Is UC Berkeley Ivy League? Ranking, Acceptance Rate, and More

Established in 1868, UC Berkeley was the first campus of the renowned University of California system. The founders had a vision of a school that would “contribute even more than California’s gold to the glory and happiness of advancing generations.” Today, the school’s goal has clearly been met, as UC Berkeley is ranked among the world’s top universities by major educational publications. The university is home to over 130 academic departments and 80 interdisciplinary research units, allowing students the flexibility to pursue their passions.

Located in Berkeley, right next door to San Francisco and Silicon Valley, UC Berkeley is situated to drive innovation through leading research facilities. From the Space Sciences Laboratory to the FHL Vive Center for Enhanced Reality, UC Berkeley is known for its strength in engineering and computer science. The Mathematical Sciences Research Institute is the leading center for collaborative mathematical research and draws thousands of experts each year.

Due to the school’s substantial resources and interdisciplinary research, it has played a prominent role in many scientific advances such as the Manhattan Project, the discovery of 16 chemical elements, and major breakthroughs in computer science and genomics. Thanks to the resources for entrepreneurship, UC Berkeley has produced many Nobel Laureates, billionaires, and inventors.

The California Golden Bears compete in the NCAA Division I Pac-12 Conference and have brought home over 100 national championships. Outside of academics, students have their choice from over 1,200 student clubs and organizations to participate in.


Is UC Berkeley an Ivy League School?

UC Berkeley
photo via Wikimedia Commons

Although UC Berkeley is considered a highly renowned university with outstanding opportunities for students, it is not an Ivy League school. The Ivy League is a collection of private colleges in the Northeast. Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, UPenn, and Yale are the eight prestigious Ivies. Although the group initially formed as part of the Ivy League NCAA Division I athletic conference, today they are considered the gold standard of the colleges in the United States and worldwide.

The designation as Ivy League has come to represent extraordinarily prestigious and highly selective colleges. For the Class of 2025, each Ivy League school admitted between 3% and 9% of applicants. Due to the schools’ strong academic reputations, graduate outcomes, and quality of life, the admissions process is highly competitive. In addition, the large endowments each Ivy receives ensures that they are able to provide generous financial aid and resources for students.

Although the Ivies are considered global powerhouses in research and academics, other highly renowned universities are not part of the Ivy League, such as MIT and Stanford. The UC system is a collection of public universities located across California known for their successful academic programs. As public universities, these schools are much larger with more cost-effective tuition than the top private schools. UC Berkeley is known for its academic rigor and top-tier education across a wide range of academic fields. In addition, Berkeley receives over 85,000 applicants each year in comparison to the Ivy League schools, which receive under 40,000.


Why Is UC Berkeley Often Confused As an Ivy League School?

In his book The Public Ivies: A Guide to America’s Best Public Undergraduate Colleges and Universities, Richard Moll outlined prestigious public universities. As a Public Ivy, UC Berkeley rivals Ivy League schools in program quality, selectivity, prestige, and the resources available for students, facilities, and faculty.

UC Berkeley is often confused as an Ivy League school thanks to its impressive list of well-known alumni from heads of state to recognized scientists. This list of alumni, including dozens of Nobel Laureates, Turing Award winners, and MacArthur Genius Grant awardees, has made significant contributions to society. In total, the school is affiliated with nearly 70 Nobel Laureates, beating out many Ivy League schools. 

The faculty at UC Berkeley is similarly top-notch to Ivy League schools, with professors at the top of their respective fields. The programs across all five colleges are renowned for their rigorous academic standards. In addition, undergraduates can pursue opportunities for research in all areas of study. 

UC Berkeley, ranked among R1 Doctoral Universities with very high research activity, spends upwards of $700 million on research each year. The size, resources, and capacity at UC Berkeley provide a scope of research opportunities comparable to the Ivies. 

Along with top-tier academics, research, and graduate outcomes, UC Berkeley is known for its strong athletic program. Golden Bear student-athletes have won 188 national titles in boxing, track and field, tennis, gymnastics, swimming, and more. Students and alumni find success on a global stage as well, with a combined 207 Olympic medals.


