Questions and answers about UC admissions
• For Fall 2002, UC Berkeley admitted 98 percent of California resident applicants with SAT scores above 1400 whose GPA’s were not below average for admitted students and who had not applied to one of three highly impacted majors.
• Denied applicants with scores above 1400 fell into one of four special categories. Either (1) they had cancelled their applications before admissions decisions were made; (2) they were out-of-state or international applicants, for whom admission standards are much higher; (3) they had applied to one of three highly impacted majors in the College of Engineering; (or 4) they had below-average grades for students admitted to Berkeley.
2. Is it true that for Fall 2002, UC Berkeley admitted “marginally qualified” applicants at the expense of more highly qualified applicants?
• UC Berkeley admitted those students whom the campus judged to be best qualified, as determined by a broad range of factors consistent with UC Regents and Berkeley faculty policy. Regents policy directs campuses to consider multiple measures of accomplishment, to look for outstanding personal talent as well as academic achievement, and to evaluate applicants’ achievements in the context of the opportunities and challenges they faced.
• The assertion that large numbers of “highly qualified applicants” were denied is based on a single measure of merit: SAT I. Even the College Board, the sponsor of the SAT I, cautions that SAT I scores should be used only in conjunction with other indicators of academic achievement. No distinguished college or university in the country uses the SAT I as a sole measure of achievement.
• Denied Berkeley applicants with high SAT I scores and grades were denied because they were competing in special pools with very high standards: as non-residents, for example, or to highly impacted majors. Students in these pools are not competing directly against the vast majority of applicants.
3. Is it true that for Fall 2002, UC Berkeley admitted nearly 400 students with SAT I scores in the range of 600-1000?
• For Fall 2002, UC Berkeley admitted 261 applicants with SAT I total scores between 900 and 999, 90 applicants with SAT I total scores between 800 and 899, and 27 applicants with SAT I total scores less than 800.
4. What is the rationale for admitting students with lower test scores?
• Students with below-average test scores will be admitted only if they have achieved highly in other areas. For example, nearly 50 percent of those admitted to UC Berkeley in Fall 2002 with scores below 1000 nonetheless ranked among the top 4 percent of their graduating class. Others displayed outstanding talent and achievement in other areas such as leadership, community service, creative and performing arts, athletics, etc.
• Students admitted with below-average SAT I scores are also likely to have achieved highly despite daunting challenges. For example, 56 percent of those admitted to UC Berkeley in Fall 2002 with SAT I’s below 1000 came from schools that rank in the bottom 30 percent of California public high schools, 62 percent came from families in the bottom 25 percent based on family income, and 78 percent came from families where neither parent had attended college.
• Regents policy states that all campuses should seek to enroll students from backgrounds representative of the full breadth of California’s students. If UC campuses denied students with SAT I scores below 1000, not only whole schools but entire school districts within California would be disenfranchised from admission to UC Berkeley and other highly selective campuses.
• In a state like California, with a large immigrant population, the linguistic backgrounds of students is also relevant when evaluating test scores. A significant proportion of students in California are non-native speakers of English who typically score below average on tests like the SAT I verbal exam, but may be very well qualified otherwise. The SAT I verbal test is often a less reliable indicator of aptitude for these students.
5. Are students admitted with low SAT I scores likely to fail?
• First year performance data for the students
admitted to UC Berkeley in Fall 2002 with SAT I scores
below 1000 indicate that no one has left due to academic
6. Do all UC campuses admit students with lower test scores?
• Statistical profiles published by the University
in Introducing the University show that all campuses admit
some students with low SAT I scores. According to this
publication, in Fall 2002, UC Berkeley admitted fewer of
these students than any other campus.
7. Does UC Berkeley’s process rely only on subjective judgments?
• The heart of UC Berkeley’s process is a very detailed review by at least two independent readers of the details of each applicant’s record. In analyzing students’ academic performance, readers rely not only on the transcript and other evidence of achievement, but also on a detailed statistical profile the campus produces that includes 58 different quantitative indicators (for example, percentile rankings for that student within the full Berkeley applicant pool and among UC applicants from his or her high school) for each applicant.
