UC Berkeley admissions office adopts policy for optional letters of recommendation

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Ariel Hayat/Senior Staff

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UC Berkeley adopted a new freshman admissions policy in April that will allow the submission of optional letters of recommendation.

The policy allows students to submit two letters of recommendation, one from a teacher and the other from anyone else the student chooses. The campus, however, will only accept letters if they are specifically requested by admissions staff, according to the policy.

Students will have until Jan. 1 to submit the letters, which campus officials hope will focus on aspects of the students such as their persistence, originality and concern for others, according to the university’s admissions website.

Anne De Luca, campus associate vice chancellor of admissions and enrollment, said that students who are not asked for letters, or who choose not to submit them, will not be at a disadvantage in the admissions process.

“Students applying to Berkeley … may be applying to peer schools that already require letters,” De Luca said.

There will be no specific requirements for the letters, although recommenders will be asked to consider aspects of the student, such as leadership, love of learning and concern for others, according to the website.

De Luca said students can reuse letters written for other schools in order to minimize the stress of the application process.

“We don’t need a special letter,” De Luca said.

The UC Berkeley admissions office initially planned to invite all freshman applicants to submit letters of recommendation this fall, but after consultation with UC colleagues and the campus

Academic Senate, the office decided to wait in order to give other members in the UC system time to consider the changes.

For years, UC Berkeley has invited a few applicants to submit letters of recommendation, and the difference under the new policy is that more students will be asked for letters.

According to De Luca, if the policy receives positive feedback, campus admissions may expand the policy to cover other groups of students. For now, transfer students will not be offered the option to submit letters, in order for the campus to work on the “logistics” of requesting letters of recommendation.

“I don’t see why transfer students shouldn’t have the option,” said Daniel Vanish, a student at De Anza College who is planning to apply to UC Berkeley as a transfer student in the fall.

Vanish described letters of recommendation as “invaluable” in the application process and says he will try to send one along with his application anyway.

Rising freshman Orli Ziv said that UC applications “aren’t that personal” compared to the applications for other colleges, and that she thinks a letter of recommendation would have enhanced her application.

“A letter of recommendation is the only part of an application that shows how you interact with other people,” Ziv said.

Contact Mira Chaplin at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @mirachaplin.