How to get into the University of California-Berkeley

UC Berkeley – University of California. Who would not want to study at the University of California – a state which boasts endless beaches, hours of warm sunshine, the razzmatazz of Los Angeles  and the iconic streets of San Francisco – as well as some of the best universities in the USA?

UC Berkeley is often called a “Public Ivy” since its high-quality research output equals that of the traditional Ivy League universities, and its standing in the national and global ratings testifies to the excellence of the teaching and the education it offers.  The Times Higher Education World university rankings placed UC Berkeley  9th globally, in 2024, while the QS national rankings of 2024  revealed that Berkeley was the 6th best university in the USA, and its leading public university. Established in 1868, as a land-grant university, UC Berkeley now has approximately 43,000 students, and places are highly sought-after, with an annual acceptance rate of approximately 16 per cent.  UC Berkeley is test-free, so you do not have to submit SAT or ACT results when putting in your application.

How to get into UC Berkeley - the application process

  • The first step is to open an applicant account, which can be done from the beginning of August onwards, although bear in mind that universities in California only accept applications throughout the month of November – no earlier.
  • You must then download the application form and think about how to fill in four of the possible eight personal statement questions – which are a key part of the application . These questions give you an opportunity to flesh out the educational history and demographic information, and to show who you are and what motivates you. Each of the four questions has to be 350 words, or shorter, and is an ideal showcase for demonstrating your intellectual interests, causes you care about, your hobbies, achievements and experiences.
  • In terms of extra-curricular activities, which is usually one of the questions you will find in the list of essay prompts, try and tell the admissions committee about your leadership skills and how you have shown them, any community service and volunteering you may have done and what you learned from it, obstacles you have overcome, and how you did so. Berkeley will be looking at what you can offer and trying to assess how you can make a contribution to the university community.
  • Pay the fee
  • Do not overlook the two Additional Comments boxes, one of which is under Academic History, the other is found in the Personal Insight section. If you did badly in a subject at school, perhaps because you were ill, or the course did not include advanced classes, this is the place to explain any weak areas to the admissions committee. If you need to – use it.
  • Do not miss the application deadline, since Berkeley will not accept applications which are sent in after 30 November.
  • UC Berkeley does not ask for transcripts during the application process, and expects potential students to self-report honestly on their achievements and grades. If you are offered a place, the university will ask for the official records and compare what you reported with the official paperwork. Inaccuracy could lead to an offer being withdrawn.
  • UC Berkeley does not accept supporting material, such as portfolios etc.
  • The University of California may ask you to fill in a supplementary questionnaire, if the admissions committee has any questions which arose when they were reading through your application form. The questionnaire is optional, but you would be well advised to fill it in. If you are requested to complete the supplementary questionnaire, you will also be allowed to send in reference letters – this is the only time Berkeley accepts references. Please be aware that you cannot ask to get a questionnaire and that the online form does not mention recommendations or solicit them at any point.
  • In general, the University of California, Berkeley, believes that reported grades, the application form and the four essays you write will give them the information they need to get an overall picture of who you are, your potential and the areas of knowledge that interest and motivate you.
  • You will get a response to your application by the end of March and if you are offered a place, transcripts must be sent in by 1 July.

Getting into UC Berkeley - what type of student is the admissions board looking for?

  • A close reading of UC Berkeley’s website  paints a full picture of the characteristics and personalities which will appeal to the admissions committee, namely :
    • drive
    • insight
    • intellectual independence
    • maturity
    • care for others and the community
    • achievement in any field, whether this be work, volunteering, the performing arts, sport etc
    • passion and high levels of motivation
    • curiosity and commitment
    • a broad range of diverse experiences
    • the ability to reflect and learn from challenges

How to get into University of California Berkeley - what courses does the university offer?

The university is made up of 14 colleges and 180 departments, and offers 350 degree programmes, and 93 different majors.

What are the most difficult courses to get into at UC Berkeley?

  • Management, Enterprise and Technology (3 per cent acceptance rate)
  • Haas Business School (13 per cent acceptance rate)
  • EECS -Electronic Engineering and Computer Science ( 6 per cent acceptance rate)

Popular and highly ranked courses at the University of California, Berkeley

  • Social sciences
  • Biology and biomedical sciences
  • Computer and information sciences and support services
  • Psychology
  • Economics and Political Science
  • Cell/Cellular and Molecular Biology
  • Environmental studies
  • Electrical engineering
  • All STEM subjects

The predominance of STEM subjects is hardly surprising given Berkeley’s enormous list of scientific and allied ground-breaking research in these areas, including work on both the hydrogen and atomic bombs, the discovery of 16 chemical elements, the development of immunotherapy, the isolation of Vitamin E, creation of the wetsuit  and a long list of successful entrepreneurial initiatives, which gave us:

Will being an athlete help me get into UC Berkeley?

UC Berkeley has a strong sporting tradition and fields teams in many sports, including baseball, basketball, lacrosse, rugby, swimming, rowing and track and field.

Bear in mind, however, that the key to harnessing your sporting abilities is to demonstrate not only achievement but passion – and you can show this during the application process essays.

Do not generalise, but give examples which show your talents, team spirit, leadership qualities and ability to learn from defeat – and rise again.

Getting into the University of California, Berkeley – its political heritage

UC Berkeley was once synonymous with student protests , but much has changed in recent years. The home of the Free Speech Movement, the fight for civil rights and protests against American involvement in the Vietnam war is now a far quieter  campus, with its eyes firmly fixed on innovations coming out of Silicon Valley, Tesla’s R & D laboratories and the latest Facebook and Apple products and services.

Entry requirements for getting into UC Berkeley

You will need to show English language proficiency:

TOEFL 100,

IELTS 6.5 and above.

Your results need to be sent in by the examining board by January. The Berkeley code is 4833.

Like all the University of California colleges, Berkeley needs to see evidence that you have followed A-G high school courses.

These requirements vary according to the course you wish to study.

Contact Elab and we will check what you need to have studied, and for how long.

The University of California, Berkeley: costs

In 2024, costs for attending Berkeley were as listed, below:



Health insurance


Room and board-on campus


Food, transport, leisure, books etc.


Remember, too, that the cost of living in Berkeley is 80 per cent higher than the national average for the USA.

International students are ineligible for federal, state, and need-based university financial aid. Applications to Berkeley are need-blind, but be aware that, when you do apply for an American visa, you will need to show that you can cover all your costs for the period of studying. You  can, however, apply for the many scholarships which are offered by private organisations.

Contact Elab for further information on how to fund your studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

I am interested in getting into the University of California, Berkeley – what is the next step?

Call or email us, here at Elab. We have an experienced, dedicated  team of US expert consultants, who will be able to talk through your  plans, provide you with guidance , help you choose a course and give you all the practical information you need for submitting  an outstanding application to the University of California, Berkeley.

  • Introduction
  • Diagnostics
  • Personal Profile Map
  • Research
  • University Report
  • Final application choices
  • Application process plan
  • Mentor Program
  • Exam and Interview prep
  • Document completion
  • Application portal setup
  • Submission
  • Acceptance
  • Pre-departure procedures
  • Finances
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