Guide: UC Berkeley

Andy Wang
Andy Wang

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When thinking about schools with great STEM programs, UC Berkeley is always one of the first brought up in conversation. That being said, UC Berkeley is also one of the most competitive schools to get into; the process to get in has gotten progressively more and more difficult.

A standout institution

From their world-famous engineering school to one of the most competitive pre-med programs, STEM is one of UC Berkeley’s biggest focus and one of the reason why it’s consistently ranked as one of the best schools in many metrics. Outside of just those schools as well, UC Berkeley has one of the most prestigious business schools and many of the best liberal arts opportunities.

Competition growing each year

While UC Berkeley is part of the UC system, there is one thing it has to differentiate itself from the rest of the UC’s; much like its private school counterparts, they started asking its applicants to get letters of recommendations. While the letters themselves are not hard to get for most applicants, it’s a telltale sign that Berkeley is getting exceedingly harder to get into.

In addition, its admission rates into some of its STEM programs are among the lowest of any of schools. Last year, Berkeley’s College of Engineering had a 8.4% acceptance rate across all its disciplines. In fact, there are so many people trying to get into the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science program that Berkeley has its own separate Computer Science major in the College of Letters and Science for those who want to complete Computer Science with either a humanities double major or an additional STEM program.

What this means for your UC Berkeley applications

Nonetheless, there are certain key aspects about UC Berkeley’s application process that are positive for applicants. (Empowerly can help applicants can utilize and take advantage of all the resources at your disposal!) Because it’s part of the UC system, applicants don’t need to rewrite a whole new application if they are already applying to other UC’s. Also, Computer Science is an option in both the College of Engineering and College of Letters and Science. This means applicants will have more choices when deciding for themselves.

In addition, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business is second ranked for undergraduates. Admission to this department, however, doesn’t even open until sophomore year. This gives its applicants options to give them time to explore other major fields.

Final points

When applying to Berkeley, there have been two common strategies that applicants have used.

The most common one has been for aspiring Engineers that don’t like their odds of getting directly into the Engineering school. These are students who instead, apply into other colleges within Berkeley and then transfer in.

In addition, Berkeley recently has taken a liking to junior transfers, especially the Haas Business School. This is another pathway.

Talk to a counselor or qualified expert to determine what your best route will be. If you don’t know where to start, feel free to reach out to Empowerly to discuss your next steps to success.


In the end, Berkeley is an institution thriving in STEM opportunities but definitely not limited to it. While admissions into the school has definitely risen in difficulty, it is a school any applicant, especially any California resident, should look into and consider applying.

Questions? Let us know!