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Out of State Transfer Students and Getting into UC Berkeley

I found this recent Quora question pertinent to many applicants, so decided to reprint both the question and my answer below. To find it on Quora, click on the question.

What should I do to improve my chances to Transfer to UC Berkeley from Penn State University Park? Is there anything specific that UC Berkeley wishes to see in its applicants?

If you truly want to transfer to Berkeley, there are a few things that will dramatically increase your chances:

      • Strong GPA. That goes without saying.
      • Fulfillment of major requirements. To figure this out, go to, plug in any CA community college, then Berkeley, and then the major. Attempt to fulfill all the listed requirements by matching title and course description, as well as approximating unit count.
      • If courses are noted as a sequence (check the pre-reqs for each part of the sequence to verify that A is a pre-req to B, which is a pre-req to C, etc) complete them all at the same college, if possible. If a major requirement says full sequence that means the whole year must be completed at the educational institution or you will get no credit.
      • Complete as many general ed requirements as possible. You do this by following the breadth requirements as determined by your chosen major’s department. Note:  These breadth requirements may be different at each UC and department.  If you are applying to more than one UC, try and match as many as possible.
      • If major prep courses on Assist say highly recommended or recommended they are not needed to apply, but the more selective/impacted the major (engineering, for example) the more competitive you are as an applicant if you get the bulk completed.
      • Make sure you have completed two English composition courses and the quantitative math requirement, ideally by the fall before admission. Non-completion can be a flat-out deal-breaker. Berkeley has a list to cross-check English course fulfillment from different universities.
      • You need to have completed by the end of spring before your fall enrollment at the UC all the major courses that are required and at least 60 UC-transferable semester units (90 quarter).
      • Re: unit count – as long as your classes are all lower division (meaning freshman/sophomore level) you should be OK even with a pretty high count. If accepted, the UC will transfer 70 semester units. Any units over and above that 70 will be used to fulfill subject credit, as applicable.  However, there is a potential obstacle: The UCs count ALL upper division courses (junior/senior level) as extra units, meaning they are added to the LD total, including the 70 max.  If you have too many UD units you may reach the UC transfer unit max and be denied admission.  (Davis and Merced have a cap at 80 semester units, Berkeley, 90.) So, very best practice is don’t take any UD courses, or second-best: Keep UD at one-two courses.
      • Since you are OOS, try and add some extra-curricular activities that are related to your major or show leadership and commitment to whatever cause it is.
      • Just an FYI, if you are thinking of Haas School of Business, the School has only admitted transfers from the California Community College system for about the last 10 years. No OOS have been admitted. I do not know the figures for 2015, but I assume it is similar.
      • To get an idea of admitted GPA by major, check out the UCLA Profile of Admitted Transfer Students.  No other UC has this detailed list, so you need to look at it and gauge a comparable GPA for each UC. Assume Berkeley might be about a .1 higher.
      • Berkeley likes seeing independent students, and they are particularly enthusiastic about interdisciplinary approaches. In other words, consider the bigger picture and how ideas interconnect.

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Lindy is an independent UC admissions consultant, who works with both transfers and freshmen. She also has just completed her first novel, a supernatural thriller set in San Francisco.

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