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UC Berkeley Requests Interview for International Transfer Students

English proficiency University of CaliforniaMany UC transfer applicants who are international students were surprised to get an interview request from UC Berkeley last week. It’s an optional interview that will not affect your chances of admission (according to UC Berkeley), but is set up to gauge English proficiency. The interview, which is completed via an online recorded video, costs $220 and is being conducted by an outside firm called InitialView.

I reached out to a UC Berkeley admissions rep for clarification, and then later received a mass email from UC Berkeley sent to all counselors.

Here are the facts:

  • All international students who completed high school outside the U.S. were selected. It was not random, as some earlier suggested. There is no connection to anything else on the application, meaning GPA, coursework, extra-curricular activities, and essays, etc. are not part of the interview selection process.
  • Students who opt-out of the interview will not be at a disadvantage.
  • Financial aid will not cover the cost of the interview.
  • The deadline to do the interview is Saturday, April 2, 2016, 11:59pm (PST).
  • If you did not receive the interview request, you are not in the sub-group they are targeting.
  • UC Berkeley is the only UC requesting this.

There’s a reason UCB is asking for this interview, and one can assume it is because they want to ensure that international students who were educated abroad have command of the English language. I cannot speak for the UCs as I have heard nothing one way or the other about this, but I do know on a national level there has been a growing problem with international students faking command of English by having someone else write application essays and even forging various proficiency documents.  While I don’t know actual statistics, I do know there’s a plethora of back-end support to tackle this development. Thus, it is easy to make the jump that this is the impetus behind the InitialView interview.

The email sent from UC Berkeley to the targeted international students, states the following:

“Your application to UC Berkeley will be reviewed regardless of whether you submit an InitialView interview. Each application will be reviewed in its entirety, and some students without an interview may still be accepted.” [my emphasis]

So while UCB is saying you are not at a disadvantage if you don’t do the interview, unless this is a beta test, I’m not sure how there cannot be a possible downside — or why ask for it? And the wording above is a bit iffy, to say the least.

Based on this, my advice is if you can afford the interview, do it. UCB clearly wants to gauge your English proficiency. If you cannot afford it, reply to the email and let them know the reason you are passing on the interview is due to financial reasons.  I don’t wish to scare you if you opt-out. I’m just noting completing it is the best option if you have the choice.

UPDATE March 12, 2016:

I was just made aware that an online UC coach is requesting money to help you pass this test. There is no way to help you pass this test. It’s conversational (think job interview) and the InitialView interviewer roams all over the place asking you probing questions to ascertain how fluent you are in the English language. Please do not fall for the questionable strategy of paying someone for something they cannot help you with. 

I know it’s stressful, but please stay calm.  You can get all the information you need here, including sample questions, and a representational video of the interview.

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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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