How to Get Into UC Berkeley | Admission Requirements + Tips

Picture of the Sphere Within Sphere at the entrance of Berkeley library
April 26, 2024
8 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 4/26/24

If you’re looking to get into UC Berkeley, look no further than this comprehensive guide! Read on to learn more about Berkeley’s admissions requirements, tips to get in, and more.

The University of California, Berkeley, is among the most prestigious public universities in the U.S. The school is located in the vibrant urban city of Berkeley and is one of the country’s most beautiful campuses.

Understanding how to get into college can be tough. To get into UC Berkeley, you’ll need to ensure your application sets you apart from the thousands of candidates who apply annually. To help you understand the application process, we’ve put together this guide to help you get into UC Berkeley. 

UC Berkeley Acceptance Rate: 11.7%

Berkeley is one of the most selective universities in the United States, with an acceptance rate of just 11.7%. Out of 128,916 applicants, only 14,769 students were admitted to UC Berkeley's incoming freshman class.

Year # of Applicants # of Students Admitted Acceptance Rate
2023 125,916 14,769 11.7%
2022 128,226 14,614 11.4%
2021 112,846 16,410 14.5%
2020 88,076 15,448 17.5%

How Hard is It to Get Into UC Berkeley?

With an acceptance rate of 11.7%, getting into UC Berkeley is extremely difficult. Successful applicants typically have exceptional academic records, with the middle 50% of admitted students scoring between 1390–1540 on the SAT.

Take our interactive quiz below to find out how likely you are to get into UC Berkeley.

UC Berkeley Admissions Statistics

Getting into UC Berkeley is difficult, but not impossible. Students must meet the minimum requirements and should aim for above-average test scores.

UC Berkeley Average GPA: 3.9

The average GPA of admitted students at UC Berkeley is 3.9, indicating that most successful applicants have an exceptional academic record in high school.

UC Berkeley Average SAT Score: 1415

The average SAT score for students admitted to UC Berkeley is 1415. This score is a composite of the Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing sections.

UC Berkeley Average ACT Score: 31

The average ACT score of students admitted to UC Berkeley is 31. This score reflects the competitiveness of the admissions process and the high caliber of students the university attracts.

What Is UC Berkeley Looking For In Applicants?

UC Berkeley evaluates applications holistically, considering both academic and non-academic factors. The university values intellectual curiosity, leadership potential, and a commitment to community service among other qualities.

1. Academic Excellence: The Foundation

Unsurprisingly, UC Berkeley prioritizes academic achievement. A strong GPA in challenging courses signals your readiness for the university's rigor.  This doesn't mean perfection; rather, it demonstrates sustained effort and a drive to push your intellectual boundaries. UC Berkeley wants students who thrive not just in the classroom, but who embrace academic challenges.

2. Beyond the Test Scores: Holistic Review

While test scores (SAT/ACT) were traditionally a factor, UC Berkeley is currently test-free for admissions. This shift reinforces their holistic review process, where every piece of your application is thoughtfully considered.  Here's where your story shines through:

  • Personal Insight Questions (PIQs):  Your PIQs are mini-essays that reveal your personality, values, and passions.  Don't just list accomplishments;  use them to demonstrate who you are and what drives you. How do your experiences shape your goals? What lessons have failures taught you? UC Berkeley seeks students with self-awareness, resilience,  and the potential to contribute meaningfully to campus life.
  • Personal Insight Questions (PIQs):  Your PIQs are mini-essays that reveal your personality, values, and passions.  Don't just list accomplishments;  use them to demonstrate who you are and what drives you. How do your experiences shape your goals? What lessons have failures taught you? UC Berkeley seeks students with self-awareness, resilience,  and the potential to contribute meaningfully to campus life.
  • Special Circumstances:  UC Berkeley is committed to diversity and understands that not everyone starts from the same place.  If your educational journey was impacted by personal or socioeconomic challenges, share that context. Highlighting your ability to overcome adversity speaks volumes about your tenacity and potential.

3. The Intangibles: Character and Intellectual Curiosity

UC Berkeley seeks students who embody the spirit of the institution.  This means demonstrating certain qualities:

  • Intellectual Curiosity: Do you go beyond the textbook? UC Berkeley wants students who ask questions, seek connections between subjects, and love to learn for their own sake.
  • Passion and Initiative: Show you're a self-starter. Did you lead a school project, start a club, or pursue a unique interest? Demonstrating a drive to make things happen is a sign of future success.
  • Community-Mindedness: UC Berkeley prides itself on being a public university. They seek students invested in the greater good who understand the power of collaboration. Have you worked to uplift your community or tackled a social issue?

