Berkeley Application Essay Topics

Note: There is only one application for all the UC schools. Therefore, your responses will be sent to every single University of California school that you apply to. Hence, avoid making essays school-specific (unless you are applying to only one school).


To choose which questions to answer, first browse the eight prompts as a list, and sort them into one of three categories: “definites,”“possibilities,” and “avoid at all costs.” With “definites,” after reading the prompt, you immediately know what you will say and how you will say it. With “possibilities,” a few vague ideas swirl in your head, which you think can be sorted out and possibly develop into a great essay. With “avoid at all costs,” you want to have nothing to do with these essays.


Afterwards, jot down bullet point ideas for the questions you for sure want to write about. Then, select out of the “possibility” questions that would, in combination with your “definites,” produce the most well-rounded essay profile, which would both highlight your few key strengths as well as reveal your complexities and breadth of character. While doing so, it is important to base your decision on not only your immediate liking for the topic, but also on the available substance (anecdotes). Repeat this process until you are faced with only four questions.


This is just one way to approach choosing prompts. Since for some, the process happens organically, do not feel constrained to the method above. Just remember:


  1. Do not rush into prompts at first glance. Make sure that you have jotted down potential ideas for all but the ones you want to avoid, and ultimately write about the one with the most substance.
  2. Your answers should be able to highlight what is most important to you.

Application FAQs

You've applied to UC Berkeley! Now what?

FROM NOV. 30-DEC. 31: Questions regarding the University of California application should be handled through: My UC Application (link is external)

In December, UC Berkeley will notify Freshman applicants, via email, that we've received your application. Transfer applicants will receive an email in January. Here are the next steps you need to take:



Applicants log into the Berkeley campus application portal here:


General questions:
The New Management, Entrepreneurship, & Technology (M.E.T.) Program:
Changing/Adding information:
  • Can I change the major (and/or college/school) I applied for at Berkeley?
  • How do I change my email address?
  • How can I correct my Social Security Number, misspelled name, or birthdate on my application?
  • Can I make changes (grades, courses, activities, personal insight questions, etc.) to my application after I submitted it?
  • How can I add a letter of recommendation, a new commendation, award, honor, etc., to my UC application? Is it too late?
Transfer units and coursework policies:

Q: Where can I get a summary of my online application?

A: Visit the My UC Application website. (link is external)

Q: How can I confirm that Berkeley received my application?

A: In December (for freshmen) or January (for transfers), UC Berkeley will email you a confirmation that we received your application. Check the email address account you included on your My UC Application. Once we receive your application, you will be asked to log in to our campus application portal, MAP@Berkeley, to see the status of your application. If you do NOT receive a confirmation email from Berkeley in December, please contact the UC Application Center at 800-207-1710 (within US) or 310-513-2715 (outside U.S.), or email: (link sends e-mail)

Q: How do I log into the campus application portal?


1. After you have submitted your UC application, you will receive an email from us with instructions on how to set up your MAP@Berkeley account (by December for Freshmen or by January for Transfers). This email will have your username, which is the email you used on your UC application. It will also contain a temporary PIN number. Click on "Create" a password. 
2. Click on the URL in the email or simply go to MAP@Berkeley. You will need to login using your email and temporary PIN number. 
3. Once you successfully login, you will need to follow the prompts to set your password. 
4. Every time you come back to MAP@Berkeley, you will need only the password you created and your email address.

If you forget your password, click on "Forgot your Password?" and follow the prompts. 

Q: When should I send you my official transcripts and all of my test scores?

A: Please do not send documents or other information to Berkeley unless requested. If we need more information from an applicant, we will contact you. Most students give us enough information in their applications for us to make a sound decision. After admission decisions are posted on our campus application portal, each admitted student will see their own Conditions of Admission explaining exactly what official documents Berkeley requires. Learn more about submitting transcripts to UC Berkeley here.

Q: Do I need to send test scores to each UC campus I applied to?

