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Uc berkeley essay

Personal Insight Questions

Personal Insight Questions

The personal insight questions are about getting to know you better — your life experience, interests, ambitions and inspirations.

Think of it as your interview with the Admissions office. Be open. Be reflective. Find your individual voice and express it.

Learn more about Personal Insight questions in the video below:

  • Each response is limited to a maximum of 350 words.
  • Which questions you choose to answer is entirely up to you, but you should select questions that are most relevant to your experience and that best reflect your individual circumstances.
  • You will have 8 questions to choose from. You must respond to only 4 of the 8 questions.
  • There is one required question you must answer.
  • You must also answer 3 out of 7 additional questions.

As a vital part of your application, the personal insight questions—short-answer questions you will choose from—are reviewed by both the Admissions and Scholarship offices.

At Berkeley we use personal insight questions to:

  • Discover and evaluate distinctions among applicants whose academic records are often very similar
  • Gain insight into your level of academic, personal and extracurricular achievement
  • Provide us with information that may not be evident in other parts of the application

What we look for:

  • Initiative, motivation, leadership, persistence, service to others, special potential and substantial experience with other cultures
  • All achievement in light of the opportunities available to you
  • Any unusual circumstances or hardships you have faced and the ways in which you have overcome or responded to them. Having a hardship is no guarantee of admission. If you choose to write about difficulties you have experienced, you should describe:
    • How you confronted and overcame your challenges, rather than describing a hardship just for the sake of including it in your application
    • What you learned from or achieved in spite of these circumstances

Academic achievement

For freshman applicants:

  • Academic accomplishments, beyond those shown in your transcript

For transfer students:

  • Include interest in your intended major, explain the way in which your academic interests developed, and describe any related work or volunteer experience.
  • Explain your reason for transferring if you are applying from a four-year institution or a community college outside of California. For example, you may substantiate your choice of a particular major or your interest in studying with certain faculty on our campus.

How to answer your personal insight questions

  • Thoughtfully describe not only what you’ve done, but also the choices you have made and what you have gained as a result.
  • Allow sufficient time for preparation, revisions, and careful composition. Your answers are not evaluated on correct grammar, spelling, or sentence structure, but these qualities will enhance overall presentation and readability.

If you are applying.

  • to a professional college (such as the College of Engineering or Chemistry), it is important that you discuss:
    • Your intended field of study
    • Your interest in your specific major
    • Any school or work-related experience
  • for a scholarship, we recommend that you elaborate on the academic and extracurricular information in the application that demonstrates your motivation, achievement, leadership, and commitmen (link is external) t.
  • to the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP)—the support program for students from low-income families in which neither parent is a college graduate:
    • Discuss how the program might benefit you
    • Tell us about your determination to succeed even though you may have lacked academic or financial support

Keep in mind

You can use the Additional Comments box to convey any information that will help us understand the context of your achievement; to list any additional honors awards, activities, leadership elements, volunteer activities, etc.; to share information regarding a nontraditional school environment or unusual circumstances that has not been included in any other area of the application. And, finally, after we read your personal insight questions, we will ask the question, “What do we know about this individual?” If we have learned very little about you, your answers were not successful.

Uc berkeley essay

Selection Process

Selection is based on holistic review for Freshman applicants, and comprehensive review for Transfers, 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 Freshman applications where no one piece of information is weighted more heavily over another. “Comprehensive review” refers to the process of evaluating Transfer applications where all academic and personal attributes are considered, but more emphasis is put on academic preparedness for the major.

UC Berkeley is among the more selective universities in the country, becoming more competitive each year. Due to student demand, selectivity varies among Colleges.

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.

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.

UC Berkeley Requirements for Admission

Choose Your Test

What are UC Berkeley’s admission requirements? While there are a lot of pieces that go into a college application, you should focus on only a few critical things:

In this guide we’ll cover what you need to get into UC Berkeley and build a strong application.

School location: Berkeley, CA

This school is also known as: University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, UC Berkeley

Admissions Rate: 15%

If you want to get in, the first thing to look at is the acceptance rate. This tells you how competitive the school is and how serious their requirements are.

The acceptance rate at UC Berkeley is 15%. For every 100 applicants, only 15 are admitted.

This means the school is extremely selective. Meeting their GPA requirements and SAT/ACT requirements is very important to getting past their first round of filters and proving your academic preparation. If you don’t meet their expectations, your chance of getting is nearly zero.