4. The Berkeley Fit

Ultimately, UC Berkeley is looking for students who will not only thrive on their dynamic campus but also contribute positively to its legacy. Align your application with Berkeley's core values – a passion for excellence, a drive for innovation, a commitment to social justice, and a global perspective.

Remember, there's no single formula for admission.  UC Berkeley builds a dynamic class from a variety of talented and driven individuals.  By presenting yourself authentically, showcasing your intellectual spark, and demonstrating your fit with Berkeley's ideals, you maximize your chances of becoming a Golden Bear.

UC Berkeley Admissions Requirements

To apply, you must meet all UC Berkeley admissions requirements.

  • Completed UC Application
  • Official high school transcript
  • SAT or ACT scores (optional)
  • Personal insight questions
  • Letters of recommendation (optional)

UC Berkeley Course Requirements

Berkeley expects California residents to complete 15 college-preparatory courses with a letter grade of C or better. The full list of A-G courses includes:

Course Required # of Years Taken
History 2
English 4
Mathematics 3
Science 2
Language (Non-English) 2
Visual and Performing Arts 1
College Preparatory Elective 1

UC Berkeley GPA Requirements 

Unlike most other colleges, the University of California, Berkeley has a GPA requirement. Freshmen must also have a minimum GPA of 3.0 in the 10th and 11th grades; for non-residents, this minimum GPA requirement is 3.4. 

Despite this minimum requirement, competitive candidates typically have academic profiles far exceeding UC Berkeley’s GPA requirement.

UC Berkeley SAT Requirements  

Many colleges have moved to test-optional policies; SAT scores at UC Berkeley aren’t considered for admission or scholarships. If you do choose to submit your SAT score to UC Berkeley, it may be used as an “alternative method of fulfilling minimum requirements for eligibility or for course placement after you enroll.” 

UC Berkeley ACT Requirements

UC Berkeley no longer requires the ACT or SAT for admission or scholarship consideration. However, you can still submit your ACT score to bolster your application. 

UC Berkeley Extracurricular Activities Requirements

There aren’t any specific requirements for extracurriculars at UC Berkeley, but Berkeley’s admissions officers like to see what you're passionate about outside of classes. Joining clubs, leading, or being part of community activities can make your application stronger. It's about showing who you are beyond academics.

UC Berkeley Application Deadlines

UC Berkeley has one admission deadline that closes on November 30. It's best to start working on your applications as early as possible; UC Berkeley allows you to start as early as August 1.

To make sure you stay on track, here are the important dates and UC Berkeley application deadlines

Application Step Deadline
Applications Open August 1
Application Filing Period October 1–30
Application Deadline November 30
Berkeley notifies applicants of receipt of application By Early December
First-year decisions posted End of March
Transfer decisions posted End of April
First-year deadline to accept offer of admission May 1 or May 15
Transfer deadline to accept offer of admission June 1

Should I Apply to UC Berkeley?

You aren't alone if you’re second-guessing whether you should apply to UC Berkeley. It’s normal to have doubts when you’re narrowing down the list of colleges you’ll apply to. 

Before you can answer this question yourself, take another look at Berkeley:

  • What undergraduate programs does it offer (and do they align with your
  • interests)?
  • Do you meet the application requirements?
  • Do you feel like you match what UC Berkeley looks for?
  • Does the culture align with your preferences?
  • Can you envision your college life at the Berkeley campus?

Answering questions like these can help you determine if UC Berkeley is right for you. It can't hurt to apply (even if you’re still unsure), especially when you've done all the necessary research to give yourself the best shot at success.

If you still have doubts even after exploring the different opportunities available at UC Berkeley, our advice is to go for it. It can't hurt to apply, especially when you've done all the necessary research to give yourself the best shot at success.

How To Improve Your Chances of Getting Into UC Berkeley

While maintaining a strong academic record and well-rounded profile is essential, here are some insider tips that can give you an extra edge in the highly competitive UC Berkeley admissions process to stand out:

1. Use Alumni Connections

UC Berkeley values applicants with a demonstrated connection to the university. If you know any alumni, reach out to them for advice, recommendations, or even a campus tour. Their insights can help you better understand the Berkeley culture and tailor your application accordingly.

2. Pursue Unique Extracurriculars

Instead of joining the typical high school clubs, seek out plenty of extracurricular activities that align with your passions and showcase your individuality. For instance, start your own club, launch a community service project, or pursue an unconventional hobby that sets you apart from other applicants.

