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First-Year Policies

Standardized testing

Berkeley is test-free, which means we will not use SAT/ACT test scores in any part of our application process.

Berkeley has always used, and will continue to use, holistic review, which means there is no one factor on the application that will determine a student’s admission status. SAT/ACT test scores were not the only academic indicators available on the application to assess students. Other academic indicators will continue to be assessed in the review process, including grades, the rigor of a student’s courses, other non-required tests (AP exams, IB test, etc.), and a student’s individual academic context.

While SAT/ACT scores will not be used in the admissions process, any scores submitted to Berkeley will be used for placement or subject credit purposes should the student be admitted to Berkeley.

View our Applicant FAQs for more details on our testing policy.

Letters of recommendation

Select applicants to UC Berkeley are invited to submit two letters of recommendation. Submission is voluntary and not required for full consideration of the application for admission. However, it is highly recommended that students use this opportunity as it can provide additional academic and personal context. Only students invited to submit letters of recommendation can do so, and we will not accept unsolicited letters or supplemental information

Furthering our belief in the value of holistic review, we ask that those who write letters consider the following concepts when asked to add a letter to the application process:

  • Academic performance and potential (both overall and in the context of the applicant’s high school class)
  • Love of learning
  • Leadership (in school, family, or community)
  • Persistence in the face of challenges
  • Cross-cultural engagement
  • Originality/Creativity
  • Demonstrated concern for others

If a student is offered the opportunity to submit up to two letters of recommendation, they must be submitted electronically. Students and recommenders will be provided the appropriate instructions. Additionally, at least one letter should be written by a teacher or instructor in a core academic subject.

Letters of recommendation are due January 3.



August 1 UC application opens
October 1 – November 30 UC application submission period
October through early December Requests for letters sent to students
January 3 Letters of recommendations due



Only students who have submitted a UC application will be considered for the letters of recommendation process. Students who are invited to participate in this process will receive instructions via email on how to use the applicant portal to submit names and contact information for their recommenders. This will initiate an email to the recommenders with instructions on how to submit letters through the portal. 

Students: Please communicate with your recommenders ahead of time. Make sure they agree to write a letter before you submit their information. Additionally, give them the courtesy of time. 


Advice for writing letters 

  • Help us understand who the human being is behind the numbers. Letters are most helpful when they provide specific examples of a student’s accomplishments and character.
  • Go beyond a student’s grades, academic performance, or providing a laundry list of their extracurricular activities. Try to personalize each letter as much as possible.
  • Letters should provide us with information that we cannot already obtain from the student’s application.
  • Be candid and honest.
  • Avoid vague, general statements without any concrete examples of the student’s ability, curiosity, or intellect.


Questions letters should try to address:

  • What is the context and nature of your relationship with the applicant? If you know the student but due to workload constraints can only provide a brief summary, please let us know.
  • Has the student demonstrated a willingness to take intellectual risks and go beyond the normal classroom experience?
  • Does the student have any unusual talents, abilities, or interests?
  • What motivates and excites the student?
  • How does the student interact with teachers? Peers? If possible, describe the applicant’s personality and social skills.
  • How did the student react to setbacks, failure, or disappointments?
  • Are there any unusual personal, family, or community circumstances of which we should be aware?



Helpful Tools

Students: If you are a prospective applicant with the opportunity to submit letters of recommendation, check out these helpful hints.

Letter Writers: Did a student ask you to write a letter on their behalf? Find tips on how to get started here.

Last updated November 2023.