Undergraduate admissions — then and now
New UC policy expands a process that Berkeley pioneered five years ago


Left, Math Chair Calvin Moore, head of the Berkeley Academic Senate committee on Admissions, Enrollment and Preparatory Education. Right, Genaro Padilla, vice chancellor for undergraduate affairs.
Peg Skorpinski photos

20 March 2002 | In a few days the campus will release its admission decisions for the fall 2002 freshman class, offering enrollment to the first class of students to be selected under the new “unitary” admissions policy.

This policy requires that all of the campus freshman admission decisions be based on a comprehensive assessment of academic achievement and other relevant criteria, rather than on separate reviews of academic and other factors. Proposed and crafted by a Berkeley faculty committee and approved by the UC Regents in November, it applies to all campuses in the UC system, beginning with this spring’s selection of the fall 2002 freshman class.

While the new policy brings significant admission changes to some UC campuses, at Berkeley it only expands a comprehensive review policy established here five years ago. Back then, Berkeley officials and faculty members concluded that each application should be read from cover to cover, moving away from the use of formulas to rate applicants and toward a more comprehensive review of applications.

For years now admissions officers and trained evaluators have assessed Berkeley freshman applicants using academic achievement and other evidence of accomplishment, such as extracurricular activities, work experience and community service. The admissions officers view these factors within the context of the challenges and opportunities these students faced, crediting those who have made the most of their opportunities to achieve. Data on California high schools and the programs and opportunities they provide help inform these evaluations.

Under the new unitary policy, the most significant change to Berkeley’s freshman admission process is the elimination of a two-tiered selection system. Before the UC Regents approved the unitary policy, every campus in the UC system was mandated to select at least 50 percent of the freshman class based only on academic factors. This meant that, although Berkeley evaluators conducted a comprehensive review of each applicant and scored each accordingly, they had to disregard non-academic factors in selecting half of the freshman class.

“Under the old policy, the bifurcation of criteria struck our committee as artificial and unnatural, and it narrowed our understanding of the qualities that contribute to strong academic performance and success at Berkeley and in a subsequent career,” says Calvin Moore, chair of the math department.

Moore presided over the work of the campus Admissions, Enrollment and Preparatory Education Com-mittee, the faculty committee that first proposed eliminating the two-tier process and establishing a more comprehensive, unitary policy.

Each year Berkeley receives more than 36,000 applications for the freshman class, and many of these applicants are extremely talented academically. However, the campus can only admit about 24 percent of these applicants.

According to Genaro Padilla, vice chancellor for undergraduate affairs, “The campus has provided strong administrative support for implementing this new policy, which allows us to fashion an entering class from a broad mix of intellectual strengths, social backgrounds and personal interests.”

Although the new unitary policy pertains only to freshman admissions at this time, the faculty committee that sets admissions policy has voted to implement a similar policy for transfer students beginning in fall 2003.


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Copyright 2002, The Regents of the University of California.
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