How to Get into UC Berkeley: Ultimate Guide (2024 Undergrad)

UC-Berkeley is one of the top-ranked universities in the country AND across the globe.

Unfortunately, Berkeley’s admission rate is decreasing each year. 

This guide aims to clarify the admissions process and offer actionable strategies to enhance your application and chances of acceptance into Berkeley.

How Hard Is It To Get Into UC Berkeley?

For clarification, UC-Berkeley is very hard to get into.

UC-Berkeley is extremely competitive because it is THE top-ranked public university in the U.S and one of the most prestigious school’s in the country.

Berkeley appeals to students all over the world for many reasons. 

Its academic rigor, high achieving programs and alumni, and ideal location are just a few of the factors that attract ambitious students. 

UC Berkeley’s Acceptance Rate is 11%

UC Berkeley’s acceptance rate is 11%

Over 128,226 first-year students submitted applications last year.

Out of those applicants, 14,614 were offered acceptance and 6,726 chose to pursue their studies at Berkeley.

What is UC Berkeley Admissions Looking For?

According to the data published by UC-Berkeley, certain things matter more than others. Take a look at the Common Data Set below and we will dive into each category.

‘Very Important’ Criteria – How to Get Into UC Berkeley

School Rigor

School Rigor helps helps the admissions committees understand how well you’ve performed in comparison to what’s offered at your school.

They examine factors like the difficulty of your school’s curriculum (such as AP, IB, and honors courses), the distribution of GPAs among students, the number of students heading to college, the kinds of colleges recent graduates attend, and the demographics of your school.

The admissions process specifically considers students whose academic preparation indicates a strong likelihood of graduating. UC Berkeley looks for students who not only excel academically but also demonstrate potential for growth and contribution.

Applicants must have completed specific course requirements in English, mathematics, science, foreign language, social studies, and visual/performing arts. These requirements ensure students are well-prepared for UC Berkeley’s academic rigor.

The assessment includes the applicant’s entire record of achievement in college preparatory coursework during high school. This involves considering the number and difficulty of courses taken, as well as the weighted and unweighted GPA earned from those courses.

They also look at the completion of courses beyond the University of California’s minimum requirements, the strength of the senior year course load, and performance in honors, college-level, Advanced Placement (AP), and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses, if available.

When evaluating achievement levels, they take into account individual grades, the pattern of achievement over time, and how the applicant’s achievement compares to others in their high school.

Academic GPA

Students who apply to Berkeley must have a minimum 3.0 GPA in A-G courses in the 10th and 11th grade years (3.4 GPA for non-residents)

Since UC-Berkeley is a competitive campus, satisfying the minimum requirements is often not enough to be competitive for selection. 

Last year, over 90% of all accepted students had a 3.75% or higher while the average GPA of the incoming freshman was 3.9

Remember UC-Berkeley will use their holistic approach and consider the following components of your academic record:

  • Your weighted and unweighted UC grade point average (calculated using 10th and 11th grade UC-approved courses only)
  • Your planned 12th grade courses
  • Your pattern of grades over time
  • The number of college preparatory, Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), honors and transferable college courses you have completed
  • Your level of achievement in those courses relative to other UC applicants at your school
  • Your scores on AP or IB exam

As you can see, if Berkeley is still your target school, you still have a chance of getting accepted even if you’re not at the 3.75 GPA. 

Application Essay

UC-Berkeley highly values its application essays—students are required to complete ‘Person Insight Questions’ (PIQs)

There are eight options to choose between. Because not all questions apply to all applicants you only need to choose four of eight to answer.

All eight PIQs are given equal consideration in the application review process. Responses to each question should be between 250-350 words.

To gain admissions, an applicant will need four distinct, moving stories.

PIQs are a great opportunity for students to:

  1. Differentiate from their peers who have similar academic records.
  2. Share insight into your level of achievement – both inside and outside the classroom.
  3. Provide any information that may not be evident in other parts of the application.