• All campuses employ a number of means to verify the objectivity of admission evalations. These include the use of multiple readers, continual monitoring of reader scores to identify readers who may be “outliers,” and “blind” tests in which the same application is scored by all readers to verify inter-reader reliability. Statistics from the Berkeley campus indicated that in roughly 98 percent of cases, scores from the two readers assigned to a specific file are within one point of one another.
8. How do admission processes at the different campuses vary?
• All UC campuses that do not have room to admit all UC-eligible applicants use the same set of fourteen criteria, which are dominated by measures of academic achievement.
• All selective campuses admit students based on the comprehensive review policy, which directs them to employ multiple measures of achievement and to review applicants in the context of opportunities and challenges they have experienced.
• Faculty at individual campuses are given discretion to weigh different academic criteria differently. For example, UC Berkeley’s faculty place greatest emphasis on the high school record, and weight SAT I scores less heavily than SAT II scores. Other campuses may weigh grades and test scores equally. Similarly, some campuses may give special consideration for other factors, for example, to students from particular groups of schools or geographical regions.
• Of the six selective campuses using comprehensive
review, three (Berkeley, Irvine, and Los Angeles) rely
primarily on the judgment of professional readers and do
not assign fixed weights to particular factors. Three (Davis,
San Diego, and Santa Barbara) rely on the judgment of professional
readers for some factors and on computer-assigned scores
for others and then combine these ratings using fixed weights
for different criteria.
9. Has academic excellence declined since the implementation of comprehensive review?
• The September 2003 report of the faculty Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools shows that the academic achievement of students admitted to the University’s selective campuses has increased since the implementation of comprehensive review.
• The report also shows for every academic indicator included in the report, students admitted to UC Berkeley are better qualified than they were prior to the implementation of comprehensive review.
• UC Berkeley campus data show that this increase in academic excellence is evident throughout the entire distribution of the Berkeley admit pool. That is, indicators of academic performance continue to rise at Berkeley not simply because students at the “top” of the admitted class have higher grades and test scores than in previous years, but because students in the “middle” and at the “bottom” of the pool (as measured by traditional quantitative indicators) do as well.
10. Why was comprehensive review adopted? Is it designed to “get around” California’s ban on affirmative action?
• The Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools developed the systemwide comprehensive review policy in order to broaden the University’s definition of merit beyond quantitative factors. They wished to send a clear message that students will be evaluated on an individual basis, based on their full record of accomplishments and talents, and in the context of opportunities and challenges they have faced.
• UC Berkeley’s faculty adopted comprehensive review because they believe that detailed, individual analysis of each applicant’s full record of academic and personal achievement is the best way to identify and admit the most qualified students. UC Berkeley had decided to abandon a formula-based approach and move toward comprehensive review before either the University or the state of California eliminated affirmative action.
• Racial and ethnic identity is not considered in admission decisions and information on students’ race and ethnicity is removed from applications before they are sent to campuses or evaluated by readers.
• Statistics included in faculty reports on comprehensive review for 2002 and 2003 indicate that the proportion of underrepresented freshmen admitted to selective UC campuses has not changed appreciably since the implementation of comprehensive review. On most campuses, including UC Berkeley and UCLA, this proportion is well below what it was before UC adopted race-neutral policies.
11. Does the University of California make available detailed information about the academic qualifications of students who are admitted and denied admission?
• UC’s primary publication on undergraduate admission, Introducing the University, includes detailed tables that show the admission rates of applicants to all campuses, by SAT I and II and GPA bands. (These tables show, for example, that the three most selective UC campuses, UC Berkeley, UCLA, and UC San Diego, all deny some students with very high test scores and admit some with relatively low test scores.) Every year, UC distributes more than 400,000 copies of this publication to high schools, students, and counselors throughout the state. It is also available on the world wide web.
• In the two years since the implementation of comprehensive review, UC’s systemwide faculty admissions committee, the Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools, has presented to the Regents and made available on the web an annual report on comprehensive review that includes detailed descriptions of campus processes and analyses of trends in the academic achievement of students admitted to all UC campuses.