A: You need to send only one set of official test scores to the University of California when you apply. Simply ask the ACT or College Board to send your test scores to any UC campus to which you apply and your test scores will be included in your record and forwarded to all campuses to which you applied. You do not need to pay for multiple reports. We recommend that students who complete Advanced Placement courses complete the related AP examination to demonstrate subject mastery. Similarly, International Baccalaureate scores and scores from SAT Subject Tests can be used to showcase academic mastery. In order to receive unit credit toward the baccalaureate degree, you must submit an official copy of your AP or IB scores directly from the testing agency. This can be done in the summer following high school graduation.

Q: I took my SAT/ACT/SAT Subject/IE/TOEFL tests in December. How do I confirm you received them?

A: The best option is to log into My UC Application (link is external) and self-report any December SAT, ACT, or SAT Subject Test scores, or International Exam or TOEFL scores.

The checklist on MAP@Berkeley will display the status of your official scores based on your self-reported tests.

Otherwise, if you've checked with the test center to confirm that your scores were mailed, then don't worry. If we discover that there are any discrepancies, we will contact you.

Q: How can I cancel or withdraw my Berkeley application?

A: Please login to your student portal, MAP@Berkeley. Once logged in, under "Account Tools" towards the bottom of the page, click on "Withdraw Application" and follow the prompts. 

Q: Can I submit an application after November 30?

A: No, we will not accept late applications. 

Q: Is it possible for freshman applicants to be admitted earlier than the March decision date?

A: Yes, a small number of students will receive notification of their decision in February. Most of these students will be nominees for Regents’ and Chancellor’s Scholarships, a process that has traditionally been initiated during this time of year; the difference is that those students and some others are receiving admission offers at the same time. Early admission notification is not Early Action or Early Decision. Students cannot apply to be admitted early. The majority of freshman applicants still will receive their decisions at the end of March, via the MAP@Berkeley portal.

Q: What is the Management, Entrepreneurship, & Technology (M.E.T.) Program?

A: Berkeley’s new Management, Entrepreneurship, & Technology Program aims to educate leaders with a seamless understanding of technology innovation, from idea to real-world impact. M.E.T. students earn two Bachelor of Science degrees in one program that combines the best of the top-ranked College of Engineering and Haas School of Business. Its integrated curriculum enables students to complete their two degrees within four years, while internships, career coaching and other enrichment activities provide ample opportunity for hands-on practice with technology innovation. Each M.E.T. cohort is small, allowing for close mentoring and a tight-knit community. For more information on the M.E.T. program, please review the questions below, and visit M.E.T. website and the program’s FAQs.

Q: How do I apply to the M.E.T. Program?

A: To start your application for fall 2018 freshman admission, visit the UC application website (link is external). Once you launch your University of California application, you’ll be able to select the Berkeley campus and choose one of two tracks indicated on the application:

  • EECS + Business (Electrical Engineering & Computer Sciences and Business Administration), or
  • IEOR + Business (Industrial Engineering & Operations Research and Business Administration)
  • ME + Business (Mechanical Engineering and Business Administration)

Q: If I am not selected for the M.E.T. Program, am I still eligible for other majors at Berkeley?

A: M.E.T. is highly competitive and will enroll a limited number of freshman. Applicants who are not admitted to the M.E.T. Program will be considered for admission to Berkeley Engineering’s EECS, IEOR, or ME majors. However, admission to these majors is not guaranteed.

Q: Can I change the major (and/or college/school) I applied for at Berkeley?

A: To change a major/college/school in your submitted Berkeley application, please submit your request using the Contact Us form.You can expect a decision via email within five to seven days. NOTE: No new major changes will be considered after January 31, 2018.

Q: How can I change my email address? How can I correct my Social Security number, misspelled name, or birthdate on my application? 

A: Visit My UC Application (link is external) and log in. Then, click on the Update Account Information link. You may change your personal information there, and the UC Admissions Office will send an update to every UC campus to which you have applied. You can also call the UC Application Center at 800-207-1710 (within U.S.) or 925-298-6856 (outside U.S.), or email:  (link sends e-mail)

Q: Can I make changes (grades, courses, activities, personal insight questions, etc.) to my application after I submitted it?