After crossing this hurdle, you’ll need to impress UC Berkeley application readers through their other application requirements, including extracurriculars, essays, and letters of recommendation. We’ll cover more below.

UC Berkeley GPA Requirements

Many schools specify a minimum GPA requirement, but this is often just the bare minimum to submit an application without immediately getting rejected.

The GPA requirement that really matters is the GPA you need for a real chance of getting in. For this, we look at the school’s average GPA for its current students.

Average GPA: 3.87

(Most schools use a weighted GPA out of 4.0, though some report an unweighted GPA.

With a GPA of 3.87, UC Berkeley requires you to be near the top of your class, and well above average. Your transcript should show mostly A’s. Ideally, you will also have taken several AP or IB classes to show that you can handle academics at a college level.

If you’re currently a junior or senior, your GPA is hard to change in time for college applications. If your GPA is at or below the school average of 3.87, you’ll need a higher SAT or ACT score to compensate. This will help you compete effectively against other applicants who have higher GPAs than you.

SAT and ACT Requirements

Each school has different requirements for standardized testing. Most schools require the SAT or ACT, and many also require SAT subject tests.

You must take either the SAT or ACT to submit an application to UC Berkeley. More importantly, you need to do well to have a strong application.

UC Berkeley SAT Requirements

Many schools say they have no SAT score cutoff, but the truth is that there is a hidden SAT requirement. This is based on the school’s average score.

Average SAT: 1440 (Old: 2060)

The average SAT score composite at UC Berkeley is a 1440 on the 1600 SAT scale.

On the old 2400 SAT, this corresponds to an average SAT score of 2060.

This score makes UC Berkeley Strongly Competitive for SAT test scores.

UC Berkeley SAT Score Analysis (New 1600 SAT)

The 25th percentile New SAT score is 1330, and the 75th percentile New SAT score is 1540. In other words, a 1330 on the New SAT places you below average, while a 1540 will move you up to above average.

Here’s the breakdown of new SAT scores by section:

UC Berkeley SAT Score Analysis (Old 2400 SAT)

The 25th percentile Old SAT score is 1870, and the 75th percentile SAT score is 2250. In other words, a 1870 on the Old SAT places you below average, while a 2250 puts you well above average.

Here’s the breakdown of old SAT scores by section:

SAT Score Choice Policy

The Score Choice policy at your school is an important part of your testing strategy.

UC Berkeley has the Score Choice policy of “All Scores.”

This means that UC Berkeley requires you to send all SAT scores you’ve ever taken to their office.

This sounds daunting, but most schools don’t actually consider all your scores equally. For example, if you scored an 1300 on one test and a 1500 on another, they won’t actually average the two tests.

In fact, we researched the score policies at UC Berkeley, and they have the following policy:

We require all scores and will use the highest scores from a single administration.

Some students are still worried about submitting too many test scores. They’re afraid that UC Berkeley will look down on too many attempts to raise your score. But how many is too many?

From our research and talking to admissions officers, we’ve learned that 4-6 tests is a safe number to submit. The college understands that you want to have the best chance of admission, and retaking the test is a good way to do this. Within a reasonable number of tests, they honestly don’t care how many times you’ve taken it. They’ll just focus on your score.

If you take it more than 6 times, colleges start wondering why you’re not improving with each test. They’ll question your study skills and ability to improve.

But below 6 tests, we strongly encourage retaking the test to maximize your chances. If your SAT score is currently below a 1540, we strongly recommend that you consider prepping for the SAT and retaking it. You don’t have much to lose, and you can potentially raise your score and significantly boost your chances of getting in.

Download our free guide on the top 5 strategies you must be using to improve your score. This guide was written by Harvard graduates and SAT perfect scorers. If you apply the strategies in this guide, you’ll study smarter and make huge score improvements.

UC Berkeley ACT Requirements

Just like for the SAT, UC Berkeley likely doesn’t have a hard ACT cutoff, but if you score too low, your application will get tossed in the trash.

Average ACT: 32

The average ACT score at UC Berkeley is 32. This score makes UC Berkeley Strongly Competitive for ACT scores.

The 25th percentile ACT score is 29, and the 75th percentile ACT score is 34.

Even though UC Berkeley likely says they have no minimum ACT requirement, if you apply with a 29 or below, you’ll have a very hard time getting in, unless you have something else very impressive in your application. There are so many applicants scoring 32 and above that a 29 will look academically weak.

ACT Score Sending Policy

If you’re taking the ACT as opposed to the SAT, you have a huge advantage in how you send scores, and this dramatically affects your testing strategy.