Here is the list of PIQs below:

Option 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.

Option 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.

Option 3

What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?

Option 4

Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.

Option 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?

Option 6

Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom.

Option 7

What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?

Option 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?

How to get into UC Berkeley undergrad

‘Important’ Criteria

Extracurricular Activities

UC-Berkeley takes a holistic approach to assessing applications.

This means both academic and non-academic features of an application are important.

The university wants students who will contribute to the intellectual and cultural vitality of their campus.

When completing the UC application, you will have 2 different opportunities to speak to your extracurriculars:

  1. When completing the Awards/Activities section you can include up to 6 extracurriculars
  2. When completing your Personal Insight Questions.

Take a moment to think about what most students may include on their list and if you still have time, try to participate in unique experiences that will help you stand out from your peers.

Character/Personal Qualities

Berkeley wants to be able to imagine what it will be like to have you on campus.

Throughout your UC application, you have the opportunity to ‘sell’ who you are as a person.

Use every opportunity you have on the application to best align yourself with the top character traits of a Berkeley student: leadership, tenacity, persistence, or initiative.

These are the hallmarks of a UC Berkeley student.

In opportunities when you cannot include these, Berkeley also searches for students who demonstrate passion, and a desire to give back. 

Volunteer Work & Work Experience

The same things as extracurricular activities apply here. 

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‘Considered’ Criteria

Standardized Test Scores

UC Berkeley is test-free, meaning we will not use standardized exams (SAT and ACT) in their review process. 

Subject exams are optional but can still be a value add. 

If you report your scores to one campus, they will be shared with every UC campus to which you’ve applied.

Reccomendation Letters

UC-Berkeley has a unique policy for letters of recommendation. Only certain applicants receive an invitation to submit two letters. 

Although not mandatory for full application consideration, it is highly recommended for those who receive the invitation. 


UC Berkeley aims to attract students who bring diverse talents, perspectives, and experiences to enrich the campus community. 

This could be anything from a distinct skill or innovative project to a unique cultural background or life experiences that offer a fresh viewpoint. 

Such special potential indicates a student’s capacity to contribute novel ideas and perspectives to the university environment.

First Generation

UC-Berkeley will take into consideration minority racial/ethnic backgrounds and first-generation college applicants to ensure a diverse and equitable student body.

Over 17% of the incoming class are first-generation college-going.


As a public institution, the UC system prioritizes admission for California residents. 

It’s important to note that all UC campuses do offer admission to out-of-state students.

The acceptance rate at Berkeley for out-of-state students is slightly lower at 8.6%

‘Not Considered’ Criteria

Class Rank

Although it’s best to be at the top of your class, this is not part of the selection criteria at UC-Berkeley.


There is no live or video interview required.

Alumni/AE Relations

No preference in the admissions process will be given to applicants whose relatives are

alumni of, employees of, or donors to Berkeley or the University of California. 

Geographic Location

There is a strong preference for in-state students, but out-of-state students are welcome to apply and are accepted at UC-Berkeley. 

Regardless of where you are located in California, admission preferences do not change.

Level of Applicant’s Interest

Regardless if Berkeley is not selected as your top choice on the UC application, this does not change your likelihood of gaining admission.

How to get into UC Berkeley undergrad

How to Improve Chances of Getting Into UC Berkeley

We have three main suggestions for improving your chances of getting into UC Berkeley.

Make the Most of your PIQs

Here’s 11 tips to make the most of your PIQs

Use Additional Comments Wisely:

Utilize the Additional Comments field to address any issues not covered elsewhere in the application.

Write persuasively:

Lessen the impact of your words by making a list of accomplishments, activities, awards, or work. Expand on a topic by using specific, concrete examples to support the points you want to make.

Use “I” statements:

Get to know your personality, talents, accomplishments, and potential for success on a UC campus by talking about yourself.

