How Berkeley Selects Students

Selection is based on holistic review of all information—both academic and personal—presented in the application.

UC Berkeley pioneered the holistic review process at UC (now adapted by most of the UC campuses), enabling us to admit a diverse undergraduate class representing 53 states/commonwealths and 74 countries, with 17% who are first-generation college-going and 65% who receive financial aid. “Holistic review” refers to the process of evaluating applications, described below.

The goal of our selection process is to identify applicants who are most likely to contribute to Berkeley’s intellectual and cultural community and, ultimately, to the State of California, the nation, and the world.

The Holistic Review

All applications are read in their entirety by professionally trained readers. That means, we review each application in its entirety, word by word, page by page. Many applications are read two or even three times.

This is an important concept to consider when you complete your application. One way to think of this is that we virtually hug your application—that is how closely we scrutinize what you submit.

The admission holistic review reflects our readers’ thoughtful consideration of the full spectrum of the applicant’s qualifications, based on all evidence provided in the application, and viewed in the context of the applicant’s academic and personal circumstances and the overall strength of the Berkeley applicant pool. Using a broad concept of merit, readers employ the following criteria which carry no pre-assigned weights:

  1. The applicant’s full record of achievement in college preparatory work in high school, including the number and rigor of courses taken and grades earned in those courses.
  2. Personal qualities of the applicant, including leadership ability, character, motivation, insight, tenacity, initiative, originality, intellectual independence, responsibility, maturity, and demonstrated concern for others and for the community are considered.
  3. Likely contributions to the intellectual and cultural vitality of the campus. In addition to a broad range of intellectual interests and achievements, admission readers seek diversity in personal background and experience.
  4. Performance on standardized tests, the SAT Reasoning Test or ACT Assessment plus Writing Test. In addition, any Advanced Placement or IBHL examinations the applicant may have taken will be considered.
  5. Achievement in academic enrichment programs, including but not limited to those sponsored by the University of California. This criterion is measured by time and depth of participation, by the academic progress made by the applicant during that participation, and by the intellectual rigor of the particular program.
  6. Other evidence of achievement. This criterion recognizes exemplary, sustained achievement in any field of intellectual or creative endeavor; accomplishments in extracurricular activities such as the performing arts or athletics; leadership in school or community organizations; employment; and volunteer service.

Race, ethnicity, gender, and religion are excluded from the criteria.

All achievements, both academic and nonacademic, are considered in the context of the opportunities an applicant has had, and the reader’s assessment is based on how fully the applicant has taken advantage of those opportunities. For an applicant who has faced any hardships or unusual circumstances, readers consider the maturity, determination and insight with which the applicant has responded to and/or overcome them. Readers also consider other contextual factors that bear directly upon the applicant’s achievement, including linguistic background, parental education level, and other indicators of support available in the home.

The review recognizes a wide range of talent and creativity that is not necessarily reflected in traditional measures of academic achievement but which, in the judgment of the reader, is a positive indicator of the student’s ability to succeed at Berkeley and beyond.


UC Berkeley is among the more selective universities in the country, becoming more competitive each year. Due to student demand, selectivity varies among Colleges, and—in the College of Engineering—among majors; for example, it is more difficult to gain admission to the Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences major than to the Mechanical Engineering major.

For applications to the College of Letters and Science and Natural Resources no consideration is given to the indicated major in the review process. However, for the professional colleges of Chemistry, Environmental Design, and Engineering demonstrated interest in the major is also taken into consideration. Furthermore, in the colleges of Chemistry and Engineering, Berkeley faculty in these disciplines have asked that readers place added emphasis on sustained achievement in mathematics and science, and have indicated a preference that these applicants take the Math Level 2 SAT Subject Test and a science test (Biology, Chemistry or Physics) that is closely related to the applicant's intended major.

About Transcripts and Portfolios

As part of the UC application process, UC Berkeley and other UC campuses do not ask applicants for transcripts, portfolios, or other supporting documents. Applicants are expected to self-report their grades from their own transcripts, honestly and accurately. If a student is admitted and enrolled, the official transcripts are checked against what the student reported in the application. Any discrepancies can result in cancellation of enrollment.

When it comes to other supporting materials - such as art portfolios, resumes, etc. - UC Berkeley does not consider these during the application review. We expect the reported grades, test scores, extracurricular activities, personal insight questions, and additional comments to give us the full picture of a student's experience and aspirations. This is why it is so important to answer each section of the application thoughtfully and thoroughly.