The University of California, Berkeley, like most selective colleges in the United States, takes into account a number of factors when determining admissions, including high school GPA, letters of recommendation, strength of essays, and extracurricular activities. Additional factors include difficulty of high school course load, employment record, standardized tests and community service.

In 2010, UC Berkeley received over 52,000 applications and accepted around 25 percent of them. As a state school, Berkeley has a mission to educate California residents, so those students might expect a slight advantage. State funding has been decreasing as of 2015, however, so this is less of an advantage than it once was.

Specifically, compared to its peers such as the Ivy League schools and Stanford, Berkeley places less emphasis upon teacher recommendations and college counselor reports, preferring to place a great deal of weight on its application essays. Students admitted to Berkeley tend to have done quite well in high school, including honors and AP courses, and scored well on standardized tests such as the SAT and/or the ACT.

Admissions experts caution applicants to Berkeley and other top-tier American colleges that colleges prefer students who excel in one or two extracurricular activities, such as sports, music, or clubs, rather than participate in a large number of activities at a low level, as colleges value time management and the ability to focus on that which is most important.