3. Attend Local Admissions Events

UC Berkeley often hosts admissions events in various regions, allowing you to interact with admissions officers and current students. Attending these events demonstrates your genuine interest and allows you to ask insightful questions that can strengthen your application.

4. Apply for Specialized Programs

UC Berkeley offers several specialized programs, such as the Management, Entrepreneurship, & Technology (M.E.T.) program or the Regents' and Chancellor's Scholarship Program. These programs have separate admissions processes and can increase your chances of acceptance if you meet their specific criteria.

5. Highlight Your California Residency

As a public university, UC Berkeley gives preference to California residents. If you're a California resident, make sure to highlight this in your application and emphasize your ties to the state, such as community involvement or local achievements.

6. Demonstrate Intellectual Vitality

UC Berkeley seeks students who are intellectually curious and passionate about learning. In your essays and interviews, share examples of how you've pursued your academic interests beyond the classroom, such as attending lectures, participating in academic competitions, or conducting independent research projects.

Remember, while these tips can give you an advantage, they should complement a strong overall application. Focus on demonstrating your qualities, achievements, and fit for UC Berkeley's vibrant community.

UC Berkeley Essay Prompts

When it comes to the competitive UC Berkeley application, your essays, known as Personal Insight Questions or PIQs, are where your voice shines through.  Unlike traditional college essays, the eight UC PIQs are short-response prompts designed to reveal who you are beyond your transcript and achievements.

Let's take a look at the PIQs you will be able to choose from when applying to UC Berkeley. 

  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?”

Candidates must submit four short college admission essays, no more than 350 words each. All questions are weighted equally, so it doesn't matter which questions you choose to answer. 

UC Berkeley Interview

Unlike other schools, UC Berkeley, unfortunately, doesn’t conduct college interviews

Your application and the strength of your essay responses are the only opportunities you’ll have to demonstrate who you are as a student, learner, and community member.


If you want to know more about UC Berkeley admissions, check out our FAQ section below.

1. What Does UC Berkeley Look for in Applicants?

UC Berkeley seeks well-rounded students with strong academic records, diverse extracurricular activities, and leadership potential. The admissions committee values intellectual curiosity, passion for learning, and dynamic personalities beyond just grades and test scores. 

2. Does UC Berkeley accept transfer credit?

Yes, UC Berkeley accepts transfer credits. Review their transfer credit policies on their admissions website for specific details and eligibility.

4. Can I Get Into UC Berkeley With a 3.5 GPA?

While a 3.5 GPA is lower than the average for admitted Berkeley students, it's not impossible.  UC Berkeley's holistic review considers your entire application - strong essays, extracurriculars, and unique circumstances can boost your chances.

5. How Do I Stand Out in the UC Berkeley Application Process?

To stand out, demonstrate your fit with Berkeley's values! On your college application, highlight diverse extracurriculars, community involvement, and essays that show your best traits and meaningful experiences.

6. When Should I Start Preparing for UC Berkeley? 

Start early! The UC application opens on August 1st, with a November 30th deadline.  Give yourself ample time for essays, revisions, and gathering any necessary recommendations.

7. What Should I Do if I Get Rejected from UC Berkeley?

Rejection doesn't equal failure! Consider options like a gap year, another college, or appealing the decision (which Berkeley reviews on a case-by-case basis).

8. How Hard is It to Get Into UC Berkeley? 

UC Berkeley is highly selective, with an acceptance rate of 11%. While challenging, a strong, well-rounded application significantly increases your chances.

9. What GPA is Required for UC Berkeley? 

The minimum GPA is 3.0 for California residents and 3.4 for non-residents. However, successful applicants typically far exceed these minimums. Aim for a GPA closer to 3.8- 4.0 (unweighted).

11. What Is UC Berkeley Known For?

UC Berkeley is renowned for its top-ranked graduate programs, research excellence, and impressive alumni network. They offer 120+ graduate programs and award thousands of master's and doctoral degrees yearly.

12. How Much is UC Berkeley Tuition?

The tuition and fees for UC Berkeley amount to $16,522 in the 2023-24 academic year. However, the total cost of attendance is estimated to be around $48,574.

Final Thoughts 

UC Berkeley is a prestigious university that can set you on a path toward success. With this prestige comes a highly competitive applicant pool, so you must ensure a strong application. 

An exceptional academic history, a high GPA, and a diverse range of extracurricular activities you're passionate about are essential to building a compelling application. 

Now that you know how to get into UC Berkeley, you should understand what the admissions committee is looking for. 

Each part of your application should work together to convince the admissions committee you would make a great addition to the UC Berkeley community. If you need a helping hand, sign up for our expert UC Berkeley admissions counseling. Good luck! 

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