Allow ample time:

Enhance overall presentation by allocating enough time for preparation, revisions, and careful composition. While grammar, spelling, and sentence structure aren’t the main focus, they play a role.

Admissions Criteria:

Seek evidence of initiative, service, leadership, cultural engagement, persistence, motivation, and special potential when admissions officers consider your achievements. Contextualize accomplishments within available opportunities.

Handling Hardships:

Focus on how you confronted and overcame hardships. Reflect on the lessons learned to highlight character traits valued by UC Berkeley.

Additional Comments Box:

Provide context for achievements, list additional honors, activities, or share information about a nontraditional school environment using the Additional Comments box. Ensure your personal insight questions reveal who you are.

Equal Consideration:

All questions receive equal consideration during the application review. There’s no advantage or disadvantage in choosing specific questions.

No Right or Wrong:

Showcase your personality, background, interests, and achievements in your unique voice; there’s no prescribed way to answer.

Be Authentic:

Reflect your true self. Authenticity resonates more than perfection. Use specific examples and anecdotes to illustrate points. Differentiate yourself by presenting your unique experiences.

Seek feedback:

Ensure clarity and impact by having someone you trust review your responses. Constructive feedback can refine your answers.

Develop Large Impact Extracurriculars that Align with UC Berkeley’s Values

UC- Berkeleyseeks students who embody qualities such as leadership, initiative, motivation, persistence, a commitment to service, special potential, and substantial experience with diverse cultures. 

If you can align these values with hight impact extracurriculars, you are giving yourself the best chance of getting accepted.

Here are a few examples of ‘Large Impact’ extracurriculars:

  • Publishing a research paper
  • Patenting a device
  • Starting a business (and scaling it!)
  • Participating in a prestigious internship
  • Developing an app that solves a common pain point
  • Win a State Championship
  • Earn government funding for a significant project

If this list seems overwhelming or you’re not sure exactly where to get started. Consider enrolling in Youthfully’s Extracurricular program.

Inherit a Glowing Letter of Recommendation

In the UC-Berkeley application process, these letters can significantly impact your candidacy. They provide an extra layer of academic and personal information beyond grades and test scores.

These letters shed light on your character, work ethic, and potential contributions to the university community. 

By presenting you as a well-rounded individual, they enhance the overall strength of your application. These letters offer valuable insights into your academic potential and character.

Here’s a few tips to ensure you get the most out of your Recommendation Letter:

  1. Ask yourself: Who knows me best? Letters of recommendation can provide important information about you, so think about who knows you well, both in and outside of the classroom.
  2. Make your reference familiar with the Berkeley values: 
  • Love of learning
  • Leadership
  • Persistence in the face of challenges
  • Cross-cultural engagement
  • Originality or creativity
  • Concern for others
  1. Identify people who know how you embody one or all of the Berkeley values.
  2. Give them plenty of time to write it, and follow up to keep them accountable. 
How to get into UC Berkeley undergrad

Does UC Berkeley do Early Admission?

The University of California Berkeley doesn’t have an early decision application process, and so it doesn’t have a different early decision acceptance rate

UC Berkeley Admissions Application & Criteria


UC-Berkeley does not use common app. Because they are part of the UC system, they use the UC Application portal.

Here are your important dates:

Application available: August 1st

Application filing period opens: October 1st

Application deadline: November 30th

First-year decisions posted: End of March

Deadline to accept offer: May 1st

Here is a quick overview of the application. 

  1. Create an account (use a non-school affiliated email address like gmail or yahoo)

Campuses send important, time-sensitive correspondence to applicants, so you should check your email regularly (including your spam folders).

  1. Selecting term & level

After you create an account, you’ll need to select the term you’re applying for (when you hope to start at UC) and your applicant level (e.g. freshman, transfer, etc.).

  1. About you

This first section has several pages asking for information about you and your family. You can ask your parents or legal guardians for support on this. 

