How to Get Into UC Berkeley: Admissions Data and Strategies
The University of California – Berkeley’s reputation as a haven for young liberals grew in the 1960s as it became the epicenter of protests over the Vietnam War and, in many ways, the very center of the counterculture movement itself. By the 1970s, Berkeley had a reputation for strong academics, but it was by no means an exclusive institution—two-thirds of applicants were still accepted by the time the ’80s rolled around. In the early Reagan years, the University of California campus received under 10,000 applications per year.
Fast-forward to 2022 and Berkeley now receives over 128,000 freshman applications per year and their acceptance rate stands at 11-14%. Those who are accepted sport “A” averages and have a host of impressive extracurriculars. Berkeley still has large protests (they made headlines again in 2017), but in order to join them, you’ll have to survive a brutal admissions gauntlet. To help you, College Transitions is happy to provide you with:
- Berkeley’s Class of 2026 acceptance rate
- GPA and class rank of accepted Berkeley applicants
- Admissions trends
- The demographics of current Berkeley undergraduates
- Berkeley’s yield rate
- How Berkeley’s admissions officers evaluate candidates
- Tips for applying to UC Berkeley
- How to approach the UC Personal Insight essays
- How to assess whether applying to Berkeley is even worth the $70 application fee (for you)
Many students applying to Berkeley may also find the following blogs to be of interest:
How to Get Into…
Let’s begin with an examination of the most recent admissions data.
Berkeley: Acceptance Rate – Class of 2026
Berkeley’s 14% acceptance rate for the Class of 2025 was a record low. However, for the Class of 2026, the university received 128,196 applications. While official admissions figures have not yet been released, roughly 15,000 were admitted. This equates to an 11.7% acceptance rate.
Berkeley Admissions – GPA and Class Rank
The University of California System has adopted a test-blind policy beginning with those applying in the fall 2021 cycle and extending through at least 2025. As such, performance inside the classroom takes center stage. Freshmen in 2021-22 had an average unweighted GPA of 3.7 and an average weighted GPA of 4.12. Additionally, 96% of entering freshmen placed in the top decile of their high school class. Clearly, most incoming Golden Bears achieved straight A’s in high school.
Admissions Trends & Notes
- University of California schools will continue to operate on a test-blind policy in 2022-23.
- Berkeley’s number of applications rose from 88,067 two years ago, to 128,197 for the Class of 2026.
- A recent court ruling may lead to Berkeley having to drastically reduce their number of acceptances.
- The unweighted GPA range for the Class of 2025 was 3.86-4.0.
- Lastly, the number of offers of admission to African American, Latinx, and Native American students has increased in recent years.
Who Gets Into Berkeley?
Let’s look at the demographics of Berkeley undergraduates:
Most Berkeley students hailed from the Golden State:
- California (residents) – 74%
Examining the country of origin for international students, China leads the way, followed by South Korea, India, Canada, and Indonesia.
Looking at ethnic identity, the breakdown of the admitted Class of 2025 is:
- African American: 5.3%
- American Indian: 0.5%
- White: 20.2%
- Asian: 44.7%
- Chicano/Latinx: 24.2%
The breakdown by gender of all current undergraduates shows significantly more women than men:
- Male: 46%
- Female: 54%
The Class of 2025 included the following:
- Public School Students: 74.1%
- From Rural Areas: 5.2%
- First-Generation Students: 26.6%
Berkeley’s yield rate—the percentage of accepted students who elect to enroll, divided by the total number of students who are admitted was 40%. To compare this school to other elite public institutions, UT-Austin has a 46% yield, UNC-Chapel Hill sports a similar 44%, and UGA also comes in at 41%.
How Berkeley Rates Applicants
There are only three factors that Berkeley ranks as being “very important” to their admissions process: rigor of secondary school record, and GPA, and application essays. Factors rated as “important” are: extracurricular activities, character/personal qualities, volunteer experience, and work experience. “Considered” factors are: recommendations, first-generation status, and state residency.
Berkeley, along with all other University of California campuses, dropped all standardized requirements starting with the Class of 2025 (those applying in the 2020-21 admissions cycle). This makes the already holistic review process at Berkeley even more so. According to the admissions committee, the university is looking for students who “will contribute to Berkeley’s intellectual and cultural community and, ultimately, to the State of California, the nation, and the world.”
It can also greatly improve an applicant’s odds if they possess an exceptional skill in a given area, whether that is in the realm of music, research, leadership, or athletics. One recent incoming class of freshmen included:
- 100+ students who had performed at Carnegie Hall.
- 170 students who had participated in the Science Olympiad
- 50 Eagle Scouts
- 50 Girl Scout Gold Award winners
Tips for Applying to Berkeley
If you plan on joining the 128,000+ Golden Bear hopefuls for the next admissions cycle, you should know the following:
- While a “holistic” process, Berkeley does not offer interviews of any kind, in-person or alumni.
- Berkeley does not consider “demonstrated interest” so it is not essential to take multiple steps in the name of establishing yourself as a serious and committed applicant. However, it still never hurts to make contact with the admissions office, connect through social media, and (when COVID-19 is no longer an issue) visit campus or meet Berkeley reps at college fairs near you. If nothing else, this will still help you learn more about whether the university is the perfect home for you.
- As mentioned previously, UC-Berkeley, along with all other UC campuses are now test-blind.
- Lastly, make sure to dedicate sufficient time and effort to the supplemental essays required by Berkeley:
Personal Insight Prompts
1) Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes or contributed to group efforts over time.
2) 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.
3) What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?
4) Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.
5) 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?
6) Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom.
7) What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?
8) 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?
As the UC-Berkeley admissions committee states, “All questions are equal” and “all are given equal consideration in the application review process.” For more, read our blog: How to Master the UC Personal Insight Essays.
Should I Apply to Berkeley?
Getting into UC-Berkeley has never been more of a challenging endeavor, particularly for out-of-state and international students. Even in-state applicants need to have pristine academic transcripts with no more than one or two blemishes. Berkeley is a wonderful school with a great number of extremely strong academic programs possessing global reputations. Of course, 86-89% of applicants will ultimately be turned away. As such, all students need to make sure that they formulate an appropriate college list, containing a complement of “target” and “safety” schools. You’ll definitely want to do this in collaboration with an admissions professional (including your own high school counselor).
A licensed counselor and published researcher, Andrew’s experience in the field of college admissions and transition spans more than one decade. He has previously served as a high school counselor, consultant and author for Kaplan Test Prep, and advisor to U.S. Congress, reporting on issues related to college admissions and financial aid.