GPA. Standardized test scores. School Rigor. These are all factors that any admission office in the country say they consider when looking at an applicant. However, in recent times the UC system has been criticized for only considering purely school-related characteristics and ignoring an applicant’s extracurriculars and what he or she has done outside of the classroom.
The most recent Common Data Set (CDS) released for UC Berkeley, at initial glance, does not shed much light on the issue. However, when looking how UC Berkeley rates how important its academic and non-academic factors are to admission, the difference between Berkeley and other top schools is not what it considers, but rather what it doesn’t consider.
On UC Berkeley’s 2015-2016 CDS, it lists GPA, Test scores, and School Rigor as “Very Important” in determining their decision. However, these aren’t actually good indicators, as many top institutions, such as Dartmouth and the ivies, also list those factors as “Very Important”. What is different though is the other characteristics, such as extracurriculars and personal qualities, where Dartmouth and others place in the same category of “Very Important” while UC Berkeley and the other UC’s place those factors under “Important”.
The difference is very subtle when looking at the whole spectrum, but can give some insight to how the UC Berkeley and the UC system as a whole view a prospective student’s application. At the minimum, this analysis indicates that the UC system values academic factors more than anything else while Dartmouth will consider take into account other factors equally.
Note: Due to Berkeley’s 2016-2017 CDS currently being unavailable, comparisons couldn’t be made for factors such as letters of recommendation and interviews, which UC Berkeley did not require of students until the most recent academic year. This is potentially another point of focus, as Dartmouth also puts these as “Very Important” in making their decisions.