Freshman admissions: myths and realities

20 March 2002 | Rumor flies, as Virgil said, and it flies thickest and fastest around emotionally charged matters like getting into college. The Berkeley undergraduate admissions process — who is accepted and why — is no exception. Here are a few of the most popular myths, and realities, about getting into Cal.

Myth: Berkeley does not really read all of its freshman applications.

Reality: The Berkeley faculty established a policy, first implemented in 1998, for a comprehensive, independent review of undergraduate applications. Since then, each application (out of more than 36,000 submitted each of the past two years) has been read and scored by at least two professional evaluators. This procedure applies to all applicants — those whose grades and test scores clearly put them in the top one percent of the applicant pool, as well as those who do not meet minimum UC eligibility requirements.

Myth: An applicant’s grades and standardized test scores alone determine whether she or he will be admitted.

Reality: Berkeley discontinued the use of fixed weights for any criteria in 1998, and it no longer uses formulas in the admissions process. There are no academic index scores, GPA cutoffs, or test-score cutoffs. All applicants are evaluated “comprehensively,” based on their academic and nonacademic achievements in the context of their opportunities and circumstances.

Myth: The recent UC policy change to a more comprehensive review of applications means that it is now possible for less-qualified students to be admitted, based on their essays and hard-luck stories.

Reality: For more than three decades, Berkeley’s admission process has considered such personal qualities of applicants as unusual talent, leadership, service to others, responsibility, and/or the demonstrated ability to succeed despite challenges.

Myth: Berkeley gives (or should give) preference in admission to donors, influential people, and alumni legacies.

Reality: Berkeley is a tax-supported, state institution; its policy and process prohibit giving admission advantages to applicants on the basis of their relationship to donors, legislators, dignitaries, professors or alumni.

Myth: Berkeley’s emphasis on non-quantitative criteria has resulted in the deterioration of quality for its entering classes.

Reality: Academic quality of fall freshman admits has increased since comprehensive review was implemented in 1998 (see chart on this page). This is true of underrepresented minority groups as well as all California freshman admits.
Grades at Berkeley and the percentage of students who continue beyond their initial year have also improved for all freshmen.


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Copyright 2002, The Regents of the University of California.
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