Location: Berkeley, CA
Undergraduate Population: 32,831
Most Popular Majors: Business, Economics, Political Science, Sociology, Mathematics
Motto: Fiat lux (“Let there be light”)
Asian/Asian American 35%
Black/African American 2.1%
Native American less than 1%
In 1866, the College of California, a private Oakland institution founded by Henry Durant, purchased the land that comprises the current Berkeley campus. The State of California established an agricultural, mining, and mechanical arts college on the land. On March 23, 1868, Governor Henry Haight signed the Organic Act, which established the University of California as the state’s first land-grant university. The Act stated that the “university shall have for its design, to provide instruction and thorough and complete education in all departments of science, literature and art, industrial and professional pursuits, and general education, and also special courses of instruction in preparation for the professions.” The university opened in September 1869, using the former College of California’s buildings in Oakland as a temporary home while the new campus underwent construction.
In 1871, women began to be admitted to the university alongside men. The 19th century saw several donations and endowments that funded a number of programs, competitions, library collections, buildings and halls. A donation of 540 acres of land resulted in the establishment of Berkeley’s business school, first known as the College of Commerce and now the Haas School, in 1898. It became the country’s first business school at a public university.
Over the 20th century, several buildings and centers emerged at UC Berkeley, including the Radiation Laboratory (now Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory) and the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute. In the 21st century, the school has become more focused on STEM fundraising. In 2007, the Energy Biosciences Institute was established with funding from BP. Stanley Hall, a research facility and headquarters for the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences, opened. Today, students enroll in one of seven undergraduate schools and can choose from over 150 different UC Berkeley majors and minors.
Notable University of California Berkeley alumni include actor Chris Pine, Women’s World Cup-winning soccer player Alex Morgan, writer Joan Didion, technology entrepreneur and computer scientist Steve Wozniak, and lawyer and public policy advocate Maya Harris.
- Berkeley lore has it that if students walk under Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, at the Doe library entrance, they’ll gain wisdom. However, if they walk back out underneath her, she takes it back.
- Students believe that if they step on one of the three university seals around UC Berkeley’s Memorial Glade, they will not be able to achieve a 4.0 GPA.
- Since 1914, card stunts have been a part of every home football game, especially at Big Games versus rivals Stanford. Stiff cards in various colors are supplied to Cal fans, who hold up them in a certain order to create shapes and words.
- UC Berkeley has seven undergraduate colleges—College of Chemistry, College of Computing, Data Science and Society, College of Engineering, College of Environmental Design, College of Letters & Science, Haas School of Business, and Rausser College of Natural Resources.
- Each of Berkeley’s undergraduate colleges has its own set of general education requirements. All students must take English composition and literature and one term each of American history and American institutions, as well as fulfill an American cultures course requirement.
- The DARE (Diversifying Access to Research in Engineering) program helps connect undergraduates with research opportunities in engineering and computer science, focusing particularly on supporting women and students from underrepresented groups.
Average GPA: 3.90
Test Scores (mid-50% range): Test blind
Admit Rate: 11.4%
Test-optional? Test blind
Offers Early Admissions? No
Alongside other UC schools, the University of California Berkeley asks students the following questions, known as Personal Insight Questions, or PIQs. Applicants must choose four of the eight questions to answer. Each response should be no more than 350 words.
- Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes or contributed to group efforts over time.
- 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.
- What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?
- Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.
- 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?
- Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom.
- What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?
- Beyond what has already been shared in your application, what do you believe makes you a strong candidate for admissions to the University of California
When approaching the UC PIQs, think about which prompts will give admissions officers the best sense of who you are and what you care about. Remember that you only need to answer four of them, so you should choose the prompts that are most relevant to your own experience. To make the most of your PIQs, keep this advice in mind:
- Focus on you. Whatever the question, consider your experience: what you did, felt, thought, or learned. If you’re describing a challenge you faced or a subject that inspires you, for example, it’s very easy to spend a lot of your essay writing about the challenge or what you like to study. But that doesn’t tell admissions officers much about you. What did you feel when you faced your challenge, and what concrete steps did you take to overcome it? What excites you about a particular academic subject, and how have you actively pursued it?
- Highlight impact. The prompts about leadership and community are specifically asking about your contributions, but there are other ways to make an impact as well. When writing your essays, think about where and how you’ve made a positive difference.
- Provide depth. Some of these prompts could probably be answered by writing on topics you’ve listed in the Activities and Awards section–this can be a great place to look for a topic you want to say more about. If you feel like the description you gave in that section tells most of the story, it’s probably not a good topic for a PIQ. You want topics that will let you add your perspective and showcase who you are, not just what you participated in.
- Think outside the box. Leadership doesn’t have to mean a title, creativity doesn’t have to be artistic, and your community doesn’t have to be your school or a local organization. Leadership can be mentoring others or organizing a project or event. You can be creative in how you approach problems or make connections between ideas. And a community can be geographically diverse, as long as there is mutual connection and influence within it.
For more tips on common supplemental essay prompts, see our blog post here.