UC Berkeley: Ranking, Acceptance Rate, and More

UC Berkeley is ranked highly nationally and globally by many major publications. According to the QS World University Rankings, UC Berkeley ranks #4 among US universities and #1 among US public colleges. The placement is based on research, employability, learning experience, and diversity. This high placement indicates that UC Berkeley ranks above all of the Ivy League schools except for Harvard.

US News places UC Berkeley as the #1 public school and #4 overall in their 2020 global rankings. In the overall rankings, the school is preceded by only Harvard, MIT, and Stanford. This ranking takes into account multiple factors from international research standing to overall reputation. Many undergraduate programs are highly ranked, including chemistry, biotechnology, ecology, economics, and physics.

Times Higher Education considers Berkeley to be one of the world’s six super brands. The survey of over 10,000 academics seeks to represent the global opinion of university reputation. The other selected university superbrands include Cambridge, Harvard, MIT, Oxford, and Stanford. Based on a measurement of strength across various subjects, UC Berkeley proves to be the most well-rounded across humanities, business, and STEM.

With an acceptance rate of 16%, UC Berkeley is among the most selective universities nationwide. The school becomes more competitive each year, receiving a record number of applications in 2021. This is likely thanks to the dropped testing requirement that encourages a more diverse student body to apply. The selectivity varies from college to college based on student demand.


How to Get Into UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley receives far more applications than it can admit, with over 100,000 hopeful students in 2021. Prospective students will need a solid academic profile with highly competitive grades to gain admission. For the Class of 2021, students earned an average unweighted GPA of 3.9. This indicates that accepted students excel in all of their classes, especially those that are more advanced. By doing well in college-level courses, applicants prove that they can handle the academic rigor of UC Berkeley. In addition, accepted students scored an average of 32 and 1430 on the ACT and SAT, respectively. After 2021 the admissions committee will no longer consider testing scores.

The admissions committee requests reported grades, extracurricular activities, and personal insight questions to thoroughly picture the student’s experience and goals. Although numbers provide a snap of the academic success of the incoming class, the review process goes beyond academic indicators. 

The school looks for persistence, passion, and the desire to give back – students who stand up and stand out. Leadership can be demonstrated in many ways on an application, from extracurricular activities to personal statements. Applicants can distinguish themselves by writing about their experiences in a way that sets them apart from the crowd.

UC Berkeley assesses a student’s personality as well as achievements through their holistic review process. By evaluating applications where no one piece of info is weighted more heavily than another, they look beyond the numbers for students who can contribute to the educational atmosphere on campus. This holistic review has become the model for admissions processes at other UC schools. This enables the school to admit a diverse undergraduate class representing 53 states or commonwealths and 74 countries.


Recap: UC Berkeley Is Not an Ivy League School, However, It Is One of the Nation’s Top Universities

Although UC Berkeley is not an Ivy League school in name, it has comparable resources, reputation, and success. The school ranks among top colleges nationally and globally, often beating out the majority of Ivies in terms of the number of associated Nobel Laureates, global reputation, and overall ranking. By choosing UC Berkeley, students will have the opportunity to study at a well-rounded university that is Ivy League quality at a public university price.

Located in a global center for innovation, UC Berkeley has state-of-the-art research facilities to study various subjects, from genomics to computer simulations. Students have the opportunity to participate in groundbreaking research that aims to solve the most significant challenges facing society today. It comes as no surprise that many UC Berkeley alumni lead scientific advances that affect the country and even the world. The campus is also home to one of the largest library complexes in the world, with over 20 libraries and millions of volumes.

Alumni from UC Berkeley are widely recognized for their entrepreneurship and have founded numerous notable companies, including Apple, Tesla, Intel, eBay, and Morgan Stanley. The entrepreneurship resources available at Berkeley provide unparalleled support for innovators to pursue their passion. By providing a variety of resources, UC Berkeley can identify and support students who are likely to contribute to the school’s intellectual and cultural community.

Berkeley students are recognized for their desire to give back, with over 5,000 undergraduates engaging in off-campus public service projects and programs annually. Students are recognized as leaders and continue to set the bar for giving back among their peers. 

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