  1. Campuses & majors

Select which campuses you’re applying to and the majors you’re interested in. If you aren’t sure what you want to major in yet, you can choose “Undecided” or “Undeclared.”

  1. Academic history

Enter the courses and grades from all schools you’ve attended while in high school. This includes Middle school if you took high school level courses early. It’s important to report all of your schools, courses and grades exactly as they would appear on official transcripts or academic records.

  1. Test scores

UC will not consider SAT or ACT test scores when making admissions decisions or awarding scholarships. They may be used as an alternative method of fulfilling minimum requirements for eligibility or for course placement after you enroll. 

AP, IB , English proficiency and International exams: You will be asked about each of these exams on separate pages in the test score section. You’ll need to report your scores if you’ve already taken an exam or indicate if you’re planning on taking an exam in the future.

  1. Activities & awards

This is your opportunity to share what you’re most proud of outside the classroom. They’re looking for quality, not quantity—so make sure to focus on the activities and awards that are most important to you.

You’ll need to classify each activity/award as one of six categories: 

  • Award or honor
  • Educational preparation programs (any programs that have enriched your academic experiences or helped you prepare for college)
  • Extracurricular activity
  • Other coursework (courses other than those required for UC admission/courses that do not fit in UC’s A-G subject areas)
  • Volunteering/Community service
  • Work Experience
  1. Scholarships & programs

You should select any and all scholarship categories that apply to you (there’s no limit on the number of scholarships you can select). You can also indicate if you’re interested in the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), which provides support services when you’re at UC.

  1. Personal insight

This is the section where you’ll need to answer the PIQs. 

  1. Review & submit

This is the last page you’ll visit before you start submitting the application. If you have remaining items to complete, you will see a “To Do” next to that section. Very few changes can be made after submission. 

Please note, each UC campus evaluates each application without knowing the status of the same application at another campus. 

In making admission decisions, campuses do not consider where you’ve applied or your admission status to other campuses. 

All campuses consider your application simultaneously, yet independently of all other campuses you applied to.

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UC Berkeley Admissions Criteria

Berkeley spends time evaluating your academic achievements in light of the opportunities available to you and your demonstrated capacity to contribute to the intellectual life at UC. 

After careful consideration, your application will be categorized into one of three categories:

“Strongly Recommend,” “Recommend,” “Do Not Recommend.”

“Strongly Recommend”

This recommendation is intended for exceptional applicants who have excelled in various academic and non-academic criteria outlined in this document. 

The top 10% of this distinguished group should be nominated for the Regents’ and Chancellor’s Scholarship. 

Identification of these individuals should be based on achievements that surpass the typical expectations of a successful Berkeley student.


This recommendation is intended for applicants who exhibit promise of success at Berkeley, although not at the same exceptional level as those in the “Strongly Recommend” category. 

The process for making admissions decisions for applicants recommended for “Recommend” is detailed in the Freshman Selection Procedures document.

“Do Not Recommend”

This recommendation shall be given to applicants whose overall level of achievement is not sufficiently high relative to the rest of the application pool to warrant admission. 

Special Admissions – How to Get Into Berkeley for M.E.T. Major

Berkeley – M.E.T

The Berkeley Management, Entrepreneurship, and Technology programs require additional supplemental material. You will have to submit 1 required essay and you may be selected to complete a video essay with 3 questions.

Required Essay: (350 words maximum)

Describe how the Management, Entrepreneurship, & Technology Program in Engineering and Business at UC Berkeley will help you to achieve your goals. Share with us the world you come from (for example, your family, school, community, city, or town). What unique experiences from your world motivated you to apply to our program?

Video Essay Questions

  1. How have you contributed to and bolstered the communities you are a part of? (Communities can = school, extracurriculars, family, etc.)
  2. How will your admittance into the program catapult your educational journey or complement your career plans?
  3. What has been your biggest failure and how did you respond?



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