcript has a few blemishes for valid reasons (e.g. lower grades, a case of misconduct), use the “comments” section on the UC application to explain why that is the case.




  • Passion: UC Berkeley students are notorious for protests and using their voices to better the world. If there is something that you really care about or would like to change in your career, showcase that! If you don’t have something like that to talk about, that’s okay. You can simply say that you are excited to use Cal’s resources to help you find your passions.




  • Diversity: In my experience as a UC Berkeley student, I’ve noticed that Cal prides itself on accepting students of all backgrounds, ethnicities, perspectives, etc. This school is a place of debate, elevated thinking, and a place where diverse voices are heard. How do you bring diversity to the campus? What’s your story, and how would it be valuable to the Cal community? These are all things to think about, especially as you form your application essays.




  • A Breadth of Extracurriculars: UC Berkeley looks at your extracurriculars very closely, and they are looking to see that you have done a wide variety of extracurriculars, including community service, work experience, and other clubs and activities. So, when you’re forming your extracurricular profile, try to make sure that you’re gaining a breadth of experiences.



How To Make Your Application Stand Out



  • Know What You Want: When filling out the UC application, you have the option to select a major to apply to. If you choose to enter undeclared, that’s fine. Just know that you may have to go through a rigorous application process once you’re in the university in order to declare many of the popular majors at Cal. If you’re unsure which major would be right for you, Berkeley has formed an Academic Guide to help you decide what major at the university would be best for you based on your interests and what you like to do. If you select a major that is correlated with the activities and interests that you have showcased on your application, the Admissions Committee will have a much clearer picture of who you are as an applicant.




  • Tell 3 Different Stories With Your Essays: Many universities have a “Why School?” essay requirement that allows students the opportunity to showcase how much they know about the school and what opportunities they are interested in pursuing there. UC Berkeley does not have any of those. Rather, all of their essay prompts focus on getting to know you as a student. So when you fill out the 3 UC Berkeley application essays, make sure you have 3 different, compelling stories to tell that give the admissions committee a good idea of who you are.




  • Applying for a STEM major? Research is a big plus: STEM programs at UC Berkeley are basically as competitive in terms of academic requirements as the lower ranked Ivies. If you’re applying to Berkeley using a STEM major, you’ll need to show an interest and experience in a STEM-related field in high school. STEM students aiming for UC Berkeley have an advantage if they have research on their profile, so that may be a good place to start.




  • Partner with a Professional: Everything above is much easier said than done. If you would like some expert guidance on how to construct a stellar application to UC Berkeley, consider working with your guidance counselor or a CollegeVine mentor to build an academic and extracurricular profile to set yourself up for college admissions success.



For More Information


Interested in learning more about Cal? Check out these previous blog posts:


7 Things To See On Your Campus Tour of UC Berkeley

The Ultimate Guide To Applying To The University of California

How To Write the University of California Essay Prompts 2020-2021

The University of California Schools: The Complete Guide + Which Should You Choose?


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Sadhvi Mathur
Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
Sadhvi is a recent graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, where she double majored in Economics and Media Studies. Having applied to over 8 universities, each with different application platforms and requirements, she is eager to share her knowledge now that her application process is over. Other than writing, Sadhvi's interests include dancing, playing the piano, and trying not to burn her apartment down when she cooks!