A: Out of fairness to all applicants, only changes in critical information may be made to UC application data. This includes personal information, release authorizations, and some exam updates. To make changes to critical information, please log into My UC Application (link is external) or contact the UC Application Center. If you contact the UC Application Center, please make sure to include your name and your UC Application ID number. Making these critical changes to your application will update the information for all of the UC campuses you applied to.

Please note that changes to your courses, grades, exams, activities, awards, volunteer work, employment, or personal insight questions are not guaranteed to reach us before your application is reviewed. However, minor changes are unlikely to have an impact on your admission decision.

Note: Transfer students will be asked to update fall 2017, winter 2018, and/or spring 2018 courses and grades in January through the Transfer Academic Update and UC Berkeley’s supplemental forms.

UC Application Center
800-207-1710 (within US)
925-298-6856 (outside US) (link sends e-mail)

Q: How can I add a letter of recommendation, a new commendation, award, honor, etc., to my UC application?  Is it too late?

A: Out of fairness to all applicants, Berkeley does not permit or review unsolicited information. If the campus requires additional information, a form will be displayed in your personal checklist on our secure applicant portal or we will reach out to you via email. Typically, unsolicited information or changes to your application will not alter our final admission decision. Please do not confuse providing new information with correcting false or misleading information on your application. If you have provided information which is no longer true (e.g., you have a grade change or you have dropped a class) you must immediately notify Berkeley in writing about this change.

Q: Is it true that I'm not eligible to transfer to Berkeley because I will need the summer to finish my required coursework?

A: All UC eligibility requirements for transfer admissions must be completed by the spring prior to the student’s transfer. If you are applying in November 2017 for the fall 2018 semester, all eligibility requirements must be completed by spring 2018 to be eligible for transfer.

Q: Is it true that I'm not eligible to transfer to Berkeley because I have not completed the necessary breadth/IGETC courses, even though I have taken difficult courses?

A: The College of Letters & Science denies admission if breadth and/or units are dependent on summer work. All other colleges — Chemistry, Engineering, Environmental Design, Natural Resources, and Haas School of Business — require units; however, not all of these colleges require breadth. If you are not eligible and feel you have an unusually compelling case to make, write it in the "Comments" box of the appropriate form on your Required Forms list in our campus application portal. 

Q: If my total number of UC transferable units is over 80, am I eligible for admission?

A: Most programs will not offer admission to students who have earned an excess of 80 UC transferable semester units prior to enrollment, however, if all completed coursework is lower division, this excess unit policy does not apply. If you've applied to the College of Letters and Science, note that most applicants with excess units are denied admission. If you've applied to the College of Engineering, Chemistry, Environmental Design, Natural Resources or Haas School of Business, your application will be reviewed and there may be a very slight chance of admission with excess transferable units.

Students will be granted up to 70 semester/105 quarter units of credit for lower division coursework completed at any accredited institution or combination of institutions. Lower division units beyond the maximum for which credit is awarded will be granted subject credit and may be used to satisfy requirements. Upper division units will be added to the overall total. Units earned through AP, IB, and/or A-Level examinations are not included in the limitation and do not put applicants at risk of being denied admissions. Lower or upper division units earned at UC (Extension, summer, cross/concurrent, UC-EAP, and regular academic year enrollment) are added to the maximum lower division credit allowed and might put applicants at risk of being denied admission due to excessive units.

Q: I'm not sure if a course I've taken might substitute for a required course. Whom can I ask?

A: In the interest of fairness and equal treatment for all students, Berkeley staff cannot discuss these issues personally with applicants. You must use the space provided in the “Comments” section of each form to explain your specific case. If we need more information, we will contact you by email and/or phone. Self-resources that may be available include (link is external) (primarily for California community college students, or Berkeley Academic Guide.


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