Here it is: when you send ACT scores to colleges, you have absolute control over which tests you send. You could take 10 tests, and only send your highest one. This is unlike the SAT, where many schools require you to send all your tests ever taken.

This means that you have more chances than you think to improve your ACT score. To try to aim for the school’s ACT requirement of 34 and above, you should try to take the ACT as many times as you can. When you have the final score that you’re happy with, you can then send only that score to all your schools.

ACT Superscore Policy

By and large, most colleges do not superscore the ACT. (Superscore means that the school takes your best section scores from all the test dates you submit, and then combines them into the best possible composite score). Thus, most schools will just take your highest ACT score from a single sitting.

We weren’t able to find the school’s exact ACT policy, which most likely means that it does not Superscore. Regardless, you can choose your single best ACT score to send in to UC Berkeley, so you should prep until you reach our recommended target ACT score of 34.

Download our free guide on the top 5 strategies you must be using to improve your score. This guide was written by Harvard graduates and ACT perfect scorers. If you apply the strategies in this guide, you’ll study smarter and make huge score improvements.

SAT/ACT Writing Section Requirements

Both the SAT and ACT have a Writing section that includes an essay.

UC Berkeley requires you to take the SAT/ACT Writing section. They’ll use this as another factor in their admissions consideration.

SAT Subject Test Requirements

Schools vary in their SAT subject test requirements. Typically, selective schools tend to require them, while most schools in the country do not.

UC Berkeley has indicated that SAT subject tests are recommended. Typically this means that SAT subject tests are not required, but submitting them can showcase particular strengths. For example, if you’re applying to an engineering school, submitting science and math SAT subject tests will boost your application.

Typically, your SAT/ACT and GPA are far more heavily weighed than your SAT Subject Tests. If you have the choice between improving your SAT/ACT score or your SAT Subject Test scores, definitely choose to improve your SAT/ACT score.

Our Expert’s Notes

We did more detailed research into this school and found the following information.

You must have a 3.0 GPA (3.4 for non-residents) or higher and no grades lower than a C in required high school courses. You can also substitute SAT subject tests for courses. If you don’t meet the requirements, it is possible to gain admission with a high enough score on the ACT/SAT plus on two SAT subject tests. Finally, a few students each year who don’t meet the above requirements due to extraordinary circumstances are granted “admission by exception,” based on information provided in the personal statement.

Final Admissions Verdict

Because this school is extremely selective, getting a high SAT/ACT score and GPA is vital to having a chance at getting in. If you don’t pass their SAT/ACT and GPA requirements, they’ll likely reject you without much consideration.

To have the best shot of getting in, you should aim for the 75th percentile, with a 2250 SAT or a 34 ACT. You should also have a 3.87 GPA or higher. If your GPA is lower than this, you need to compensate with a higher SAT/ACT score.

For a school as selective as UC Berkeley, you’ll also need to impress them with the rest of your application. We’ll cover those details next.

But if you apply with a score below a 2250 SAT or a 34 ACT, you unfortunately start out with the odds against you and have a tiny chance of getting in. There are just too many students with high SAT/ACT scores and strong applications, and you need to compete against them.

Admissions Calculator

Here’s our custom admissions calculator. Plug in your numbers to see what your chances of getting in are.

How would your chances improve with a better score?

Try to take your current SAT score and add 160 points (or take your ACT score and add 4 points) to the calculator above. See how much your chances improve?

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Application Requirements

Every school requires an application with the bare essentials – high school transcript and GPA, application form, and other core information. Many schools, as explained above, also require SAT and ACT scores, as well as letters of recommendation, application essays, and interviews. We’ll cover the exact requirements of UC Berkeley here.

Application Requirements Overview

  • Common Application Not accepted
  • Universal Application Not accepted
  • Electronic Application Available
  • Essay or Personal Statement Required for all freshmen
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • Interview Not required
  • Application Fee $70
  • Fee Waiver Available? Available
  • Other Notes

Testing Requirements

  • SAT or ACT Required
  • SAT or ACT Writing Required
  • SAT Subject Tests Recommended
  • Scores Due in Office December 31

Coursework Requirements

  • Subject Required Years
  • English 4
  • Math 3
  • Science 2
  • Foreign Language 2
  • Social Studies
  • History 2
  • Electives 1

Deadlines and Early Admissions

    • Offered? Deadline Notification
  • Regular Admission
    • Yes November 30 None
  • Early Action
    • No
  • Early Decision
    • No

Admissions Office Information

Our Expert’s Notes

We did more detailed research into this school’s admissions process and found the following information:

You will submit a University of California application, which opens in August but can only be submitted during the month of November. The application consists of the online form, including your personal statement, and sending your ACT/SAT scores. Berkeley (and the other UC schools) have an interesting poilcy about letters of recommendation, transcripts and portfolios:

“As part of the UC application process, UC Berkeley and other UC campuses do not ask applicants for transcripts, portfolios, letters of recommendation, 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, letters of recommendations, resumes, etc. – UC Berkeley does not consider these during the application review. We expect the reported grades, test scores, extracurricular activities, personal statements, 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.

