Application Advice from UC Berkeley Students

Students share their experiences and offer advice to Berkeley applicants

One question often asked by prospective students is: “How can I improve my chances of getting accepted into UC Berkeley?” To help answer this question, we asked UC Berkeley students to share their experiences on how to create a competitive application.

Kaylie, Global Studies

Don’t wait until the last minute to fill out your UC application. Have an idea of what four prompts you would like to write about and create a rough draft of your essays by early November, latest. Make sure not to ask too many people to review your essays, as everyone has different opinions, which may cause your essay to turn into a paper of other people’s thoughts and opinions rather than your own. Ensure what you’re writing is genuine. If you feel your essays represent who you are, that’s good! However, if you read your essays and decide that they don’t properly convey the person you believe yourself to be, edit them until you are satisfied.

Kaylie, Global Studies
Hometown: Camarillo, California

Luis, English

Just apply. I never had any intention of applying; I assumed I wouldn’t be accepted. (Shout out to my counselor for making me apply.) I definitely recommend Berkeley to other student veterans and transfer students, because there is a community here for you. Re-Entry Student Program? Check. Vet Center? Check. Transfer Center? Check. Transfer Pride? Super Check.

As far as the application, make sure you understand the question, and write about yourself the way you want to, not the way you think you’re “supposed to.” Also, take your time and start well in advance. Make sure you don’t rush anything and check the application for any mistakes. I cannot stress this enough.

Luis, English
Hometown: Palm Desert, California

Tamara, Political Science

Take each essay as an opportunity to highlight something about yourself that may not have been covered yet. Be honest and show as many sides of yourself as possible.

Tamara, Political Science
Hometown: Santa Clara, California

Lou, Rhetoric

Some advice that I’d give to people who want to apply here is that you can do it. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t. Don’t let any of the statistics that are out there define you. Growing up, there were statistics about how there weren’t a lot of Native Americans in higher education. That was one of the main things that pushed me to want to go to college. I would also like people to know there are resources here to support you.

If you’re an out-of-state student, I think it’s important to add why you want to go to a college that’s out of state in your application. For me, it was coming to California and getting to experience something new. Just because for my whole life, all I’ve known was Cherokee Indian Reservation in North Carolina. And so for me, I wanted to put in my application that California was a way for me to be able to have a fresh start, and to be able to experience something completely new.

Lou, Rhetoric
Hometown: Qualla Boundary (Cherokee Indian Reservation), North Carolina

Akua Asantewa, Political Economy

Be true to yourself. Spend time reflecting on your passions, skills, and interests. Ask yourself if the majors and other opportunities available at Berkeley will satisfy your passions, skills, and interests before you apply.

Akua Asantewa, Political Economy
Hometown: Accra, Ghana

Oscar, Political Science

You will be limited to about one page per question, so make sure each sentence, phrase, and word has earned its place in your response. As a transfer student, I had overlap in my preparation for my major and my extra-curricular activities. I had to be careful about repeating information across my responses to the personal insight questions. My recommendation is to think about which sentences are the most relevant or strongest for each question.

Also, as a Latino student with low vision, I had to work even harder than the average student to reach the same point. I used this frame when writing my personal insight questions. If you feel comfortable writing about your experiences as a disabled student of color, you can explain the unique challenges you have faced and how you overcome them. One of the items I talked about in my response was overcoming my inability to read the whiteboard in class by using my smartphone camera to take pictures of the board, and communicating with my professors so they could provide me with the lecture slides.

Oscar, Political Science
Hometown: Calexico, California

Zhuo, Computer Science

I devoted a lot of time to doing things that interest me — while not following the popular approaches. Though it felt like a terribly inefficient route, it did lead me to discover some exciting things along the way. I’d say that in the application you should mention your way of moving about finding your interests. That could be a personal trait (being curious), an academic goal, or something that pushes you to overcome challenges.

Zhuo, Computer Science
Hometown: Suzhou, China

Read more application tips, and get started on your UC Berkeley application today.