How do UC Berkeley and UCLA’s admission criteria differ?

By Maxine Seya

UCLA admitted about 11% of applicants for Fall 2021 entry.

Just a 6-hour drive up the California coast, UC Berkeley admitted about 14% of applicants for the same cycle.

The two colleges are often compared as equals. They’re clearly among the most popular colleges in the country: they receive over 100k applications every year.

But even though they’re both public California colleges that even use the same exact application (UC Apply), they do not evaluate applicants the same way. Here’s how they differ.

What’s important to UCLA vs. UC Berkeley?

UCLA’s 2020-2021 Common Data Set (representing the Fall 2020 entrance cycle) showed four “Very Important” admission factors.

By contrast, UC Berkeley’s 2020-2021 Common Data Set showed only three “Very Important” admission factors.

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4 “Very Important” factors for UCLA admissions

  1. Rigor of secondary school record
  2. Academic GPA
  3. Application Essay
  4. Test scores

3 “Very Important” factors for UC Berkeley admissions

  1. Rigor of secondary school record
  2. Academic GPA
  3. Application Essay

The biggest difference between the two? UCLA cared a lot about test scores for Fall 2020 entrants, but Berkeley only put it in the “Considered” category, two categories below “Very Important.”

For a student who applied for Fall 2020 admissions, his 1600 SAT might have impressed UCLA and gotten him admitted, but did not impress UC Berkeley, which did not highly value his high test score.

Looking at the granular differences between colleges like UCLA and UC Berkeley can help answer questions like “Should my child take the SAT or ACT? What score should she aim for?”

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If her dream school was UCLA, then a high test score would have mattered for Fall 2020 admission. If her dream school was a different college like UC Berkeley, then a high test score might not have mattered as much as other aspects of the application.

Note: For Fall 2022 admissions, the UC schools are no longer considering test scores for admission.

Admission Factors Not Considered by UCLA or UC Berkeley

Neither college considers the following:

  • Class Rank
  • Interview
  • Alumnae relation
  • Religious affiliation
  • Racial/ethnic status
  • Level of applicant’s interest

Whether your child’s dream school is UCLA or UC Berkeley, it will not help her case to talk about legacy status from you (alumnae relation) or how much UCLA is her number one choice (level of applicant’s interest).

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UCLA vs UC Berkeley Admissions Factors

However, the 2 colleges differ on the following

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Maxine Seya
Maxine Seya is a former investigative journalist, college consultant, and admissions interviewer. She studied at Peking University (Beijing, China) and Université Paul-Valéry (Montpellier, France) and investigated for CNN and Huffington Post before graduating from Northwestern University. She founded SocratesPost to share the human stories behind the admission gates and offer parents clarity as they help their teens with college.