Sometimes, during the application reading process, we do select a very small number of applicants to answer supplemental questionnaires. These questionnaires are designed to add clarity to information or answer questions that may arise during our application reading. Being selected – or not selected – for these questionnaires does not reflect a student’s admissions status. The questionnaires are optional, but they do allow for Letters of Recommendation to be sent on the student’s behalf. This is the only time we ask for Letters of Recommendation. Applicants are not able to request to be sent a questionnaire.”

Other Schools For You

If you’re interested in UC Berkeley, you’ll probably be interested in these schools as well. We’ve divided them into 3 categories depending on how hard they are to get into, relative to UC Berkeley.

Reach Schools: Harder to Get Into

These schools are more selective and have higher scores than UC Berkeley. If you improve your SAT score, you’ll be competitive for these schools.

Same Level: Equally Hard to Get Into

If you’re competitive for UC Berkeley, these schools will offer you a similar chance of admission.

Safety Schools: Easier to Get Into

If you’re currently competitive for UC Berkeley, you should have no problem getting into these schools. If UC Berkeley is currently out of your reach, you might already be competitive for these schools.

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UC ​Berkeley Admissions Essays

These college essays are from students who got accepted at University of California – ​Berkeley. Use them to get inspiration for your own essays and knock the socks off those admissions officers!

1. Describe the world you come from

Most children acquire the same eye color or a similar shaped nose from their parents, but I’ve inherited much more: a passion for learning and an insatiable curiosity which has served me well throughout my academic career. My father, an electrical engineer, taught me to explore the world with inquis.

2. Untitled (Prompt #1)

Dreams are shaped by ideals and families shape the beliefs we grasp so strongly. Someday I want to save and change lives through a medical career. Because my family has taught me that change can be positive and radical in altering lives, I hope to hold that ability someday. I seek the power to impro.

3. Tell us about a personal quality, talent, accomplishment, contribution or experience

I am an Internet entrepreneur. Since age 12, I have coded and designed websites — for my school, the local community, and as a personal hobby and pastime. In fact, I started my own Internet business in 2004 and was hired as a webmaster by Intel Corporation this past summer. I also volunteer my free.

4. Untitled (Prompt #2)

Mirrors exist to show our outer appearance but nothing beyond that. Only our actions, words, and ideas could possibly represent the personal qualities that matter. The true worth of a person is revealed in those glimpses of light in the midst of adversity and darkness. Those traits that are highly a.

5. UC Essays – Describe your world & personal talent

I'm a fifth generation Californian who's picked up a few of the habits of the region, among them surfing and computer programming. What does this mean? Having a foot in both worlds gives me a sense of balance and perspective. Beyond that, surfing has influenced my software coding and future .

6. A Break Well Spent

"Thank God for Starbucks," I mutter under my breath when I spot the all too familiar siren inspired logo as we walk into the hotel lobby. With my mocha in hand, I set about exploring the Marriott Copley Square, home of United Synagogue Youth's International Convention 2012. Slowly but .

7. intended major

I am an artist; a strange blossom of creativity sticking out awkwardly from a long lineage of electrical and later electronic engineers, like a lonely flower on a big, rigid cactus plant. Behind me, I have eight consistent years of rigorous education in the practice of Fine .

Essays That Worked

Read the top 7 college essays that worked at UC ​Berkeley and more. Learn more.

University of California – ​Berkeley Facts

The University of California, Berkeley (also referred to as UC Berkeley, Berkeley, California, or simply Cal) is a public research university located in Berkeley, California, United States. The university occupies 1,232 acres (499 ha) on the eastern side of the San Francisco Bay with the central cam.

UC ​Berkeley Stats

  • 16% acceptance rate
  • 37,581 enrolled students
  • $13,432 tuition & fees
  • #20 in US News & World Report

Located in Berkeley, CA

  • 462,967 views

Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. John Dewey

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