NEWS RELEASE, 6/18/97
UC Berkeley's graduate schools rank number one among the nation's top students
Berkeley -- The University of California at Berkeley is becoming more attractive to the nation's best graduate students, including its top minority students, according to recent tallies.
Among the 1,000 graduate students awarded prestigious National Science Foundation Fellowships this year, 125 indicated UC Berkeley as their first choice institution. This was the highest number for any university in the country, and the largest number ever for UC Berkeley.
Twenty-two of these students were recipients of one of NSF's 150 minority fellowships, also the highest number for any institution.
"We are particularly proud of the minority fellowships because it shows that despite Proposition 209 and the elimination of affirmative action on the basis of race and ethnicity at the University of California, students do not think UC Berkeley is inhospitable to minorities," said Joseph Duggan, professor of French and associate dean of the Graduate Division.
The highly competitive NSF Fellowships are a good indicator of program quality because they are "portable" fellowships, that is, they go wherever the student decides to go. They are awarded to graduating seniors or first-year graduate students, and provide $15,000 per year for three years, plus fees and tuition.
While 125 students listed UC Berkeley as their first choice institution -- 12.5 percent of the total -- 112 listed the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 106 listed Stanford University and 69 listed Harvard University.
Of the fellowship recipients who chose UC Berkeley, 117 have already accepted admission, of which 59 were already students enrolled in graduate departments. The most popular departments are electrical engineering and computer sciences, chemistry, physics, molecular and cell biology, and mathematics.
Last year 84 NSF Fellowship recipients -- 9.3 percent of the total -- listed UC Berkeley as their primary choice, including 13 minority fellows. While numbers have fluctuated over the past few years, between 1993 and 1996 MIT was the most popular graduate institution for NSF Fellowships.
One possible reason for UC Berkeley's good showing is the report on graduate schools released in 1995 by the National Research Council, which ranked the campus among the top five in more disciplines than any other university in the country.
"UC Berkeley definitely has a very good reputation in terms of the quality of its programs and its exciting student environment," said Maresi Nerad, director of graduate research in the Graduate Division at UC Berkeley. "The word is out that we have not only good faculty, but also excellent post-docs and graduate students who create a vibrant campus atmosphere."
The percentage of all graduate students accepting offers of admission to UC Berkeley also seems to be climbing. In the Department of Chemistry, for example, the acceptance rate this year was up dramatically, from 33 percent in 1995 (66 of 197 admitted) to 43 percent for fall 1997 (84 of 196 admitted), according to graduate advisor Beth Murphy.
This year UC Berkeley received 20,264 applications for graduate study (excluding the School of Law), of which 4,338 were admitted. To date 2,071 have accepted, with an eventual target of 2,200.
Another department in which acceptances soared is molecular and cell biology. In the past few years acceptances averaged about 35, while this year 59 students accepted, even though the number offered admission remained the same.
"Our department was an easy sell because we're recognized as having a really outstanding bedrock of senior faculty balanced with the best group of junior faculty in any molecular and cell biology department in the country, " said David Drubin, associate professor of molecular and cell biology and head of the department's graduate admissions committee. "More than anything, though, our success had to do with the extent to which the faculty and current graduate students got involved in recruiting students."
Departmental student affairs officer Eileen Bell agreed. "This year we had first and second year classes that were very enthusiastic about our program and got heavily involved in the recruiting process, lobbying prospective students, throwing parties, holding phoning marathons and putting visiting students up at their homes. All of this had a great effect on the acceptance rate."
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